The Main Thing

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, 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

Here St. Paul comes to the “continental divide” in his greatest letter. His journey so far has taken him and his readers in Rome through God’s gracious intentions and provisions on our behalf. Standing now on that high crest where we can see at once where we’ve been and where we can go, he says the journey ahead is worship.

This is not a “Lewis and Clark expedition” following our noses across a vast wilderness in hopes of discovering something we know not quite what. It is in fact a well-charted excursion documenting our course to date and our clear destination.

When Paul makes his appeal to us “by the mercies of God,” he well could have said “in view of God’s merciful acts and activities.” It’s a phrase gathering or summing up not only the apostle’s argument in the preceding flow of his correspondence, but the whole of God’s merciful dealings with humankind. This includes the whole background of Old Testament worship and its recapitulation for believers living under God’s new covenant.

The astute scholar of Romans C. E. B. Cranfield writes,

The Christian’s obedience is his response to what God has done for him and for all men in Jesus Christ. Its basic motive is gratitude for God’s goodness in Christ. This means that all truly Christian moral endeavor is theocentric, having its origin not in a humanistic desire for the enhancement of the self by the attainment of a moral superiority, not in the legalist’s illusory hope of putting God under obligation to himself, but simply in the gracious actions of God (Cranfield, Romans, 292).

Anglican theologian and devotional writer W. H. Griffith-Thomas sums up:

It is because we are already recipients of the mercies of God that we can and must live the true life. We work from salvation, not for salvation (Griffith-Thomas, Romans, 324).

Worship is the only reasonable response to God’s breathtaking blessing and provision. It’s an all-encompassing response of our whole selves in every facet of our lives. Worship is the most important thing any of us will ever do.

Michael Denham

Author: expositionalvision

Michael Denham has served many years as Director of Music Ministries at The National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

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