“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. ” (Romans 12:1, ESV)
I read this verse for years through graceless lenses, as though Paul is challenging me to “Sacrifice more!” “Do more!” “Work harder!” This is NOT what Paul is saying.
The first thing we must notice is the word “therefore.” Romans 12 marks the beginning of a whole new section in Romans. The end of the book is very practical and in it Paul talks about how we should live, how we can practically apply the truth he has presented earlier in the book. Rom 12:1 is entirely based on the content of the preceeding eleven chapters.
And how does Paul summarize the preceeding eleven chapters? “By the mercies of God…”
The word “mercies” refers to God’s compassion. That’s what the word means. The first eleven chapters have given us amazing insight into the mercy, compassion, and grace of God. Paul’s exhortation that we should present ourselves as a living sacrifice is based upon the grace of God already given. He isn’t saying “you need to sacrifice and it better be a holy and acceptable sacrifice!” Just the opposite. God’s grace has already made you holy and acceptable. Paul is not exhorting us to live to please God. He is telling us that because God is already pleased, we are free to truly live.