Surrender to God’s Will

Lesson 1998
Tags: Christian service; Ministry; Surrender; Romans 12:1
Excerpted from Serving God: A Plan for Success
Related Resources: The Will of God

Biblical Text

Romans 12.1

1     I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.


  • Paul’s plea for surrender was a heartfelt one; he urged the Romans to follow his instructions in this area.
  • His instruction was for believers only, thus the reference to “brethren.”
  • The instruction was specifically for believers to offer (i.e., “yield,” cf. 6.19) their bodies as sacrifices to God. These terms bring to mind the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.
  • The tense of the verb “present” (aorist) is the most indefinite of the Greek language. It may denote a one-time sacrifice. (Note: The occurrence of paristemi in the aorist seems to denote one-time action in the following instances: Lk 2.22; Acts 9.41; 23.33; 27.24; 2 Cor 4.14; 11.2; Eph 5.27; 2 Tim 4.22.) However, Christian experience and other New Testament texts certainly bear out that it is needful to repeatedly confirm one’s self-sacrifice.
  • The sacrifice should be living, holy, and pleasing to God. It should not be viewed as anything but a reasonable, intelligent response to God’s compassion.
  • The sacrifice results in service (latreia), the ministry of a priest.


  • We must come to the realization that God is our rightful owner (cf. 1 Cor 6.19-20). Christ has mercifully given himself for us, and it is our duty and privilege to live sacrificially for him. Accordingly, we should present ourselves before him forsaking our own will and surrendering ourselves to his.
  • Our sacrifice should be holy (hagios) and acceptable (euarestos, well pleasing) to God. This mirrors the Old Testament teaching that a sacrifice should be flawless; as its scent rises it brings pleasure to the Lord. While we have been declared holy through the righteousness of Christ, we should strive to live holy lives to please him.


  • When Paul said, “Present your bodies,” was he referring to a single act of surrender or a yielding that may need to be made repeatedly?

Note: Since the grammar of the text is ambiguous, it is difficult to answer this question with certainty. Following is my personal assessment: If Paul had intended for the self-sacrifice to be understood as a habitual activity, he probably would have employed the present tense, as he does in verse 2. The question then becomes, “Is a one-time-only experience in view here, or might the yielding occur more than once (though not consistently)?” Paul could have used a perfect tense to indicate a once-and-for-all surrender. Since he did not, it seems best to view the self-sacrifice as an experience that can happen more than once, though not habitually. Experience seems to argue that it is necessary for a new sacrifice to be made whenever we realize we have gotten “off the altar.” Finally, an initial self-sacrifice could take place at salvation depending on depth of the convert’s understanding of discipleship.