Dedication of oneself to the Lord Jesus Christ for sacred service to Him is an essential decision that every believer must make. Many times believers make that decision following preaching on Romans 12:1, 2:
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.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Often, invitations that are given at the end of messages on these two verses call for a decision to “give your life to the Lord,” or “surrender all to the Lord,” etc. Many times, hymns such as “Is Your All on the Altar” are used in the invitation after these messages.
Careful examination of Romans 12:1 reveals that many such decisions made by believers have likely been made with an inaccurate understanding of that verse. This is true because many times the word “body” is hardly dealt with, and the message thus ends up calling for a total surrender of one’s life that does not bring out the real force of the verse:
One cannot consign dedication to God to the spirit and neglect the body. Genuine commitment to God embraces every area of life, and includes the body in all its particularity and concreteness. (ECNT, Romans, p. 644)
A proper call to give one’s life totally to the Lord based on the teaching of Romans 12:1 demands careful handling of the word “body” in that verse.
Some understand “body” in that verse to be primarily a figurative expression for the whole person; the actual physical body would still then be in view as part of the whole person. Others view the word “body” in that verse as primarily referring to the actual physical body.
Regardless of which interpretation is espoused, the physical body still is in view and must be yielded to God. Thus, the common failure to declare that the physical body is definitely in view in verse 1 is to mishandle the verse:
A great many of our bodily functions do not enlist volition on our part. . . . The lesson to be derived from the term ‘rational’ [‘reasonable’ KJV] is that we are not ‘Spiritual’ in the biblical sense except as the use of our bodies is characterized by conscious, intelligent, consecrated devotion to the service of God. (NICNT, Romans, p. 112)
That this is the case is clearly established by Romans 6:13: “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.” Significantly, the command “yield” in this verse is the aorist active imperative of the same verb whose aorist active infinitive is rendered “present” in 12:1. Notice that Romans 6:13 states that not only must we yield/present ourselves, but we must also yield/present our members (the parts of our bodies) to God as instruments (weapons) of righteousness.
To make a decision to give one’s life to God is insufficient if the decision does not involve the understanding that doing so must include presenting the parts of one’s body to Him:
Turning from the body as a whole to its separate members, Paul admonishes his readers [in 6:13] not to hand these over to sin (the old master). . . . On the positive side, he is to offer himself (his personality and life-potential) to God with, as a corollary, the separate bodily capacities ‘as instruments of righteousness. (EBC, Romans, p. 72)
Very likely, apart from those in certain settings where these truths have been very carefully dealt with, not many believers have been having in their minds that God has commanded them to present the members of their bodies to Him. Thus, many who have made decisions to give themselves totally to the Lord may very well have done so without really understanding then, and even to this day, that truly giving oneself totally to the Lord requires the presentation of oneself and the presentation of the members of one’s body to God.
The implications of this inaccurate understanding/handling/presentation of the Word of God are immense. While believers have given much attention to issues of immorality, smoking, and drunkenness, other expressions of the failure to yield the parts of one’s body have received insufficient attention.
That this is so is attested to by findings from recent research in the U.S. that certain religious people do have problems in this area.1 These findings show that more attention in this area is needed by the probably many believers who very likely have not properly yielded to God their eyes, noses, hands, mouths, tongues (taste buds), and whatever other members of their bodies are involved in the bodily appetite for food and drink.
Such failure to yield the members of one’s body manifests itself in many different ways. A believer who will not eat certain healthy foods merely because he does not like the taste of them is a believer who needs to examine soberly whether he has yielded the members of his body in obedience to the command of God.
For example, many, even though they may know the great value to one’s health of eating more fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc., do not do so because they do not care for the taste of those foods. A lifestyle characterized by such disregard for the good health of the body that is the marvelous creation of God and the blood-bought possession of our Lord does not manifest the necessary full surrender that God demands of the members of one’s body for His service.
Also, any believer who, because he likes the taste of certain foods, will not control properly before the Lord his consumption of those foods, especially those that are not conducive to his good health, needs to similarly examine his surrender to God. Many believers consume too many unnecessary calories from biscuits, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pizza, pop, high-fat meats, etc., because they like how these foods taste.
In the process, they often also consume too much in the way of proteins, simple carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats. Such unhealthy living belies one’s claim of total consecration to the Lord.
We must be ruthless with ourselves in this respect; in line with the figurative emphasis of biblical teaching such as Prov. 23:2, “Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite,” halfhearted measures will not suffice. Poor stewardship of one’s body because of the failure to present one’s taste buds to the Lord is no minor matter; let us all soberly examine our own eating and drinking.
In addition, Scripture condemns slothful living—more than once, it does so in combination with the condemnation of ungodly eating. Let us take heed to ourselves that we not allow technological advances and societal changes to put us unwittingly in a position of leading a lifestyle of physical idleness.
Although many lead very busy lives, those lives often involve little in the way of any sustained physical exertion. Believers who are inactive because they find physical activity to be boring, inconvenient, unpleasant, etc., must examine themselves solemnly in that regard to see if their sedentary lifestyles are consistent with the lifestyle of a believer who has yielded his muscles, bones, cardiovascular system, etc., to the Lord for sacred service to Him.
The poor physical condition of many of the people of God in our generation is not commending their testimony of Christ to others; unbelievers denigrate the gospel because of our failures to keep under our bodies and bring them into subjection. The bottom line is that barring extreme extenuating circumstances that likely legitimately apply only to a small percentage of people, any believer who gives his body sufficient regular physical activity and is temperate in his eating will likely not have a major problem with his weight. By so doing, he will not be among those who from failure to do so are not glorifying the Name of the Lord in that aspect of their lives.
Let us take heed to ourselves that we make no provision for the flesh in any way. We must present to God all the members of our bodies for sacred service to Him; this especially must include our taste buds and all other parts of our bodies that may have been heretofore servants of sin through intemperance in the area of food and drink.
Let us enjoy the goodness of God in providing good foods to us, but let us always do so with the total consecration and self-control that He demands!
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control? You can only be blest and have peace and sweet rest as you yield Him your body and soul!
Let us each present our entire being, including all the members of our physical bodies, to the Lord now!
Here is some information from a recent study examining religion and obesity that points to a problem:
The present research has established that religion is related both to the prevalence and incidence of obesity. In supplementary analyses, we were unable to find any evidence that obesity heightened religiosity. By contrast, we observed that religious media practice and some denominations, especially more fundamentalist groups, were at a higher risk of obesity. The results also show that those who turned to religion for consolation were at a lower risk of obesity. At a minimum, one can conclude that obesity is becoming more prevalent in the United States and that many religious affiliations are being swept along with this “megatrend.” Some religious activities and affiliations may reduce the risk of obesity, but Baptist and fundamentalist Protestant leaders may want to consider interventions for the “overgrazing of the flock.” There is clearly a role for religious media, whether electronic or print, in the spiritual development of the religiously inclined. Unfortunately, religious media practice is also associated with a higher risk of obesity for women who consume it.
—http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358928/; accessed 5/3/14; 12:48 pm.
See also http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/06/03/obesity-epidemic-in-america-churches/
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