[Paul’s language in Romans 12:1 shows us] each of us individually has a body, and all of us together present them as one sacrifice, one unified act of surrender, and that is how you do your priestly duties: collectively surrendering yourselves to God’s will. This is the culmination of Romans 1-11. So what does that mean? What does Paul have in mind? What counts as an act of communal sacrifice? Usually when this passage is brought up in different communities, people fill in what they think that sacrifice would be. And for Paul it’s all about two tribes, Jew and non-Jew, finding unity.
In part one (0:00-6:56), Tim and Jon sum up humanity’s calling to live as priests in the world––mediators between God and other humans––as part of what it means to be bearers of the image of God. The story of the Bible follows the humans God chooses as priests (from Adam and Eve to Abraham, Moses, David, etc.) as they fail at their callings and end up in need of a priest themselves.
The culmination of this story is in Jesus. He is the place where heaven and earth connect. He is the human who perfectly fulfills God’s will, the temple, the priest, the sacrifice, and the person in whom God and humans are one as they were always meant to be.
When Jesus ascends in his human flesh to reign at the right hand of the Father, he also takes his place as humanity’s eternal cosmic priest, interceding on our behalf. At the same time, Jesus is still physically present on earth in and through his body, the church.
In part two (6:56-16:13), Tim and Jon discuss how the body of Christ, a place where people of different nationalities unite, is also the temple, the place heaven and earth unite.
Right before Jesus’ ascension, he announces to the disciples that they will receive power from on high to be his witnesses (Acts 1:3-9). In Acts 2, as Israel celebrates Pentecost (the “seventh seven,” which is seven-times-seven days after Passover), the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit in a dramatic rush of wind and fire. The appearance of wind, fire, and “filling” brings together many Old Testament passages where God’s fiery and windy presence comes to fill the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 40, Leviticus 9, 1 Kings 8).
God’s heavenly temple presence transfers to a group of people, who are also his temple. One of the defining characteristics of this temple is that it brings together Jews and non-Jews into one unified family in a way nothing else ever has or can (Ephesians 2:19-22).
In part three (16:13-31:55), the team looks at Paul’s understanding of the oneness of all believers, through the lens of Romans 12.
Therefore I urge you [all y’all], brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your [all y’all’s] bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your true and proper service of worship.
Paul here depicts Jesus’ followers as “his body,” composed of individual bodies that function together as a priesthood which offers itself as a singular, corporate sacrifice to God’s will (just as Jesus did on the cross).
What counts as a sacrifice for Paul? We often answer this question with whatever makes the most sense to us as individuals. What Paul has in view here is sacrifice for the sake of unity––followers of Jesus laying down their individual preferences so that they can avoid being divided along the same lines as the rest of humanity. The verses following Romans 12:1 are Paul’s instructions for how to live in this unity (Romans 12:2-10).
The integrity of Jesus’ mission on earth depends on his followers’ willingness to live in unity, fulfilling his will.
In part four (31:55-42:35), Tim and Jon explore what it means for followers of Jesus to collectively be the royal priesthood.
1 Peter 2:4-10
And coming to him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Recalling imagery from Isaiah 43 (“a chosen race”) and Exodus 19 (“a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” “a people for God’s own possession”), Peter is describing a new Exodus people who will proclaim God’s praise among the nations and whose priestly sacrifices will take the form of mutual submission and honoring others before themselves (see Philippians 4:18 and Hebrews 13:15-16). In this case, surrendering to God is surrendering to others.
In part five (42:35-end), the team turns their attention to the book of Revelation, where John describes the people of Jesus using the language of Exodus 19:4-6, calling them the royal priesthood three times.
In Revelation 1:4-6, 5:9-10, and 20:6, John depicts followers of Jesus as eternally living and working as priests in the garden of God, the fulfillment of all that God intended humanity to be from the beginning.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The story of the Bible ends where it all began: in a garden where the great cosmic priest, Jesus, is one with humanity, working alongside the human royal priesthood.
Show produced by Dan Gummel and Cooper Peltz. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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