Your reasonable service…
We have gone phrase by phrase through Romans 12 trying to grasp the weight and thrust of this command which is the foundation for missions and any form of genuine Christian labor. The phrase which is your reasonable service is perhaps one of the most critical phrases in this section. Three questions must be addresses: what does this phrase mean, what objections naturally rise against this statement, and what facts stand to demonstrate the precision of this statement? By answering these questions carefully, every believer should come to the place where he willingly and immediately presents himself fully to the use and service of God to live unreservedly for His glory.
What does this phrase mean?
This phrase which is your reasonable service is taken two ways. Many interpret the phrase as your spiritual act of worship, while others interpret it as your reasonable or logical service. While it is true that the presentation of our bodies to the service of Christ is an act of acceptable worship to God, this does not follow the meaning of reasonable and takes away from the foundation of the decision to make this sacrifice. I have emphasized the connection of Romans 1-11 by the command to the rest of the book, because this connection comes to a head in the phrase reasonable service. Paul is saying that it makes good sense or it is a logical for a believer to conclude that he should present his body as a living sacrifice to God. When a person has just been presented with the message of the Gospel and their eyes have been opened to their unrighteousness, the justice of God, and the grace of God, their humility, gratitude, and desire to follow Christ are often overwhelmingly evident. The child yearns to tell others about Christ or the adult is instantly ready to go to Bible College to learn all that he has missed in Biblical ignorance. The zeal of a young believer whose perspective of the grace of God is refreshing to the soul, yet over time the sweetness of God’s grace is often forgotten. These young believers are like love smitten Jacob in Genesis 29, who saw seven years of manual labor for his father-in-law Laban as a good trade for his beloved Rachel. The personal sacrifice meant nothing to him. He believed it was a reasonable trade. Sadly, for some believers, the decision is not as simple. Notice the following objects.
What objections naturally rise against this statement?
I think of the young man who came to Christ in Luke 9:57-62 …A certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Did this man follow Christ? We do not know. Was he a part of the seventy witnesses sent out in Lune 10? We do not know, but if he was not, he chose physical comfort and temporal security over whole-hearted service to Christ. In the next two verses, Jesus said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. Did this man follow Christ, or did he go back home to wait until his father would die? We do not know; but we do know that if he left following Christ, he valued either his time with family or receiving an inheritance above following Christ and preaching the gospel that eternally saves the souls of men. A third man said to Christ: Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Did this man follow Christ, or did he return to his family? We will never know, but if he returned home, he chose to value the security of family over fitness for service in the kingdom of God. All three of these men had a decision to make based upon their personal values system, and we often do the same thing with God. How humanly impossible is it to love to the degree that Paul commands believers to love in Romans 12:9-21? Let love be without dissimulation [genuine, sincere, without hypocrisy]. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Genuine love cannot be superficial.
- Genuine love involves the tender affection of the heart.
- Genuine love denies self
- Genuine love is active not passive (driven by a supreme love for God)
- Genuine love gives of its resources to meet the needs of other.
- Genuine love is hospitable.
- Genuine love experiences the joys and sorrows of others.
- Genuine love brings Biblical unity.
- Genuine love ignores the stigmas of social status
- Genuine love pursues peace to the degree that it depends upon them.
- Genuine love conquers evil by good.
- Genuine love is the fundamental mark of Christian maturity.
This list is just part of God’s expectations for every believer, and living by this ethic will involve personal sacrifice in every aspect of your life. Absolute surrender is not easy, and to the Christian whose perspective is not Biblical it does not make any sense. Many Christians object to God’s standards of holiness in their daily living, because it is just too much to bear and unreasonable; however, Paul says that this is our reasonable/logical service. Paul is not mistaken. This is our reasonable service.
What facts stand to demonstrate the precision of this statement?
My point is not to be redundant, but to make the point that Paul has already made. This commitment is reasonable because of the doctrinal truths of Romans 1-11. The believer’s past condition, present position, and the goodness of God are reasons enough to recognize the reasonability of this commitment.