What Does it Mean to Offer Your Body as a Living Sacrifice

It can be a challenge to sacrifice. Sacrificing means giving up something that’s valuable or important to us for the sake of someone/something else. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us; His life. So what did Paul mean when he said we need to “offer your body as a living sacrifice?” 

offer your body as a living sacrifice- what does that mean?- male hand reaching out on brown background

Paul masterfully lays out the truth of the Gospel in the book of Romans. He fills the early chapters with the riches of God’s love and mercy on His people.

He spoke of the forgiveness of God and how our faith in Jesus Christ brings us a new life. Romans 12 begins a change in the apostle Paul’s discussion.

My Bible gives this new chapter a headline of “personal responsibility.” Paul moves from what we believe into how to live in our fractured world.

Romans 12:1-2

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ESV.

In the Greek, “I urge” translates as “I appeal”. Paul wasn’t commanding us to do anything, but gently petitioning us to please God in our daily lives by living for Him.

Present Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice

“… to offer your bodies as living sacrifices…”

Different translations say to “present” or “give” our physical bodies as a living sacrifice. This was Paul’s way of explaining that as a redeemed people, we surrender our lives back to Jesus in thanksgiving for all He has done. 

We dedicate all of ourselves to Him because it is the only reasonable response to HIs extraordinary gift- it is the proper worship response.

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:5-6.

Jesus offered Himself as a onetime, for all time, single sacrifice and atoned for all our sin. There is nothing we can add to this. The only thing to “do” is to believe and trust in Him.

Why Do We Need to Sacrifice for God? 

God doesn’t need us to sacrifice for Him. He does, however, give us the opportunity to sacrifice as a “living” way to express our love and gratitude for all He has done.

Our heavenly Father wants only the best for us. His plans are good, pleasing, and perfect. He gave up His only Son to make a restored relationship possible.

But why even give us the opportunity?

Let’s think about the sacrifices we make in our ordinary life. Are you the Mom who eats the burnt piece of toast?

Maybe you are the friend who goes all out creating a perfect party or shower? Are you the teacher who stays after school to get those lessons exactly right for their students?

We frequently make sacrifices of our time, money, and energy to show our love and care for others. We turn our love and care into action.

God is giving us an outlet for us to do the same for Him. He NEEDS nothing, but we express our love for Him through this act of surrender. 

Considering God’s tremendous love and mercy, what should our response look like?

What Is a Living Sacrifice?

A living sacrifice must have sounded odd to those who were hearing Paul’s words. Under the old covenant in the Old Testament, people brought live animal sacrifices to the priest to atone for their sins. 

Paul says because of Christ, we no longer adhere to the sacrifice of animals; we live under the new covenant. The blood of Jesus paid our debt, shed on the cross.

Instead of legal obligation, we are under the grace and mercy of God. There is no more constant death; we celebrate eternal life. 

We are not a burnt offering; we are a living one! Before God, we offer our complete self in gratitude and thanksgiving.

We offer all the parts of our bodies- eyes, ears, lips, hands, feet, heart, mind, etc.- in service to Him and doing His will.

But full surrender to God can be difficult. I love this quote that describes the problem with living sacrifices:

“The main problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” D.L. Moody.

stone altar with simple cross - outside with view of mountain

We crave freedom and control of certain parts of our lives. The things we say, look at, and listen to are not always in His will. 

Our ambitions and possessions can become more important to us. We don’t always want to sacrifice, so we crawl away.

Sacrifice to God

Paul continues his message, telling us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  

Of all people, he should know about transformation, right?! Paul, the ruthless prosecutor of Christians, met Jesus, and underwent a metamorphosis. He underwent a complete transformation and became a completely new creation.

Unfortunately, the knowledge of right and wrong and the determination to transform our lives produce only temporary fixes. Even Paul struggled and said this:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Romans 7:15.

It is the constant tension between our inborn sinful nature and our new spiritual life.

Offering ourselves as living sacrifices is to choose daily to lay down our own desires and to live our lives honoring and obeying Him. It is trusting in the perfect plans He has for us.

God has given us the best resources to achieve our goal- His written Word and the Holy Spirit! The more time spent in His Word, the greater the transformation.

The process of becoming like Jesus lasts a lifetime! Instead of focusing on our outward behavior, concentrate on being spiritually healthy. 

