The Only Thing That Makes Sense

The Only Thing That Makes Sense
Robert Wurtz II 


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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.  (Romans 12:1)

By the time we reach Romans 12:1, Paul has thoroughly preached the Gospel. He has probed its mysteries as it were, and sets before us what is known more technically as soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Here God’s wisdom has been set forth in redeeming mankind; both Jew and Non-Jew. It is and was the plan of the ages. Enraptured by the majesty of God Paul closes chapter eleven with this praise:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36 NKJV)


He transitions from these verses with a simple phrase, I beseech you thereforeTo some bible students it will be cliche, but when you see the word therefore you need to stop and ask what it is there for. It is a term that means “consequently.” Therefore (Gk. oun) is an inferential participle that gathers up all the great argument of chapters 1-11 and places it before us. It’s as if Paul is asking us, “What say you? What is your response to what you have heard?” It staggers the mind to consider the manifold wisdom of God. Now Paul turns to exhortation (parakalō), “I beseech you.” 

I Beseech You

Our Greek word for beseech is Παρακαλῶ (parakalō) and it means “to call alongside.” Para is “side” and kalo is “call.” It carries the idea of urging someone earnestly to do something. It could be translated “to beg.” To give a sense of the strength of the word we have some examples of its use throughout the New Testament. Urgent appeals (parakalō) to Christ for healing are made in Matthew 8:514:36Mark 1:405:238:22. Paul “pleads with” (parakalō) God for the removal of his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:8. Demons “beg” (parakalō) Christ to send them into a herd of swine in Matthew 8:31ff. In Acts 2:40 and 2 Corinthians 5:20, people are “urged” (parakalō) to be reconciled to God. 

Therefore by the Mercies of God

Paul has effectively came alongside us to beg, urge, beseech us by the mercies of God. That is to say, all that Paul described from chapter 1-11 was a clinic on God’s great mercy. The Gentiles are brought into view as well when Paul described how God has grafted in the wild olive branches into the cultivated olive tree. In other words, the promise of a New Covenant was to the House of Judah and the House of Israel; however, God had already intended to include the Gentiles all along. It had been kept secret (covered) to be revealed in the fullness of time. The Gentiles are not an afterthought or plan B; it was all part of God’s original plan. God has shown mercy to both Jew and Gentile.

It is helpful to stop and consider where we would all be without mercy and grace. One of the challenges of our Christian walk is that we not forget that we were once purged from our old sins. If it were not for God’s great love wherewith He loved us, dying for us while we were yet sinners, there would be no hope. Without mercy, we would face the wrath of God without mixture unendingly. Think of passages as we find in the Revelation that read “… and the smoke of their torment ascended up before God forever and ever.” (Revelation 14:11) That’s what we deserve. The mercy of God is not something we should accept and then wipe our mouths as if we have done no evil. The sheer magnitude of our crimes; heightened by the light that we have sinned in; aggravated by a life of resisting the Holy Spirit; would paralyze one with fear if they had any mind at all. Nevertheless, God has chosen to cast our sins behind His back — never to be remembered against us again. Praise His name forever. Paul then pleads, I beseech  you therefore,  brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. 

The Language of Priesthood  

In order to comprehend what Paul is saying in Romans 12:1, we need to look briefly at the Old Testament. You will recall that Solomon was the great king who built God a semi-permanent house. He built it on the mount of the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite — where the angel had stayed his hand in slaying thousands after David numbered Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1-18) It was here that God could have wiped Israel off the face of the earth, and been justified in doing it. Nevertheless, God showed kindness and grace to Israel. David remembered this mercy of God, knowing that He could have slew everyone down to the last man. What happened? The execution of judgment stopped at Araunah’s threshing floor. 

In response to God’s goodness, David wanted to build an altar in remembrance of God’s mercy on the very place where the judgment of God was stayed. Araunah tried to give the property to David for free. Nevertheless, king David said, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. (1 Chrononicles 21:1ff) Here are two initial pictures; one of the mercy of God and the other a right response of a grateful heart. You will notice a connection between “a grateful heart” and “a burnt offering.” Keep this picture in mind as it is the theme of Romans 12:1. A grateful hearts gives a burnt offering that costs the full price. The threshing floor is a place of decision. All of these things are here. This is the location where Solomon built the Temple. From this time forward the children of Israel will have this as part of their history. God’s mercy stopped at Araunah’s threshing floor and this will be the place of remembrance for that mercy. 

