Romans 12:1-2. 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. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans is the fourth of Paul’s letters that we have worked our way through here at To Live is Christ – Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and now Romans. But Romans is the first to follow a more formal argumentation, it’s more rhetorical if you will. Paul’s earlier letters addressed specific questions and problems. Romans is a treatise, and it follows this logic that we will see in others of his letters: the indicatives first, then the imperatives.
Indicatives: the objective truths of who we are in Christ (position). What’s been done.
Imperatives: the commands that we obey because Christ is in us (condition). What we do.
Imperatives – Indicatives = Impossibilities.
You can see Paul’s use of indicative and imperative right here in Romans 12:1. “therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God [indicative]…present your bodies as a living sacrifice [imperative].
You see, God will always start with the indicative, the truth of who we are, the merciful realities of our salvation, before he gives us an imperative to obey. Here in Romans we explored 11 chapters of indicatives before we get our first real command here in Chapter 12.
Why is this? Because God always operates from the inside out. First God indwells us, then he transforms us inwardly then outwardly. Most “religion” is focused on changing behavior through penitence, creeds, and sacramental works – outside in. But this is not God’s way. It is not the way of union with Christ. Only the indwelling Christ can make us righteous, and only received grace can produce holiness.
Romans 12-16 will list a whole lot of things that frankly we cannot do. Just look at Romans 12:1 again – present your bodies as a living sacrifice. When’s the last time you did that successfully? But this is meant to drive us back to the mercies of God. We actually can present our bodies to God, because we are the presented body of Christ. Now our lives as living sacrifices are not sacrifices of atonement, Jesus already did that, they are sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.
If we try to obey God without first realizing that God has graciously given us, in Christ Jesus, the mercies that we need for obedience, then our obedience will be works rather than faith. It will be slavery not freedom. It will be earning not receiving. It will be law not grace. In other words, if you aren’t trusting the indicatives, don’t even bother trying to obey the imperatives. It will literally be impossible. Who can produce love on their own? Who can love without first being loved?
But once we trust the indicatives (God’s grace), now we are free to obey his imperatives by faith. And it is faith alone that pleases God (Heb. 11:6).
“OK, what are the indicatives? What are the mercies of God?” Um, everything in the last 11 chapters:
- Justification: complete forgiveness.
- Imputation: credited as righteous, while still ungodly.
- Death to sin.
- Death to the law.
- Resurrection to God.
- Freedom from condemnation.
- The new way of the Spirit.
- Adoption unto sonship.
- Suffering unto glory.
- Transformation into Christ likeness.
- No separation from God.
- Endless love.
- Grafting into the New Covenant.
- Eternal salvation.
That’s a lot of mercy. That’s “to live is Christ.” I appeal to you to embrace it today.
Anne Lamott reads about mercy from her book “Hallelujah Anyway.” It’s worth a listen and a read.