Worship That Makes Perfect Sense
Written by Pastor Jim Law
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he defined his ministry as one centered on the proclamation of the gospel. Paul’s life could be summarized as a man who preached one message, Jesus Christ, and him crucified and risen. His preaching was aimed to bring “the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all nations (1:5).” While Paul had never met them, he commended the church at Rome for their faith in Christ which was, “proclaimed in all the world (1:8).”
That is a tremendous testimony! Some churches are known for their pastor, or their music, or the architecture of their buildings. But to be known for your faith communicates their obedience and witness beyond the walls of the church gathering.
Biblical faith, true saving faith, is always evident through an obedient life. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you (Luke 6:46)?” “Faith without works is useless (James 2:20),” wrote the apostle James. To this point, we return Romans 12:1,2 which is one of the great challenges found in the New Testament for the follower of Christ, namely, to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice and that such a life captures true spiritual worship.
In our last post, we looked at this sacrifice of ourselves, which Paul described as living, holy, and acceptable to God (12:1). This is an encouraging word that through the grace of God found in his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we are able to live lives that are acceptable and well-pleasing to him. With this sacrifice in mind, Paul closes verse 1 with this phrase, “which is your spiritual worship.”
The phrase requires some work in translation. The two words in the Greek text, logikos and latreia, are translated in various ways: The King James Version reads, “your reasonable service;” The NIV, as well as the ESV, renders it as, “your spiritual worship;” And the NASB captures the original as, “your spiritual service of worship.”
Logikos is the source for the English word “logical,” and it can mean either spiritual or rational. Paul’s message seems to be that presenting ourselves to God as sacrifices really is a reasonable, logical response that makes perfect sense. Indeed, in light of his magnanimous grace, God is worthy of such an offering, and it is the privilege of every believer to present themselves in this way.
Latreia can be translated worship or service, and it is used in describing religious service to God. So, whether we translate this phrase as “reasonable service,” or “spiritual worship,” it seems to capture both ideas: our spiritual worship is also logical and reasonable service.
I think this is helpful in our understanding of Christian worship. True spiritual worship involves our full faculties: our mind, our reason, our bodies, our intellect. The greatest and first commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord your God with all of our being. Jesus affirmed that we were to love God with all of our mind, as well as with our heart, soul, and strength. (Luke 10:27; Deuteronomy 6:5)
This is life on the altar before God, and it encompasses everything. Paul’s statement to the Corinthians captures this obedience of faith, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).” V.D. Verbrugge offers these helpful comments, “To do something for the glory of God means to reflect God’s glory in the way we live. When others look at us and how we live our lives, they should be able to see that the standards we live by are different from those of the pagan world around us. They should be able to see Jesus living in us.”
This truth of living for the glory of God was recovered by the Reformers who saw from Scripture that all of life was to be lived Coram Deo, a Latin phrase that speaks of the presence of God, under the authority of God, and to the glory of God.
Why are we hesitant to live before God in this way? Why do we hold back? Why are we prone to give the scraps of our lives to him who has bestowed to us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)? Perhaps we think we will be ripped off or miss out on something better? Perhaps we are in doubt of God’s promises and so we hedge our losses with blemished offerings? How foolish! For those who walk with God will lack no good thing (Psalm 84:11). We need to recover the heart of David when he said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).” David spoke these words after his prideful display in ordering the census of Israel which brought with it the Lord’s chastening hand. David was a man whose transgressions are well documented (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51), nevertheless he lived in gratitude for the Lord’s mercies and was determined not to offer God the “leftovers” of his life.
Around Thanksgiving some years ago, radio commentator Paul Harvey shared a true story of a woman and her frozen Thanksgiving turkey. The Butterball Turkey Company set up a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. That’s right—23 years. The Butterball representative told her the turkey would probably be safe to eat if the freezer had been kept below zero for the entire 23 years. But the Butterball representative warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would probably have deteriorated to such a degree that she would not recommend eating it. The caller replied, “That’s what I thought. We’ll give the turkey to our church.”
We give to God what we would never give to others. This text of Romans 12 brings us once again to what God wants most. He wants us, all of us, and it is his prerogative to ask for it. With his usual precision James M. Boice writes, “You will begin to understand the Christian life when you understand that God does not want your money or your time without yourself. You are the one for whom Jesus died. You are the one he loves. So when the Bible speaks of reasonable service, as it does here, it means that you are the one God wants. It is sad if you try to substitute things for that, the greatest gift.”
Christianity is not a religion of meaningless routine and ritual. To follow Jesus Christ is a faith relationship in which we give ourselves to him who has redeemed our lives from destruction and crowned us with lovingkindness and tender mercy (Psalm 103:4). This is true, logical, reasonable worship, and it makes perfect sense!