What Is A Living Sacrifice? Romans 12a

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Romans 12:1-8

Stephen Caswell © 2004

Masters Or Servants?

Some people love to keep cats as pets and others keep dogs, a few keep both. People feel very strongly about their own preference. A friend of mine said that Cats have Servants, while Dogs have Masters. Some Christians think that they should be served and behave like masters. Others consider themselves as servants and seek to help others. D.L. Moody said; the measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves. Today, I want to address the question, what is spiritual service?  Romans 12:1-8 answers this question. Firstly, Paul says Service requires Dedication, 100% commitment to Christ. Secondly, he says Service requires Demonstration, not just talk.  Finally, he talks about the great Diversity Of Service.

Firstly     Dedication To Service


a. Present Our Bodies


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


The word therefore links God's mercy with our service for Him. In the first 11 chapters of Romans Paul records all that God has done for us. In mercy He forgave us our sins, in grace He gave us eternal life. He has given us the Holy Spirit for life and service. He has reserved an inheritance for us in heaven. On top of this He is always with us. He helps us every day and always listens to our prayers. In response to this shouldn't we give our bodies as living sacrifices? Surely this is the least we can do. This is reasonable service, isn't it? Any thing less would be ingratitude. If Jesus was a living sacrifice, shouldn't we be living sacrifices too?


But, why does Paul beseech us when he could command us to be living sacrifices? Because he appeals to a greater motivation, love. For people in love service is a delight not a duty. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. C. T. Studd said, If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice that I make can for Him could be too great.


Unfortunately, we, tend to divide our lives into sacred and secular. God wants all of us lock, stock and barrel; not just 10% of our money. Paul says present your bodies to God! This is total dedication since we don’t do anything without our bodies.  God wants us to live for Him at work, at home, at play and in our community. He wants us to use our homes to minister to our lost neighbors and friends. Jesus gave 100% of Himself to save us. To do this requires a different attitude. To be living sacrifices we need the mind of Christ, who came to serve not be served.

b. Present Our Minds


Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Philippians 2:5-7: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Jesus Christ, the Son of God chose to be a Living Sacrifice.


Illustration of a Caterpillar that Becomes a Butterfly

When we were kids we liked to collect caterpillars and keep them in a box. We would feed them a certain kind of leaves each day and watch them grow. They grew bigger and bigger then they spun a cocoon. It took them hours to make it. Then we waited until just the right time. Then, our caterpillars emerged from their cocoons, but they were different. They had changed into beautiful butterflies. After our caterpillars fed on the right food they were transformed from within.


To be living sacrifices we must first renew our minds. The word transform, metamorfow, means to change, to transfigure. It means to change something from the inside out. This word was used of Jesus Christ at the transfiguration. He revealed to Peter, James and John the glory He had within. Our English word metamorphosis comes from this word. The world wants to change our mind, so it exerts pressure from without. But the Holy Spirit can transform our minds by releasing power within as we meditate on God's Word. The Spirit of God and the Word of God work together to transform us into the image of the Son of God.

Col 3:16-17 links the close relationship between our minds and bodies: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

c. Present Our Will


Romans 12:2: that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.


Your mind controls your body, and your will controls your mind. Many people think they can control their will by willpower, but usually they fail. This was Paul’s experience. He recorded this struggle in Romans 7:15–21. It's only when we yield our will to God that His power can take over and give us the willpower and the won’t power to be victorious Christians. As we spend time in prayer, we surrender our will to God and pray, with the Lord, Not my will, but Thy will be done. We must pray about everything, and let God have His way in everything.

Florence Nightingale At 30

Florence Nightingale in her diary, I am now 30 years old, the age at which Christ began His mission. Now, no more childish things, no more vain things. Now, Lord, let me think only of Thy will. Years later, near the end of her illustrious, heroic life she was asked for her life’s secret, and she replied, Well, I can only give one explanation. That is, I have kept nothing back from God.

