(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 8/7/16 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Before I go to our text today, I want to address those who may be hearing a sermon from our assembly for the first time or have just started listening to these sermons. I’ve noticed that there have been a lot of new subscribers to our YouTube channel over the past several months. The Lord willing, I’m going to be preaching a lot in the upcoming sermons about how believers are to live. Notice I said BELIEVERS. If you are not a BELIEVER, then this is not the place you should start listening to the sermons. You might say, “Well of course I’m a believer.” The question then becomes, What do you believe? Do you believe the gospel? You might say, “Well of course I believe the gospel.” But what is the gospel? It is God’s promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone, TOTALLY APART from the sinner’s works and efforts. Everyone who believes the gospel believes that it is the work of Jesus Christ ALONE that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. Everyone who believes the gospel believes that the work of Christ ALONE demands and ensures the salvation of EVERYONE whom He represented. Everyone who believes the gospel believes that EVERYONE for whom Jesus Christ died on the cross WILL BE SAVED. Everyone who believes the gospel will IMMEDIATELY REJECT any false gospel that claims that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, and will IMMEDIATELY JUDGE all who believe this false gospel to be unsaved. Everyone who believes the gospel has also repented of believing a false gospel, which includes judging that you were unsaved when you believed that false gospel. For example, if you used to believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, then if you are now truly saved, you know that you were unsaved when you believed that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception. And you know that anyone who claims that he was a regenerate person when he believed that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception is unsaved. So before you listen to a sermon like this one, I direct you to an article on our website entitled “Gospel Atonement.” You can find it at our website, outsidethecamp.org, and clicking on “Materials” and then on “Articles.” And there’s also a series of sermons on Essential Gospel Doctrine on our website that you can read or listen to, although I’d recommend that you read them, because the sound quality on the sermons that far back isn’t very good. The reason I’m saying all this is that when you hear from me or read in the Bible how believers are to live, if you’re not saved, then changing how you live is nothing but dead works and fruit unto death. Suppose an unbeliever reads 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that fornicators, adulterers, boy-abusers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous ones, drunkards, revilers, and rapacious ones will not inherit the kingdom of God. Suppose this unbeliever used to be one or more of these things, but now he no longer engages in fornication or idolatry, no longer steals, no longer gets drunk, and becomes a straight, sober, moral, law-abiding, upstanding member of the community, but he still does not believe the gospel. He’s now just a straight, sober, moral, law-abiding, upstanding member of the community on the road to hell. Changing your behavior or engaging in moral behavior is nothing but filthy rags if you do not believe the gospel. So go back and read what I mentioned. If you really are a believer, we’d like to be in fellowship with you. If you’re not, we pray that God will cause you to repent and believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone.
Now let’s get back into our series on Romans. We now come to the so-called “practical” part of Romans that starts in chapter 12 in contrast to the so-called “doctrinal” part of Romans which consisted of the first eleven chapters. I’d like to first talk about the terms “doctrinal” and “practical.” “Doctrinal” has to do with teaching, and “practical” has to do with conduct. “Doctrine” is what you believe, and “practice” is what you do. Now to a certain extent, it’s sometimes helpful to make this distinction. For example, if someone SAYS he believes essential gospel doctrine but does not LIVE according to that doctrine, then that person is a hypocrite. But it’s also true that too much can be made of this distinction. That happens when people think that these concepts are mutually exclusive. Take the first eleven chapters of Romans that we’ve already gone through. Would any believer say that there is no practicality in these chapters? Of course not. Doctrine IS practical. In fact, it is FOUNDATIONAL to one’s conduct, as we will see a little later on in this sermon, the Lord willing. And now, in chapter 12 and following when Paul exhorts believers to certain behavior, is that non-doctrinal? Since “doctrine” means “teaching,” then “non-doctrinal” would mean “non-teaching.” Would anyone say that Paul is not teaching in chapters 12 and beyond? Of course not. So it’s all doctrine. The whole Bible is doctrine. It is doctrinal to give specifics on how we are to live our lives in accordance with sound doctrine!
