Misunderstanding Scripture

Always remember that if you feel discredited or shamed when you read a passage of Scripture, you have misinterpreted the verse. God never discredits or shames us. By no means does God use this form of motivation to get us to do what He wants. This would be out of His character and nature. The Bible is not about “should” and “ought too,” but the Bible is about results. God comes from the inside out, never from the outside in. This is what Jesus meant when He spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25 NIV).

Romans 12:1-2 is one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (NASB).

Romans 12:1-2 was never written or intended to shame or control us. But I misinterpreted these two verses and lived in shame for decades. Let me tell you how I used to interpret the first verse of this passage.

The words “I urge you” made me feel like I needed to be a holy, living, acceptable sacrifice to God because I certainly was not acting this way. Paul was very anxious for me to live this way because I was not measuring up!

Every once in a while, I felt like I was a living sacrifice when I was teaching the Bible, or if I was leading worship, or if I gave money, but I never felt holy. Paul also stated that it was reasonable for me to act as a living and holy sacrifice to God. This made me feel like I could never measure up. Once again I had blown it. Once again, the fact that I was not holy or a living sacrifice had been revealed.

So, I would try harder to be what Paul called me to be. Then, when I got really tired of that process, I began to give up trying to be holy and acceptable to God. I began to accept the fact that I would not act like Romans 12:1 on this earth. I decided that I would not be able to walk out this verse until I got to heaven. Until then, I chose to avoid the passage so that I would not feel guilty or ashamed. Many believers have or have had a similar interpretation of this verse.


And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 NASB).

I used to interpret this verse to mean that I was not to play cards, to drink alcohol, to watch TV, or to see movies. In other words, I didn’t do anything that non-believers did because I thought that God wanted me to be separated from the world! I felt like I was expected to have my mind changed into heavenly thoughts, and I certainly did not experience this. I gave up trying to be transformed. I assumed that these things would occur when I got to heaven.

I thought I was to know what the perfect and acceptable will of God was. I never could figure out His will. I was so frustrated. I could relate to what Paul said.

We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (Romans 7:14-15 NIV).

Instead of feeling defeated and ashamed, my life became about avoiding Romans 12:1-2.

I remind you that the previous two paragraphs were my previous interpretation of Romans 12:1-2


Now let’s examine Romans 12:1-2 through the lens of the bridal paradigm.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (NASB).

In verse one, “Therefore I urge you” is Paul’s expression of intensity. Paul prepares us to listen very carefully, because what he is about to tell us is eternal and the truth!

Since we now have something because of God’s mercy and favor this has enabled us to receive what we did not deserve. Because we are fully pleasing to God, we are to give ourselves to God as a holy, living sacrifice. This means that God is always happy with us. We are already holy, already a living sacrifice, and already fully pleasing to God—not because of something we have done, but because of the work of Jesus on our behalf.


While the translators of the New International Version use the word “spiritual” in Romans 12:1 (NIV) “for this is your spiritual act of worship,” the King James Version Bible translates this word as “reasonable.”

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1 KJV).

I have noticed that many believers do not understand Romans 12:1 when the word spiritual is used. The word “reasonable” is far more comprehensive.

It is only reasonable and makes sense (because of the work of Christ) that we should present ourselves to Him in this fashion because this is what has become true about us! We are already holy, we are already a living sacrifice, and we are already fully acceptable to our Father. What a glorious and powerful reality. How freeing! This is a work that has been done by Jesus, and we are now a brand-new creation!


I know some of you will have a hard time accepting that you are now holy before God, a living sacrifice, and that our holy God is always happy with you. When I teach about the bridal paradigm in conferences, I ask this question:

“Is God holy?”

Of course everyone responds, “Yes, He is holy.”

I then ask, “What does holy mean?”

They respond typically with, “He is perfect. He hates sin. He is righteous. He is lacking in nothing.”

“Okay, where does this holy God choose to reside? Where does He choose to live?”

They all respond with vigor, “He lives in each believer!”

Ah…this is true! God is holy, and since He is holy, He had to make the place He would live holy too. The issue is not whether God can be around sin or darkness, but rather it is that darkness is dispelled the moment He shows up and is replaced with His glorious and powerful light.

God chooses to dwell in you.

…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you (John 14:7 NASB).

Something supernatural happened to each believer the moment they received Christ as their Savior. We were moved from darkness to light; we became a brand-new creation that is holy, righteous, and lacking in nothing. Something came into existence that never existed before. You were dead in your trespasses, and God brought you from death into life. You have become born again (see John 3:3). You are now, and forevermore, holy.

Listen to Paul clearly state this reality: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV). Believers are a new kind of creature in Christ; they are neither Jew nor Gentile. There are two Greek words that scholars have translated as “new” in English, kaine and néos. The word néos means “new in time” but kaine means a brand-new creation, as opposed to one that is renewed or improved over time.

In Second Corinthians 5:17, the word kaine is used, meaning we are now a brand-new creation. A true supernatural experience has occurred in each believer. The Holy Spirit of God has taken up residency in each believer. Thus, we have become a brand-new creation.


About Ken Winton

Ken Winton is a transparent conversationalist; his inspiring teachings have motivated companies of people around the world into living their lives lighter. Ken is edgy, relatable, some times a goof, but always influential. Ken is an international speaker, author, musician and hosts his own radio show, podcasts and blogs and most of all, loves to go on walks with his wife Becky. When Ken is not on the road he frequents his favorite coffeehouse to sip on a cup of caffeine and chat with the locals. Ken resides in Chico California with his wife, three kids, two daughter-in-laws, one son-in-law and a whole mob of five glorious grand-kids. And, by the way each grandchild is his favorite.
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One Response to Misunderstanding Scripture

  1. It was revealed to me that change can only come in my life when I pray that the Lord will work that change in me. I cannot do it as a work in my mind or my will. The change that happens is real and becomes a true part of me not an outward work. I am holy because He is holy so I do not have to approach the change needed with shame but instead enter in a closer relationship with Him because we are walking that out together. He is truly my Sabbath rest on this journey.

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