Under the Old Testament economy, the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice various animals and fowl, but no fish. The reason, one writer has pointed out, was that a fish could not be sacrificed alive. And God still requires a living body for a “living sacrifice.” The fact that Paul begged or beseeched the Christians at Rome to present their bodies to God for service to Him is proof that they had a choice. After his glorious dissertation in the first eleven chapters on the wonder and grace of Christ’s finished work of redemption for lost sinners, Paul finishes this verse by saying the presentation of our bodies to God is merely “reasonable service.”
I choose to use the words “body” and “flesh” interchangeably, as Paul so often does (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 6:16; Col. 1:22, 2:11, 2:23); and, without going into the doctrine of the “two natures” of the Believer, I would acknowledge that the Holy Spirit that lives within our mortal bodies (1 Cor. 6:19) is in direct contention with our adversary, the devil (1 Pet. 5:8), who constantly and falsely lays first claim. After all, if he dared to seek worship from Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:9), do you think he doesn’t claim it from you and me? For all practical purposes, we can say, our bodies are “up for grabs.” That’s why Paul says in Romans 6:13, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God…and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
Let me insert something here. Our body has legitimate needs and desires, but it also has illegitimate lusts (Gal. 5:16-17). For instance, the body needs to eat, but given its way will eat anything and everything it wants, and as much as it wants. The healthy, mature human body will crave intimacy and physical touch, but unharnessed, it will indulge in unbridled, uninhibited, unmarried sex. The body must have sleep, but it’s capable of being its downfall (Prov. 20:13). It would be wrong to condemn ourselves—or our bodies—when we enjoy good food, desire intimacy, or succumb to well-earned drowsiness. This is why one of Paul’s favorite themes is “moderation.” All of these things, and others like them, are basic needs of the bodies God has fashioned for us, and can be satisfied “to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
Finally, the key word in Romans six is “yield.” When it comes to our bodies, we’re in charge. Even addicts make the initial choice. It’s a choice that becomes a chain. We decide to whom we will yield our bodies. Both God and the devil claim them for worship and service. We can yield them “as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin,” or “as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Either way, it requires allegiance, obedience, sacrifice, and devotion. We can choose to follow biblical principles or worldly trends, the leading of the Spirit of God, or deceitful feelings and emotions, the way of the Cross or the way of social acceptance. I agree with George Morrison, who says the body can be “the best of comrades” or the “deadliest of enemies,” depending on who has been given control.
In the marriage ceremony from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, when the groom places the ring on the finger of his bride, he proclaims, “With my body I thee worship.” Worship always involves the body. It’s all we have with which to glorify and serve our living, loving God. It houses the Holy Spirit of God to implement that worship and warn us of possible immanent defilement. The question is this: To whom shall we present it? For me, even though I gave myself to God, lock, stock, and barrel, many years ago, I still want to tell Him every day,
“Father, with my body I Thee worship!”