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2 Corinthians 8:3-5 1
3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the LORD’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the LORD, and then by the will of God also to us.

Background

The grace of God must be at the root and foundation of all that is good in us, or done by us, all of the time. It is this grace and favor from God that makes us useful to others and able to do good works. Paul commends the charity of the Macedonians, pleading with him (Paul) to receive their gift. Whatever we lay aside for God, we are being reminded that we are only giving God what is already His. All we might give for charitable uses, will not be accepted by God, or benefit us, unless we first give ourselves to the Lord. By crediting all  good works to the grace of God, we not only give the glory to God but also show others where their strength should lay and their faith be placed.

Items for Discussion

  • In general, it is obvious that people do not follow the example being given by Paul – Why?
  • How would you define stewardship?
  • Is there a difference between charity and stewardship with respect to God’s eyes?
  • We are called to give time, treasure, talent and testimony. Is one more important than another?

 

Romans 12:1-3
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Background

The book of Romans is often divided  into two parts:

  • a theological explanation of the gospel (chapters 1-11) and
  • a series of communications emphatically urging someone to do ethical things (chapters 12-15).

This separation is because Paul introduces a new style and new content as he brings the story of Christ’s redemption to bear on the life of the believer in tangible and practical ways.

Paul is urging his audience to present their bodies as living sacrifices, which “is your true and proper worship.” In verse 2 he further defines what this means, to be transformed by renewing of your mind to discern God’s perfect will. “Spiritual worship” involves the presentation of the body, accomplished by the renewal of the mind.

Your body now has new life and a renewed mind that results from a union with Christ (6:1-23; 8:1-13). This union allows believers to present their bodies, not to sin as instruments of unrighteousness (6:13), but to God as living sacrifices; and to employ a mind fixed not on the flesh, but on the Spirit, in order to discern what kind of deeds are pleasing to God (8:6-9).

Remember that Paul is redefining worship for all God’s people, who respond to God’s mercies not by giving up animals for sacrifice but by giving their own bodies as living sacrifices to God. The term “spiritual” can also be translated as “rational” worship, worship connected with moral behavior where we truly offer ourselves for service to others. This point highlights the fact that Gentiles were engaging in improper worship of creatures rather than proper worship of the Creator (1:23, 25). They dishonored their bodies (v. 24), and failed to place their faith in God (1:28, 32). Jews worship no better, because they sough to approve God’s will by standards (rules) applied to God’s Law, but failed (2:18).

Now we are to use a new mind to think rightly about ourselves and each other: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”(verse 3). Paul calls for a new way of thinking that takes account of others. The actions of unity, humility, and love described in by Paul are examples of what it looks like to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice”. As believers, we are to use our gifts for the sake of others, to act according with the “measure of faith” (metron pistews) that God has given to each of us.

By these verses, one might conclude that worship is adequately performed through our corporate liturgy, preaching, and music. These practices are not wrong; but they do not reach far enough for Paul. Paul’s style of worship happens as we live out our faith by serving one another to build up the body of Christ. The quality of our worship is not measured by what happens on only Sunday mornings, but by what happens when we are together Monday through Saturday.

Items for Discussion

  • What does offering your bodies as a living sacrifice mean to you?
  • What does it mean to be conformed to this world?
  • Is there such a thing as a living sacrifice and a dead sacrifice (Romans 12:1)?
  • How do we transform our lives?
  • How does diversity help the body of Christians in a church accomplish God’s goals?
  • Where do our gifts come from? Who has them?

Discussion Challenge

  • What are the ways that we can honor these verses by gathering together to serve one another, Monday through Saturday?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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