Let me give you an example of this from another epistle from the apostle Paul. Let’s turn to Titus chapter 2:
Titus 2: (1) But you speak things which become sound doctrine: (2) aged men to be temperate, honorable, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in patience; (3) aged women likewise in reverent behavior, not slanderers, not having been enslaved by much wine, teachers of good, (4) that they might train the young women to be lovers of husbands, child-lovers, (5) sensible, chaste, home-keepers, good, subject to [their] own husbands, so that the Word of God may not be blasphemed, (6) the younger men in the same way exhort to be sensible; (7) holding forth yourself [as] a pattern of good works about all [things] in doctrine, in purity, dignity, incorruption, (8) sound speech, without condemnation, that the hostile [ones] may he shamed, having nothing bad to say about you. (9) Let slaves be subject to [their] own masters, well-pleasing in all [things], not contradicting, (10) not embezzling, but showing all good faith, that they may adorn the doctrine of our Savior God in everything. (11) For the saving grace of God has appeared to all men, (12) instructing us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live prudently and righteously and godly in the now age, (13) looking for the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (14) who gave Himself on our behalf, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a people for Himself for possession, zealous of good works. (15) Speak these things and exhort and convict with all authority. Let no one despise you.
What do we see here? First, Paul exhorts Titus to “speak things which become sound doctrine.” What does “become” mean here? The Greek word for “become” means “to be suitable for” or “to be proper for,” or “to be right for” or “to be fitting for.” This same word is used in 1 Corinthians 11:13, which says: “You judge among yourselves; is it FITTING FOR a woman to pray to God uncovered?” The phrase here is “fitting for.” It is also used in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, which says, “So also the women to adorn themselves in respectable clothing, with modesty and sensibleness, not with plaiting, or gold, or pearls, or expensive garments, but what BECOMES women professing fear of God, through good works.” The word here is “becomes,” but if you substitute “fitting for,” you see that dressing modestly is what is FITTING FOR women professing fear of God. Back in Titus 2, Paul then lists some behavior that is FITTING FOR sound doctrine. Then in verse 7, Paul says, “holding forth yourself as a pattern of good works about all things in doctrine, in purity, etc.” Notice that he puts doctrine right in there with practice. In verse 10, he says that good behavior ADORNS the doctrine of our Savior God. The Greek word for “adorn” means “to put in an orderly arrangement” or “prepare” or “decorate” or “garnish.” Our good behavior glorifies and magnifies the doctrine of God that we believe. The last part of the chapter again connects gospel doctrine with our behavior. Jesus Christ gave Himself on our behalf, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify for Himself a people Himself for possession, zealous of good works, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living prudently and righteously and godly in this age. Christ REDEEMED us from wickedness and purified us IN ORDER THAT we live godly lives.
This also relates to the heresy of antinomianism. Antinomianism is the heresy that Christians are not to follow God's law - God's commands - as a rule of life. Scripture clearly opposes this kind of thinking. Although we are not under the law as to the ground of our salvation, we are commanded to show our love to God by obeying His commands. And God does not leave us in the dark as to what His commands are; He reveals them to us in His Word, so that we might know what the good works are that show our love to Him. Romans 12 and beyond shows just that.
So let’s look at verse 1 of Romans 12:
Romans 12: (1) Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, [which is] your reasonable service.
The first word is “Therefore.” This is a very important word. It shows that what is to come is not disconnected from what was previously said; in fact, it is just the opposite: What Paul is about to say is BECAUSE OF what he previously said. What was just previously said? It was all that DOCTRINE, specifically the doctrine of what Paul calls “the compassions of God.” The Greek word for “compassion” is oik-tir-MOS, which means “pity” or “mercy.” And this word is pluralized here, oik-tir-OWN, meaning “compassions” or “pities” or “mercies.” These are the abundant, unfathomable riches of God in Christ! We have seen that all by nature are under sin and under the wrath of God, including both the Jews and the Gentiles. God cannot fellowship with anyone who is not as holy as He is, and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. How, then, can God fellowship with sinners? We have seen the answer in the work of Jesus Christ, through whom God is both just and justifier. We have seen words like grace, peace, propitiation, justification, blessing, love, life, adoption, mercy, salvation, reconciliation, and kindness. These are the compassions of God through the work of Jesus Christ. So because of these compassions of God, Paul calls on, beseeches, entreats, his brothers. These are not his brothers according to the flesh that he is talking about here; these are his brothers in Christ – those who have shared in the compassions of God. It is important to note that these exhortations about how to conduct one’s life are made to BELIEVERS. Like I said at the beginning of the sermon, if an unbeliever changes his behavior or engages in moral behavior, then this is just dead works and fruit unto death. Paul is clearly talking to believers here. Instead of dead works and fruit unto death, a believer’s works are pleasing to God, as we will see in a moment, the Lord willing.