A practical way to do this is to surrender our bodies to the Lord each new day. Then to read God’s Word and allow it to transform our minds. We should pray, and yield the plans of the day to Him and let Him work as He sees best. What are the benefits? Firstly, God’s will is good, ἀγαθός. It is beneficial for us. Secondly, God’s will is acceptable, εὐάρεστος, or well pleasing. God’s will is pleasing to us. Finally, God’s will is perfect, τέλειος; it’s complete, it lacks nothing. God’s will is all we need. Do you want second best for your life or first best?



Spiritual service to God requires surrender. The most miserable people on earth are Christians living for themselves. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. Only when we present ourselves as living sacrifices can we have meaning in our lives. Do you want what is best for your life? Then dedicate your life to the glory of God. Be a living sacrifice!


Secondly    Demonstration Of Service


a. Evaluate Our Spiritual Gifts


Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Each Christian must know what his spiritual gifts are and what ministry, he is to exercise in the local church. Then he must do it. It is not wrong for a Christian to recognize spiritual gifts in his own life or in the lives of others. What's wrong is the tendency to have a false evaluation of ourselves. There are two extremes to avoid. Firstly, overrating our spiritual gifts. Nothing causes more damage than a believer who overrates himself and tries to perform a ministry he can’t do.

Secondly, underrating our spiritual gifts. Some believers undervalue themselves. They won't use their spiritual gift because they think their gift is insignificant. Both attitudes are wrong. Just as we were saved by grace, through faith, we must also live and serve by grace through faith. The gifts that we have came because of God’s grace. 1 Corinthians 4:7: For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? Since God has given us spiritual gifts we have no right to boast about them or despise people with different gifts to ours.


Different Christmas Gifts  


At Christmas time everyone in the family receives a gift. Normally we receive different gifts. In fact gifts come in all shapes and sizes. But the good thing is that each gift is given with love from the giver. They believe that it is just the right gift for that person. If we imperfect humans give good gifts to each other how much more will God give the right gifts to us? God has given every believer a spiritual gift that is just right for them. God doesn’t make mistakes!


b. Exercise Our Spiritual Gifts


Romans 12:4-6a: For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.


God has given every believer a spiritual gift just right for them to use in the Church. People have different gifts just like a body has many parts. 1 Peter 4:10: As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Knowing our gift and using our gift are very different. Many people talk about serving God, far fewer actually do it. When we don't serve each other we are really hurting ourselves since we're a part of the body too.

Every Member Needed


Have you ever worked in the yard or the garden all morning? I have. Time gets away and before you know it, its lunch time; boy do you feel hungry and thirsty. So you go inside and sit down and your body says to your legs go get me something to eat and drink while I take a break. I need to be fed, I’m hungry. But nothing happens. Why? Because our legs on their own can’t meet the needs of our body. If our body is to be fed it must work together. It will require our minds to think, our eyes to see, our hands to work, our mouths to chew and our digestive tracts to consume the food. One or two members can’t feed the entire body by themselves. It requires a team effort.

If this is true of physical life how much more of spiritual life? Some members in the Church just want to be fed. They believe that the pastor and a select few can meet the needs of the entire body. They draw life from the body but don't put anything back in. The result; The Church is handicapped because believers won't use their spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7: Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.


Sharing Christmas Gifts


On Christmas morning, the children in our family don't usually receive the same gifts. One gets a football, one a puzzle, another receives a doll house, to another a table game. We give the gifts that we think are appropriate for each child. Even though they don't receive the same gifts we intend that all our children should benefit as they share their gifts. Sharing their gifts blesses both themselves and the other person. This is true of the Church. God knows which gifts suit each member. His intention is for the entire body to benefit from the spiritual gifts as they are shared.



Let’s have the right attitude towards our spiritual gifts. Do you know what gift you have? Are you using your gift to help others? Or do you just want to be served by others? Spiritual gifts inventories can help here. Getting involved in something is an even better way to find it.

