Service to God: A Holy and Living Sacrifice
A reasonable service (Romans 12:1)
Realizing the awesome way God has brought salvation to all of mankind in His great mercies, it should spur us serve God. God is the Father of mercies (II Corinthians 1:3) and we are the beneficiaries of His grace. The natural consequence is that we present as for an offering our own bodies. It is a free-will offering to God – wholly voluntary.
But it is not a sacrifice of death, but one of life. Offerings in the Old Testament were ones given completely over to God. The one making the offering releases all claims on what is being offered. In this same way we release our will to be conformed to God’s will (James 4:7-10).
Death is passive. It is life that is active. Our sacrifice to God is one of active service on His behalf.
It is a holy sacrifice. What we offer is without defect and is set apart as something special. God comes first as a result (Matthew 6:33). We therefore work to purge sin from our lives (I Peter 1:13-19).
Our sacrifice is what is acceptable to God. It isn’t about what I want, but what God commands (I John 5:2-3). We don’t make up our own ways to service God (Colossians 2:20-23), to do so would not show respect for God and His commands.
Such a sacrifice is a reasonable offer of service to God. Some translations use the word “worship” at the end of Romans 12:1, but the word actually means service given to someone greater. See John 16:1-2 where the same word is used. In the Scriptures worship and service are closely related ideas. Worship is giving God honor and praise. Service is giving God obedience. Notice that in forbidding idolatry God told Israel not to worship (bow down) or serve any idol (Exodus 20:4-5; Daniel 3:12-18).
A part of our service to God is to offer Him worship. And when we obey God we are giving Him honor (Colossians 3:17; I Corinthians 10:31). Everything we do ought to serve God and His purpose, but it does not imply everything we do in service to God is worship.
“Although the original word translated “spiritual service of worship” (latreia) can refer to worship (Romans 9:4; Hebrews 9:1,6), it more generally refers to service (John 16:2; Luke 1:74). In fact, the verb form (latreuo) is contrasted with the usual word for “worship” (proskuneo) (Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8; Romans 1:25), suggesting a difference between the two. This evidence indicates that while all of life is service, not all of life is worship” [Kevin Kay, “Is All of Life Worship?”].
God commanded the Israelites to serve Him alone (Deuteronomy 6:13). To fear God is to obey, love, and serve him from the heart (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). They were to do this because God was so awesome that He was their praise (Deuteronomy 10:20-21). Such a heart-felt service is required of Christians as well (Hebrews 12:28-29; John 14:15).
1. How is worship different from service?
A transformed life (Romans 12:2)
We are not to fashion ourselves after this world (I John 2:15-17; I Peter 1:14; Colossians 3:5-17). Because we died to the world and our goal is heaven, we have to die worldly things (Romans 6:1-2; 8:13; Galatians 5:24). We are done with the past (I Peter 4:1-3).
As Christians we have new hearts (Psalms 51:9-10). Everything about our lives is new (II Corinthians 5:17).
If all we did was remove sin, it would create a vacuum in our lives (Matthew 12:43-45). Thus, being a Christian is not about the removal of sin but about replace sin with righteousness (Romans 13:11-14). It is out with the old and in with the new (Ephesians 4:21-24).
That renewal comes through the changing of our minds, which is accomplished by the things we learn (I Peter 1:22-25; II Peter 1:2-4; II Timothy 3:16-17). It is not just an outward conformity to Christ, but a change in the very way we think (Psalms 40:6-8; Jeremiah 9:24).
In doing so, we prove as metal is tested in trials of fire what is God’s will (John 7:17; Ephesians 5:10). It is a will that is good, acceptable and perfect (Micah 6:8).