Romans chapter 12 verse 1 - The Altar - J Stewart Gillespie 

Romans chapter 12 gives a Biblical view of the personal call to the altar for believers . It is a view which goes beyond the Old Testament view that was apparent to the OT offeror in Leviticus; for the offeror and his sacrifice the altar was the end! If my view of the altar is the same, then this place of the altar will be a place full of foreboding and dread, a place to be avoided at all costs, and I will probably fail either to desire to come here or to actually come here at all. 

Before we can desire this place we must perceive some benefit from it! 

The New Testament view of the altar: 

Romans chapter 12 verse 1: 

  1. Call to the altar (v1) : “beseech” 
  2. Cause of the altar (v1): “ the mercies of God” 
  3. Cost of the altar (v1): “present your bodies a living sacrifice...” 

Romans chapter 12 verses 2 to 21: 

The consequences of the altar 

This altar is not wholly negative at all: you go and you come back! 

This altar has more in common with the altar of Genesis 22 rather than that of Leviticus. 

But you don't come back the way you went! 

This altar is the door to radical transformation (12:2ff) 

  1. Fragrance (12:1-3) 
  2. Fellowship (12:4-8) 
  3. Fruitfulness (12:9-21) 

Roms 12:1: 

1 - Call to the altar (v1) : 

“beseech” : “parakaleō” : to call near 

This is the close, intimate call of God, as he calls us near, calls us to Himself to consecration; a call by His Word, perhaps through the preacher but ultimately from Himself and to Himself. 

That close call of God as heard by: 

Moses – at the burning bush, bringing him to 40 years of deep, committed, consecration. In saying that I did use one of those taboo words: 'committed'. For 40 years it didn't suite Moses to wander in the wilderness; 

the place didn't suite him- wandering around in circles for 40 years, never seeing the promised land to which you were leading gods people, and all because of their reluctance to go in and possess the land when God told them to! That would seriously wear you down! 
the people didn't suite him, sometimes: a 40 year car journey, with 3,000,000 weans in the back seat all complaining: 'I want,' , 'I need', 'why can we no have?', 'this is boring'. 'but I don't want to go to the promised land,' 'I wish we were back hame again!', 'Are we no there yit?' Forty years of that! Moses only struck the rock twice! I think I would have done more than strike the rock! That would seriously wear you down! Ungrateful? Unspiritual? Uninspiring? You would need some commitment to persevere with that! 

the problems didn't suite him either, but for 40 patient years he continued. He continued because he was : called consecrated committed. Such commitment and consecration can only happen if we hear the close call of God! Here is a call of commitment! 

Samuel – in the tabernacle. A call to a lifetime of commitment and consecration. A call: 

To be Holy when the priesthood were defiled 
To be awake whilst others slept 
To be in touch with God whilst others were distant form God 
To lead whilst others followed 
To take a stand whilst others lay down 

Here was the boy who would not “lie down” (1 Sam 3:2,5-6). 

He would: 

Intercede for his people (1 Sam 7:5) 
Judge a nation (1 Sam 7:6) 
Anoint a King 
Lead into battle and victory 
Bring a word from the Lord! 

For Samuel had heard a word of deep and solemn consecration! 

It is one thing to be sensitive to the absence of consecrated men, it is quite another to stand in the breach and be one. 

Cause of the altar (v1): “ the mercies of God” 

What might hold me back from coming to this altar? 

I will not come to this altar if I doubt that this altar and its demands are: 


Is such an altar not too much? 

Is this not a step too far? 

Notice the: Cause of the altar: “therefore..” 

What is the greatest word in Romans? 

Luther: 'faith' 
Calvin: 'justification' 
Evangelists: 'gospel' 
Newton: 'nothing so amazing as grace' 

Suggest: 'therefore' – This call to consecration is logical and reasonable and is on the basis of all that God has so far done for us, in His Grace: giving what we do not deserve and in His 'mercy' – withholding what we do deserve. This call is reasonable. In the preceding 11 chapters we have seen that ALL that we have, we have because of Grace: 

Salvation (chapters 3-5) 
Sovereign Grace (chp 5) 
Sanctification (chps 6-8) 
Sanctuary (chp 8) 

What could be more reasonable than to give it all back to God? 


