Sermon: Worshipping God with Body and Mind Romans 12:1-2

Worshipping God with Body and Mind

Romans 12:1-2

Truth Taught- True worship requires giving yourself to God for the good of the church


Chapter 12 begins the last major section in the Book of Romans. What Paul has in mind now is to take the theology taught so far and apply it to the members of the Church of Rome and to apply it to us. Theology must change us individually and the ultimate end is to change us corporately. Romans and the rest of the New Testament is ultimately for the maturity of God’s people in the setting of the church. So, to think one can grow as a Christian outside the church is a major misunderstanding.

Romans 12 also begins the section where God wants a return on His investment. I say that purposely because this section is based on all God has given us in Christ and now it’s time for us to give back to God.

It seems to me that there is a problem with our modern Christianity. We think all we ever do is take from God. It is true He does everything concerning our salvation. Once we have been brought from death to life by divine power we then give to God. What kinds of things (or in the context of today’s passage or sacrifices) does He desire from us? Obedience, commitment, love, and the one Paul addresses here, worship by giving of ourselves to Him. True commitment to God costs us something in this life.

2 Samuel 24:24 (ESV)

24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

True worship is costly. It cost Jesus His life and now God asks for our lives. Living sacrifices is how Paul words it in today’s text.

God is seeking true worshippers and has done everything to initiate the process to achieve that goal.

John 4:23–24 (ESV)

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Paul begins Chapter 12 with an admonition. This is more than a request but less than a command. It’s presented as the appropriate response to all God has given us. So far we’ve seen many great blessings God has given to His people.

Romans 5:1–2 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

It is based on the many wonderful life-giving blessings that Paul writes…

12 I appeal to you therefore…

The connecting, therefore takes us back to the previous doxology presented in Chapter 11…

Romans 11:33–36 (ESV)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34    “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

35    “Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Based on all these things what should our response be? For Paul it was an outburst of praise and doxology followed up with a life dedicated to God because he was justified. What does a life look like that has been justified by grace through faith?

God makes His plea through His apostle to us, the church.

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

12 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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


  1. The Elements of God’s Appeal

The first thing we should see is that Paul is addressing those who have received the blessings from God. He addresses these as Brothers and of course sisters as well. This apostolic appeal is given to those who have received the great mercies of God. The world of lost people cannot obey this command because they have not received salvation from God. They cannot please God in any way.

To be addressed as Brethren or Brothers means we have already given God our souls. That’s where true worship begins.

Secondly, he tells us that based on all God has given us in Christ, He desires a return on His investment. The word mercies is a word that Paul drew from the Hebrew language and it means varied and multiple manifestations of God’s blessings given to His people. For eleven chapters we have read about these in great detail. We’ve read about the Gospel of God given to undeserving sinners like us. To bring this into light chapters 8-11 have a clear overall theme and it is God’s mercy shown to sinners.

Romans 9:15–16 (ESV)

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:22–23 (ESV)

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

Finally, based on the wealth of God’s mercies shown to us through Jesus Christ, we are told what a proper God accepting response looks like. Because God has rescued us, saved us from sin and eternal death we must give ourselves to God. We do this in the realm of the sacrificial system.

to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,      which is your spiritual worship.

We are not offering God an unblemished ram killed and given in worship to the Old Testament priest but because God has brought us from death to life through Jesus Christ we can now offer Him a living sacrifice, namely, ourselves.

If God has our bodies or our selves, He has all of us. Here, we see a physical transformation.

God possesses our soul at salvation. Now He also desires our physical bodies, which house the soul. It is in the flesh and in our human bodies that sin dwells. This phrase would not have set well with the Greeks who viewed the physical world as entirely evil. What Paul is telling us is that we must now as recipients of God’s mercies begin living differently than we used to as lost people.

We don’t just offer God our bodies but we are offering Him obedience lived out in our bodies which at one time could only live for sin. This is spiritual worship.

This is an odd statement that living out obedience in our physical bodies would be termed spiritual worship.

In order for us to truly worship God in the physical realm with physical bodies there must be a spiritual transformation that takes place. New life given to us as God awakens our souls from death to life as we begin to live for Him.

