sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Appeal: The meaning of this word lies between “request” and “command,” says Douglas Moo. As a coach exhorts an athlete, Paul challenges us to put our life on the line for the God of our salvation.
Mercies: Mercy is the attribute of God that moves him to save us from our sin. This word summarizes all that Paul has said previously in this letter about God’s saving work through Christ. Richard Longenecker states that the plural “suggests a number of deeds of divine mercy rather than just the abstract idea of mercy—with all these deeds of God’s mercy directly connected with the proclamation of the Christian gospel.”
Present: Paul alludes to the Old Testament sacrificial system. An animal was presented as an “offering” on the altar. The same verb appears in 6:13, 16, and 19 of presenting the members of our body not to sin but rather as instruments of righteousness to God. “Humans will either give themselves to God or to Satan” (Robert Utley).
Bodies: Paul has in mind our whole self from the perspective of our physical existence. See the explanation of body at 6:12. Marvin Vincent terms the body “the outward organ of the will.” We can use our body to sin or to glorify God.
Living sacrifice: In the OT an animal was slain and placed on the altar. We place ourselves alive on the altar. Paul “views the body as the vehicle that implements the desires and choices of the redeemed spirit” (Everett Harrison). Moo quotes the early church father Chrysostom: “And how is the body, it may be said, to become a sacrifice? Let the eye look on no evil thing, and it hath become a sacrifice; let thy tongue speak nothing filthy, and it hath become an offering; let thine hand do no lawless deed, and it hath become a whole burnt offering.”
Holy and acceptable to God: Holy means to be set apart for service to God, which includes a lifestyle of turning from sin. We not only belong to God, we are obligated “to strive to be and to do what is in accordance with His character” (Charles Cranfield). The Greek word translated “acceptable” literally means “well pleasing.” The phrase “holy and acceptable” (ESV) or “holy and pleasing” (NIV) is, according to Colin Kruse, “a figure of speech expressing one idea with two related words. To be holy is to be pleasing to God.”
Spiritual (ESV) or “reasonable” (NKJ): What kind of worship is Paul describing here? The Greek word is derived from the verb meaning “to reason,” but it can also mean “spiritual,” as in 1 Peter 2:2 (“pure spiritual milk”). It is best to see this word as combining several ideas: rational congruence with the truth of the gospel; commitment of mind and heart as opposed to outward performance or posturing; authentic and truthful honoring of God; and engagement of one’s whole being—physical and immaterial—in service of God.
Worship: Think of service to God that results from adoration of God. Paul clearly has in mind the devotion to God of our entire selves—spirit, mind, body, affections, passions, and will—all the time, every day, wherever we are. Devotion leads to action, which becomes lifestyle.
Revelation of God inspires worship of God. Paul assumes that the truth he has laid out in chapters 1–11 will inspire the worship he exhorts us now to practice. The more we know about God, the greater our love for him, and the less likely we will give our bodies to inferior loves.