Sacrifice and Offering

<<what is surrendered, gift>>

These terms are frequently used interchangeably but they may convey different emphases. Sacrifices are often viewed negatively as ‘giving something up’ though usually with the perspective of a greater benefit whilst offerings are seen as positive responses for the benefit of oneself or others, and often in gratitude. Both aspects are important in the Christian life yet we must understand they can’t co-exist with comfort and convenience for a surrender and cost are required.

As the Bible states sin always separates us from God and those who sin deserved to die, God in the OT introduced a form of worship where each person who sinned by contravening how He wanted people to live in relation to Himself and others was to offer a sacrifice on the altar (Ezek18:4,20; Rom 6:23). Very specific instructions were given as to the types of altars and the sacrifices to be offered on them (Ex 20:24-26). Some sacrifices were undertaken at set times (feasts or festivals) to cover the sin of the preceding period while others when there had been a specific breaking of a God-given law.

He did this for two reasons

1/. God wanted His people to worship Him, by praising and thanking Him for what He had done for them. He alone was worthy to be worshipped for that and stated the aroma of such offerings was pleasing to Him (Gen 8:21; Lev 2:9).

2/. God wanted His people to see the seriousness of sin and how it prevented fellowship with Him. The outward physical offering was to reflect the inner change of heart (repentance) to turn from sin.

Although they may seem as bizarre rituals to us the animal sacrifices introduced the people to the concept that sin carried a penalty and a ransom could be paid by the substitution of a third party –

A sacrifice means something has had to die on an altar                                                                (real and metaphorical)

the life being in the blood and it is the blood that makes atonement (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:18-22). The principle behind this was that innocent blood was given for a guilty party. Symbolically one life was given so another could be saved.

It was essential the person bringing the sacrifice had an attitude of repentance, was willing to confess their sin and wanting restoration of fellowship with God otherwise it was pointless (Ps 51:12,16,17). The sacrifice was not to appease God but to promote self-examination, seek forgiveness for one’s sins and encourage holy living.

The sacrifice was a means of restoring the fellowship broken by sin. The animal symbolically took the sinner’s place and paid the penalty while the sinner was ceremonially cleansed.  To add to the significance the animal sacrifice or grain offering were to be of the highest quality, nothing inferior but only the best – “A lamb without blemish” (Ex 12:5).

These sacrifices could not take away but only cover sin and had to be regularly repeated but the ritual clearly pointed to what Christ would do on the cross at Calvary (Eph 5:2; Heb 10:4).

The NT explains how Christ’s once-only death was infinitely superior, becoming the last sacrifice needed, as it is completely effective for all those

The theme of sacrifice constitutes Christianity

who repent and continue to walk with Jesus experience forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:28, 10:12; 1 Jn 1:9). He took the full punishment for all humanity.  He was the ‘spotless (sinless) Lamb of God’ who gave His body as a sin offering, in complete consecration and surrender to the will of God (Jn 1:29,36; Heb 9:14, 10:5-7; 1 Pet 1:18,19. The book of Hebrews explains why the OT practices were superseded

1/. Jesus was sinless and therefore able to make a perfect sacrifice (Heb 7:26).

2/. Jesus ‘lives forever’ therefore He can offer salvation to all (Heb 7:25).

3/. Jesus has mediated ‘a new and better covenant, securing our forgiveness (Heb 8:7,12,13).

4/. Jesus is our ‘great high priest’ – the ‘guarantor of a better covenant’ (Heb 4:14, 7:22).

The outcomes and implications of Christ’s sacrifice

1/. We can be free from the penalty of our sin by believing in Jesus and accepting His forgiveness (Jn 1:12; Heb 10:10). Our consciences will also be freed of their guilt (Rom 8:1; Heb 10:22)

2/. Considering Christ’s sacrifice for us, believers are exhorted to make an offering of ourselves – our bodies represent all we are, have and do. After the initial act of consecration (sacrificing self-determination for God’s leading) we are called to the ongoing daily sacrifice of our lives to God.  The sacrifices He asks of us are never pointless every one of them serves a higher purpose in His Kingdom.  Can any sacrifice I make on earth compare with the sacrifice Jesus made to rescue me from a lost eternity?  We are to ‘take up our cross’, living surrendered lives for His purposes (Lk 9:23).