Romans 8:11–14 (ESV)

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Because God desires true worshippers as the return on His investment what are the elements of true worship? Or what does a true worshipper look like?

  1. The Elements of the Type of Worship God is Looking For

12 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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

  1. Giving of Ourself (our Bodies)

to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

It is because our bodies are yet unredeemed that they must be yielded continually to the Lord. It was also for that reason that Paul warned, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Rom. 6:12). Paul then gave a positive admonition similar to the one found in our text (12:1), preceded by its negative counterpart: “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). Under God’s control, our unredeemed bodies can and should become instruments of righteousness.[1]

Like the OT worshipper would present his or her sacrifice to God on the altar to be burned, a sweet aroma to God, now through Jesus Christ we have been brought from death to life and we present ourselves to God as living sacrifices ready to do what He desires. God calls this spiritual worship.

  1. Renewal of Our Thinking

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here is God’s call to nonconformity.

We worship God and give Him glory as we live and even think differently than the lost world does. When we are brought to life spiritually we begin to think differently because we now have the capacity to do so where before we didn’t.

What happens is that our god has changed from dead idols to the living God. We imitate what we worship, whether as lost people worshipping self and idols and thus think a certain way now we are born again to worship God and our thinking and behavior will begin and must begin to imitate Him.

What we worship we admire and esteem. Before we worshipped the things of this world and we valued the things of this world and our thinking revolved around those things and our value system reflected where our hearts were. Material goods captivated us; money, fame etc and our thinking went that direction.

Greg Beale titled his landmark book We Become What We Worship. His thesis is simple: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.”

Psalm 115:4–9 (ESV)

   Their idols are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

   They have mouths, but do not speak;

eyes, but do not see.

   They have ears, but do not hear;

noses, but do not smell.

   They have hands, but do not feel;

feet, but do not walk;

and they do not make a sound in their throat.

   Those who make them become like them;

so do all who trust in them.

   O Israel, trust in the Lord!

He is their help and their shield.

As believers our thinking and value system must change from the old to the new. The new value system says I am more concerned with God’s will than mine. I care more now what God thinks than what people think. I could care less about keeping up with the Jones’ and more about keeping in step with God and His desires for me.

This change is so substantial that Paul uses the Greek word metemorphoo, which is translated in our English Bibles as transformed. We see the caterpillar enter the cocoon and emerge as a glorious butterfly. There is really very little resemblance between the two. This metamorphosis in the way we think can only come about by new life and by communing with God through His inspired Word.

It’s not surprising then that Christians often seem odd, foolish, and even crazy to lost folks. As Christians we cannot continue living and thinking like everybody else because God has brought us from death to life and now we are in the process of having the mind of Christ.

Lets look to Christ and see how He lived and thought…

Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If His goal was worldly fame and fortune He would have never taken the role of a servant but would have held tightly to His form of God. He would have used His high status as a means of fame and wealth. He would have healed for money and His speeches would have been a means to make money. He would have been like many TV evangelist who place themselves at the top of the Pyramid Scheme. He was different. Jesus cared more about what God thought than anything else.

As He practiced humility and honored God, what happened?? God highly exalted Him with greater glory than He could have ever manufactured by being arrogant, prideful and on the quest for all things of worldly importance.

Beloved, we are in the process of changing. We cannot live in the realm of the status quo any longer.

Karl Barth called Christian Ethics the great disturbance, so violently does it challenge, interrupt and upset the tranquil status quo.

Ephesians 4:17–28 (ESV)

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.


As you examine your life where are areas that you’ve truly presented yourself to God as a living sacrifice? Has your thinking changed? Has your life and behavior changed along with it?

Pause for a moment and ask God to show you where more change needs to take place? I’m not necessarily talking about doing more stuff but in giving yourself to God He is truly your heart’s desire not the stuff of this world.








* Resources Used

Teaching Romans by Christopher Ash

Romans by John MacArthur

Romans by John Stott

Romans by Steele and Thomas


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans. Chicago: Moody Press.

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