Thirdly    Diversity Of Service  

Romans 12:6-8: Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them, if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

On Christmas morning it’s exciting to find out what gift you have received. Every gift is different and special. Kids quickly open their gifts to see what that they have been given. Can you imagine children receiving their gifts and storing them away unopened because they are a different? But some believers are doing just that with their gifts. They are leaving their spiritual gifts unopened. They don't realize God has given them just the right gift. This is tragic since they deprive themselves and others of much blessing. God has given many spiritual gifts; Speaking Gifts, Serving Gifts and Sign Gifts. We will look briefly at the various gifts listed in the Bible.

a. Speaking Gifts


1. An apostle, ajpostovlo", was one sent with authority. The 12 saw the risen Lord and were appointed by Him to serve as apostles. Eph 2:19-20: says that they laid the foundation of the church. How? By planting Churches, writing the New Testament, overseeing the early Church and establishing Church government. They spoke with Christ’s authority and confirmed the Word with miraculous signs. Apostles ceased with the death of the 12. only 1 foundation needed. Missionaries serve in a similar way to the Apostles. But they don’t have the apostles authority.

2. Prophets, profhvta", worked alongside the apostles in laying the Church's foundation. They preached the Word by direct revelation because the New Testament didn't exist yet. Acts 13:1 lists 5 prophets, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul. Paul told the Churches to test all prophecies to ensure they were from God. Prophecy ceased after the writing of the N. T.


3. Word Of Knowledge gnwsew"; 4. Word of Wisdom sofia" - 1 Corinthians 12:8 1 Corinthians 13: speak about this gift. In Acts 6: 10: Stephen spoke with wisdom and by the Holy Spirit. Such gifted men instructed the Church before the New Testament had been written. After the N.T. was completed God withdrew knowledge and wisdom. We preach inspired Word.

5. Evangelists - eujaggelistav" boldly proclaim the Gospel. They preach on sin, righteousness and judgment. Unlike the other spiritual gifts evangelists exercise their gift primarily outside the Church amongst the lost. Acts 21:8 tells us that Philip was an evangelist. Those who don’t have this gift are still commanded to evangelize the lost. We are all witnesses.

6. Pastor, poimevna"/ Teachers, didaskavlo" - Elders, Bishops Shepherds, and Pastors all refer to the same office. Pastors have 2 responsibilities. Firstly, pastors are shepherds who watch over the sheep. They lead the flock watching out for wolves. Secondly, they feed the flock from God's Word. 1 Timothy 1:3 says that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to pastor the Church there.

7. Teachers - Teachers didaskavlo" are listed in both Romans 12:7 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. Acts 13:1 lists 5 men that were prophets and teachers. Teachers instruct believers from God's Word. They impart doctrine to the flock. This is done in various ways. It includes teaching young lambs and up to mature sheep. Ministries such as Sunday School, Kids Club, R.E Teachers, Chaplains and Bible Studies leaders can exercise the gift of teaching.

8. Encouragers - Encouragers paraklhsi" are mentioned in Romans 12:8. Encouragers come alongside and strengthen believers by sharing God's Word with them. Barnabas exercised this gift and was called by the 12 apostles the son of encouragement. Acts 4:36 He encouraged others by launching people like Saul into ministry. Barnabas also restored John Mark to the ministry after he had failed on the first missionary journey. Discipling another believer.

Ephesians 4:11-12: says the speaking gifts equip the saints for the ministry. And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.


b. Serving Gifts


1. Administration/ Ruling - Romans 12:8 calls this gift leading, προί̈στημι or ruling. Whilst 1 Corinthians 12:28 calls it government, κυβέρνησις or administration. There are many tasks in the Church requiring preparation or oversight. Financial and secretarial tasks can’t be ignored.

2. Serving/ Ministering - Romans 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:11 both refer to ministry. The word minister diakono", means, a servant, a minister, a helper, a deacon. Acts 6: 7 deacons.  You don't have to be a deacon to serve. Serving at fellowship teas, hospitality, the Lord’s table.

3. Giving - μεταδίδωμι, Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:3 refer to this gift. Paul says the givers should give generously. Barnabas and others in the Early Church exercised this gift. People with this gift provide for the needy in the Church. They support missions and evangelism.

