Living sacrifice

Thinking about what Paul had said the other day…

I was thinking one day about what Paul had said in his letter to the Romans in the section we call chapter 12, which may be read at Bible Gateway:

I encourage you brethren in the light of the mercy of God to bring your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, well-pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.

I was puzzling over the translation of the words reasonable service, which some translate as spiritual worship. How could they get this translation out of the words that Paul used? Apparently it is all down to Chrysostom, who lived much closer to Paul than we do of course, but I still fail to see it. I must confess however that on the surface it appears to be a better thing to say than reasonable service. Who would not want to offer to God spiritual worship? After all, did not Jesus say to the woman at the well in Samaria: the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24 NKJV

Paul was very careful with his words and not unwilling to coin his own where the meaning would be exact and, literally here, quite cutting: κατατομην, so when he used λογικην λατρειαν was he also not being precise? There are other perfectly good words for spirit (πνευμα) and worship (προσκυνεω), which Paul did not use. Why then would we think to ourselves that he meant otherwise than he actually said?.

So then coming back, worship (προσκυνεω) is not the word Paul uses. He uses a different word: λατρειαν. This is nothing to do with what you might think – that is a Latin word, this one is Greek. I looked it up. The Lord used the same word when speaking to his disciples: whoever kills you will think that he offers God service John 16:2 – or he brings a service to God. Surely, that word must have cut Paul, for he used to think in that way himself. Did he indeed have those words of the Lord in mind when he wrote this? Look, he says, I was wrong. It is not service to offer their dead bodies to God, but to offer yourselves as living sacrifices – THEREFORE, he says, that is your reasonable, that is your logical service. That is what you must conclude having read so much in this letter to the Romans, you must now reach this conclusion that this is your reasonable service. But note, it is not worship. This same word is used in Revelation 7:15 of those who serve before the throne of God day and night. In Old Testament terms these are those who do all of the ‘ordinary’ jobs around the temple in order that the temple may function as a temple. When they fall to worship the other word proskuneo is used (Rev 4:10). The word used here in Romans 12:1, which some of our translations render worship in fact only refers to the service, the acts, the deeds, the things we do which are a part of worship.

Is this not wonderful? There are people around today who think in just the same way that Saul did. They think that they offer service to God by killing the servants of Jesus Christ. Just as an aside, surely if their god were not impotent he would not need their help to do this? But to come back to the point, the wonderful thing is that God no longer wants dead sacrifices – sheep, goats and the like – he wants you a living sacrifice to live your life out to the glory of his name by the power of the Holy Spirit in name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now that is something worth living for.

There was something else interesting about Paul which I had not noticed. Perhaps a failure to put two and two together on my part. Our pastor was speaking on the words from the same letter to the Romans: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Romans 7:7-12 NKJV

Here Paul tells us that the sin that caught him out was covetousness. He was able to say, and I am quite sure that there were enough people who knew him who would not let him get away with it if it were not true that he was concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Philippians 3:6.

Now a young man once came to Jesus and went away with a very heavy heart. This young man wanted to know how to obtain eternal life: ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honour your father and your mother and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:16-22 NKJV

Jesus deliberately left out ‘you shall not covet‘. You see although the young man was rich, and he had no need of anything, he coveted what he had. You can see from his response that he was not willing to share it. He coveted it for himself. Is it any wonder that such a young man would not many years later be found persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. He wanted to establish his own righteousness by keeping the law, but the harder he tried the more the command ‘you shall not covet‘ stuck in his throat and like a rabid dog it would not leave him alone. He railed against it. He wanted his own righteousness, but he could not get it. And he hated those who claimed that Jesus had offered himself as a sacrifice to fulfill and replace all of the law. Now they talked about Jesus having fulfilled the law for them. Saul would have none of it. It was in his mind blasphemy, but in reality he knew. He could not avoid the force of the commandment which said ‘you shall not covet‘.

Then one day the Lord met him. Instead of offering service to God by forcing the followers of Jesus Christ to apostacise, he offered himself as a living sacrifice to God and discovered what reasonable service to God was.

May you also discover what it is to serve the Lord as Paul did.

Think about it.

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.’And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.’ Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.’

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. Acts 9:1-20 NKJV

The use of the rainbow

saw that the rainbow had become quite popular…

I noticed a rainbow and remembered what the Lord had said to Noah (you can read about more it here or at Bible Gateway):

I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

The rainbow is a sign of great comfort to us, for God says that when he sees it he will remember his covenant, and we may know that he will not destroy the world again by water, but it is also a sign of great terror, for as Peter reminds us in his second letter we forget that the earth of old was destroyed by the flood. The rainbow reminds us of this, and tells us that our Lord Jesus is coming again, and that though this world will not be destroyed by a flood, it will perish in fire. He will keep his promise to come back. In the meantime we must yield to him, who, like the ark that Noah built was the only thing that could save from the flood, he is the only one who can save us from this fire.

So think about it.

⁸Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: ⁹And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, ¹⁰and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. ¹¹Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

¹²And God said: This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: ¹³I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. ¹⁴It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; ¹⁵and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. ¹⁶The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. ¹⁷And God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.