“A LIVING SACRIFICE”
Often times when we speak we can convey the most profound and important things by using expressions containing words that seem contradictory. By combining words that are usually opposite in meaning we actually produce a powerful expression that is full of meaning and one that impresses upon us the importance of the issue. At first glance the words with opposite meanings would appear to nullify each other, and thereby produce a meaningless expression. But that is not the case at all. An example of this is the expression ‘thunderous silence,’ or when someone says that ‘the silence was deafening.’ Silence is the absence of sound or noise. Yet when something is ‘thunderous,’ or ‘deafening,’ it makes a lot of noise, even to the point of hurting your ears. The two concepts, therefore, are opposite to each other, but the combination of them produces an expression that profoundly conveys just how silent the silence was. Some other examples of these expressions, (called oxymoron), would be ‘sweet sorrow’; ‘restless tranquility’; ‘painstaking disinterest,’ etc. Each of these combinations contain opposite concepts, yet together they convey depth of meaning.
In the Bible God also uses these kinds of expressions. However, when God uses them they are not merely used as figures of speech for the enhancement of meaning. Instead, God uses them to convey vital truths, the reality of which must be recognized if one is to either know the truth, or live unto Him, or do His will, etc. God’s use of these apparently contradictory expressions goes beyond the simple issue of expressive speech. Through them God conveys realities that appear foolish to our flesh nature and to human viewpoint because of the deceitfulness of sin, but they are the truth nevertheless and must be understood and accepted as such. An example of this would be the Lord’s words to Paul in II Corinthians 12:9,…
“My grace is sufficient for thee: FOR MY STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.”
Also, Paul’s appreciation for this truth expressed in verse 10 by the words,
“FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN AM I STRONG.”
The apparent contradiction is obvious, but it is only apparent and only seems contradictory to fleshly thinking. However, if we understand and appreciate the issue of the excellency of the power of God’s word effectually working within us, along with the issue of the sufficiency of God’s grace to not only deal with whatever we experience but to also provide for His glorification through it, then God’s strength being “made perfect in weakness” makes all the sense in the world. By understanding how God’s word sufficiently and effectually works within us to His glory we can appreciate this vital truth, and say with Paul,…
“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Corinthians 12:9)
One of these kind of expressions that is very important for us today to understand and appreciate is the issue of being “a living sacrifice.” Paul uses this expression regarding us in Romans 12:1.
“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)
At first glance the idea of presenting our bodies “a living sacrifice” clearly seems contradictory. A sacrifice is put to death. The animals sacrificed under the Law were put to death, and their bodies offered upon the altar. A sacrifice, therefore, doesn’t live, but it dies. Life is given up when the body is sacrificed. So it was with our Lord when He sacrificed His life in our behalf by dying as our substitute Redeemer on the cross. The wages of sin is death, and He died in our place on the cross being set forth as a sacrifice for us to the propitiation of God’s perfect Justice. As a sacrifice He died, for that is just what a sacrifice does. Life, therefore, is not the concept one thinks of in connection with a sacrifice. Death is the issue with a sacrifice. How could it be, therefore, that the words ‘living’ and ‘sacrifice’ could be combined and not only be meaningful, but true? The two concepts don’t seem as if they should, or could, go together. Nevertheless, Paul speaks of us as ones who are “a living sacrifice” and need to present our bodies as such.
The only way a ‘sacrifice’ can be ‘living’ is if it came back from the dead; if it was resurrected from the death it suffered. The only life a sacrifice can have is resurrection life. Now when we understand that this is just what has taken place with us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as our substitute Redeemer, and that we have been baptized by the Spirit of God into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, we can appreciate what it means for us to be “a living sacrifice.”
