I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSON EXHORTING. Whoever speaks to us in the name of God, or by a special commission from Him, has certainly a right to our attention. When we consider that the generality of men are more governed by example than precept, or the intrinsic reason of things, we must acknowledge it adds a very great force to instructions we hear from any person when they come recommended by his own practice, and that upon two accounts.
1. Because the actions of men discover most evidently to us the secret bent and disposition of their hearts.
2. Because a good example is a more moving and sensible argument to the practice of piety than the most beautiful images whereby we can otherwise represent it.
II. THE MANNER OF THE APOSTLE'S EXHORTATION.
1. "Brethren" is the general appellation of Christians which St. Paul uses in all his Epistles.
2. "By the mercies of God," that is, from the consideration of those great things our good and merciful God has done for us.
3. The subject-matter of the apostle's exhortation in the following words, "That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God."(1) By presenting our bodies a "living" sacrifice is implied that we perform to God a ready and cheerful obedience, that no difficulties or discouragements step us in the course of our Christian progress.
(a) "Living" may be here understood as it is opposed to those sensual lusts and passions which have their source from the body, and upon the account of which the apostle cries out (Romans 7:24). By indulging our sensual appetites we vitiate the best constitution, put the organs of the body out of tune, and by degrees perhaps do render it a sink of mortal diseases. All which disorders must necessarily render the body a very unfit and dull companion for the soul, or rather, as it were, a dead weight hanging upon it, in the more lively exercises of reason and devotion. And therefore we must take care never to indulge our bodily appetites to any excess, but rather endeavour to mortify our members which are upon the earth, that the soul operate with its full force and activity; which it is impossible we should do while we study nothing so much as to gratify our bodily appetites.
(b) "Living," that is, a continual sacrifice. Our whole life in every part and period of it should be consecrated to the service of God. Our incense must burn continually before Him, and the sacrifice of our body, while we are in the body, never cease to be offered. But this leads me to consider —
(2) The other affection of this sacrifice, in order to render it acceptable to God, and that is "holiness." A thing is said to be holy that is set apart to the more immediate service or worship of God. So that to present our bodies holy, is to keep them in a constant preparation for the duties of religion; to preserve them in a regular, pious, and composed temper; not to suffer our imagination to be defiled, or our sensual appetites gratified to any excess. And in particular to any of those sinful excesses which in the Holy Scriptures are termed the works of the flesh, and which are so contrary to the purity of that Divine Spirit who has chosen our bodies to be a habitation for Himself.
III. THE REASON AND GROUND OF THE APOSTLE'S EXHORTATION. There is nothing here required of us but what is proper to the state and condition of human nature; nothing but what is fit and "reasonable" to be done.
1. God being the Creator and absolute Governor of the world, has power to lay what restraints upon men He sees fit, not exceeding the benefits of their creation.
2. He has laid no restraints upon our natural appetites but what generally tend to our own good and the perfection of our reasonable nature.
3. We think it no injustice in secular potentates to restrain subjects in their natural rights and liberties when such liberties are found inconvenient to themselves, or others, or to the government in general.
4. We often, upon a prospect of a future and greater good, are willing to deny ourselves a present pleasure or satisfaction. Nothing is more common or thought more reasonable.
5. The restraints which are complained of in the Christian religion are no more than what some of the wisest moralists and teachers of natural religion have laid upon themselves and prescribed to others.
(R. Fiddes, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.