1. I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, your reasonable service.
I beseech, παρακαλω, literally, “I exhort”. By the mercy δια των οικτιρμων, Literally, “by the mercies” of God, extended to you in your conversion, enlarged upon in the previous chapter.
Your bodies a living sacrifice, by the subjection of bodily desires to the law of God, Rom 6:12.
The word sacrifice connotes the death of the victim; and still the victim is to be living. It is the death and the life described, Rom 6:4-11.
Your reasonable service, Latin, rationabile obsequium, λογικην λατρειαν. This is not a caution against injuring one’s health by excessive asceticism. The only other place in the New Testament where the adjective occurs is 1 Pet 2:2, λογικον γαλα, “rational milk,” which is the spiritual milk of God’s word, as distinguished from material milk. In Plato s Republic, book vi. (ad fin.) there is a contrast between “the region of intellect and the region of sense.” St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s λογικός is Plato’s “intellect”. We had better translate, spiritual service, as distinguished from the sensible service, by which victims were slaughtered in the Jewish ritual: not in that concept of the word spiritual (πνευματικος) in which it stands opposed to carnal (σάρκινος or ψυχικος) e.g. 1 Cor 2:14, 15, where see notes). Eusebius (Demonstratio Evangelii, i. 6 and i. 10) speaks of the Holy Eucharist as “a bloodless and spiritual sacrifice,” in distinction from the Jewish sacrifices. This throws light on the phrase, oblationem rationabilem, in the Canon of the Mass.
By a common Greek construction, the words λογικην λατρειαν are in the accusative in apposition, not with σωματα (bodies), but with the whole phrase preceding. In plain English: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, &c., which presentation is your spiritual worship.
The Vulgate obsequium does not well render λατρειαν (above, Rom 9:4; Heb 9:1, 6). It should be cultum (worship); and the whole phrase spiritualem cultum vestrum (your spiritual worship).
2. And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.
Be not conformed to this world. He will appreciate this injunction, who knows what shape this world bore in Rome in the days of the early Caesars.
Conformed, reformed. This play upon words is not in the original, συσχηματιζεσθε (conformed), μεταμορφουσθε (transformed). Fall not in with the fashion of this world, but be transformed by the renovation of your mind, would be a literal translation. For newness, or rather, renovation, see Col 3:9, 10. It is a process that has to be kept up continually, so long as the baptized man lives, environed with concupiscence, which is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be (Rom 8:7, with note).
The good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God. So the Vulgate. But the Greek admits of a more likely rendering, το θελημα του θεου το αγαθον και ευαρεστον και τελειον, the will of God, in respect of what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. Good is good: well-pleasing is better: perfect is best. We have here some inkling of a difference between commandments and counsels. Thus marriage is good, but virginity is well-pleasing (1 Cor 7:27, 28): martyrdom is perfect (John 15:13). Ordinarily, the good alone is obligatory: not the well -pleasing, not the perfect, except in certain cases, when it is thrust upon us by special circumstances as an alternative to sin, as martyrdom may be, or virginity either, e.g. in case of lunacy of one married party; or poverty, in the case of the greater part of mankind (Luke 6:20, 21). In practice, what is recommendable for the individual, is not what is absolutely well-pleasing or perfect, but what is relatively so for him, the better or best course with his character and under his circumstances.