There is but one place in the Bible where the English translation employs the term “reasonable.” In our present day language the term means: having the faculty of reason, rational, sound judgment. However, in Biblical language the term has a meaning which must be determined not by merely consulting the dictionary, but must be determined by its meaning in the Greek; its meaning particularly as used in the sacred text.
It was Dr. Brakel who made the term “Reasonable Service” the title of his Dogmatics. He called it in the Holland language “Redelijk Godsdienst.” This points up, on the one hand, the subjectivistic nature of Brakel’s Dogmatical approach, and, on the hand, it underscores the fact that he understood the term “logikos” as indicating that our worship must ever be according to the Word of God, and according to the pattern of that which God revealed in His covenant and in His holy temple. The term “reasonable” is thus a very significant one in Scripture!
Paul uses the term in a very beautiful and meaningful passage of Scripture. The text in which this term is found, reads in full as follows:
“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. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
Your Reasonable Service
Paul is here using the vocabulary of the church of the Old Testament dispensation. It is language and terminology which is understood by the believing saints. And it is therefore valid language also for the saints of the New Testament, even in the capital city of the mighty Roman world-power. The church at Rome also understood this language of the temple!
The term “service” does not refer to service in general, any kind of service amongst men, but most definitely refers to the worship-service of believers towards God as revealed in the temple, made after the pattern of the heavenly. It is the consecrated and God-ordained service of the priests, which is comely for saints. Such is the meaning of the term “latreia” in the Greek New Testament. It is the public and reverential service as is evident from such Scripture passages as John 16:2; Rom. 9:4; Heb. 9:1, 6. Fact is, that in Hebrews 9:1, the King James Version translates the term “latreia” as “divine service.” It is a term which also includes in it what is called in Greek “leitourgia” from which is derived our English “liturgy.” The latter term refers to the public work and worship in the temple, while the term “service” in our text refers to all the worship of God, both formally in the temple and the worship of God in our inner closet.
Now our reasonable service must refer to a certain “reasonableness” which is inherent in such worship of God. The term in the Greek is “logikos,” from which we derive our term “logical.” We ought to remember that it makes a great deal of difference whether Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, operates with this term, or whether a Paul uses it in the context of the worship of God in the church. There are but two instances of the use of the term “logikos” in the Bible: in our passage and in I Peter 2:2 where the Greek “logical, unfalsified milk” is paraphrased in the KJV “the pure milk of the word.” It is the Word of God in the simplest form, digestible for the simplest of minds, and, therefore, called “milk.” It is the Word as it has been predigested by others and recast in simple language, yet, so that the true meaning of the Word remains unchanged and unmixed by human error or un-Scriptural teaching. Here the KJV evidently felt they need the translation “reasonable,” that is, it is a service which follows from the Spirit-led and Spirit-fed Christian, nurtured in the Word. Such a Christian understands the very a-b-c of the teaching of what is ours in Christ; and, therefore, in all his walk he is not content until he has spelled out all its meaning, and that too, consistently, until he has said “z!” He never wills to depart from any of all the words of God in his worship of the Lord. Such is his “reasonableness” of faith. All must be one beautiful harmony in both doctrine and life. He never will walk unreasonably (alogoos) as do unreasonable men. Such men do not fit in any place or sphere in the service of God. II Thess. 3:2. They are ever as triangles in God’s square! They have never understood the reasonable service of Christ, the things that differ! For that reason it should not be overlooked that Paul is here speaking of the “brethren” and of their service. It is “your” reasonable service. Only the brethren of Christ, the eldest brother, have this service by the Spirit of the Son. This service is very exclusive of all unbelievers. For, as was said, this service is according to the logic of faith!
The Living Sacrifice
Paul exhorts the readers to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God. A sacrifice is a slain animal which has been dedicated by its blood and life on the altar of dedication. It has been set wholly in the service of God, consecrated to Him. Such was the sacrifice in the temple-worship. As the term indicates it refers to something made holy. It is set apart from that which is common and profane.
