Your Body, The Body, and Everyone Else

Bible Book: Romans 
Subject: Service to Christ; God's Love; Submission to God

At 71 years old, Michael Nicholson of Kalamazoo, MI had earned 29 college degrees and was pursuing his 30th.

All told, Nicholson had one bachelor’s degree, two associate’s degrees, 22 master’s degrees, three specialist degrees, and one doctoral degree. He has studied everything from library science to law enforcement.

By his own admission, he has only ever worked menial jobs, and actually retired from work all together in order to be a full-time student.1

Mr. Nicholson has a head full of knowledge, which might be impressive to some, but he has done virtually nothing with it. He has never moved from learning to living.

The transition from Romans 11 to Romans 12 is a transition from learning to living. Paul has taken us up into the theological Alps, and shown us the big and eternal truths about God.

Now, he brings us back down from the mountaintop into the valley of this world where the new life we have in Christ must be lived out in real life.

In fact, Handley Moule compares it to when the Lord Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. He stood on that mountain shining as glorious as He ever had before His birth, talking with Moses and Elijah.

It was a remarkable scene, revealing the truth of just who Jesus was and is. But, He then walked down that mountain into a world filled with demon-possessed people, dense disciples, and determined foes.

Romans 12 takes the bright and glorious gospel you’ve believed and begins to flesh out into the life you live. It tells you what to do with your own, physical body, how you are to interact with the Church - the spiritual body to which you belong, and how you are to deal with everybody else you might encounter as you live out your faith in this world.

Christianity isn’t theoretical; it is practical. Those who truly believe upon Jesus are really and actually changed by Him in a way that alters how they do everything from worship to work, and how they treat everyone from friend to foe.

Chapter 12 really deals with the practical implications of the gospel on the different relationships of our lives. As we see that, we realize at the beginning that:


The Scottish preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne said, “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”

Like the headwaters of a river, every other relationship in your life flows down from your relationship to God.

That is where Paul starts in this chapter, and where we must start too, if we are going to live out the gospel in our lives.

He tells us beginning in verse one that:

A. There’s an offering to God that is sensible

Verse one says, “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.”

Motivated by the great mercy that God has shown to you in saving you by the death and resurrection of Jesus, you ought to do the reasonable and sensible thing, and give your whole self, including your physical body, over to Him, like a sacrifice, only a living and breathing one.

The Old Testament priests would offer the whole carcass of an animal to God as a burnt offering. Here, we are called to offer our physical bodies, still living, over to Him to use as He pleases.

In the early chapters of Romans, Paul described lost people as those whose lips lie, whose tongues are full of poison, whose feet run to shed blood, whose eyes won’t look up to God.

Now, those once lost people who have experienced His great mercy, turn those lips to praise. They don’t curse; they bless. They don’t run to do harm; they run to help.

Their eyes have looked upon Jesus dying for their sins, and they now turn those eyes toward others and see them differently because of what they’ve seen in Jesus.

If you really recognize how gracious God has been to save you from what you were, the sensible, reasonable, rational thing to do is to give yourself to Him to become what He saved you to be.

Watts gave us the line we sing that expresses this so well:

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all

In the first and foremost relationship of your life, which is your spiritual relationship to the God who saved you, it is your reasonable act of service to give yourself to Him.

As you do that, we learn that in this chief relationship:

B. There’s an operation by God that is supernatural

In the first and principle relationship of your life – the one you have with your God, you have a responsibility that is on you to perform. You are to present your body to Him as a holy and acceptable offering.

But, what He does with your body is again a work of grace – something only He can do. You see this in verse 2.

It says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Both the word “conformed”, and the word “transformed” are passive words – they are things that happen to you. In other words, you could read the verse this way:

“Stop letting the world press you into its mold, but rather, let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Rather than just allowing yourself to float along with the stream of sin flowing like a polluted river through this culture, as you present your body to God, you allow yourself to be transformed in the way you think.

We get our English word “metamorphosis” from the word translated “transformed” in that verse. The best picture of this is one I mentioned in my introduction.

When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on the mountain with him, Matthew 17:2 says, “…he was transfigured before them…” The same word translated “transfigured” there, is rendered “transformed” in Romans 12:2.

