The Readings: Joshua 3:14–4:7; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 26:1-16
Paul signals a major transition in v.1, not from theory to practice (there’s been plenty about practice in chapters 1-11), but getting, as it were, under the hood: how does this being led by the Spirit (8:14) work?
Paul’s answer starts with the language of worship and sacrifice—reimagined. The worship contrasts with the human refusal to worship that initiated our downward spiral (1:21ff). The sacrifice unites with Jesus’—recall the earlier “with” series (“buried with…united with…crucified with…live with” 6:4-8). This is our “reasonable” worship, the worship appropriate to creatures with reason. Discerning the will of God: instead of Torah Paul speaks of “the renewing of your minds,” the passive pointing to God actively transforming consciousness.
That Paul is thinking primarily in communal terms is already signaled by the grammatical plurals. This becomes explicit in vv.3-8 in which the hearers are the single Body of Christ, being shaped by the charismatic gifts exercised by each member.
This being led by the Spirit is clearly a cooperative venture, with God having placed the listeners in the Body and distributed gifts to all. The listeners, in turn are exhorted to (daily) offer themselves to God, opening themselves to divine transformation, mediated (primarily?) by the gifts received.
Lying behind this text: the various Old Testament texts promising the end-time renewal of God’s people (e.g., Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:22-32). Reading these texts one might imagine something like surgery, with the patients under general anesthetic. In Paul’s vision the patients are fully awake, and by their choices contributing to their renewal.