A Biblical Foundation for Service Part 1: I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God…
I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God…
Before we even get to the content of the command, for sake of the way we approach this whole foundation, we must consider these three questions: To whom was the command given? What was Paul’s attitude as he gave the command? What is the motivation for the command?
First, it may seem elementary, but in light of some of the debates concerning the condition of receiving the gospel, we must ask to whom is Paul addressing this command. This post is not focused on the debate, but I will mention that this passage flies in the face of those who teach that salvation is received by making Christ your Lord and Master as opposed to placing your dependence alone in the person and work of the risen Lord on your behalf. If the condition for salvation were to make Christ Lord of your life, and submit to His absolute rule in your life, then this passage would not be addressed to believers whom Paul calls his brethren. If this were the condition of salvation, then this passage would not be essential to Christian teaching, and the last eleven chapters spent teaching doctrine relating to their salvation would not have been referring to the people he is now addressing. This passage is not evangelistic, rather it is addressed to those who have repented before God by agreeing with God that they are unrighteous, sinners deserving his wrath, hopelessly lost apart from the gracious sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf and have rested their eternal destiny on the person and work of Christ alone. This command can only apply to believers, or works would be made a part of the condition for salvation/justification. Since this passage is directed to believers, then we must emphasize that this is a critical issue in the growth of the believer, and it cannot be ignored or downplayed.
Secondly, what was Paul’s attitude toward these believers as he gave them this command? The word that is translated beseech in the AV is an interesting word. It has the idea of to come alongside, to comfort, to exhort, or instruct. This is the verb form of the same word that John used in John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter… Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Comforter who would encourage the disciples in Christ’s physical absence. Paul’s exhortation is one of encouragement out of love like a coach would motivate his athletes. Paul was coming up alongside his fellow believers, and exhorting them in love to present themselves fully to God. Perhaps as we think of the way in which the apostle Paul, speaking with full apostolic authority addressed these believers it would help us to gently challenge believers with the weight of this command.
Thirdly, what is the motivation for the command? Perhaps this is the most important element of this first part of our study. This motivation for the command should be a basis for the reason we appeal to believers to surrender themselves fully to Christ. Paul says I beseech you therefore… To what issues did Paul already teach in the book of Romans that he is referring? First think about chapters 1-3. In these passages, Paul has reminded these believers of the absolute depravity of every man. He shows that man has flatly rejected God, lives the life of a rebel, and has substituted the worship of God for what He has created. Man has lived in the basest forms of immorality. Man because of his sin is under the wrath of God and deserving of death. Man loves to compare himself to others based upon his own standards of righteousness and morality, but this standard simply condemns him, because it proves that he has an inborn sense of morality and law. Man given up to his own desires hates God and is full of unrighteousness. The moral pagan, the immoral pagan, and the religious pagan are all equally pagan. There is none righteous no not one, and man’s woeful condition leaves him absolutely helpless before God. Yet, in chapters 3-5 God emphasizes His matchless grace and unfathomed love in spite of human depravity to His own glory. When we were without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrated His love toward us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Think about the salvation that was provided for us in spite of our woeful condition! Think about the suffering of Christ so that we could be made righteous before God. Think about the severity of our sin and the holiness of God as you contemplate the wrath of God poured out on Christ in our place. Think about the agony of Christ’s separation from the Father. It cannot be fully comprehended, but it all magnifies the depth of God’s love, the greatness of His grace, the purity of His justice, and the weight of the new birth. But that is not the end of the discussion. In chapter 6-7 Paul emphasizes the freedom that every believer has in Christ as a result of his new position in Christ. The believer was not just under the wrath of God and at war with him, but he was also a slave to sin, under a cruel task master and without strength to free himself from this position. Paul explains that the believer is free to serve the one who purchased him with his own blood, and he emphasizes that it is unthinkable that a believer would continue in sin that God’s grace would abound. We are dead to sin! As if this is not reason enough to submit ourselves fully to God, Paul also emphasized in chapter 8 the glories that are awaiting the believer that he has not yet experienced, but are guaranteed based upon the believers eternally secure position in Christ. We will one day have glorified bodies, free from the battles we face with sin, not just positionally free from sin, but also practically free from sin. We will experience God’s creation new as it was when He originally created. Then Paul covers God’s dealings with Israel. The point of this section is to emphasize the greatness of God’s wisdom, sovereign authority, love, and faithfulness to the nation of Israel and the gentiles which had a history of rebellion in spite of the graciousness of God. This section primarily emphasizes the security of the believer, because it is based not in the believer’s performance, but in the character of God. The basis of the command that Paul gives is the greatness of God and the greatness of His dealings with the world and the believer. It is unfathomable that the believer would fail to obey this command in light of all that God has graciously done on his behalf. Paul further emphasizes this basis by saying that it is by the mercies of God. God’s mercy is His loving response to the misery of feeble men. The phrase by the mercies of God means that because of or on account of the mercies of God we should present our bodies a living sacrifice. If a believer is struggling with this issue of absolute surrender of himself to God, then he must rehearse the mercies of God beginning with his lost condition all the way through his future eternal inheritance. These mercies are the reason that we ought to submit ourselves fully to God.