Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“Living sacrifice” is an oxymoron. Something that is sacrificed is killed. In the Old Testament, God sets up a pattern for worship that includes taking animals and other items to an altar where they are slaughtered and burnt as a sacrifice of worship. In God’s original design for worship, death was synonymous with sacrifice. Something always died in a sacrifice. So to say “living sacrifice” would be like saying “living dead.”
The paradox of a “living sacrifice” is created through the reality that in Jesus we are new creatures. Death has been defeated in Jesus, and now our worship looks different. Our worship is still sacrificial, but now it is a living sacrifice of praise. In other words, the breath isn’t taken out of our worship. Our worship is left alive, to breathe.
Hebrews 13:15-16: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
(sketch by Luc Freymanc)