What Does It Mean to be a Living Sacrifice?

“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.” Romans 12:1

Most of us have heard that verse, and abide by it. We understand that we now live in the age of grace and faith where animal sacrifices are no longer necessary for the forgiveness of sins. Gone are the priests and long lines of spotless lambs waiting to go onto the altar. Now, God is calling us to be a ‘living’ sacrifice for him.

We live out this living sacrifice every day… we give God our time every Sunday, make an effort to read the bible and pray, and generally try the best we can to live our lives for Him. We grasp firmly to the next verse that says we are “no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but are being transformed by the renewing of our mind.”

Isn’t that the picture we get when we talk about being a living sacrifice for God? Allowing God to transform our minds so that we would live every day according to the heavenly pattern, not the worldly pattern. In this way, we are sacrificing our own fleshly desires, and becoming a living sacrifice for God.

Sounds great, right?

Call me crazy, but I think there is more to this. Like many of you, I’ve always had a hunger to do more and be more for God. So when I read this verse about becoming a living sacrifice, it’s hard for me to accept that it’s only speaking of resisting fleshly desires.

Most of us who profess to live by this verse, in truth, have it easier than Christians have ever had it. We live comfortable lives in front of the tv, never once having to face true persecution… all the while watering down the gospel to match our own comfort level, lest we feel challenged or convicted.

Instead of patting myself on the back for resisting a beer and not cussing, when I read this verse I wonder how much more of myself I can give to God! Take Paul, the writer of Romans, as an example. He burned with a zeal and passion to preach the gospel of Christ, so much so that he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, lived in discomfort, was cold, hungry, thirsty…  He was a world changer, not because he simply resisted his fleshly desires but because he gave his entire LIFE to God.

Romans 8:18-19 says “I (Paul) consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”

How much more effective do you think we would be if we started giving more of our time… our effort… our heart to God? Instead of limiting the transforming power of God to just our fleshly desires, what would happen if we took off all the limits and gave God complete access to our lives? How quick do you think this world would turn upside down with people like that?!!

Jesus had no limits on God’s transforming power, and neither should we. We should be making every effort to take down all the limits we have placed on Him, so that he can move freely in our lives to change us and the world around us.


One more thing though… Before we can close the chapter on being a living sacrifice, there’s the little issue of the word ‘therefore’.

“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.” Romans 12:1

What exactly does Paul mean by ‘therefore?’ By definition it means ‘for that reason’ or ‘consequently’, so by using ‘therefore’ Paul is stating that his urging for us to be a living sacrifice is tied directly to what immediately preceded that statement… something that ties Romans 8:19 and Romans 12:1 together with a little more context. So what exactly was Paul referencing when he was talking about becoming a living sacrifice?

In Romans 9-11 Paul begins to lay the foundation for the future salvation of Israel. It was because of Israel’s unbelief that the riches salvation came to the gentiles. However, even though their rejection of  Christ meant riches for the world, God has by no means rejected them.

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!” Romans 11:1


“After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” Romans 11:24

and again

“God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable!” Romans 11:29

Paul’s desire and prayer was that all of Israel would be saved. It was for this desire that he preached in the hope that he may arouse Israel to envy so that they would be saved.  Think of it! Israel’s loss meant riches for the world. How much greater riches, then, will God bring when Israel believes and experiences salvation?

It is this backdrop then that Paul finally brings up that famous verse that we started with. “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.” Romans 12:1

Creation itself is waiting in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed… a people that carry the glory and presence of God in their everyday lives, who have offered their bodies as a living sacrifice to God, so that Israel may somehow be brought to envy and be saved. God is looking for a people… do you hear the call? Are you willing to be a living sacrifice for God?

“For if their [Israel’s] rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Romans 11:15



David Belich is a frequent guest blogger on Highways Ministries, as well as the owner of Effective Church Media, an online resource that seeks to help churches utilize media more effectively to advance the kingdom of God.