“A living sacrifice” is exactly what our sanctified position in Christ is all about. God not only justified us by His grace when we trusted Christ as our Saviour, He also sanctified us unto Himself by making us ‘dead to sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ This God did through the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, just as Paul teaches.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4)
By being “baptized into Jesus Christ” we were “baptized into his death.” God, therefore, made it so that we became not only beneficiaries of Christ’s death in a judicial sense unto justification, but also in a positional sense unto sanctification. The Holy Spirit baptizing us “into Jesus Christ” identified us with Christ. He gave us identicalness, or likeness, with Christ in His victory over sin. Hence, Paul says, we have been…
“planted together in the likeness of his death” and “we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Rom. 6:5)
We possess, therefore, the identical position before God of having gone through what Christ went through in His death, burial, and resurrection for victory over sin. Consequently, we are “dead to sin” having been baptized into Christ’s death. The mastership of sin over us has been broken and we no longer have to serve sin. As Paul goes on to say,…
“our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:6-7)
This is our position in Christ — “dead to sin” and so freed from its ownership and mastership over us. However, that is not all.
Not only are we “dead to sin” having been baptized into Christ’s death, but we are also “alive unto God” in Him.
“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
In truth, the Lord Jesus Christ is now a “living sacrifice” Himself. He died a sacrifice for sin and unto sin once. But He was resurrected from the dead victorious over sin’s power and claim. He is now living and not dead. He is now a “living sacrifice” and “liveth unto God” as such. And, again, this is just what we are “in Him.” Hence, Paul goes on to say,…
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be DEAD INDEED UNTO SIN, BUT ALIVE UNTO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, AS THOSE THAT ARE ALIVE FROM THE DEAD, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6:8-13)
Our position in Christ is one of being ‘dead, yet living,’ just as Christ is. It is one of being a “living sacrifice.” Christ Himself is now a “living sacrifice,” and so are we “in Him.” We are “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We have died with Christ and also have been raised with Him. And this all was done by the “operation of God” in baptizing us into Christ and thereby identifying us with Him. As such we are no longer the “servants of sin,” but now, as Paul says,…
“being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom. 6:20-21)
We can now ‘live unto God’ being “dead to sin.”
In Christ, therefore, we truly are “a living sacrifice.” The apparent contradiction of terms isn’t a contradiction at all. Instead, it is a Divinely produced reality. It is the result of the sanctifying “operation of God” upon us in response to faith in Christ. Having now been “crucified with Christ” and raised with Him we can ‘live unto God,’ and accordingly we ought to ‘present our bodies’ for what they are in Christ — “a living sacrifice” — and ‘yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto God.’
The expression “a living sacrifice” not only sets forth the marvellous reality of our position in Christ, it also underscores how vital it is for us to understand and appreciate our position in Christ if we are ever going to ‘live unto God’ in our daily lives. The yearning of our flesh is for us to try and serve the Lord by the Law, or some other similar commandment-oriented performance system, which relies upon our own energy and efforts to achieve results. This is not only the desire of our flesh nature, but it is also the conclusion of human viewpoint in general. Performance commands, ordinances, and the like, as Paul says,…
“have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body;…” (Col. 2:23a)
To our flesh nature such things, along with the Law as a whole, seem to be ‘ordained unto life,’ and therefore the right way for us to serve and please the Lord. But this is not the case at all. Instead, as Paul says, they are…
“not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Col. 2:23b)
The Law was never designed by God to enable us to live unto Him. Instead, it was designed to manifest sin’s dominion and the ability of the flesh to only bring forth fruit unto death. Hence, as Paul says,…
“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” (Romans 7:5)
The Law with its commands and ordinances manifests what we were by nature in Adam, but it has no capacity to deal with who God has made us to be “in Christ.” Again, it was never designed by God to do that.
God had to make us dead to our flesh and to the law in order for us to be able to serve and please Him. For this reason Paul declared,…
“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. (Gal. 2:19)
It is only by being made a living sacrifice that we can now live unto God. It is only by being made dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord that we functionally can live to God’s honour and glory. Hence, Paul goes on to say,…
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
Therefore, it’s only by understanding and appreciating our “living sacrifice” position in Christ, and walking in accordance with it, that we “live unto God.” It’s a vital truth to know. We only fool ourselves into thinking we please the Lord when we try to serve Him on the basis of another motivating factor. And this we do, no matter how sincere or zealous we may be. — K. R. Blades