A Living Sacrifice
I’ve been busy plowing through my exegetical research paper on Romans 12:1–2 for my Greek Syntax and Exegesis class. Along the way, I’ve discovered some killer quotes from a variety of commentators. Since I still have a good three or four hours of writing to do tonight, I thought I’d share these with you instead of my own thoughts. Trust me when I say you’re coming out ahead on this.
Karl Barth, A Shorter Commentary on Romans:
Christians, it is true, live in the world and in time, but by God’s mercy it has been made impossible for them to adapt and to accomodate themselves to its form and charcter or to give their lives once more the form and character of this world. It has been made impossible for them because, thanks to their participation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they have already left this world behind them. Their share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ consists in a transformation which they have experienced. It consists in a renewal of their thinking which compels and also enables them, in the midst of the course of the world to which they too are subject, to distinguish between the law of the course of the world and the will of God, between that which is divinely and therefore truly good, agreeable and perfect and that which is the natural result of the process of the world. It compels and enables them, as men who have been sacrificed to God, and who belong to him, not to show in their lives a repetition of the pattern and character of this world but to erect a sign of God’s will, a sign of the order of his coming new world. (150–151)
C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2, p. 594:
[The] obedience required of Christians is not just an obedience in principle. It is rather an obedience of thought and attitude, of word and deed, wrought out in the concrete situations of life—and an obedience, moreover, which has to be wrought out by Christians who are far from being fully sicere or fully serious in theri calling God ‘Father’. Exhortation is therefore necessary—an exhortation which does not stop at the abstract and general, but is concrete and particular. It is such exhortation that we find in Romans 12.1–15.13.
vol. 2, p. 595:
[The] Christian’s obedience is his response to what God has done for him in Christ, the expression of his gratitude. Given its full force, the οὖν makes clear right from the start the theocentric nature of all truly Christian moral effort; for it indicates that the source from which such effort sprints is neither a humanistic desire for the enhancement of the self by the attainment of moral superiority, nor the legalist’s hope of putting God under an obligation, but the saving deed of God itself.
Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, p. 7:
Essentially, then, Paul’s thesis is that the power of God is revealed through the gospel for all who have faith. In succeeding sections of the letter he argues the case for this thesis, defends it against possible objections, and spells out some of its ethical implications.
Ben C. Dunson, “Faith in Romans: The Salvation of the Individual or Life in Community?” p. 35:
Romans 12 opens with perhaps the most sweeping use of a conjunction (οῦν) in the entire Pauline corpus: in light of everything Paul has said previously in the first 11 chapters of the letter, the Roman Christians are to present their bodies (τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν) as a pleasant ‘living sacrifice’ to God (12.1). This act of presentation entails both a refusal to live as the rest of the world (‘this age’) and a transformation that takes place through the ‘renewal’ (ἀνακαινώσει) of the mind, which in turn leads to an ability to recognize the perfect will of God (12.2). The corporate dynamic with which this new section of the letter opens is unmistakable: although each member of the church or churches in Rome has a distinct bodily identity, each o f them individually is to be formed into a single ‘living sacrifice’ (θυσίαν ζώσαν) to be presented to God. This sacrificial offering constitutes one of the pillars of the foundational work of God’s new creation, and plays an integral role in establishing the means through which the exhortations Paul will soon give are to be carried out.
Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, p. 327:
What was previously cultic is now extended to the secularity of our earthly life as a whole. Basically this means the replacement of any cultic thinking…. Naturally this does not mean any disparagement of worship and the sacraments. Nevertheless, these events are no longer, as in cultic thinking, fundamenetally separated from everyday Christian life in such a way as to mean something other than the promise for this and the summons to it…. Eiether the whole of Christian life is worship, and the gatherings and sacramental acts of the community provide equpiment and instruction for this, or these gatherings and acts lead in fact to absurdity.
Yet he does not mean what people find good and beautiful and can justify before their own consciences. Only God’s will is called good and acceptable and perfect. In a concrete case this may coincide with human ideals, but it neither merges into these nor is it to be equated with them without further ado.
Thus the claim is made that in the light of the new aeon Christians can do a better job with reason than the world in general does. Paradoxically they do this precisely at the point where, corresponding to God’s will, they oppose the trend of this world and do what seems to be irrational, as God himself did in sending his Son to the cross.
Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 25:
Christology is the theological ground and starting point of the letter. Paul’s understanding of Christ is the only topic broad enough to unify his various emphases…. God’s act in Christ is the starting point of all Paul’s thinking and is so basic to the early church that he could assume that the Roman Christians shared this conviction with him. In this sense, while Christology is nowhere in Romans the expressed topic, it is everywhere the underlying point of departure.
The gospel unleashes God’s power so that people, by embracing it, can be rescued from the disastrous effects of sin, being pronounced “righteous” in God’s sight and having a secure hope for salvation from wrath in the last day. But, as Paul has made clear in Rom. 6, deliverance from the power of sin is inseparable from deliverance from its penalty. Union with Christ in his death and resurrection provides both. For Jesus Christ is the Lord; and thus to believe in him means at the same time a commitment to obey him…. The “imperative” of a transformed life is therefore not an optional “second step” after we embrace the gospel: it is rooted in our initial response to the gospel itself. To eliminate this part of Romans would be therefore to omit an indispensable dimension of the gospel itself. The transition from Rom. 11 to Rom. 12… is not, therefore, a transition from “theology” to “practice,” but from a focus more on the “indicative” side of the gospel to a focus more on the “imperative” side of the gospel.
Through the renewal of the mind that the gospel makes possible, Christians can know and do the will of God…
In Rom. 12:1… the sacrifice we offer is not some specific form of praise or service, but our “bodies” themselves. It is not only what we can give that God demands; he demands the giver.
But Paul’s vision, to which he calls us, is of Christians whose minds are so thoroughly renewed that we know from within, almost instinctively, what we are to do to please God in any given situation.
Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 433–434:
But we should bear in mind that the body is very important in the Christian understanding of things. Our bodies may be “implements of righteousness” (6:13)… [Paul] knows that there are possibilities of evil in the body but that in the believer “the body of sin” has been brought to nothing (6:6); sin does not reign in the believer’s body (6:12). Grace affects the whole life and is not some remote, ethereal affair.”
John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2, p. 111:
Paul was realistic and he was aware that if sanctification did not embrace the physical in our personality it would be annulled from the outset.
Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, p. 640:
Romans 12:1–2 serve as the paradigm for the entire exhortation section… Give yourselves wholly to God; do not be shaped by the old world order, but let new thought patterns transform your life.
Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, pp. 252–253:
The word service (latreian) also hearkens back to Romans 1:25, where idolaters are said to “worship and serve [elatreusan] the creature rather than the creator. Romans 12:1–2 captures the reversal of such idolatry. Surrendering one’s life to GOd is true worship, and the glory and thanks previously given to idols are now given to God (Rom 1:21). True worship is not confined to cultic acts, nor do cultic acts receive much emphasis in Paul. Worship involves honoring God by submitting to his sovereignty in every sphere of life.
N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 264:
Paul is allowing part of his cluster of ‘resurrection’ language to make its way forwards from Jesus’ resurrection, and backwards fromt he promise of eventual bodily resurrection, into a foundational statement of what it means to live as truly human beings within the new age.