THE SACRIFICE: OUR BODIES—continued
It is therefore in the duty of strict exegesis to maintain that all the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Only Christ had the perfect ear and heart, He had the body prepared for Him, so that He fulfilled what was written in the volume of the book. He said: “Behold, I come to do thy will, O my God!” And unto this the saints are exhorted. They are thus to present their bodies. The term present in the Greek is the technical term for offering a sacrifice. The wicked may do many things with their natural light in the body, but they cannot present themselves to God. They can only present their members as servants of unrighteousness unto sin. Rom. 6:13. Never do they present themselves to God as those who have been made alive and brought forth out of death. They do not do this in their learning, their business, their art and culture, their verse and poetry. Fact is, that all the worldly institutions stand in the service of sin. It is man without God in the world. They are not the brethren who are tenderly yet earnestly and seriously exhorted by the tender mercies of God!
OUR NEED OF CONTINUAL TRANSFORMATION
It is a very holy and delicate task to present our bodies to the Lord as a holy, well-pleasing sacrifice. Only the reborn child of God has the necessary requisites for this service at the altar. And this task of standing at God’s altar in our entire life calls for a continual and an ever increasing transformation by the renewal of the mind.
We are not amiss if we call this transformation the positive side of the believer’s conversion. There is also a negative side to conversion. You will recall, dear reader, that the Heidelberg Catechism in Questions 88-91 speaks of this conversion in its twofold aspect, to wit, the mortification of the old and the quickening of the new man.
Perhaps just a word of elucidation will not be considered redundant in regard to the matter of “conversion” in general, so that we may the more pointedly see this question of our spiritual transformation of which Paul here speaks and unto which he admonishes. It ought to be understood clearly by every Bible believer that God’s people are not saved by means of conversion, but rather that they are saved by grace through faith. Conversion proceeds from faith even as the effect follows from the cause, and water flows from a fountain. Faith is the root from which all conversion follows. Wherefore it also follows that conversion is, in the Scriptures, ever the entire life of sanctification and thankfulness. The Christian has much sin in his members; daily he does what he would not, even though he has a delight in the law of God after the inward man. Now it belongs to our reasonable service that we are sorry for our sins, sorry that we have provoked God, and that we more and more hate and flee from them. Fact is that the German text of the Catechism in Question 89 speaks of the “longer the more” (je lenger je mehr) and this means a stepping up of the tempo of hatred for sin and fleeing from it, and that too with the more earnestness and intensity. Let it not be forgotten by us! On the other hand conversion also has a positive side. It means that we have true joy in God through Christ, and that with love and delight live according to the law of God in all good works!
It is our belief that Paul teaches both these elements of conversion, of continual conversion here in Romans 12:2. Without both of these elements it is not possible to please God and to be well-pleasing to God, and to present our bodies, as above circumscribed, a well-pleasing and holy sacrifice to God.
Let us attempt to see this.
Paul says that we are not to be conformed to this world. This is an exhortation and not the mere statement of a fact of existence or of a status quo to which we have already arrived. And we ought to observe that the exhortation tells us what we must not do. The form of the negative in the Greek text indicates that the apostle does not mean to say that we must notbegin to be conformed to this world, but rather that we must no longer be conformed to this world. We muststop being thus conformed. Besides, the tense of the verb indicates that we must continually stop, never cease our no longer being conformed to this world. This indicates a life-long battle—up till the moment of our death when we shall have perfectly died unto sin. Moreover, we ought to consider also that the phraseology “not be conformed” is very significant in the Greek text. The term or verb employed indicates that this world has a basic “scheme”, a pattern of life. It is anti-God and anti-Christ and also anti the fellowman. Its pattern of life is that of the profane; it is never in accord with the altar of consecration to God. This must be rigidly maintained all along the line in the light of all Scripture. This pattern is graphically and clearly set forth in Rom. 3:10-18. Now it requires no battle to conform to this world. Conformists have no battle. They simply need to float down the mid-stream of this life of the world. For our flesh finds a ready ally in this world. However, this must stop! It must stop resolutely. The unclean and the harlots cannot come near to God to present their sacrifice. God is holy and therefore we are to be holy in all our conversation! Such is the negative side of conversion which is necessary to present our bodies to the Lord.
However, there is also the positive side of conversion!
Paul expresses this in the words “but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds” Rom. 12:2.
