Our culture has one particularly dominant focus and that is the human body. Each of us is concerned with body image, maintaining health, gender identity, stress management, sexuality and measuring the self against those that seem to possess some superior physicality, strength, or skill. We each have a physical body, but we’re not entirely sure what to do with it.
What if possessing your physical body is a responsibility that you have before God and how you manage it has a bearing on the lives of others? For some, this can induce more feelings of shame and worthlessness for not exercising proper care and control. I do wonder how much of this part of the conscience is inspired by God and what part has become the domain of the accuser. Are the surrounding cultural values causing us to live in defeat or are there godly values that we have not yet adopted? I suspect many live with a mixture of both.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 1-11 build a systematic understanding of the nature of humanity, the propensity for our failure and the overwhelming redemption brought to us in Jesus. As he opens the next part of his treatise, he is going to explore what we should do with our bodies and then at a macro level, see our body as a part in Christ’s body.
If we are to understand what Paul is saying here, we need to figure out the distinction between body, soul, and spirit.
In Greek thought the body was considered the receptacle containing the soul, but this was not the Hebraic concept, which viewed the human being as a unit. Thus, Paul is not urging the dedication of the body as an entity distinct from the inner self; rather, he views the body as the vehicle that implements the desires and choices of the redeemed spirit. Through the body we serve God.
We offer our bodies to God in response to his mercy upon us. It is not enough to send our thoughts heavenward. We are to physically live in a sacrificial way with our bodies. That means being present where God wants us to be. That includes learning to control our bodies in ways that keep us rightly connected to the community.
It’s intriguing to me that substance abuse gets amplified by being disconnected from healthy relationships. Gluttony rarely needs an audience and abuse is always fuelled by misguided desires.
Paul speaks to people that had been abusers, been abused and lived in a world that encouraged many, unhealthy and soul addicting behaviours. If God has provided a way of being reconstituted and freedom from that which destroys us, should we not respond appropriately to God’s love?
Paul says that we do so by becoming a living sacrifice.
The Old Testament understanding of sacrifice required you to make a payment for your violations. The blood of a substitutionary animal was shed without the animal’s consent. The symbolic picture shows that our failures cost something beyond our personal liability. Old Testament sacrifice says that something will die so that we can pay a price to be reconciled to God.
Jesus’ blood sacrifice forever changes the nature of sacrifice. In Paul’s picture of living sacrifice, we become the act of worship in the way that we live. The blood you paid for does not need to be presented, because Christ’s sacrifice ended the need for an actual death. Our sacrifice is an act of worship that flows from living in God’s mercy and kindness.
Paul returns to his earlier theme that in light of their freedom in Christ, Gentile Christians should not live like pagans but should live holy lives, as if their bodies were a sacrificially pure offering to God. The Dead Sea Scrolls community similarly believed that their holy way of life was a kind of substitution for the sacrifices in the temple—sacrifices they believed to be corrupt. In the early church document A Plea for the Christians, Athenagoras argued that Christians should not participate in pagan sacrifices but “present a bloodless sacrifice, to offer ‘spiritual worship.’ ”
As you think about self-care, human rights, and citizenship, first think about God’s mercy in saving you. How will you now use your body to worship and serve Him? How does self-care become worship of God instead of self-preservation? Is your right to live merely a human demand or can you lay down your life in the name of love?
Many people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and never learn how to live a life that honours Him. But Paul encourages us to turn ourselves over to God each day, lay our wills on the altar before Him, and ask Him to use us for His glory and the good of His people. In full trust and worship, we commit to obeying Him, knowing that the Lord knows how best to lead us—no matter what happens.
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament ©2004
 NIV First-Century Study Bible ©2014 by Zondervan
 NASB Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes