‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1, 2).’
In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul makes an apologia explaining and championing the gospel of God’s salvation – in particular how God calls a people to, and for Himself, that is composed of both Jew and Gentile believers. In common, at the time of their calling, they are all sinners (Romans 3:23), but God is merciful towards them. He transforms them from being disobedient sons in Adam to being His obedient sons by adoption (Ephesians 1:5), and He does this by His grace, through His gift of faith (2:8).
Paul, after setting out his apologia and exegesis, concluded, ‘For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36).’
In Paul’s understanding, everything springs from God. He created all things, and He owns all things, and He created them for His own glory.
From chapter twelve onwards, he set out how the Roman Christians were to live in response to their spiritual transformation, i.e., their new character in Christ, brought about by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8).
Similarly, he instructed Titus on how new elders of the churches in Crete (Titus 1:5) should manage their flocks. He said they should authoritatively rebuke the Cretans for their inappropriate and ungodly behaviour (2:10-14). They were to deny ‘ungodliness and worldly lusts’, that they might be redeemed and purified as God’s ‘special people’, for the doing of ‘good works (2:14).’
They were a ‘special’ (NKJV) people, a ‘peculiar’ (AV) people. Peter also described them as ‘… a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you [they] may proclaim the praises of Him who called you [them] out of darkness into His marvellous light; who were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9, 10).’
What I want to draw attention to is the fact that Christ’s church is a ‘holy nation’, and when joined together in obedience to God, they are a ‘living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:12).’
This is true of them, and by the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, they forsake their old licentious ways, and deny themselves of sinful pleasures, always putting God first. They are a ‘holy’ people separate from the world, and they are no longer of the world. [Holy means ‘separate’; just as God is holy and separate and different from His creatures.]
In chapter twelve Paul implores the Romans to behave appropriately. He says to them, ‘I beseech you therefore ….. to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:12, 13).’
The actual proof of the pudding that tests their transformation is the putting into practice of their spiritual relationship with God. Are they genuinely transformed? Has the Holy Spirit transformed them? Are they truly born again (John 3:3-8). Are they ‘new creations’ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?
They will know for sure what sort of relationship they have with God if they objectively examine themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do they have a desire to carry out His will? Are they joyfully satisfied when they obey Him? Are they grieved if they sin?
One final thought, do they truly believe and know they are ‘holy’ and separate from the world? Are they royal priests (cf. 1 Peter 2:9) in the service of the Great ‘High Priest’ (Hebrews 8:1), Jesus Christ?
Christians are not ‘miserable sinners’ as the Book of Common Prayer suggests; they are royal priests of God; humble like their Saviour who washed the feet of those He loved (John 13:3-15).