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.
— Romans 12:1
When Mary’s days of purification were finished after the miraculous birth of Jesus, Luke 2:22 tells us that Mary and Joseph brought their son to Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord. It says, “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.”
Mary and Joseph came to Jerusalem with the express purpose “to present” the young Jesus to God. To make such a journey to Jerusalem required finances to pay for the journey itself and to purchase the turtledoves and pigeons that would be offered to God at the time they presented Jesus. This was no casual, accidental, haphazard, unplanned event. Presenting Jesus to the Lord in the temple was a serious occasion, as it was for all males in Israel. Such an event was planned in advance and done with great reverence toward God. Thus, it was a very hallowed, consecrated, holy moment as Joseph and Mary approached the Temple at the time set for Jesus’ dedication.
Luke 2:22 says that Joseph and Mary came “…to present him to the Lord.” The word “present” comes from the Greek word paristimi, which is a compound of the words para and istimi. The prefix para means alongside, and the word istimi means to place. When these two words are compounded together, the new word means to place beside; to place at one’s disposal; to surrender; to offer, as to offer a sacrifice to God; or to present, as to present a special offering to God. This word undoubtedly communicates the fact that Mary and Joseph were coming to the Temple on this day to intentionally place their newborn son into God’s close care. They were dedicating and entrusting Him into God’s protection. They were surrendering Him to God’s supervision and making a pledge that this new baby boy was God’s possession and that God could therefore use Him however He wished.
This Greek word paristimi (“present”) is precisely the same word that Paul used in Romans 12:1, when he 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 fact that Paul used this same word sheds some very important light on Romans 12:1.
First, we know that Paul was very earnest when he wrote Romans 12:1 because he began by solemnly telling them, “I beseech you.…” The word “beseech” comes from the Greek word parakaleo. As noted in other Sparkling Gems, the word parakaleo is a Greek compound of the words para and kaleo. The word para means alongside, and the word kaleo means to call or to beckon. When these two words are compounded together, the new word pictures one who comes alongside someone else, as close as he can get, and then begins to passionately call out, plead, beckon, beg, and beseech that other person to do something on his behalf.
In many places, the word parakaleo is used to depict a person who is earnestly praying. Therefore, the word parakaleo is also a word that can depict a person who is sincerely expressing his heart to God in prayer. In light of this fact, one Greek scholar says that it is almost as if the apostle Paul dropped to his knees in this verse and began to prayerfully plead for his Roman readers to hear his petition. His heartfelt request was that they would present their bodies a living sacrifice to God.
It must be noted that the word parakaleo also described what military commanders did before they sent their troops into battle. After summoning the troops together, their commander would beseech or exhort them as he warned them of the realities of warfare. The commander would describe in detail what they were going to face in their battle; then he’d urge them to keep on fighting bravely until the victory was won. All of this is included in the word parakaleo.
This is very significant in the context of Romans 12:1. Paul was urging believers to dedicate their bodies to God. However, Paul knew that when a believer makes the decision to dedicate his body to God, the carnal nature may respond by going to war against the spirit. The flesh just doesn’t want to submit to the law of God or to do what God wishes. So when Paul besought his readers to yield their bodies to God, he was also warning them that such an action might stir up a battle in the flesh.
The carnal nature has long been the driving force for what is done with the body; therefore, it will most likely rebel when it is told to submit to God’s control. This is why anyone who decides to present and dedicate his body to God must be ready and willing to fight the battle with the flesh until victory is achieved.
As mentioned earlier, Paul uses the Greek word paristimi when he says we are to “present” our bodies as a living sacrifice. This is exactly the same word used in Luke 2:22 to depict that moment when Jesus’ parents presented baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem. Just as Jesus’ dedication was no casual, accidental, haphazard, unplanned event, now Paul is telling us that the presentation of our bodies to God is a serious occurrence in our lives. This is no light affair, but one that should be done in a very hallowed, consecrated, and serious manner. It is a crucial, historical moment in our lives when we intentionally place ourselves in God’s close care. We surrender ourselves and all that we are to God’s supervision, making a solemn pledge that we are His and that He can therefore use us in whatever way He wishes.
You may wrongly assume that because you are a believer, this act of surrender has already occurred. But just because you are a believer does not mean that you have completely surrendered your body to God. If becoming a believer automatically caused this act of surrender to take place, Paul wouldn’t have found it necessary to earnestly urge the Roman believers to do it.
Notice that we are to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice.” In the Old Testament, an animal sacrifice would be offered upon the altar. Because the animal was dead, it could only be presented to the Lord once as a sacrificial offering.
But in the New Testament, we are urged to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. This implies that we must live in a continual state of surrender and consecration. Our commitment may begin with a momentous, “once-and-for-all” decision, but it must be followed with a daily decision to keep on surrendering ourselves to the Lord. Thus, we must see every day of our lives as another day — another opportunity — to yield our lives to God.
Each new day necessitates new surrender and consecration. What you surrendered to God yesterday is already old. Today is a new day and demands a new and higher level of consecration.
Therefore, as you awake each morning, train yourself to begin your day with a prayer of consecration in which you solemnly and in holy reverence present yourself and all that you are to God’s purposes. Don’t assume that because you did it yesterday, you don’t need to do it today. What you did yesterday remains in yesterday’s sphere. Each new day beckons you to take a step closer to the Lord and to make a commitment more serious than the one you made before.
Have you willfully, deliberately, and intentionally presented your body to God? Just as Jesus’ parents brought Him to the Temple to present Him to the Lord, God is asking you to reverently come into His Presence to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to be used for His purposes. If you haven’t ever taken this step of faith, are you ready to take it now? The carnal nature may declare war when you make the decision to surrender completely to the Lord, so be prepared to deal with the flesh. Just determine that you will not stop until the victory has been won!
Today is the day to surrender yourself into the hands of God. Don’t wait until tomorrow — and don’t depend on what you did yesterday. This is a new day, and God is calling you to surrender yourself anew. So don’t let ANYTHING hold you back from taking this step of faith right now!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, today I am surrendering myself as a living sacrifice to be used in whatever way You choose. I know You are beckoning me to come higher and closer than ever before, so right now I approach You with great reverence and surrender myself more fully to You. With all my heart I vow to give You my soul, my emotions, my spirit, my body, and everything else that I am and that I possess. I want to live for You and to serve You for the rest of my life. Starting today, I yield to You completely. When You speak, I will do exactly what You tell me to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am surrendered to the purposes of God. I daily consecrate myself to God — to do what He wants and to live a life that is pleasing to Him. My flesh may try to wage war against this consecration, but I take authority over my flesh and I tell it what to do. My body does not control me. Instead, I control it, using it as my instrument to do whatever God asks me to do. Every day when I awake, I renew my consecration and personal commitment to serve God with all my heart. I am His completely, and I will obey whatever His Spirit prompts me to do.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Has there been a moment in your life when you seriously consecrated yourself more fully to God’s purposes? When was that moment? How did this deeper commitment affect your life?
2. Do you daily consecrate yourself to the Lord? If the answer is no, how long has it been since you dropped to your knees and reverently surrendered your life, your mind, your emotions, your talents, your money, your family, your job, your friends, your plans, and all that you are to the Lord?
3. Would God say that you live your life like a “living sacrifice”?