So Paul, because of the compassions of God that he had previously written about, which is pure doctrine, calls on his brothers in Christ to do what? The first thing he calls on them to do is to present their bodies a living sacrifice. The Greek word for “body” is SO-ma, which means the physical body. It’s the entire body, from the head to the toes, and everything in between. Our bodies are to be PRESENTED to God, OFFERED to God, as a sacrifice. Now when we hear the word “sacrifice,” our minds may go to the sacrifices in which animals were killed in the Old Testament, specifically the sin offerings that pointed to the atonement of Christ. This is NOT what’s being talked about here, and the Holy Spirit through Paul makes sure that this is clear by calling it a LIVING sacrifice. It is NOT a sacrifice of atonement or a trespass offering. We are NOT offering our bodies to Christ in order to atone for our sins or to do anything that gains or maintains fellowship with God. Instead, this offering is a presentation to God of our LIVING bodies, of the deeds done in our body while we are living, out of THANKFULNESS that Jesus Christ offered the perfect, efficacious, atoning sacrifice once for all, that sacrifice that demands and ensures the salvation of EVERYONE for whom He was sacrificed, and that our own works and efforts are TOTALLY EXCLUDED from the ground of our acceptance before God. This truth that our works and efforts form ABSOLUTELY NO PART of the ground of our acceptance before God does not make us lax in doing good and forsaking sin. Instead, this truth makes us MORE DILIGENT in doing good and forsaking sin, because we are presenting our bodies as a THANK OFFERING to God for what He has done for us. Let’s turn over to Romans 6 and read the entire chapter:
Romans 6: (1) What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) Let it not be! We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? (3) Or are you ignorant that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead [ones] by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we no longer serve sin. (7) For the [one] having died has been justified from sin. (8) But if we died with Christ, we believe that also we shall live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ being raised from [the] dead [ones] dies no more; death no longer rules Him. (10) For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. (11) So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, to obey it in its lusts. (13) Neither present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as [one] living from [the] dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For your sin shall not rule over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace. (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Let it not be! (16) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness? (17) But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart a form of doctrine to which you were given over. (18) But having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (19) I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members [as] slaves to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free to righteousness. (21) Therefore what fruit did you have then over [the things] which you are now ashamed? For the end of those [things is] death. (22) But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What’s a passage on practice doing right in the middle of a bunch of doctrine? This really shows the connection between gospel doctrine and how believers are to live. Do you see how the efficacious work of Christ is related to the deeds in our body? We have been united to Christ in His crucifixion and His resurrection. Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so we no longer serve sin, so we would be dead to sin. And, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we are alive to God. Thus, we are to present our members – which means the parts of our physical bodies – as instruments of righteousness to God, as one living from the dead. This has a direct correspondence to our passage in Romans 12. The Greek words for “present” and “living” here are the same Greek words for “present” and “living” in Romans 12:1. We are to OFFER the members of our bodies, our body parts, UNTO GOD. And the way we offer them is that we use them UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS. THAT’S how we offer up a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God with our bodies. We offer them as one living from the dead – living sacrifices. Our entire bodies are to be offered up to God. Every part of our bodies, such as the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the arms, the hands, the legs, the feet, the sexual organs, are ALL to be offered up to God as living sacrifices, living unto righteousness, warring against unrighteousness, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I’d like to read a passage in which the Greek word SO-ma is used eight times. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 6 and read verses 13 through 20:
1 Corinthians 6: (13) Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods, but God will destroy both this and these. But the body [is] not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (14) And God both raised up the Lord, and [He] will raise us up through His power. (15) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Then taking the members of Christ, shall I make [them] members of a prostitute? Let it not be! (16) Or do you not know that he being joined to a prostitute is one body? For He says, The two [shall be] into one flesh. (17) But the [one] being joined to the Lord is one spirit. (18) Flee fornication. Every sin which a man may do is outside the body, but he doing fornication sins against [his] own body. (19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of [the] Holy Spirit in you, which you have from God, and you are not of yourselves? (20) You were bought with a price; then glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are of God.
