We are just beginning a study of the 12th chapter and I think it should be against the law to read the first two verses of this chapter without reading the last verses of Romans 11. They belong together. But, as I suppose you know, the translators added all of the chapters and verses to make it easier to study the Scriptures (which is why I like the J.B. Phillips Translation), and as often happens, the translators separated these two verses from the text Paul had written. The two verses that open Romans 12 are an appeal from the Paul to bring your body to God and give it to him to use. But all the great reasons for doing that are found in Chapter 11. Paul says,
I stand amazed at the unfathomable complexity of God’s wisdom and God’s knowledge. How could man ever understand his reasons for action, or explain his methods of working? For: ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counsellor?’ ‘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 him be the glory for ever, amen.
With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice (Romans 11:33-12:2)
Did you catch what he was saying? Because He is like this—rich and wise and great and glorious, a God of love and mercy, and you are like this—ignorant of the future, forgetful of the past, unable to control the present—
With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
As your spiritual teacher I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all (Romans 12:1-3)
All of us have read these words before. I like the way the Jerusalem Bible translates the first sentence:
Think of God’s mercies, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy — by offering him your living bodies. (Romans 12:1 Jerusalem Bible)
That is what we sing in that great hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross: It closes,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
That’s what Paul is urging us to do here. He says God is interested in you bringing your body and making it available to him. When he tells you to “present your body,” he uses what the Greeks call the aorist tense. That means it is something you do once for all; it’s not something you do over and over again. You do it once, and then you set the rest of your life on that basis. So there comes a time when God wants you to bring your bodies to him.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome