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.
Under the terms of the old covenant sacrifices of atonement for sin were required to be made. The sacrifices consisted of animals that had been slain and that had been dedicated and offered to God. These sacrifices were not ultimately adequate as a means of atonement and had to be, as a result, repeated on a regular basis (Hebrews 10:1-4). They merely foreshadowed the ultimately adequate and once-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Since the sacrifice of Christ, the old covenant animal sacrifices are no longer required.
Given that animal sacrifices are no longer required, is there any sacrifice left to make by those who are Christians in virtue of saving faith in Jesus Christ? Since Christians have been bought with the price of Christ’s sacrifice and are now slaves to Christ (I Corinthians 7:22-23), the only acceptable sacrifice we have left to make is the sacrifice of our own selves. These sacrifices are not, therefore, the sacrifices of dead animals, but “a living sacrifice.” Instead of dedicating and offering dead animals to God, we dedicate and offer our own live selves in service to Christ.
What does a living sacrifice, the sacrifice of our own selves, actually look like? The verses that follow our verse for today give us an idea of what the Apostle Paul had in mind. We are living sacrifices when we do not conform to the evil that is in the world and when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). In other words, we are living sacrifices when we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus. A living sacrifice is a life lived the way Jesus wants it to be lived.
The living sacrifices that we make should be “holy and acceptable to God,” just as the animals of the old covenant sacrifices were supposed to be without defect of any kind. And our living sacrifices can be holy and acceptable, because we have been made holy and acceptable by the blood of the Lamb. Every time we do something that truly reflects who we are in Christ Jesus we are a living sacrifice.
Let everything we do, then, reflect our status as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.