In this message we shall consider the practice of the Body life as it is presented in the closing chapters of Romans.
We have seen that we are to serve God in the gospel of His Son (1:9). This gospel is a gospel of sonship. Sonship includes designation, resurrection, justification, sanctification, transformation, conformation, glorification, and manifestation. We are presently undergoing the process of designation; that is, we are being designated sons of God by the power of resurrection. Sonship is for the Body. In order to be members of the Body of Christ, we must be sons of God.
We have pointed out that, in a very real sense, chapter twelve is the direct continuation of chapter eight, with chapters nine through eleven as a parenthetical insertion regarding the selection of grace. Chapter eight reveals that we are being conformed to the image of the Son of God (v. 29). This conformation qualifies us for the practice of the Body life.
The Body life is not simply a matter of believers coming together. Many groups have been formed for the purpose of having the Body life. The result, however, has been failure. These groups of believers did not realize that the Body life depends on sonship, which comes out of designation. If we are to have the proper practice of the Body life, we must be transformed according to the power of resurrection.
In chapter twelve Paul mentions the body, the soul, and the spirit. In verse 1 he says, “I beg you therefore, brothers, through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well-pleasing to God, which is your most reasonable service.” Our physical bodies must be presented to the Lord for His purpose of having the Body. Someone may have a heart for the Body life, but if he does not present his body, he is not for the Body life in a practical way. You may care for the meetings, but what does this accomplish if your body remains at home? If we fail to present our bodies to the Lord for the church life, we cannot have a practical meeting life. If you say that you have a heart for the church meetings, you need to ask yourself if you have presented your body to the Lord for the meetings. Where is your body at meeting time? The body is the container of our being, for the spirit is within the soul and the soul is within the body. We must present this container to the Lord for the sake of His Body.
Verse 2 speaks of the mind, which is the main part of the soul: “And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” When our mind is renewed, our soul will be transformed. Hence, our body needs to be presented, and our soul needs to be transformed.
In this verse Paul beseeches us not to be conformed to this age. The world, Satan’s system, is a cosmos composed of many ages. The nineteenth century was one age, and the twentieth century is another age. Actually, there have been several distinct ages within the twentieth century itself. The present age is a section of Satan’s world system. This age includes not only the secular world, but also the religious world. If we are conformed to today’s religion, we shall be useless as far as the practice of the Body life is concerned.
For Paul in his day to be conformed to the present age was primarily a matter of being conformed to Judaism. Judaism was a serious hindrance to the practice of the Body life in the first century. Just as Judaism was part of the age in Paul’s time, so Christianity as an organized religion is part of today’s age. If you are conformed to organized Christianity, you will be conformed to this age. Instead of being conformed to this age, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
In 12:11 Paul speaks of the spirit; he tells us to be “burning in spirit.” Our spirit must be fervent; that is, it must be burned and burning. If we have a body presented, a soul in the process of being transformed, and a spirit burning, we shall be able to practice the Body life in a proper way.
Many talk about the Body life in Romans 12 without the actual practice of the Body life. For example, some have seen that in the Body of Christ we are “members one of another” (12:5). However, they cannot name any members to whom they are specifically related. Thus, their word about being members one of another is mere talk. We are not here for talk about the Body life; we are for the practice of the Body life.
The teaching in Romans concerning the Body life is in chapter twelve, but the practice is in chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. These chapters deal with practical problems that occur in the church life. As we consider Paul’s approach to these problems, we can learn something related to the daily practice of the Body life.
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