A healthy spirit holds dear the time spent in His presence. Prayer, listening to His voice, and reading God’s word consistently will produce a vibrant and healthy spirit.

These activities produce spiritual growth, which leads to the changes we are craving.

To be a living sacrifice is to desire to belong entirely to Him. He knows our human weakness will interfere with our best intentions. 

That’s when we trust in His grace, mercy, and forgiveness and begin anew.

The Holy Spirit brings renewal, direction, and understanding. Discovering God’s will, guidelines and character helps us become living sacrifices for His service.

Yielding to God gives us His power to help in our transformation. Jesus turned to His Father to seek His will all the time, and He is God! Should we do any less?

Offer your body as a living sacrifice- wooden altar with cross and pot of yellow flowers on it
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Qualities of a Living Sacrifice

Paul describes our sacrifice as “holy and pleasing to God…”

Well, that sounds intimidating! When I think of “holy”, I think of pure, without blemish, Jesus.

Holiness, however, is an attribute of God He gives to things and people dedicated to His service. Holiness intertwines with purity and righteousness- which we (amazingly) receive as a free gift from Jesus.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9.)

When we dedicate our acts of sacrifice to His glory, He sees them as a holy sacrifice.

When we strive to show others His great mercy, love, and peace, He sees those acts as holy.

And if that is not astonishing enough, when we offer ourselves to Him, it pleases Him! It is all because when He sees us; He sees Jesus. ♥

When we do our best to live for Him with sincere hearts, we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Spiritual Act of Worship

Some translations of this phrase use “reasonable service.” In other words, “Offer your body to God in service because it is the reasonable thing to do.” 

Living our lives in service to God is the only reasonable or rational response for all He has done for us!

When we love and worship God, we serve Him. We will do whatever He needs done. 

To have a servant’s heart means saying, “Yes Lord, whatever you need or want, I will do”. I’ll take that piece of burnt toast. I’ll stay late for you. Tell me what arrangements to make, and I will carry them out.

Any act of service we offer back to God is an act of spiritual worship.

Service to Christ Jesus is following His will for your life. To be a living sacrifice is to jump wholeheartedly into serving and obeying Him! He wants us to conform to His image and be fruitful in our service.

Elements of a Living Sacrifice

We offer ourselves as living sacrifices out of love and thanksgiving. Not because we have to, but because we want to. Loving God is our motivation for giving Him our best- in time, talents, and treasure.

Where do we start?

Where you are!

Whatever you are doing, do it for the Lord. You serve God right where you are by doing your best for Him. It should become the benchmark of our Christian life! 

Sometimes I get discouraged or overwhelmed by living out this appeal. But I hear His still small voice tell me, “Just do your best.”  He knows our hearts!♥

Live By the Spirit

Paul offers many ways to offer your body as a living sacrifice, remembering we all have unique gifts:

Serving, teaching, encouraging, generous giving, leadership, cheerful mercy, and hospitality. This is only a partial list, of course. (Remember that none of us can do all these things well.)

Paul asks us to “keep in step with the Spirit” and grow His attributes in our own lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

What God wants is all of you, all the time, for your entire life. He wants the mundane parts of your life, the tough spots, the joyful ones, and the mediocre.

Even though our world is far from the Garden of Eden right now, walk with Him daily anyway! Come joyfully before Him and place your life as a living sacrifice before Him.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17.



Related Post∼ Can One Person Make a Difference?

All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

6 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to Offer Your Body as a Living Sacrifice”

  1. I am so blessed. I have recently started STUDYING the bible and some places I get stuck because I know there is more to what has been written there but don’t understand what it means. You have been of great help… God bless you❤️

    1. This is so great to hear! God bless you, Jasmine as you really try to understand His wisdom and guidance! I’ve been “studying” the Bible for 30+ years and I learn something new all the time! It will be a wonderful journey for you 🙂 I’m grateful to be of any help to you. If there is something you want me to write about, just let me know! I also have a “search” box in my website that you can use to find topics to read about.

  2. Thank you very much for the explanation I was asking myself if we still need to do sacrifices, God. Because Jesus has died for us, by sacrificing his life.

    1. You are so welcome! I loved exploring Scripture for clarification into what Paul meant. Just sweet surrender in thanksgiving to Him, and in love, show Him to others. God bless you and thanks for reading!

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