What happened on that mountain was that the inward, bright glory of Jesus burst forth onto the outside, and He was as “white as light”, according to Matthew.

What happens as you submit your body to God is that the inward work of Jesus by His Spirit is able to transform your mind, and then it starts to work its way out into the way you live your life in this world.

If you are going to go anywhere, you have start somewhere. Where you are going as a Christian has to start with where you began as a Christian – your relationship to God. This is the most important relationship in your life.

But the Christian life doesn’t stop there. Your relationship with God runs over and out into the other relationships of your life.

In this twelfth chapter of Romans, we find not only that the chief relationship in your life must be spiritual, but also that:


The Word of God calls us to submit our bodies to God, and to allow ourselves to be reshaped by God, while we refused to be squeezed by this world.

The end of verse 2 explains why this is so important. Paul writes, “…that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

In other words, as your body is offered to God and your life is altered by God, you begin to discern what God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will is for you.

But Paul doesn’t leave the will of God for you hanging out there like some hazy mystery.

He immediately connects the will of God for you to the church of God, and to the role God gives you to fill in relation to the Body, the Church of Jesus.

The reality is that a Christian who is not sustaining a relationship to the church is like a severed hand or foot lying out on the street. It isn’t a good thing to see, and it isn’t doing any good for anyone either.

Over the next several verses in this chapter we are pointed to the importance of our relationship with the Body, and we see that:

A. You cannot live independent from the body

In verse 3, Paul solemnly charges us not to think too much of ourselves as individual believers. We are to think soberly about who we are, “…according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

The idea there is not that God has poured certain, different amounts of faith into us all, but rather that our faith is all measured by the same thing – namely, the gospel we have believed.

When we look at Jesus and the gospel, we realize we are nothing apart from Him. This then correctly connects us to the other people with whom we share the gospel.

Verse 5 says, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

Your faith must be in Christ alone, but you are not alone in that faith. You share it with a body of believers to whom you are connected by Jesus.

We don’t all hold the same office in that body, or have the same function, but we all are together and dependent upon each other within that body.

Starting in verse 6, Paul lists a number of different gifts and ministries within the body as a means of illustrating how we are to live out the will of God for us within the church.

Those who prophesy, or speak on behalf of God, are to do so according to the truth of the faith. Those whose gift is to serve are to serve. Those who are gifted to teach are to teach.

Those who have the gift of encouragement are to encourage. Those who have been blessed to give money are to give it with simplicity – not arrogantly or for their glory.

Those who hold positions of leadership in the church are to do so with passion and zeal, while those who are gifted to show mercy toward others are to do it gladly and joyfully.

The point here is not so much about the different gifts, but the fact that there are different gifts in different people, and we are all to work together to share those gifts, rather than being independent, isolated believers.

If you have the gift of teaching, who are you going to teach without the body? If you have the gift of service, who are you going to serve without the body?

You cannot live your Christian life independent from the church, and furthermore we learn here that:

B. You cannot live indifferent to the body

I have known people at times who were active in their church, but they were not very affectionate towards their church.

It was as if the church where they attended and served was some sort of place where they paid their penance, rather than a family where they shared their life. They didn’t really love the people with whom they worshipped and served.

Paul goes on to tell us that cannot be the case. You cannot be indifferent in your feelings for the body in which you are placed.

Beginning in verse 9, he tells us that our love is to be without hypocrisy. You can’t just paint a smile on and say, “Good to see you, Sister.”

Together with the body, you are to hate evil and cling to what is good like a treasure, while sharing with those people a family affection and brotherly love.

You are to honor them over yourself, not demanding they see how important you are, but rather preferring to show them how valuable they are.

You are to be eager and passionate about what you do in the church, fervent about your ministry of serving the Lord by serving in His body.

There is no room for sour-faced, grumbling-mouthed servants who act like they are being punished when they are asked to serve in the nursery, help clean up after a fellowship, or participate in a Sunday school class.

We celebrate hope together, we suffer patiently together, and we pray together. We take care of one another, and we open our lives, and even our homes to each another.

In other words, your relationship to your church body ought to be more than the wave you give to brother what’s-his-name in the parking lot when you hurry off to lunch each week.