Here we see that the body of a believer is for the Lord, is a member of Christ, and is a temple of the Holy Spirit. And once again, we see the connection between gospel doctrine and how we are to live. BECAUSE we were bought with a price, we are to glorify God in our bodies and our spirits, which are of God. Our being bought with the precious blood of Christ is THE REASON why we are to use our bodies to the glory of God – THE REASON why we are to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Think about how this should affect the way we behave. Our bodies are sacrifices to God! When you are tempted to sin in your body, think about this – your body is a sacrifice to God! What you do reflects on your thankfulness to God for what He has done for you! What you choose to do with your eyes, your ears, your mouth, and all the rest of your body parts, reflects on your thankfulness to God as a sacrifice to Him! What more incentive do you need to do good works and flee from wickedness?
To emphasize this even more, let’s turn back to Romans 12. We see that this offering is HOLY. Sacrifices by definition are something that are SACRED, CONSECRATED, SET APART. The deeds done in our body as a sacrifice of thankfulness to God are HOLY. Again, think about that when you think about how you behave and when you are tempted to sin. Our deeds are CONSECRATED, SET APART TO GOD. What believer would want to sin in light of this? This gives us a holy zeal to do good and shun evil. And there’s more. Because our bodies are presented to God as holy sacrifices, they are PLEASING TO GOD. The Greek word for “pleasing” here is yoo-AR-es-toss, which comes from YOO, meaning “good” or “well,” and ar-es-TOSS, meaning “agreeable” or “pleasing.” So it is better translated WELL-PLEASING. The deeds done in our body as a sacrifice of thankfulness to God are WELL-PLEASING to God. They are the sweet smell of a thank offering to God. God is WELL-PLEASED by our doing good and shunning evil.
Let’s turn to Hebrews 13:15-16:
Hebrews 13: (15) Therefore through Him let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God always, this is, [the] fruit of the lips, confessing to His name. (16) But do not be forgetful of doing good and sharing, for God is well pleased with such sacrifices.
We see at the end of verse 16 the verb form of yoo-AR-es-toss is you-ar-es-TEH-oh, which means “to be well-pleased.” In verse 15 we see a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving with our lips, and in verse 16 we see a sacrifice of good deeds. God is well-pleased with these things. Let’s now turn to 1 Peter 2:5:
1 Peter 2: (5) you also as living stones are being built a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The Greek word for “acceptable” is yoo-PROS-dek-toss, which comes from YOO, meaning “good” or “well,” and pros-DECK-oh-ma-hee, which means “to receive” or “to accept” or “to approve.” So it is better translated WELL-RECEIVED or WELL-ACCEPTED. Our spiritual sacrifices are WELL-RECEIVED, WELL-ACCEPTED by God.
What believer would not want to do what is well-pleasing to God? What believer would get up in the morning and say, “Well, today I’m deciding to do what is not well-pleasing to God”? What believer would say, “Even though this is not well-pleasing to God, I’m going to do it anyway?” Note also that we are doing these works for GOD. It matters not if you are with other believers, with unbelievers, or by yourself – whether or not anyone else sees what you do, GOD sees what you do. What you do when there is no one else around or no other believers around, GOD sees it. You are not to be a man-pleaser but a GOD-pleaser. Believers are to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God, holy and pleasing to God, IN EVERY PLACE, AT ALL TIMES, NO MATTER WHO IS AROUND. Believers don’t have to be scared into obedience by telling them that God sees everything they do. Believers WANT to do what is well-pleasing to God.
Now of course the issue of indwelling sin comes to mind, and just in case anyone misunderstands, I am NOT saying that believers are perfect and are free from sin. We constantly fall short of the perfect standard and are constantly harassed by sin. Yet even when we are harassed by sin and fall into sin, what did we see in Romans 7? We do not WANT to sin, and we HATE to sin, and we DELIGHT in the law of God according to the inward man, and we WAR AGAINST indwelling sin. And Romans 6 and 8 say that we have died to sin, do not live in sin, no longer serve sin, are no longer under the dominion of sin, have been set free from sin, do not walk according to the flesh, are free from the law of sin, and are not in the flesh.
