In Leviticus chapters 1 to 7, there are several references to holy sacrifices (gifts to God) that pleased God (for example, Leviticus 1:9). For those sacrifices to please God, the death of an animal was necessary.
So Paul is discussing something new here when he speaks about a ‘living sacrifice’. The death of animals as sacrifices is no longer necessary, because Christ has died to free people from their sins (evil deeds) - Hebrews 9:22-26. So now God’s people can offer their own lives to God and, because of Christ’s death, their gift pleases God. God will then make it possible for them to do what he wants them to do in this world. By the power of his Spirit, he will make them into the kind of people that he wants them to be.
Not every Christian is willing to offer themselves to God in this way. So often, we care too much about the natural feelings of our own bodies: our emotions, desires, fears and ambitions. When such things guide our lives, we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us (8:5-6). As Paul says in Romans 8:8, that kind of life cannot please God.
However, God has given his Spirit to every Christian (8:9). It is the Spirit who gives life to our bodies (8:11). Therefore, God’s people do not have to live selfishly, or to care only about their own feelings. God can change their thoughts (12:2), if they simply allow him to work in their lives. So Paul urges every Christian to offer themselves completely to God.
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© 2018, Keith Simons.