What does Romans 12:1 mean?
ESV: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
NIV: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.
NASB: Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
CSB: Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.
NLT: And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Verse Commentary:
A new section of Paul's letter begins with Romans 12. He has concluded the section dealing with the doctrine of salvation and what it means to come to God through faith in Christ. Now he begins to describe how those of us who are in Christ should live. How should we respond to God's great mercy to us?

Paul launches into an appeal to his spiritual siblings: his brothers and sisters in Christ. Though he is the apostle sent by Jesus Himself to take the gospel to the world, Paul is also "one of us." He is a sinful human being saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. He calls God Father, as we do, making him our brother.

Paul urges us to recognize that God has shown us enormous mercy, described in detail earlier in this letter. The hymn in the previous four verses made it clear that God owes us nothing. Instead of death, though, He has given us life and purpose in Christ. He has forgiven our sins and shared with us the riches of His glory. We deserved none of that. How should we respond?

Paul writes that as the Jewish people offered killed animals as sacrifices to God, Christian should instead offer ourselves, our bodies, to Him as living sacrifices. In other words, the only rational response to God's mercy in giving us eternal life is to give Him our lives as a sacrifice to use for His purposes right now.

Animal sacrifices under the old covenant sacrificial system had to be set apart from the herd for that purpose and chosen with care to make sure they were acceptable—unmarked and unharmed. As living sacrifices, God has already set us apart for His purposes and declared us acceptable because He sees us in our position in Christ. In other words, we do not have to wait to be better people before we offer our bodies and lives to God. As people in Christ, He will receive the sacrifice of our everyday lives right now.

This life of worship, then, is the appropriate response to the mercy God has already given to us.
Verse Context:
Romans 12:1–2 answers the question, ''How should we respond to God's great mercy to us?'' The answer is to become living, breathing sacrifices, using our lives up in service to God as an ongoing act of worship. That's what makes sense. This is not a means to earn salvation, but the natural response we should have to being saved. To do this, we will need to break free from the me-first pattern of the world and have our minds changed in order to be able understand what God wants. Then we will know how to live.
Chapter Summary:
In Romans 12, Paul describes the worship of our God as becoming living sacrifices to our God, giving up seeking what we want from life and learning to know and serve what God wants. That begins with using our spiritual gifts to serve each other in the church. Paul's list of commands describes a lifestyle of setting ourselves aside. Our goal as Christians is to love and lift each other up. We must focus our expectation on eternity and wait with patience and prayer for our Father to provide. We must refuse to sink to evil's level, giving good to those who harm us instead of revenge.
Chapter Context:
Romans 11 ended with a hymn describing God's vast ownership of the universe. Romans 12 begins by asking the question, ''Since He owed us nothing and has given us great mercy, how should we respond?'' The answer is a life of self-sacrificing worship spent in serving the Lord and other believers, refusing revenge and overcoming evil with good. Romans 13 will continue to describe God's intended lifestyle for those in Christ.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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