The last part of Romans 12:1 says that this presentation of our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, is our reasonable service. The Greek word for “reasonable” is LOG-i-koss, which is an adjective meaning “rational” or “logical.” Interestingly, the only other time this Greek word is used is in 1 Peter 2:2, when it is used to describe the milk that believers are to desire and grow by. Here, we see that this presentation of our bodies to God as a living sacrifice is our logical service. It logically, reasonably follows that those of us who have been recipients of the abundant, unfathomable riches of God in Christ, who have been given grace, peace, propitiation, justification, blessing, love, life, adoption, mercy, salvation, reconciliation, and kindness through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, should show our love and gratitude by serving God in a way that is pleasing to Him. When we think of what God has done for us, when we think of His sending His Son for unworthy sinners who were not deserving of the least of God’s favors, who were dead in sin and enemies of God, taking on our sins and suffering the full wrath of God for our sins so we might have fellowship with Him forever, when we think of this great love with which He loved us, it is only reasonable that we should want to please Him! It is only reasonable that we should give up ourselves to Him! It is only reasonable that we should present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, holy and pleasing to Him! It is only reasonable that we should fervently, zealously desire to obey Him in every single part of our lives! It is only reasonable that we want to know what all of God’s commands are so we can follow them! It is only reasonable that we love God’s law! You antinomians think believers don’t love God’s law and don’t love to obey God’s commands? Read Psalm 119. Are you going to try to explain away the psalmist’s love for God’s law by saying that he just loves it because it shows perfect righteousness and has nothing to do with a believer’s actual obedience? You must not have read the parts about walking in the law and in God’s ways, keeping God’s precepts and statutes and testimonies and words, running the way of God’s commands and hurrying and delaying not to keep God’s commands, observing and keeping God’s law, doing God’s precepts, and being a companion of those who keep God’s precepts. As for me, I’ll go with the psalmist. And so will all other believers.
To close, I’d really like to read all 176 verses of Psalm 119, but in the interest of time, I’ll just read some of the verses. I encourage you to read and meditate on all of Psalm 119 in your own personal study time, thinking about how pursuing obedience and eschewing and hating disobedience is a delight to God’s people and is a sacrifice of praise that is holy and well-accepted and well-pleasing to God through Christ. Let’s first read verses 1 through 16:
Psalm 119: (1) Blessed [are] the blameless in the way, who walk in the Law of Jehovah. (2) Blessed [are] those keeping His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart. (3) They also do not do injustice; they walk in His ways. (4) You have commanded to wholly keep Your precepts. (5) O that my ways were established to keep Your statutes! (6) Then I shall not be ashamed, when I look to all Your commands. (7) I will thank You with integrity of heart, in my learning the judgments of Your righteousness. (8) I will keep Your statutes; do not forsake me exceedingly. (9) By what shall a young man purify his way, to keep [it] according to Your Word? (10) I have sought You with my whole heart; do not let me wander from Your commands. (11) I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (12) Blessed [are] you, O Jehovah; teach me Your statutes. (13) I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth with my lips; (14) I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies as over all riches. (15) I will meditate in Your precepts and I will regard Your paths. (16) I will delight myself in Your statutes. I will not forget Your Word.
Now verses 33 through 40:
Psalm 119: (33) O Jehovah, teach me the way of Your statutes, and I will keep it [to] the end. (34) Give me understanding and I will keep Your Law, and observe it with the whole heart. (35) Make me walk in the way of Your commands, for in it I delight. (36) Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to unjust gain. (37) Turn my eyes from seeing vanity; in Your way give me life. (38) Make Your Word rise to Your servant, who [is devoted] to Your fear. (39) Turn away my shame which I fear; for Your judgments [are] good [ones]. (40) Behold, I have longed for Your precepts; make me live according to Your righteousness.
Now verses 97 through 104:
Psalm 119: (97) Oh how I love Your Law! It [is] my meditation all the day. (98) You make me wiser than my enemies by Your commands; for they [are] forever mine. (99) I have acted more wisely than all my teachers; for Your testimonies [are] a meditation to me. (100) I understand more than the aged [ones], for I keep Your precepts. (101) I have kept my feet from every evil way, to keep Your Word. (102) I turned not from Your judgments; for You have taught me. (103) How sweet are Your words to my palate! More than honey to my mouth! (104) By Your precepts I get understanding; on account of this, I hate every false way.
Now verses 121 through 128:
Psalm 119: (121) I have done justice and righteousness; leave me not to [those who] oppress me. (122) Be surety for Your servant for a good [life]; let not the proud [ones] oppress me. (123) My eyes [are] exhausted [by longing] for Your salvation, and for the Word of Your righteousness. (124) Deal with Your servant by Your mercy; and teach me Your statutes. (125) I [am] Your servant; make me consider, and I will know Your testimonies. (126) [It is] time for Jehovah to work; they have broken Your Law. (127) Therefore, I have loved Your commands, more than gold, even fine gold. (128) Therefore, I count wholly right all the precepts; I have hated every false way.