Here too we must keep in mind that Paul exhorts and that he does not simply state a fact, whether actual or potential. The Greek text does not simply indicate the need of an activity of faith and conversion once and for all, but refers to an activity which must constantly be carried on progressively. We underscore once more that this is an activity of faith, a faith by which we are ingrafted into Christ and by which we receive all -his benefits. Keeping this in mind we shall understand that the term in the Greek for “transformed” is that from which our English term “metamorphosis” is derived. This metamorphosis is the law of life, of all life. The child is “metamorphosed” that is, transformed from the embryonic state to that of the child, and from that of the child to adolescence, and from adolescence to the matured man. The larva pupates and through the process. of metamorphosis becomes the beautiful and’ matured butterfly. Thus also according to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus the believer through conversion becomes such, more and more, that he presents his body a living sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service!
Do not overlook the manner of this spiritual metamorphosis in conversion. It is “by the renewing of our mind”! This renewal is given us in all its potentiality in regeneration. However here Paul speaks of a “renewing” of the mind. The term in the Greek text is “anakainoosis” and is translated renewing. Our minds must be renewed. This is the work of the Spirit, to be sure. However, this renewing is our activity as the fruit of, the Spirit’s, operation who works in us this renewing. The mind must ever be constantly renewed. This mind is not the same as our mere intellect, however. Scripture does not employ merely the verbiage and concepts of the Greek psychology, or that of Scholastic theology of the days before the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century. The term in the Greek is “nous”. And our “nous” or mind in Scripture includes not only the intellect, but also the will with all its emotions. It refers to the entire man as he consciously lives the new life of regeneration. Shall there be metamorphosis, or transformation, then there must be this making new again in the consciousness of the believer by the Word and Spirit. This renewal proceeds from the heart whence are the issues of life, and with which heart we believe unto salvation. Then there is true joy in God through Christ. This transformation is the sign of the well-being of faith! Here we observe the going from strength to strength, out of faith unto faith.
This renewal of the “nous” with which we have a delight in the law of God after the inward (new) man must be applied in every dimension of life in which we live in our body. (see above) Here is no room for the Anabaptistic recluse who shuns to live the fullorbed life of the Christian to be some first-fruits of God’s creation. We must live this life in our body in all of creation! The arena is as wide as the world. However, there is a theory of “common grace”, which ought not to be glorified with too much attention; it too can have no place here, for it cannot be placed on the altar of God! There are not two spheres for the Christian. The Christian claims the total creation of God to which totality his body is here adapted, his seeing eye, his hearing ear, his touching hand, his tasting tongue and his nose with which he smells. It is all pro rege, that is, for the King. And in all of this by the renewing of our mind (“nous”) the Christian presents his body a living sacrifice, and thus brings the entire creation upon the altar. This is the real motive for Christian instruction in the home and school. The Lord must smell the sacrifice upon the altar of consecration as a sweet savor! With less He is not well-pleased. And that requires a constant life of conversion, of not being conformed to the world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
THE APPROVING OF THE GOOD WILL OF GOD
The “will of God” in this passage refers to the will of God’s command as laid down in His law to His people. It is the perfect law of liberty and not the being “under law”. Compare James 1:25 and Rom. 6:14, 15. This law too is as wide as creation and as wide as our “body”, and concerns all that which is placed on the altar of God. It is God’s stipulations concerning the altar and concerning our lives at the altar.
This law is spiritual, holy and good!
In climactic effect Paul writes concerning this law of God: the good, the well-pleasing and the perfect. That the law is “good” means that it is good as God is good. God alone is good. He is the only and Highest Good. He is holy and there is no evil in him. Besides, this law can only be good for us, our salvation. It is well-pleasing because it expresses God’s inner delight in it. We hear here echoes of Psalm 19. There we read “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the commandments of the Lord are pure enlightening the eyes.” The law is “perfect” because it brings out the ultimate potential of all that is in the image of God in man. Its fruition will be the perfect sacrifice in heaven which will not pollute nor even besmirch the throne!
Thus is conversion seen in positively approving the will of God in every dimension, in every faculty, in all of creation. Surely unto this we can only come by the “mercies” of God. These mercies are the deep bowels of God from which our salvation comes, and which assures our ultimate perfection, and holiness, when our metamorphosis shall be completed in the glorified body, when our ear shall have been perfectly pricked to be attentive upon His will. Now we have the struggle, but then we shall rest from our labors in doing the will of God, bringing the perpetual sacrifice about the great white Throne!