Romans 12:1-2 states a call to commitment. It can nourish us wherever we are in our spiritual pilgrimage. For those further along, it can serve as an affirmation and deepening of matters long settled. For those just beginning to seriously interact with the demands of Christ, it can be a spiritual benchmark.

The basis of commitment is the mercies of God, as Paul so clearly states in the opening phrase of verse 1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” Specifically, Paul is talking about the mercy of God as spelled out in the eleven preceding chapters – God’s mercy to the terribly fallen human race through the provision of His Son. Radically sinful man was radically lost. But God provided a radical righteousness through the radical person of His Son, which made a radical new life and view of history possible. In view of this mercy God calls us to commitment. The greater our comprehension of what God has done for us, the greater our commitment should be. Practically applied, Christ’s gift, meditated on, accepted, taken to heart, is a magnet drawing us to deepest commitment to Him. There is scarcely anything more important for building our commitment than an increasing understanding of the greatness of God and His mercies to us.

The character of the commitment is given in the last half of the verse: “…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This commitment has two prominent characteristics: it is total, and it is reasonable. The totality of the commitment comes dramatically to us through the language of sacrifice. “Your bodies,” refers to more than skin and bones, it signifies everything we are – our totality. For Paul, true worship in offering ourselves to God is reasonable or logical because it is consistent with proper understanding of the truth of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Total commitment is the only rational course to take when you really see who God is. Nothing else makes any sense.

Halfway commitment is irrational. To decide to give part of your life to God and keep other parts for yourself – to say “Everything is yours, Lord, but this relationship, this deal, or this pleasure” – is beyond spiritual logic! If we are worshiping apart from commitment to God, it is false worship. We are deceiving ourselves if we are doing “Christian things” but are not consecrated to Jesus Christ.

Notice that in verse 2a there are two commands. The first is negative: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The second is positive: “…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” These are two sides of commitment. Paul’s words in the first command can be paraphrased, “Don’t be conformed to the schemes of this passing evil age.” The painful truth is, such conformity is common to many of us to a greater extent than we like to acknowledge. Sometimes it’s difficult to know when we are conforming because there are many good things in the world. Moreover we are not to write off our culture entirely. Yet we must think critically. We must be careful what we read and watch. We must not fear to challenge others’ presuppositions. Above all, we must not be afraid to be different.

Then comes the positive command: “…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The full meaning of the word “transformed” is richer than the simple definition of a caterpillar to a butterfly, as other uses in the New Testament indicate. In Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 it is used to describe the transfiguration of Christ – when the Lord’s glorious inner essence was allowed to show through His body so that His face radiated like the sun and His clothing was white with light. We experience such transfiguration in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). How does this happen? This must be done by someone else, which is of course the Holy Spirit. We are to submit to the Holy Spirit who brings about “the renewal of the mind.” The Christian is to allow himself to be changed continually so that his life conforms more and more to that of Christ.

As we answer the call to commitment, we are called to voice a monumental “no” to the schemes of this fleeting evil age and a determined “yes” to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in renewing our minds. The “no” without the “yes” will lead to a life of futile negation. The “yes” without the “no” will lead to frustration because Christ will not dwell in Satan’s house. These are not suggestions, but are rather imperial commands to be obeyed by all!

The final phrase of verse 2 reveals the effects of genuine commitment in our lives: “… that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (v. 2b). A committed life has the power to perceive what God’s will is. The one who is committed to God sees life with a sure eye. While the careless and uncommitted are in confusion, he knows God’s will, and he finds God’s will to be “good and acceptable and perfect.”

To summarize; the basis of commitment is the mercies of God and His love for us. The character of our commitment is to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. The demands of commitment are that we are not to be conformed to this world and to be transformed by the renewal of your minds. And the effect of commitment is knowing the will of God. Nothing but total commitment of our lives to God makes any sense. He holds the universe together by the Word of His power – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” And if this is not enough, He gave us His “mercies” through His Son, even while we were yet sinners. Total commitment is the only logical way to live. Let us live under the logic of God.

Romans 12:1-2 Reflection Questions:

What does it mean to be “living sacrifices” (v. 1)? What sacrifice is Paul talking about?

When did you really have to sacrifice for something? What did you give up? What made you willing to invest so much of yourself to achieve that goal?

Why does Paul emphasize the mind in verse 2?


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