The apostle Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote the book of Romans as an explanation of the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ toward undeserving sinners. The first three chapters of Romans establish the universality of sin (all are sinners both Jew and Gentile); the offensiveness of man’s sin to God; and the inability of sinful man to justify himself through his own efforts before God. It is the backdrop of the magnitude of our sin and offensiveness to God that the multitude of God’s mercies toward us are highlighted or displayed from Romans 3:21 to 11:36.
God in His grace sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to accomplish for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves. Jesus lived a sinless life under God’s Law upholding the Law perfectly and obtaining the Law’s promise of life – “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them” (Leviticus 18:5). This we did not and cannot do. We are sinners by nature. This the Lord Jesus Christ did do. He is holy by nature.
Then Jesus died a sacrificial death to pay and uphold the penalty of the Law for those who had earned death by breaking the Law – “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the Law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:10); and, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Jesus, the sinless man, was crucified, died, and buried all for crimes that He did not commit.
Then Jesus experienced a supernatural resurrection from the dead to uphold the Law’s promise of life for the one who never sins and so that God could justify sinners on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. Now sinners can receive mercy from God and be justified by the sinless life of Jesus, the sacrificial death of Jesus, and the supernatural resurrection of Jesus.
The first eleven chapters of Romans clearly show us God’s mercy towards sinners and the benefits of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans chapters twelve through sixteen show us the practical outworking of having received God’s mercy through faith in Christ. These chapters show us what God’s mercies motivate us to do.
Paul wrote Romans 12:1-2 in order to motivate the Christians at Rome by God’s mercies to dedicate their bodies, minds and wills totally to God for His service. This passage instructs us that we are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies, minds, and wills totally to God for His service. God’s Mercy is the motivation for Christian dedication to God.
First, we are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies totally to His service (Romans 12:1). Paul “urged” the Christians at Rome to present their bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God for His service. The word “urge” means to come alongside and help. Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Rome of God’s mercy toward them in the Gospel was his way of helping them to be motivated to dedicate themselves to God.
The word “present” means that this is to be a once for all commitment to God’s service. This is the language of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system. The sacrifice was offered to God as a gift and it was not taken back – it was once for all.
The sacrifice God is looking for is to be “living” and “holy.” This means that we are to be dead to sin and alive to God. This is acceptable or “well-pleasing” to God. The reason it is “well-pleasing” to God is because we are dedicating our bodies to live for Jesus a life that is true based on His great sacrifice for us. We are being motivated by God’s mercies to serve God out of loving loyalty and not by legalistic manipulation. This is well-pleasing to God. This is also our “reasonable” service of worship. Dedicating our bodies to God because of His mercies to us is logical. We are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies totally to His service.
Second, we are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our minds totally to His service (Romans 12:2a). Whoever controls the mind controls the body. The “world” or “spirit-of-the-age” wants us to “conform” to its ways and reflect its values. The world seeks to press us into its mold by bombarding our minds with its ungodly values and ungodly ways. Christians are pressured from every side to compromise with and conform to the world. The remedy for conformity to the world is not self-abasement or severe treatment of the body (Colossians 2:23); the remedy for conformity to the world is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind by dedicating your mind totally to God for His service.
Whoever controls the mind controls the body! This is why the world bombards the minds of men with its sinister thoughts and ideas. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The word “transformed” is where we get the word, “metamorphosis.” We are to be changed from the inside out by the renewing of our minds. This is why self-abasement and severe treatment of the body are of no value against fleshly and worldly indulgence (Colossians 2:23). We dedicate our minds to God by filling them with His Word and meditating on His Word and treasuring His Word (see Philippians 4:8). We are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our minds totally to His service.
Third, we are to be motivated by the mercies of God to dedicate our wills totally to His service (Romans 12:2b). Technically this phrase is a purpose clause – “So that you may prove what the will of God is....” We dedicate our bodies and our minds totally to God’s service so that we may prove what the will of God is. However, this does have to do with dedicating our wills totally to God’s service. By dedicating our bodies and minds totally to God for His service, we no longer do the will of the devil but now we do the will of God; we no longer to what “we will” but we do God’s will. We say and pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” As we submit to God’s will, we experience the liberating truth that His will is good, acceptable, and perfect.
We are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies, minds, and wills totally to God for His service. We are to live for Jesus a life that is true because of His atonement for us.