Be Transformed

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. 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.

Romans 12:1-2

As all of you know, whenever we see the word “therefore”, we are reading a passage that draws a conclusion from what has preceded it. While that is certainly true here, this one isn’t just referring to the verses just concluded, for this is the beginning of a new unit (12-15) and thus, “therefore” is drawing a conclusion from the preceding unit (1-11), which is a very important distinction. The first unit in Romans discussed grace; the second unit discusses our response to grace. Thus, Paul is telling us that in response to God’s amazing grace, we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.

Verse 1 is, in a sense, a counterpoint to the Old Testament worship in which animals were sacrificed and rituals were observed. Notice the presence of the words “offer”, “sacrifice” and “worship”, all three of which are terms that pertain to worship in the Old Testament. The old system of worship involved symbols and ceremonies, but worship in the New Testament involves “spirit and truth”. Consequently, the proper and true manner of worship for the Christian is for us to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Please understand: This is no platitude; it is an imperative. A fair question right about now would be, “OK, but just exactly how do I do that?”

You will no doubt be relieved when I tell you that Paul has provided the answer in verse 2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

My goodness, how we love to quote this, but how many of us actually do it? How many of us actually believe that it is possible? Surely this is nothing more than an abstract ideal, a goal that cannot be realized in this life!

Maybe we should all pause and re-read it; look carefully at the words, the grammar…

Holy heart attack! This is no abstraction; it too is an imperative!

So, here’s another question: Would the Apostle Paul command us to do something if it is impossible? Perhaps we need to think about this some more. Do you recall what Paul told us regarding Israel’s failure to attain righteousness? Yes, that’s right: They never obtained righteousness because their faith was in their ability to conform to the Law, but what God wanted was for them to put their faith in Him… and with God, all things are possible.

Notice that in the imperative of verse 2, there is a contrast, a duality that is set up by the word “but” “Do not be conformed… but be transformed” Thus we have a choice to make: Either we live as the world does with its values, activities and ways of thinking, or we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds so that we have an entirely new way of thinking with different values that lead us to a different way of life; this is our choice, and to be quite candid with you, it is very much like the choice that Israel had to make.

As Paul continues in 12:3-13:14, he will fill in many blanks for us, so that we can see more clearly how to accomplish this task; I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to see what comes next!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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4 Responses to Be Transformed

  1. Matt Brumage says:

    I typically make much of the imperative in verse two because it is “passive”. What does a passive imperative look like? In our usage, passive imperatives are rare, but not unheard of. For instance, “Let me help you” is, technically, a passive imperative. Think about how we would “obey” such an imperative. Obedience would only happen when we LET it happen. So, in this case, we allow ourselves to be transformed. When we “hear” or “read” this verse, we think, “be quiet!” which is where we might use the verb to be in a command. But that is not a passive imperative, it’s a command to stop doing something. This isn’t such a command, this is more like “Let me help you” than it is like “be quiet”. The key is “transformed”, it’s used like “help” in my example. It’s transitive, and so, in a passive voice, we, the ones being commanded, become the object, not the subject of the action. This is a call to submission, which doesn’t make it any easier, but does make it more attainable. At least in my view.

  2. Gary Fultz says:

    Years of meeting with the Lord in the morning before going to work (in the Word and prayer) has really helped and I believe given the Holy Spirit something to work with in my daily life..

  3. Pingback: Be Transformed | A disciple's study

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