A frequent theme of Scripture is this: “Based on what God has done for us, what should we do?” God led the Israelites out of Egypt (saved them), and then he gave them the Law (taught them how to live as saved people). In a similar way, for the first 11 chapters of Romans Paul explores the inestimable depths of God’s love for us and his work in saving us. Then at the beginning of chapter 12 he writes, “Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, . . .” (NIV). In other words, because God has done all of this for you, this is how you should respond.
And then he gives an evocative, visceral image: Present your bodies as living sacrifices. First-century people, whether Jew or Gentile, knew about animal sacrifices, so they immediately got Paul’s point. God is calling his people to offer their bodies as living, breathing, continual sacrifices to him. Jesus gave himself as the once-for-all sacrifice of atonement, and we respond by presenting ourselves to him as living offerings.
Think of all of the implications of this image: if we view our bodies as sacrifices that we offer continually to God, what parts of our lives are not subject to him? How do we respond to the world’s pressure to conform us to its spirit and set of priorities?