Rather than commanding the consecration of our bodies to God as our “reasonable service,” Paul rather invites us to the act of dedication.
“I beseech (invite) you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1-2).
As previously considered, the Apostle wrote to those in whom the Spirit of Christ lived, constituting the Roman believers as those who “delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). Thus, invitation rather than command is an appropriate call to those in whom the Holy Spirit works to instill desire for faithful obedience.
In our present existence, however, other desires and sensibilities reside in believers.
“I see another law, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:23).
According to His wisdom and purposes, God allows fleshly proclivities to remain in that part of us inherited from our original forefather Adam. “The flesh lusteth against the spirit” (Galatians 5:17). Paul even confessed that “when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21). Every believer knows this conflict, to the degree that the desires for unbelief and disobedience often seem to be our dominant yearning and inclination. As the Apostle wrote, “I see another law,” referring to the influence in us that sometimes makes it hard to see anything else.
Nevertheless, Paul addresses his call to the desire for godliness in believers by inviting us to consecration rather than commanding our dedication. He writes, as it were, to that part of us that is the very heart of us. “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9). Paul does not discount the fact of our flesh, or “the law of sin” that still inhabits it. Throughout his epistles, he strongly confronts carnal attitudes, words and deeds. Still, Paul views the innermost being and selfhood of the born again Christian as a “new man, created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He sees the Spirit of Christ dwelling therein, and regardless of outward expressions that confirm or seem to contradict, the Apostle knows that the grace of the Lord Jesus instills desire for godliness in every person born of the Holy Spirit.
Unto such ones, invitation is the perfectly appropriate beckoning. Certainly, this does not preclude commands. Mandates to obey the will of God form a significant portion of the New Testament. However, when calling believers to the act of establishing the basis for obedience, namely, the presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice, along with the renewing of our minds, Paul writes to those he knows to be the ready and willing.
Do we believe this plainly stated Biblical truth about our Christ-inhabited selves? Or do we determine the truest delight of our hearts by feeling, experience or appearance? Do we reckon ourselves as “alive unto God,” or as more alive to the world, the devil and the flesh? How we answer these questions largely determines whether we will rightly respond to Paul’s invitation to the “reasonable service” of following our heart’s truest delight. In Part 3 of this consideration, we will address the work of grace that changed us when we believed, and the faith whereby such truth becomes more and more realized and expressed in our lives.
“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”