In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore,
brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living
sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable
service.” The use of the word “sacrifice” hearkens to the language of
the Old Testament Levitical priesthood. While the sacrifices offered at
the altar in the Old Testament were dead sacrifices, the injunction here
is for the Christian to present their bodies as a “living” sacrifice. This
speaks of a life of full surrender unto Christ. All the Christian’s goods,
being, health and time belong to God. Yea, our whole life ought to be
dedicated to God. This means that we are to be Christians not just
in church or in fellowship groups, but everyday of our lives. Every
Christian is in full-time service unto the Lord, not just pastors and

The conjunction “therefore” (oun) is significant, connecting this
section with what he has written earlier. In chapters 1-11, Paul has
presented the gospel to us in its full glory. All men are totally
depraved and deserve everlasting judgement in the lake of fire. But
the just God is also a loving God and has provided a way of salvation
in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in
Christ alone, that we may be saved. And this gospel is freely open to
all, both Jews and Gentiles. The things which God has done for us are
coined by Paul as “the mercies of God”. While “grace” talks about the
unmerited favour which we receive from God, the term “mercy”
focuses on us not receiving the punishment that we deserve.
Furthermore, the term “mercy” is in the plural, emphasising the
richness of God’s mercy and compassion. God is not only merciful.
He is extremely and abundantly merciful.

When a believer considers the rich mercies of God in his life, he will
realise that the full surrender of one’s life as a living sacrifice is but
“reasonable service” unto the Lord. After all that Christ has done for
us at Calvary, nothing but a full surrender will suffice in showing our
gratitude to the Lord. We owe Him our entire being. Nothing that we
do on this earth can ever compare with what Christ has done at

It is interesting to note that Paul chose to beseech the Roman Christians
rather than to command them to present their bodies a living sacrifice
unto the Lord. Paul desires that their service to God must not be one
that is coerced or forced, but that which flows from a willing heart, that
is brimming with love towards God for His everlasting mercies. It is a
life of willing and loving obedience towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, the manner in which we present our bodies as a sacrifice
to the Lord is critical too. This sacrifice must also be one which is
“holy” and “acceptable” before the Lord. In the Old Testament times,
the people are to present sacrifices according to God’s specifications.
Different types of sacrifices required different types of animals. In
addition, the sacrifices presented to God must be unblemished. No one
was allowed to present a lame or blind animal. Such a sacrifice is
considered an abomination before God.

Similarly, our living sacrifice to the Lord must also be unblemished.
Our lives must not be stained with sin. Rather than bearing the fruit of
the flesh, the Christian is to bear the fruit of the Spirit. He is dedicated
to holiness rather than iniquity. Just as how polluted bread was
disregarded by the LORD during the time of Malachi, so must our
service not be stained by sin.

Hendriksen sums up the thrust of this verse well, “What the apostle is
saying is that in view of God’s mercy, a voluntary and enthusiastic
response of gratitude is required. . . . this sovereign divine mercy calls
for a life of complete dedication and wholehearted commitment …
Nothing less than thorough self-surrender out of gratitude is required.”
Will you give your entire life to serving the Lord? Let our life
ambitions be given wholly to doing the Lord’s will.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew

Macbeth Sins for False Ambition
(From Paul Lee Tan’s Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations)

Macbeth is a striking example of an ambitious man desiring and then using
any means to acquire some power beyond possession. The tragedy tells us
that his faithful soldier, fresh from the wars in Norway, is met by spirits
who greet him as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cowdor and finally as the
future King.

“All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter,” exclaim the misleading
spirits. Scarcely are they gone, when messengers inform Macbeth that he
has been raised to the rank of Thane of Cowdor. What could keep him
from fulfilling the third prophecy – that of being King?

Like a guardian angel, his companion in arms warns him: “And
oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tells us
truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence.”

Macbeth heeds not the warning. Treason and murder enter his heart. Crime
and sin follow. All because he gave in to false ambition.

Editor’s note: The Christian’s ambition should be, “For to me to live is
Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) Any ambition to glorify self will
ultimately lead to one’s destruction.