In working through the Pauline corpus, the reformers constantly wrestled with Paul’s emphasis on the nature of the fallen body, its need for redemption, and the implications of this for those living between Christ’s first and second comings. Catholic pastor Johann Wild (1495-1554) finds much to discuss as Paul speaks of offering the body as a living sacrifice, emphasizing the need for spiritual mortification by restraining the senses and slaying sin.

Spiritual Sacrifices of the Spiritual Priesthood

Now he teaches the foremost of all works to be the mortification of the body, and he calls this by a new and extraordinary name: an offering. In other passages he calls it either crucifixion or putting off of the old self. He did this not without reason. For, in the first place, through this he reminds us of our dignity: through Christ we have become kings and priests, a royal priesthood and a spiritual priesthood, so that we may offer spiritual sacrifices, etc.“Present your bodies,” he says. Not just your hand, tongue, etc. And he does not mean only your body, but also your soul and everything. They err who imagine that the external church does not need bishops, pastors, teachers and ministers. They err who say that these sorts of offices are common.

And so Peter says “spiritual priesthood.” If the name priest delights you, pray passionately for all things, teach yourself and your peers, baptize yourself through the remembrance of the first baptism, commune yourself with the sacrament through meditation on Christ’s suffering. Offer a sacrifice of praise and mortification. These are the things that belong to your priesthood.

“Present your bodies,” he says. Not just your hand, tongue, etc. And he does not mean only your body, but also your soul and everything. And do not present your body in just any manner, but as a sacrificial victim—by this word death is indicated.

Therefore slay your body as a sacrificial victim. First, the members of the body (the external body and senses) that cause offense should be removed— indeed, not through a physical sword but through careful guarding and restraining of the senses. Second, the internal vices of the soul should be slain: wrath, vengeance, desire, concupiscence, hatred, avarice, pride, etc. Third, also reason itself and our own will and its affections should be slain. See how many sacrificial victims you find in yourself! Our body is a living sacrifice.

Exegesis of Romans 12:1.

Romans 9-16, eds. Philip D.W. Krey and Peter D.S. Krey, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, NT vol. VIII, p. 122.