Is this call relevant for me? 

Do I need it? 

Maybe this is just automatically true of me or maybe I don't really need it because of: 

Who I am 
Where I am 
What I am part of 

This objection is answered in Romans chp 11 in the teaching given regarding the olive tree. Paul ahd to remind the Jew that God was sovereign over that tree. That He is the Lord of the Olive Tree. That He is the source of Life in that Olive Tree. He can cut off and He can graft in (Rom 11:20). 


I mean is it reasonable for me to give up so much? 

So much of my: 


Have I to surrender the concrete commitments of: 


For what? 

Look at the blessings that flow: 

Fragrance (12:1-3) 
Fellowship (12:4-8) 
Fruitfulness (12:9-21) 

I do not think that there is any single spiritual pursuit to which O could commit myself with more potential for blessing than that of consecration. 

For 1 verse of consecration there follows 20 verses worth of consequences. 

Cost of the altar (v1): “present your bodies a living sacrifice...” 

Why “bodies”? 

In many places in scripture the body is viewed as 'inferior' to or at least sub-ordinate to the Spirit: 

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28) 

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Co 4:18) 

“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Php 3:21) 

Why the body? Because: 

We are contemplating working out our service (12:1) in this material world (12:2) by sanctified living (12:1) – here is the sphere of the body. In others words we are thinking about living in the real world! 
It is the body which is the particular target of a world caught up with materialism: fashion, clothes, possessions, image, style, gadgets and sensuality: sexual immorality, food, drugs etc. 
The problems related to the body and its appetites were causing particular problems in the context of Romans (chp 14). 
Actually Roms 12:1 is not 'just' about your body at all! In fact the call to consecration depends upon the presence of a motive which goes beyond the body and which is thus spiritual in origin “present”. In this verse we have won more than the believers body, we have won his heart, his soul and mind (12:2), cf. Matt 22:37. 

Consequences of the altar (12:2-21) 

Is it all worthwhile? 

Fragrance (12:1-3) 

Fellowship (12:4-8) 

As each individual 'body' is consecrated to Christ we experience the practical reality of the fact that we are one united 'body' in Christ. 

Each individual part is what it ought to be 

It is this personal presentation at the altar that empowers the spiritual gifts. 

A spiritual gift in the hands of an unconsecrated believer can become a powerful tool for ill. 

There is a pressing need for consecration before rushing ahead with the use of any gift. 

It is that consecration which provides: Content (12:6) and Control (12:6) of the gift., 

Unconsecrated gift, what do you get? 

You get a sense of the gift but it is lacking in content, constraint and thus inevitably in consequences. 

A sense that he is very able but he could have given that off the cuff, and he probably just did! 

Some attempt to find ways around about this: the ministry received in moments of consecration id preserved for repetition verbatim! 

A brother develops an address on, a line on but not a consecration on... 

Romans chapter 12: 

Fragrance (12:1-2) 
Fellowship (12:3-8) 
Fruitfulness (12:9-21) 


The Sacrifice upon the altar (12:1-2) 
The Service in the body (12:3-8) 
The Sanctification of the believer (12:9-21) 

This section not only deals with spiritual gifts and service but also with the fellowship in the body between those variously gifted. 

This section of fellowship in the body and the service of God comes after the section on sacrifice and the fragrance of the altar (12:1-2) 

Only once the gift which God has given us, has been taken and put upon the altar is it consecrated and fit to be used in His service. 

“Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?”(Mat 23:19) 

It is the altar which sanctifies the gift. 

This is a fundamental principle in the use of any gift from God; such a gift must be first taken to the altar, prayerfully and sacrificially used, for the Glory of God and for the good, the blessing of others. 

My gift does not exist to promote myself nor as a means of obtaining financial remuneration from Gods people. 

That gift cannot operate independent of the one who gave it, as I operate with that gift I must do so with: 

“the measure of faith” (12:3) 
“according to the proportion of grace” (12:6) 

7 Consecrated Gifts: 

Prophecy (v6) 
Ministry (v7) 
Teaching (v7) 
Exhortation (v8) 
Giving (v8) 
Ruling (v8) 
Showing mercy (v8) 

These Gifts Operate in an atmosphere of: 

Humility (12:3) – Anything I can contribute to the body is only mine by Grace “given to me” and through faith 'measured to me' (12:3). Humility to see my need of others in the body too (12:3,5). 

Unity (12:5) - “one body” - there needs to be a sense of belonging, a sense of community, a sense of integrity. This unity will be spoiled by an atmosphere of: 

Exclusivism – they are the problem, reactive excimmunication 
Denominationalism – they are not part of our group 
Professionalism – he is not qualified to speak / preach 
Clerisy – division between laity and clergy 
Schism – us and them, a party spirit, 'they're meeting' 

Diversity – (12:4,6) – some have a gift that I will benefit from, I have a gift that others may profit from. There is thus a responsibility to use others gifts and a responsibility to be used in return. 

Complexity / Plurality - “members one of another” (12:5) – Mutual dependance arising out of a sense of identity in and with Christ. Need to see that close connection we have in Christ even when we don't maybe just see eye to eye on everything. 'Fellowship of life rather than light.' 

Spirituality – consecration is required to operate these gifts (12:6-8). 

“according to the proportion of faith” : “proportion” : 356 : 'analogia' : proportion, right relation. I take this faith to be personal faith, rather than the objective faith or truth of Christian doctrine, on the basis that: 

The obvious parallel with verse 3: 'grace given to me' followed by faith measured to me. 
The context seems to be that of the personal use of gifts empowered by consecration rather than constrained by doctrine 
The pattern of the gospel: Eph 2:8 – the grace is given by God and that Grace is drawn in faith. Illust: Isaacs wells, Genesis 26, the water was there – springing or living water, but he had to dig for it, faith drawing from graces rich resources. 
Without this sense to verse 6, it would be difficult to make sense of verses 7 and 8: 'ministry in ministering, or he that teacheth in teaching; or he that exhorteth in exhortation, he that giveth in simplicity, he that ruleth in diligence...' - in other words the Grace Gift is given: 'ministry' and 'teaching' etc but faith must be mobilised to draw from that gracious gift well of God. How do I exercise that faith? I use the gift! See it operating! I need the faith to 'minister' or to 'teach' or to 'exhort'! 

7 Consecrated Gifts: 

Prophecy (v6) 
Ministry (v7) 
Teaching (v7) 
Exhortation (v8) 
Giving (v8) – interesting gift; the gift of giving! This gift underpins all gifts! All spiritual gifts are not really for our benefit at all, they are for the benefit and blessing of others! All gifts must be operated in an atmosphere of self sacrifice. There is a personal cost in their use for a benefit derived by the body as a whole. In the use of all gifts there is this element of self sacrifice and thus before the gift can be exercised there must be the altar (12:1) experience of consecration. There can be a temptation to circumvent that altar / consecration experience so we can have the experience of using the gift but not the expense of giving. The service can become repetitive, mechanical, routine, professional. 
Ruling (v8) 
Showing mercy (v8) 

Fruitfulness (12:9-21) 

The transforming power of the Spirit of God! 

The need: 

Love (14:15) 
Righteousness (14:17) 
Joy (14:17) 
Peace (14:17) 

The supply: 

Love (12:9-11) 
Righteousness (12:9) 
Joy (12:12-16) 
Peace (12:16-21)


Romans chapter 12 verse 1 - Therefore - J Stewart Gillespie

Romans chapter 12 verses 1 to 2 - A Living Sacrifice - Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Romans chapter 12 verse 2 - An Opportunity to Die - Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Romans chapter 12 verses 1 to 2 - The Transforming Spirit of God - Dr J Stewart Gillespie


Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie