1 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, God-pleasing and perfect (Rom12:1-2)
Paul is once again emphasizing what I demonstrate in my book** to be central to what the New Testament means by “salvation” – the spiritual resources to (in Paul’s words) “possess one’s own vessel in sanctity and honor” (1Thes4:4). The “vessel” to which Paul refers is the physical (fleshly) body and brain procreated from our parents. What temporarily inhabits it is the human spirit divinely planted at birth that transcends physical death, at which point it returns to the God who gave it (Eccles12:7). For such sanctity to be possible one must be spiritually reborn by water and of the Spirit. Such is necessary for those set apart as saints (holy ones) in the present age in preparation for what Scripture describes as “marriage to the Lamb” (Rev19:7) – “that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in his Kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph2:7).
This is not achievable through natural man’s innate spiritual faculties. Such a destiny is restricted to those who from before the foundation of the world were “predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son” (Rom8:29). In John’s words they were a people “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn1:13). For in Jesus’ words “No man can come to Me except the Father draw him” (Jn6:44). And Paul again – “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that (faith) not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
So as outlined in the previous post, unconditional election is a biblical certitude, not merely a particular facet of Pauline theology. Yet as we also considered in that post, in the context of traditional Western binary soteriology the cosmic outcomes appear to be the antithesis of the Christmas Angels’ message of “Good news of great joy that shall be to all people”. For the Bible makes it equally clear that very few shall attain such salvation, even amongst those within the visible Church (Rev3:4). From such a binary perspective it would indeed follow that mankind is innately depraved to the point of being hell-deserving at birth, Christ’s saving work must be narrowly confined, whilst God’s sense of justice and kindness would appear barely comprehensible from any human perspective, let alone capable of universal acclaim (cf. Ps117:1-2). In all these respects, it is just as Satan would have wished. Each facet supports the Adversary’s own narrative concerning the God he hates and the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve he resents in light of what he knows are God’s plans for them.
The Truth is so, so different as I am in the business of demonstrating – and how predestination is to be reconciled with God’s munificent providence, equitable justice and human free will has been the subject of more recent posts. Paul, albeit cryptically, reveals the depth of his own joyful eschatological expectations, aspects of which neither he nor any man dare speak of in full (2Cor12:4; cf. Rom8:22-23). That second reference concerning creational renewal refers also to the apotheosis of an individual’s salvation – not the soul resting in Heaven but THE REDEMPTION OF THE BODY at resurrection.
The body to be a living sacrifice
Through no prior merit of their own, Christians have already received a remedy for their inherent problem with sin. As our featured text expresses it, they have been provided with the spiritual resources by which they may indeed present their bodies as a LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE to God. This requires, in the Apostle Peter’s words, to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1Pet2:11). For as I have been endeavoring to explain, it is not the spiritual and eternal component of man that is the SOURCE of his problem with sin, but the temporary vessel that houses it. And as we see Peter affirming in his pastoral letter, the latter may damage the former if it is not kept in check – something to which even Paul had to attend: “I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1Cor9:27).’
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