Furthermore, the sacrifice which we must be in our bodies is a living sacrifice. There are those who would explain this living sacrifice as referring to the fulfillment in contrast with the typical sacrifice of the slain animal in the temple. The latter would then be a dead sacrifice. It is our view that the living sacrifice is here not contrasted with the typical. We base our view on the fact that the sacrifices in the Old Testament were really not dead sacrifices inasmuch as these were the expression of the living faith of those who offered them. Abel’s sacrifice was indeed a living sacrifice in faith and hope, while the offering of Cain was a dead sacrifice inasmuch as it was not brought in faith. The difference between what is “living” and what is “dead” is therefore the same as that between a living and a dead faith. A sacrifice is living in that it is rooted in regeneration, calling, and consequent faith. It is that which comes forth from the new man in Christ; of him who has a delight in the law of God after the inner man. And when such a faith brings the sacrifice it is a living sacrifice in which the whole man is active with all his heart, all his mind, all his soul, and all his strength. It proceeds from the life-giving Spirit, Christ in our hearts!
Such a sacrifice must then needs be holy. Holiness is a virtue of God. It is basically the virtue by which God is infinitely exalted above the creature. He is the incomparable One. He is transcendent above all the creature, separated from man as the Creator. However, holiness also refers to God’s ethical holiness whereby, He is separated from sin. He is too pure of eyes to love iniquity. When a sacrifice is holy it therefore is entirely separated from all that is sinful, wicked and vain, and is entirely consecrated to God. It is as holy as God is holy and perfectly fits in the holy place of God. Such must be the living sacrifice.
Only thus can it be acceptable to God. The term in the Greek for acceptable is “euarestos,” that is: well-pleasing. See such passages as Rom. 12:1, 2; Rom. 14:18. God has delight in such living sacrifices which are holy. All the rest is an abomination to him. This is the requisite of any sacrifice. It must truly have been made holy, slain and having died to all that which is outside of the altar, and, therefore, alive, to God. The term “euarestos” does not emphasize so much the idea of acceptableness, “apodektos” (see I Tim. 2:3, 5:4), but rather indicates the inner, deep delight which the Lord has in a living sacrifice which is holy! See such passages as Psalm 18:19, 147:10; and Isaiah 1:11, 62:4 —for this positive delight which the Lord has in that which conforms to his will and holiness.
Such we must be as the brethren, the church of God in this world!
The Sacrifice—Our Bodies
Let us not forget that Paul is speaking of a living sacrifice to God. Furthermore, let it be well understood that this living sacrifice must be holy, shall it be well-pleasing to God, a matter of God’s inward and holy delight.
Now we are instructed that such must be our bodies. The body “sooma” is a rather important and meaningful concept in Scripture. This body must not be confused with the flesh. The body does not refer to man’s corporality. Rather it refers to the vehicle which is redeemed by Christ as well as the soul. Sometimes this is designated by the term our members. It then refers to our eyes and ears, our hands and tongue, our lips. In a word, it refers to all our senses by which our ego stands in contact with the entire world about us in our experience of God’s creation.
Permit us to delineate a bit on this.
With our eyes we are adapted to the world of light, colors, the prism of the rainbow. The light of the body is the eye, says Jesus. It is possibly the most important member of the body. Next to this comes that of the hearing ear which is adapted to the world of sound, of the sighing of the wind, and all the instruments of the harmony of, the sounds of music. It is adapted to the spoken word. That this is the meaning of “body” in Scripture is plain from what Christ says prophetically concerning himself already in the Old Testament in the Psalms. In Psalm 40:6-8, we read, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea thy law is within my bowels.” It is interesting to note that the term in the Hebrew “mine eye hast thou opened” in the Greek text in Heb. 10:5 reads “the body hast thou prepared me.” This indicates that in Scripture the bodyrefers to the members of the body as they are the organs of the person who expresses what is in his soul and heart. And thus the body can be a sacrifice in the hearing ear and in the fruit of the lips which is a continual thank-offering to God. In such a spiritual sacrifice God has a delight.
Here the reasonable service becomes indeed a very practical service. It means that there is no sphere in human life or in any dimension which is not to be placed on the altar. This means that in the sphere of all endeavor of education and science, art and culture, space and number, geography and history—all is to be placed on the altar of God. There are in this entire arena indeed two spiritual spheres: on the altar or outside of the altar. The holy and the unholy. The world stands in this same world in the body, but nothing is placed in the service of God by them, but rather in the service of sin! All the works of the world, outside of the holy place of the altar, do not have God’s delight, and are, therefore, not acceptable to Him, being a stench in His holy nostrils.