I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1 nasb)
In the early chapters of Romans, we are confronted with tremendous theology. The application starts with our bodies: we are to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice.
We might think, The body isn’t so important; it’s really the soul that is important. But let’s use a practical analogy: If I asked for a glass of water, I would get both the vessel and its contents. I could not get the water without the glass. That is what God is saying. He wants the vessel, the body—and its contents, the soul. We cannot give the contents without the vessel.
What does it mean to make our bodies “a living…sacrifice”? The sacrifices of the Old Testament were animals that were killed, then placed on the altar. God says, “I want your body just as completely as the Old Testament sacrifices, but with one difference. I don’t want your body dead but living. When I have your body, I have you.”
In Matthew 23, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, explaining what things really mattered in their service to God. They said the offering was more important than the altar. Jesus said, “You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering?” (Matthew 23:19 nasb). The altar sanctifies the offering that is placed upon it. The offering is made holy by being placed upon God’s altar. That is how it is with our bodies. When we place our bodies on God’s altar, they become holy. They are sanctified, set apart to God. It is an act each of us has to make.