A Picture of a ‘Right’ Response to God

It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:13)


Solomon is dedicating the Temple built on Araunah’s threshing floor. The first response of the people was to give thanks to God for His mercy in returning to the people with His authority and presence. They didn’t deserve God. They deserved abandonment and judgment. In another place, it is stated that they “spoke as one” as the Ark of the Covenant came in. They sang and shouted with lifted up voices in such a way that God saw fit to fill the house with His glory. This was the initial step. The people utterly recognized God’s mercy and desire for reconciliation and they responded to Him in tremendous excitement and thanksgiving. The LORD, then being well pleased, filled the house with His glory. So great was the glory of God that the priests were not able to stand to minister. God believed the people as they praised and offered thanksgiving and He responded by filling the house with His glory. What an awesome picture. 

Holy and Acceptable

…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,

This, again, is the language of priesthood. We are called to be both temples of the Holy Spirit and living sacrifices. What does this mean? All other dwelling places for God were temporary. Nevertheless, God was teaching us important truth about God’s dwelling place. For example, the Old Testament is replete with examples of how not to treat the Temple and the artifacts within it. I suggest that these stories and laws were a figurative lesson for us. The Wilderness Tabernacle, the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple), and the Second Temple, were “types” of our bodies. Consider Paul’s writings about being the temple of the Holy Spirit to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19) and compare them to the story of Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1-30). How did God react to the way he defiled the artifacts of the Temple? The whole story is exemplary and didactic. It gives us for all times God’s estimation of abusing our bodies in sordid sin. We are to present our bodies as holy, acceptable unto God.   

Reasonable Sacrifice

Solomon built and dedicated the temple to God. It had one primary purpose in Israel; to be a place where the people could encounter God and offer up sacrifices to Him (temple cultus). Over 120,000 burnt sacrifices were inspected for purity and acceptability, and then offered on the day of dedication. Solomon understood that until the altar was full of a holy and acceptable sacrifice, the Fire of God would not fall and the dedication would be incomplete. To some, it may have seemed very reckless to bring, as it were, a river of blood upon such a beautiful place; however, to Solomon, it was only reasonable to make such an offering to God in light of the mercy He had shown. When the altar was full and Solomon prayed — the Fire of God fell. This dedication was a ” picture ” of Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost. It is also an ongoing picture of New Testament life.  As the old hymn puts it:

But we never can prove the delights of His love 

Until all on the altar we lay. 
For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows 
Are for them who will trust and obey 

Jesus came to send Fire on the earth and He would do so by baptizing His people with the Holy Ghost and with Fire. Men and women’s bodies would become temples of the Holy Spirit; while at the same time becoming living sacrifices unto the Lord. 




A Living Burnt Offering

Romans 12:1 is the beginning of all evangelistic efforts. Paul, having explained the reality of what God has done in bringing salvation and reconciliation to man, says, “I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God…” He ten makes the statement which is your reasonable service. The phrase “reasonable service” is the Greek logiken latraien and means “to be in harmony with the highest reason.” We get our word logic from logike meaning “the art of reason.” It could be translated “rational.” Thinking of all that God has done; “therefore” present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto God which is your logical (the consequence of rational thinking and attitudes) service. In other words, to hear the Gospel and not respond in this way would be irrational

Summary


We are to present ourselves to our Great High Priest for inspection and acceptance that He might baptize us in the Fire of God. From there we go on presenting and the Fire continues to burn. Our life becomes a sweet smelling savour in the nostrils of God. Is this not to be preferred to Revelation 14:11? This is our reasonable worship. It’s the only response that makes sense in light of all that God has done. It is what God wants first and foremost. Without this process little else matters. It all begins here with a recognition of what God has done in Christ, and our responding reasonably to what we realize. Our lives are to be a perpetual living burnt offering for Him. Again, it is the only thing that makes sense.

The Fiftieth Day

The Fiftieth Day
Robert Wurtz II


And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

Pentecost Sunday is known in Christian circles as the birth of the Church (Ecclesia). Pentecost is the Greek rendering of the Jewish festival known as Shavuot. It is a Hebrew word meaning “weeks”. In one sense it was the celebration of the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. It is said that from Passover to the giving of the Law was 7 weeks so that on the Fiftieth Day a celebration was to take place. Shavuot is also connected to the grain harvest in Israel. In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness (Jer. 5:24, Deut. 16:9-11, Isa. 9:2). It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. For the disciples, they had experienced the reality of what Passover intended to convey in the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. From now on, Christ would be our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7). At first the Disciples did not understand what was going on and were in a terrible confusion. But Jesus met with them and explained to them all passages of the Old Testament the things pertaining to Himself. He then concludes with these words:


Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:47-49)

Up to this point the Disciples had not only misunderstood the mission of Christ, but they were in no wise of the right spirit to minister the Gospel. James and John had desired to call fire from Heaven on the Samaritans and Peter had cursed and swore with a loud oath when confronted about Jesus. They were trying, but they just were not there. Human effort simply cannot make a man or a woman into a child of God. It would take regeneration. Not a simple infusion of grace to believe, but a total transformation of the person in which they pass from death unto life and from the power of Satan unto the power of God. We have a truncated pattern here in Luke 24: 

1. repentance and remission of sins must be preached
2. believers must be endued with power from on high

The Holy Spirit in relation to the Temple

It is important to take a moment and explain the significance of the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. We can use Solomon’s Temple as our Template. Solomon built a Temple for the Lord. Up until the time the Temple was dedicated it knew only a general sense of the presence of the Lord. God manifests Himself where He is welcome, but He is present at all places and at all times. This is a theological proposition we sometimes call omnipresence or immanence. He is in the pubs, gambling dens, sin houses and even hell itself (Psalm 139:8); but He is not there in the way that He wants to be. During construction of the Temple, we could argue that God was made more welcome than He was in Egypt, for example. God has determined the bounds of our habitation that we might feel after Him, for He is not far from any one of us. That is the experience of the careless sinner. However, Israel was a God-fearing nation and people of the covenant. God was certainly more at work in their midst than He was in Egypt. Yet, the Holy Spirit wasn’t any more present at the Temple site than He was down the road until the day when the Temple was dedicated, the altar was filled, and the Fire of God fell. The glory of God filled the House until the priests were not able to stand to minister. In time the Holy Spirit departed from the Temple and it was destroyed. Yet, the artifacts in the Temple remained the possession of Jehovah (YHWH). We know this because of how Belshazzar was judged when he took the sacred dishes into his party (Daniel 5). 

The Holy Spirit in relation to men

When a person is in a careless state, even as the idolators of Athens, God is not far from them (Acts 17:27). The Disciples left their careers and followed Christ coming under His Lordship. In this condition, prior to His death, resurrection and ascension, we have this saying from our Lord, If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:15-17) Here the Holy Spirit is said to be “among” the Disciples and that they “knew” Him; yet He was not yet “in” them as the Holy Spirit had not been given because Christ had not yet been glorified (John 7:39). The glorification of Christ took place in the death, burial and resurrection. So we see a contrast between the careless sinner and the follower of Christ. Yet there is another level still. We read of this hope, reform ye (repent), therefore, and turn back (be converted), for your sins being blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19 YLT comments added). The Disciples had had their Pentecost and now they are preaching the full Gospel.

Temples of the Holy Spirit

As soon as we turn our lives to Christ we are bought with a price, becoming the sole possession of God. Our bodies and our spirits are God’s possession and we are to glorify Him with them (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We are temples of the Holy Spirit, not because He dwells in us, but because we have been purchased of God with the blood of Christ in order to be made dwelling places of God. When a person turns to Christ in repentance and conversion, they have the promise of the times of refreshing coming by the presence of the Lord. They are the purchase of God. Receiving the Holy Spirit comes as a result of our submission to Him as He deals with us convincing and convicting of sin. We must respond rightly to the Holy Spirit by ceasing to resist Him. One cannot resist and receive at the same time. Many rebellious people have made a profession of Christ and believe they have the Holy Spirit, but we are not known by a simple prayer or a profession, but by the fruit we bare. I am sorry it has to be that way, but this is the clear teaching of scripture. Receiving the Spirit is something that takes place consciously and is not a process that takes place by logical deductions. A person has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them when it can be seen that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in their life. 

Baptized into One Body

At Pentecost the Body of Christ was formed through the one great baptism that Paul spoke of in Ephesians. At that moment everyone that the Spirit fell upon was baptized into His Body and became partakers of all that He had accomplished upon the cross. They had lived for 3 years among Christ, dwelling with Christ, but now they are “In Christ” as new creatures. The mean spirit that wanted to call fire from Heaven was dispelled and the Holy Spirit poured out the love of God into their hearts (Romans 5:5). Their propensity to Sin was replaced with God working in them to will and to do His good pleasure. They were dead to Sin and dead and crucified with Christ. Before this great baptism none of them could say that. They were made sons of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is more than a profession and more than self-help. It is a new creature. They were enabled at that moment to function as a body through the gifts that had been given to men after He ascended on high. These gifts are essential to the edification and increase of the Body of Christ. Each person fitly framed and joined together in love. 



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