Our Reasonable Service
Your Reasonable Service

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 58d of 83


I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

[We have come to the final instalment of our exposition of this famous exhortation with which the apostle opens the practical section of his letter. We have seen the basis of his call, and the scope of our obedience which is called for. We must now consider the apostle’s rationale or persuasion to do these things. —JJL]

4.  Your Reasonable Service

a.   Paul says:

… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Some modern translation render ‘reasonable’ as ‘spiritual’, but I do not see how that translation can fit into the context. No, I agree with Wilhelmus à Brakel that Paul is here telling us what the Christian’s Reasonable Service should be. That is, Paul is telling us what is expected of us if we are truly grateful to the Lord.

Paul is saying “Now that you know how God has called you and has saved you, because of His compassion towards you, your only reasonable or expected response is to serve Him or worship Him by presenting your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” 

Gratitude demands that when someone has shown kindness to us, we should return in kind. We may never be able to repay our benefactor, but we must do something in return.

Our reasonable response is one that is commensurate with the act of kindness shown. So if someone helps you to paint your house, you may buy a cake to show your gratitude; but if someone risks his life to save your life, then a reasonable response would be much greater.

Even the heathen understands these things. So the King of Sodom offered Abraham to keep all the good he recovered after he rescued them from Chedorlaomer and the other kings. So the Centurion, out of gratitude to Paul for saving their lives, risked court- marshal to prevent the soldiers from carrying out their standing order to kill all the prisoners in case of a shipwreck.

One of the most subtle sins condemned in the Scripture is that of ingratitude. Earlier in Romans 1, Paul had charged the Reprobate for their ingratitude to God:

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom 1:21).

Sometime ago, I was told about how a Christian man decided to bequeath his house to his son before he died. His son was overseas and he thought that his son would certainly be grateful to him for that tremendous gift. Well, instead of being grateful, the son immediately sent him a lawyer’s letter demanding that his father pay rent to him or be evicted. This act is so disgusting that even the most immoral persons will spit on it. Yet this, apparently, happened in a Christian family.

We cringe when we hear such a story, and we wonder if it can be true. But do you realise, beloved Christian brother or sister, that we too can be guilty of the same kind ingratitude to God—only that our crime would be far more severe.

For what can be more unreasonable and shocking than  ingratitude to an infinite God who loves us and pities us, who provides all our needs, and who sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf!

b. What, O what then, would be a reasonable and grateful response on our part? Paul says, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

In other words, presenting our bodies as living sacrifice is the minimum we can do to demonstrate our gratitude unto God for what He has done for us. It always saddens me when professing Christians tries to do the very bare minimum for Christ. There is no bare minimum! The minimum is total consecration of ourselves!

c.   Some of us may think that that is too much. Surely, God would not require such a high standard from us, you may ask.

But let us ask ourselves rather: What is too costly when Christ laid down His life for me?

Says the apostle John:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1Jn 3:16).

Paul reminds us the same truth in Ephesians 5:2—

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

And so does the apostle Peter; for having spoken about how we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:18-19), he reminds us:

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1Pt 2:5).

The point is: If Christ our Lord offered Himself as a sacrifice unto God in order to redeem us, then what is our only reasonable response, but to offer our bodies wholly as living sacrifices for His sake?

Conclusion

What more shall we say?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Amen.  

—JJ Lim