“Sacrifice” is an uncomfortable word. Who wants to make sacrifices? Why would we want to give up what we want for the sake of someone else? Why should we? These are common questions, and sadly we are hearing them asked more and more as this COVID-19 pandemic wanes on, closely approaching the 2-year mark. Sacrifice is not something we seek to do, but it is something we should seek after for the sake of our God.
What does sacrifice mean?
In the Old Testament, we see Abel offering a sacrifice that is acceptable to God. In Hebrews, we see that it was acceptable because it was offered in faith. This kind of sacrifice is a minḥâ, a gift or present offered to God.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.(A)Hebrews 11:4 CSB
Throughout the Old Testament, we learn about sacrifice through Mosaic Law, which covers many types of sacrifice including covenant, Passover, annual feasts, thanks, and tributes. This kind of sacrifice is zeḇaḥ.
54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his relatives to eat a meal. So they ate a meal and spent the night on the mountain.Genesis 31:54 CSB
In those times, sacrifices were offered in order to atone for the sins of the people. A blood sacrifice was required in order for the people to be forgiven of their sins and be in right standing with God. Jesus became our ultimate and final blood sacrifice for all mankind by sacrificing Himself for our sake by death on a cross.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven[a](A) leavens the whole batch of dough?(B)7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ our Passover lamb(C) has been sacrificed.[b]8 Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old leaven or with the leaven of malice and evil,(D) but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.1 Corinthians 5:6-8 CSB
How has sacrifice changed because of Jesus?
Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law’s requirement for a blood sacrifice for the atonement of sins. When we accept Jesus’s sacrifice for our sake, in faith believing He died on the cross and rose from the dead, defeating sin and death, and accept the salvation He now offers us because of this sacrifice, we are redeemed, saved from the penalty of our sin. Blood sacrifice was paid by Jesus Christ Himself on our behalf.
25 He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another.(A)26 Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages,(B) for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.(C)27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment(D)— 28 so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many,(E) will appear a second time,(F) not to bear sin, but[a] to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.(G)Hebrews 9:25-28 CSB
But does this mean there is no more sacrifice?
Does this mean Christians have no call to sacrifice in our lives?
By no means.
How is sacrifice a means of worship?
We now, after accepting Jesus’s sacrifice for our sins, are called to give our lives as a sacrifice pleasing to God. By giving our lives in service and obedience to the Lord we are worshiping God with the way we live, love others, conduct ourselves, and count others more significant than ourselves.
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit[a](A) that is increasing to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full,(B) and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied,[b] having received from Epaphroditus(C) what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing(D) to God. 19 And my God(E) will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:17-19 CSB
Our lives are no longer our own. We have been bought and paid for by the precious blood of Jesus, and we are now called to present our bodies as a holy sacrifice to God. We are to become a new creation in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit which God has given to us.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you(A) to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,(B) holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[a]2 Do not be conformed(C) to this age,(D) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,(E) so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will(F) of God. 3 For by the grace(G) given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.(H) Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith(I) to each one.Romans 12:1-3 CSB
Living a life worthy of the calling we have received when we accepted Jesus as our Saviour is how we worship God, bring Him honor and glory, in the way we live, grow in faith, love others, serve God, provide hospitality, and live as godly stewards of this precious gift. We worship God when we dedicate our life as a sacrifice for the glory of God.
Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord,(A) urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,Ephesians 4:1 CSB
Seek to grow in the image of God every day, being imitators of Christ, growing in the likeness of our Creator. Live the life He calls you to live, drawing nearer to the throne of God, and please God with this beautiful sacrificial worship. It is a precious gift to be able to serve God with our whole life, in all we do, to bring Him honor, glory, and praise, to thank Him with our lives for who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will do. Our God is worthy of all honor and praise and we get to commit to living a life that pleases God, sacrificing the earthly wants and desires that once enthralled us.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.(A)1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
The more time we spend with God, in His Word, in prayer, in fellowship with His people to more we learn, grow, and display God in our lives, giving Him honor and glory in all we do.
How are you worshiping God through a life of faithful sacrifice? In what areas have you experienced this kind of sacrificial living for the sake of God’s glory? How has your life been blessed and your faith grown through this form of worship?
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40 But everything is to be done decently(A) and in order.1 Corinthians 14:40 CSB