Worship and Spiritual Formation
This post is by Micah Fries. Micah serves as the Vice President of LifeWay Research and as the Associate Pastor of Teaching & Mission at Fairview Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN.
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Early in our marriage my wife, Tracy, and I were going through a 6-week training course. As I remember it, there were about 140 people in the course with us. Each of us had to take a popular personality profile, which measured us in 4 different ways. Of the 140 people present, Tracy and I were the only couple that was exact opposites in every area. This did not really surprise us, though. We were pretty aware of how different we were. If you have ever met us you would be aware of our uniqueness immediately. I’m 6’6” and Tracy is 4’8”. There’s no hiding the fact that we’re different. But our differences run deeper than that. We are opposite in nearly every area. Height, personality, preferences, you name it. Every one of these areas marks an area of difference. All that difference, though, has made our marriage great. Not only has it been fun to be married to Tracy for the last 15 years, but also our marriage has helped me mature spiritually and emotionally. Without question, God put me with Tracy for my own sanctification. As different as we are, she is good for me and she is evidence of God’s grace in my life.
In Romans 12: 1 we come across a very familiar passage.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” (HCSB)
This passage is often among the more misunderstood passages in the New Testament, and the misunderstanding generally relates to a translation technique. The text is a reminder of the importance of worship. It emphasizes the importance of worship shaping us, and sanctifying us. However, depending on your translation, you can completely miss one of the most important elements of the text – namely, the necessary corporate nature of worship. Look at the text again. Notice that “living sacrifice” is singular. That’s how the text is supposed to be translated. Unfortunately some translations translate that in the plural, something like this; “present your bodies as living sacrifices.” This simple little textual error turns worship into an independent activity, able to be experienced alone as I come and offer my sacrifice, while you come and offer your sacrifice. Rightly translating this text, though, emphasizes the point that the church is to gather together as individuals (notice that “bodies,” earlier in the text, is plural) and yet when we offer a sacrifice of worship, our offering is a singular act in God’s eyes. We come together as different, diverse and unique, and yet God forms us through worship as we corporately offer a single act of worship.
Do not miss this. This point is significant. In an American context where we idolize independence, individualism and consumerism, an incorrect translation of this text can feed those monsters. Like my marriage to Tracy, which sanctifies me because of our differences, our worship is better together than alone. God shapes us in community – not alone.