If you are going to prove what God’s good will is for you, you are going to have to sustain a spiritually living, sincerely loving relationship to the body of Christ – the church where you are placed by His grace.

And yet, chapter 12 doesn’t end there. The chief relationship of your life – your relationship to God through the gospel - resonates not only with the church body, but with everybody else as well.

We realize that as we see further in this chapter that:


If the church ever actually lived out the gospel the way Paul has just described it in Romans 12, the relationships we have with other believers would be among the most precious and wonderful in our lives.

It wouldn’t be hard at all to get along with each other, if we all got along the way this text prescribes for us.

And yet, even if we were all living out the gospel within the life of the church, there are still relationships outside of the church that are much more difficult and complicated.

But the gospel works in those relationships too. As Paul heads toward the close of this chapter he points us to our relationships with everybody else, and we are reminded of the fact that:

A. What you get from the world can be hard

Look at verse 14. Paul mentions “…those who persecute you…” Following Jesus in the gospel doesn’t mean that everybody is going to think you are wonderful, and cheer you on in your new life.

In fact, there will be those in your world who will treat you like they treated Him when He was in this world – they will despise and reject you.

In verse 17, he reminds that some will give you evil for all your gospel language and living. In verse 18, we realize that no matter how hard we may try, some people just will not settle for peace with you.

Even if you are trying to live with love toward others, verse 20 reminds us that there are going to be people who will consider themselves your foe rather than your friend.

In his book, The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung writes, “We’ll never make progress in holiness if we are waiting for the world to throw us a party for our piety…the world provides no cheerleaders on the pathway to godliness.”2

The end of this chapter is written to tell us that living out the gospel in all our relationships will not always be easy. Not everyone around you will make it easy for you to be like Jesus above you.

There are going to be challenging relationships, but the gospel and grace of God working through us are up to the challenge.

We see that as we learn also in these verses that:

B. What you give to the world can be holy

What do you give the person who persecutes you? Well, you don’t curse them; you bless them.

Rather than standing aloof and distant from the joy and pain of the world, according to verse 15 you, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

Rather than looking with wide-eyes toward the celebrities and stars in the world, verse 16 encourages us to reach down and love on those of low and humble estate, because that is what we know ourselves to be as well.

We don’t pay back evil when it has been paid to us, but instead we seek to give honorable things to all who see us and know us.

We don’t make war with anybody, but rather we do everything we can on our end to live in peace with people.

We don’t work to get our revenge, but trust that God the judge will dispense judgment as He sees fit. We let him handle those who need handling.

In fact, when we do come across someone who sets himself up as our foe, we treat him like a friend. If he is hungry, we feed them. If she is thirsty, we give her a drink.

Pay attention to verse 20. It says, “…in doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” That sounds like a punishment, but the idea behind it is that your enemy will be convicted for how they have treated you because of how you have kindly you have treated them.

Notice then verse 21. It says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” The gospel equips us with a radical ethos that will not fight fire with fire, but will rather pour love – Christ-like, undeserved, gracious love – on the fires of our foes, in hopes of seeing them turn to the gospel that has turned us.

Ultimately, what we are doing in the challenging relationships of our lives is only what Jesus has done for us.

When we were His foes, He loved us. When our sins nailed Him to the tree, He forgave us. And when we gave Him grief, He gave us grace!

You see; if you look through this chapter, you see the prints of nail-scarred hands upon it. He submitted His body completely to God, offering it up as a sacrifice.

He loves His Church – His Body – and He gives Himself in love to her without reservation.

And He loves this world that hates Him. Those who run from Him, He pursues. He does not recompense evil for evil, but redeems sinners by His grace, and then returns them into the world to reflect who He is.

Those of us who have received that kind of saving mercy and grace find that the only sensible and reasonable thing to do is to submit our bodies to His service, to love His body as He does, and to show His grace to everybody else until we see Him face to face.

1 Ng, Christina, “Michigan Man Has 29 College Degrees and Counting”, 6/19/12,, accessed 6/22/17,

2 DeYoung, Kevin, The Hole In Our Holiness, (Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2012), p. 37