Paul J. Meyer, the founder of the self-improvement industry, once said that he is an inverted paranoid. He believes that the whole world has conspired to do him good. That powerful idea alters everything about life. It shifts all of our being and doing from a posture of defense and protection to a posture of exuberant enjoyment and celebration. But Paul Meyer was not the first person to promote this idea. He had a predecessor, also named Paul.
In the letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul tells us that everything works together for good for those who are loved by God and called according to His purposes. God Himself is the ultimate inverted paranoid. He actually created the universe with good in mind. He planned that everything would be of benefit. That’s the way He wanted it. We are all familiar with this famous verse in Romans (8:28). But we may not have noticed that the connection that Paul makes with a thought from 6:13. It is worth examining with care. In 6:13, Paul reveals the secret melody of the universe.
Romans 6:13 “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
This verse is written in three-part harmony. One part is found in the word “present”. One part is in the word “members” and the last part is in the word “instruments”.
Present is the Greek verb paristano. It is used twice in this verse. It comes from the activity of a royal court. Today we are often unaware of the court rituals that were commonplace in ancient times. If order for someone to be “presented” to royalty, protocol had to be rigorously followed. Usually the king designated a particular person as the “presenter”. Being a “presenter” meant access to the king, not simply as his servant, but as one who had status and privilege that ordinary subjects did not enjoy. This person was at the king’s disposal and ready at hand. He performed an official function by bring subjects before the king.
This official ceremonial theme is also present when the idea is transferred to religious worship. The temple of God is no less a place of royalty and presenting before the King is no less ceremonial. But here the word takes on the concept of sacrifice. The presenter is not simply fulfilling the role of introducing someone to God’s court. The presenter is offering himself in an official ceremony as a sacrifice to the King.
Imagine the scene from Isaiah’s vision. God’s robe fills the temple. Angels hover overhead shouting “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts”. The entire structure trembles at His voice. Smoke fills the air. This is the place of worship – and of sacrifice. And sacrifice is the proper response before a holy Being. Isaiah recognized immediately that he was unworthy to even be there.
Paul suggests that you and I stand in that same arena. The Holy God, the Lord of hosts, confronts us. Our only proper response is obeisance and sacrifice. Paul is not making a casual suggestion. He is saying that confronted by the holy God we have only one choice if we are to live. Isaiah said it quite clearly, “Woe is me.”
Modern religion has significantly diluted this idea. We no longer view ourselves as dependent creatures face to face with the Creator. We don’t think of the spectacular heights of His temple, the awesome power of His voice, the blinding light of His countenance or the magnificence of His angels. Democracy has reduced us to critical citizens of the most common denominator. We consider all that pomp and circumstance arcane. We would rather watch it on television. Now when we walk into church we are not thinking about the splendor of God. We are thinking about the air conditioning. We aren’t focused on reverence before the King of kings. The drummer in the band distracts us. Church is another form of entertainment – designed to please us and produce a spiritual “high” – rather than a place where we express our desperate dependence and total submission to God.
Paul would have none of that. He knew that presenting was an act of sacrifice, done in a ceremonial protocol that raised humble submission to an act of glorification. Worship is not about me. It is about Him. And sacrifice that focuses on me is far a field from a response to the holiness of God.
Present your members, says Paul. The word for “members” is mele. It literally means parts of the body. Notice that Paul views the parts of the body as instruments of either righteousness or unrighteousness. There is no suggestion that these body members are essentially good or essentially evil. Whether they are used for good or evil depends on the presentation. What is presented to God is sacrificed for His use. What is presented to self is sacrificed to my use. My hand, my foot, my arm or any other part of my body can be presented to the King or be offered to my own ego. The parts of my body are no different than any other possession under my control. They are neutral until I present them.
Most of us are familiar with this interpretation of “members”. We might not fully appreciate the fact that every body part can be offered to God. We often struggle to believe that some parts we are unhappy or ashamed about can still be presented to His royal court. But we acknowledge the truth of this claim, even if we don’t live it. But Paul may be choosing his words much more carefully than we first imagine. He may be painting two pictures with the same canvas – a sort of ancient hologram. There is something here beneath the surface that shows us a deeper harmony.
Mele is a Greek word that has a secondary meaning – a meaning that gives us a different picture and expands our appreciation of the idea of presentation. In classical Greek, mele also mean “song” or “melody”. This usage is very old. Paul would certainly have been familiar with this alternative. Perhaps this secondary meaning helps us to expand the picture Paul wishes us to see.
Paul is an Old Testament man. His thought patterns are rooted in images of the Hebrew Scriptures. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” “Come before Him with joyful singing.” “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” These thoughts from the 100th Psalm are repeated over and over in the Old Testament. God’s royal court is a place of celebration. It is filled with the melodies of angels worshipping the Lord of Hosts. The throne room of His palace is no somber, dreadful place. It is filled with power, light and majesty. It is the temple of the greatest symphony every written – the symphony of the universe.
Now, says Paul, understand that your body is His temple. Every member of your body is playing a song – your body song. It is a score written by God Himself, and it is in harmony with all that He has written for every part of the creation. When you present your members to Him, you are joining a great orchestra. Your song is added to this grand melody. Present your song as your sacrifice and offering to Him. He will take the song written in your body and make from it various instruments in His orchestra.
We have a cliché that expresses this profoundly spiritual thought. We just don’t realize how spiritually based it is. We say, “Today I am just out of tune” or “I didn’t feel like I was tuned in” or “I just need to be tuned in to myself”. These expressions implicitly recognize that life is intended to be harmonious. We know when we are in disharmony. We have an intuitive sense of our own body song. It is a “spiritual” thing.
Amazingly, even non-believers understand being out of tune. This sense of disharmony, of creating bad “vibes”, is universal with Man. God has written the melody very, very deeply in our bodies. It is a melody that demands to be synchronized with the rest of His creation. When we fight the divine symphony of the universe, we fight the song written into our own bodies. We create noise instead of music.
There really is a natural harmony to things. God wrote the score. When we try to play our own tunes, we discover that we are not in synch with the divine symphony. Paul recognized this. As the great natural theologian, he simply points us to what is written inside us. You and I have the choice of joining the choir of the angels or creating a demonic noise. It all depends on which conductor we decide to be presented to. There is no part of your body that does not have the song written into it. There is no part of your body that cannot play the melody of heaven. And if Paul is right, if your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then you are alive with the music of the King. That entire symphony is playing inside you.
Today, may I present for Your listening pleasure, my body song, performed on the instruments You have given me.