Our Reasonable Service as Priests under the Mercies of God

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Rm. 12:1).

The appeal by the apostle rendered, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,” is a translation of the word “parakalo” which is the verb form of the noun “paraklete,” which is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe the office of the Son as our Advocate and Comforter–as one who, literally, is “called along side” a soul (“para” beside, “kal” call) (cf. Jn. 14:16, 25, 15:26, 16:7). That being said, the point of the apostle in employing the term is not to call to memory the office of Jesus Christ (though he does do that at times in his previous discourse, viz. Rm. 5:1; 8:35, etc.), but to issue a call to those who are in Christ to live in a particular fashion beside or in light of what the apostle has already taught, put simply as “mercies of God.”

There is little doubt that the apostle is calling to mind everything that he has taught up to this point (viz. Rm. 1-11), for in it is the exposition of the Gospel which is the revelation of the “mercies” of God to men. For from the beginning of the apostle’s discourse, we see him proclaiming without shame the Gospel, which is the revelation of the righteousness of God from faith for faith, viz. “the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe” (cf. Rm. 1:16, 17; Rm. 3:22). For in it, we see the dire state of all of humanity in that no one, neither Jew nor Greek, is better off than the other, for all are under sin and therefore “fall short of the glory of God” (cf. 3:9; 3:23). However, justification has come to men through Christ’s righteousness, which is received by faith (cf. 3:24; 4:24, 25), so that no one may boast in his state of righteousness and subsequent salvation (cf. 3:27; 6:20-23).

However, these “mercies” are not merely future and eschatological, but they are active from the moment of our new birth. For the work of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit has caused all those who are in Christ to be baptized with Christ into his death thereby destroying their body of sin and releasing them from their bondage to the law and to sin (cf. 6:3-7; 7:4), and has enslaved them to righteousness, obedience, even God, which is true freedom unto life (cf. 6:17; 19; 22) so that, through the emancipating work of the Spirit alone (cf. 8:2), one can now put to death the deeds of the body and now fulfill the righteous requirement of the law, (cf. 8:13; 8:4) when they formerly, according their own power and volition, could not (cf. 7:14-20).

And since this work of salvation is from its foundation to its completion the work of God toward his elect (cf. 8:29, 30, 33), we can be confident that since all things work to the glory of God and are designed to make known the riches of God’s mercy to his elect vessels of mercy (cf. 9:23, 24), that for those who love God, all things work together for good which is the manifestation of his glory to them. Therefore, nothing in the whole of creation, be it death, demons, rulers, or what have you, is able to separate us who are in Christ from his love (cf. 8:38, 39). And even though it may appear on the surface that God is inconsistent in keeping his promises (as it appears so in the case of unbelieving Israel, cf. 9:1-5), God’s word does not fail and neither does his love (cf. 9:6). And though the Providence of God is a great mystery (cf. 11:25), we can be confident of this–that God is merciful, and in his great wisdom and mercy he has consigned all to disobedience so that he may have mercy on all (cf. 11:32). To him be glory forever! (cf. 11:36).

It is “along side” this that the apostle exhorts us who are in Christ to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice.” And the language is inescapable. We who are in Christ, because of his great mercy toward us, are called into priestly service, but rather than offering up lambs and goats as the priests of the Old Covenant did, we are to offer up our own bodies. For if Christ did not spare his own life, but gave up his life for us all, why then should we expect or desire not to do the same? Therefore, because of the mercies of God, this is, as the text is rendered literally, our “reasonable service” as priests of God. Is reasonable because Christ has done so much for us, and it is our service because we are his royal priesthood (cf. 1Pet. 2:9). May we remember this all the days of our lives. Amen.

Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study

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