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Romans 12:1 – Calculated Worship

In the past, I’ve pointed out how the first testament did have “regulations of divine worship” and that these regulations were plainly laid out in Leviticus, demonstrated by Moses to the priests, and expounded upon by later writers. When I point out that no New Testament writings have such a code or mention any “divine regulations,” asking what is permitted or what is authorized is a reasonable response from those who, like me, grew up with the regulative principle guiding their study.

In this system, we argue something like this:

“The Bible is our final authority for faith and practice. And since it is our final authority in faith and practice, anything we do, in word or deed, must be done in accordance with Divine will. Therefore, our worship services, which must take place on Sunday, must only contain things specifically mentioned or implied by the New Testament writers.”

In my heritage, this meant holding to a few traditions that I personally enjoy like weekly communion, a cappella music, and an expectation of regular attendance to the assembly. Some of these traditions I love dearly, like our music and our communion habits, but the attitude that accompanies these attitudes is toxic and not at all helpful.

Of course, if you feel like you have the only way of worshipping God, then you naturally feel compelled to tell others. The problem is, there is no proof that there is a Divinely mandated way of worshipping God on Sunday morning for an hour with other Christians. There are no commands about what is and isn’t allowed in a Sunday assembly. We don’t have any examples of what one of these assemblies would look like. Unlike Leviticus, there is no list or guidelines for what our worship on Sunday would look like.

Passages that people use to talk about what one must do on Sunday morning do not even mention a mandated Sunday assembly. We are told we must speak where the Bible speaks, but apparently inserting a Sunday assembly into passages like Ephesians 5:19 is acceptable.

The first covenant had divine regulations for worship; the second one… not so much.

So what is allowed or what is authorized?

My response is that our worship is not what we do at a specified time of the week; it is who we are, so we can do whatever we like on Sunday as long as it is in line with the gospel and the fruit of the Spirit. Notice this passage from Romans 12 in three translations, and pay special attention to the bold.

Therefore I urge you, 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

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship.

Romans 12:1, NRSV

Therefore I beg you, siblings, through God’s sympathies to present your bodies as an offering – living, devoted, judged exceptional to God, your calculated veneration

Romans 12:1, The Second Testament, Scot McNight

Scot McKnight’s translation brings out what I think is an important point. Some have protested to this idea of constant worship by arguing that one surely couldn’t be worshipping while using the restroom or watching television, but I think these folks are still fixated on outward actions instead of an inward disposition. This is view is not promoting a random, haphazard worship of God, but like McKnight said, it is a calculated or reasonable form of worship.

The word “calculated” is from the Greek word logikos which means something that is carefully thought through (BDAG). It’s where we get our word “logic,” and it is related to the word Logos like in John 1:1.

“Veneration” comes from the Greek word latreia which refers to the cultic worship of God, like in the tabernacle. It might remind you of the word “liturgy.” This word was used once already in Romans 9 to refer to the temple service (Romans 9:4). In Hebrews 9:1 and Hebrews 9:6, the word is used in a similar sense to talk about the Divine ordinances for worship in the Old Covenant.

Our lives, then, function as our Divine service of worship; it is how we function as priests in the temple of God. Our lives our meant to be calculated, intentional worship to God.

This is the idea behind praying without ceasing and the passage in Philippians 4 which talks about constantly thinking on godly things:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Do we cease being children of God when we sleep or use the restroom? In the same sense, then, neither do we stop our worship. Our hearts and minds should be constantly focused on the Divine, and when we live like this, then we really learn what Jesus meant when he told his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:47-58).

1 thought on “Romans 12:1 – Calculated Worship”

  1. Daniel, I would draw your attention to Heb 9:1 where the writer continues his discourse from Chapter 8 which is comparing the old covenant and priesthood with the new, when he then proclaims that the old covenant “also” had ordinances of divine service, which were worldly gifts and sacrifices, which were just an example and shadow of the pattern of heavenly things. This word “also” (kai gr.) infers the New Testament has ordinances of divine service which are Spiritual in nature (singing, preaching, praying, teaching, eating the Lord’s supper in his memory, etc). The New Testament was “of force” (by the blood of Christ) which brings to mind the concept of a legal document with terms.
    on men living today.”
    8:2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
    9:1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

    If you have not already read Brother Thomas B. Warren’s book “When is an Example Binding” it is a conclusive and logical . . . “detailed study of the question as to when an account of action in the Bible can be used correctly to show that some action is binding on men living today.”
    Of course, the book is out of print, but copies can be secured from time to time on Amazon. I bought it back in the 1970s as part of my Gospel Advocate Book Club membership. It is truly a logical and powerful exposé on this matter.

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