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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 74

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as Exhibited in Transformation

A Life of Consecration

Let us now consider the meaning of the word "present". Remember we are dealing with that same word appearing in chapter 6 back where Paul said we died with Christ, we rose with Him, we are to reckon it to be so, and we are to "yield." Paul did not develop it in the sixth chapter, but here he develops it. "Present your bodies" as an act of consecration.

You may wonder why he mentions the body in the exhortation "Present your bodies." There is a reason in that. The body, at the present time, is the instrument of the soul and spirit, and God gets no service except it be manifested through the body: the hands, the feet, the mouth, the tongue. Therefore, he speaks of the body, and that includes the soul and spirit, everything, the whole man. In fact the word "body" is a way of describing an organism in its entirety. 

"Present your bodies," but what kind of a sacrifice should it be? The answer is clear. It should be "a living sacrifice." Very often we have thought of this word "sacrifice" altogether wrongly, as simply giving up something that we would rather not part with. This sacrifice is not only giving up something, but it is giving it up to God with eagerness and joy - presenting it to Him; and furthermore, in contradistinction to the sacrifices of the Old Testament which were dead, these are living sacrifices. He died for our sins; we are not called upon to die - we are called upon to live for Him! We might die in a moment of time, but to live for Him will require a lifetime.

Concerning this sacrifice, Paul says three wonderful things:

First of all, he tells us what kind of a sacrifice it should be, namely, holy. You are a sinner, and you come now in His merit, in His blood, and the sacrifice is considered holy.

Second, it is acceptable. He will receive it, because it is well-pleasing. It is attractive to and excites the pleasure of a holy and loving God.

Third, it is reasonable. "Your reasonable service." There are two ideas in the word, perhaps three. Basically the word means logical, in the sense that it is the response of a man who  recognizes that he was bought with a price and therefore belongs to the one who bought him (1 Co. 6:19). It is reasonable in the sense that it is the response of a moral creature made in the image of God and unlike a beast or a mere chattel (2 Peter 2:12). It is spiritual in the sense that it is the response of a creature who now rises to the highest point of priestly service under the direction of the Spirit of God (Heb. 9:1, 6). Obviously all three of these ideas go together.

The exhortation continues: "Be not conformed [fashioned] to this world, but be ye transformed." There are two words "conformed" and "transformed." The first one, translated "conformed", is the word from which we get our English word "scheme." It means a conformation that is outward, without any necessary connection with inner essence, and it is like the world that passes away.

The word "transformed", however, reaches deeper. This refers to an external form that clearly represents inner essence. To be transformed means that inner essence will make an external manifestation. It is the same root word that is used in Philippians: "Who existing in the "form" of God." The inner reality of Christ, which was essential deity, made itself known in outward manifestation.

Consider first the appeal: Do not be "conformed" to the age. There is nothing so hateful and abominable in the eyes of God as for the Christian to conform himself according to the present age, an outward age which does not truly represent the new nature in purity nor permanence. This age is an evil one and a passing order of things. If you conform yourself to this age, you will pass away with it. Of course, Paul must use a word that describes transience, not permanence.

Consider finally the result, and compare the word "transformed" in 2 Corinthians 3:18 with the phrase "Be ye transformed" in this verse. This is not something that you are to do, according to the Scriptures. If you present yourself to God as a living sacrifice and "behold the glories of the Lord" in His Word, you will be transformed progressively. This is the Spirit's word, but it also calls for cooperation on the part of the believer.

The end result is "that you may prove," that is, out to discover and approve as the assayer tests the ore to discover and approve it. The issue is the will of God described in three of its aspects: "good," that is pure; "acceptable," that is, meeting the pleasure of God; and "perfect", that is, lacking in no respect. Surely nothing can stand in higher priority in the activity of a saved man than this.

A man who sees the mercies of God will then present himself to God as a living sacrifice. The issue of such consecration will be to know by proof and test what is the will of God. The unbeliever does not know, he cannot know, and therefore he must falteringly grope his way through the darkness.

That "will of God" is here described by three words which deserve further explanation:

1. Good. God's will is always good. It may be hard, but it is always good.
2. Acceptable. It ought to be acceptable to you, because it is acceptable to Him.
3. Perfect. Sometimes the will of God leads you into places that you cannot see the reason for, and it seems that everything is going wrong. But remember that His will is perfect. o matter how devious the way may be, His will is perfect because "He knows the end from the beginning."

We can sum up the meaning of the first two verses of this chapter in three statements: 1. The basis of holy living is revelation; 2. The method of holy living is consecration; 3. The result, or the outcome, of holy living is transformation.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 75 - "A Life of Humility")

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