4. Helps - Helps, ἀντίλημψις is in 1 Corinthians 12:28: It means to aid, to do helpful deeds. Everything runs smoothly when helpers are quietly serving. When things aren’t done it's usually because the helpers are away or not using their gift! Church maintenance, cleaning, Lord’s table.


5. Mercy - Romans 12:8 refers mercy, ἐλεέω. The gift of mercy involves comforting the afflicted. Some people know when to come along side folk who are grieving. They listen to them and comfort them. Merciful people visit the sick, care for the disabled, and help the suffering.


6. Faith - Faith, πίστις is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 1 Corinthians 13:2. Acts 6:5 & 8: says Stephen was full of faith. His faith was not a day dream but given to him by the Spirit. Hudson Taylor and George Mueller exercised this gift. They had a vision for ministry and shared it. Hudson Taylor began the China Inland Mission with no money whatsoever. George Mueller fed hundreds of orphans by his faith in God, often giving thanks for meals that hadn't arrived yet.

7. Discernment Of Spirits - Only 1 Corinthians 12:10 refers to spiritual discernment, διάκρισις, πνεῦμα. Peter exercised this gift in Acts 5:1-11. He knew that Ananias and Saphira had lied about their gift to the Church. This gift needs to be exercised today. Many Christians accept anything supernatural as coming from God. Yet Paul says that Satan performs lying signs and wonders. Discernment of spirits exposes false teachers and miracle workers.


c. Sign Gifts


Mark 16:20: And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. God used the sign gifts to confirm the Gospel. These miracles proved that God had ushered in the New Covenant.

It also confirmed the Lord's ministers. Hebrews 2:3-4: how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? After God had established the Church revealed the New Testament He withdrew the sign gifts.


1. Miracles, δύναμις / Signs, σημεῖον / Wonders, τέρας - 1 Corinthians 12:10 & 28 record the gift of miracles. In the book of Acts the 12 Apostles are said to have performed miracles, signs and wonders. Stephen, Philip, Paul and Barnabas also performed miracles. Miracles through God’s people have ceased. Of course God still works miracles in answer to prayer.


2. Healing, ἴαμα - 1 Cor 12:9 & 28. The 12 apostles and their associates healed the sick and raised the dead. This gift has ceased through God’s people. Today, God heals in answer to prayer.


3. Tongues, γλῶσσα. 1 Corinthians 14:22 says tongues are for a sign to unbelievers. This gift enabled believers to share the Gospel in a language that they hadn't previously known. In 1 Corinthians 12:30: Paul said that only some had received this gift. Paul traveled throughout Asia and Europe and used this gift to reach foreign unbelievers. Today, on rare occasions a few missionaries have exercised this gift. Yet these folk have exercised the gift only once. They were totally surprised what God did. They didn’t have some ecstatic experience and fully understood what they were saying to the lost. Generally speaking this gift ceased in the Apostolic Age with the completion of the New Testament.


4. Interpretation Of Tongues - The gift of interpretation of tongues, διερμηνεία, enabled someone to interpret a language not previously known so that the Church could understand the message in tongues. This enabled the Church to be edified by the gift as well. The foreign unbeliever understood the language of the tongue and didn't need it to be interpreted.


Firstly, our Dedication To Service. To serve the Lord we must first present our bodies, minds and wills to God. Will you present these to God as a living sacrifice out of love? Does the Lord have 100% of your life? Christ gave up everything to save us. Is it your delight to do His will?  


Secondly, a Demonstration Of Service. Once we present our lives to God as living sacrifices He can use us in His service. In fact He has given us spiritual gifts to serve one another. There are over 30 one another commandments in the Bible. We use our spiritual gifts to serve one another in the Church! Are you waiting to be fed when the Bible says serve one another?

Thirdly, we saw the Diversity Of Service. God has given a great variety of spiritual gifts to the Church. He has personally chosen our gifts for us. What spiritual gift do you have? Everyone is needed if the Church is to grow into the stature of Christ and become a perfect man. Today, the Lord is building His Church through the ministry of the saints. Are you involved? There are many opportunities for service at Tent Hill. I trust that you will be a part of it!

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