3/. As ‘living sacrifices’ Christians model the reality of Christ’s sacrifice for others (Mt 5:16; Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 4:10).

4/. There are far better outcomes. It is a divine rule – by giving up something for Him, we will in return receive something of greater value, yet if we try to hold onto something we will ultimately lose it anyway (Mt 16:25; Mk 10:29,30; Lk 6:38). The sequence is always giving in faith before receiving back. Like Jesus, look beyond the present cost to the future gain (Heb 12:2). Be prepared to give up what you consider of value, holding onto this world’s goods lightly. What is the profit if a man gains the whole world but does not have eternal life (Mt 19:21; Mk 8:36)?

5/. The sacrifices we are called to make are not to appease God but to express our gratitude – He has already accepted the offering of Jesus on our behalf. They are our ‘true worship’ (Rom 6:13, 12:1).

6/. “To obey is better than sacrifice” – the principle still applies that God would rather obedience than, after doing wrong, asking for forgiveness (1 Sam 15:22; Prov 21:3; Heb 10:5-7). Our love for God is more important than sacrifices (Mk 12:33).  True gratitude results in obedience or remorse if we have failed (Lk 22:61,62). The Bible warns against deliberately continuing to sin and expecting to receive forgiveness (Rom 6:1,2; Heb 10:26).

Some further considerations

1/. Praise and Sacrifice. The Psalmist stated “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always on my lips…I will ever praise you…", and elsewhere the Bible urges us, “Through Jesus, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name” (Ps 34:1, 71:6; Heb 13:15). This is a costly and challenging stance to aspire to when things go wrong so in faith hold to the fact God’s principles always work; “God intended it for good...For all things work together for good...” (Gen 50:20; Rom 5:3-5, 8:28; 1 Thes 5:18).

2/. Worship and sacrifice are linked for it is through sacrifice we are brought back into a right relationship (1 Sam 1:3). Under the Old Covenant, God accepted the sacrifices of animals but these were just a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. For those who are in Christ by virtue of saving faith, the only acceptable worship is to offer ourselves completely to the Lord. Under God’s control, the believer’s yet unredeemed body can, and must, be yielded to Him as an ‘instrument of righteousness’ (Rom 6:12,13, 8:11-13). In view of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for us, this is only “reasonable.”   

3/. Sacrifice and communion. Sacrifice is at the heart of Christianity. The primary purpose of the Communion Service is to remind us on the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us and for us to dedicate ourselves to Him in continuing commitment.

4/. The place of the altar. We will all have regular ‘altar times’ in our lives involving life-impacting encounters with Him and on-going consecration to His service, laying down of our fleshly wants and desires in a ‘heart-business’ transaction or dealing with God (Rom 12:1,2). Paul wrote, “I am

Present your bodies as living sacrifices –                                                         Romans 12:1

crucified with Christ…I die daily” (1 Cor 15:31; Gal 2:20). This was death to self but alive to God, the cross of Christ being central in his life. Do I submit myself to God on a daily basis, stating “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42)? Such commitment can be costly yet “Can I give to God that which cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24). This was the central issue in God’s testing of Abraham (Gen 22:1-12).

5/. More than empty words.  We should be dealing with sin in our lives and endeavouring to walk uprightly before Him aware that He sees the genuineness of our confession. A lifestyle change marked by devotion through humble service to Him indicates we are bringing an acceptable offering (Ps 51:17). 

6/. Practical outworking. In the church context an offering is recognised as a voluntary ‘free will’ donation to God’s work in addition to the tithe (recognised as 1/10th of one’s income). Although finance is necessary to fund the various ministries of the church and advance the gospel of the Kingdom of God, He is more desirous of our submission and obedience to Him. Then coming from hearts that are grateful for salvation we will respond by giving willingly, cheerfully and generously (2 Cor 9:6-8).

Sacrifice in everyday life

“They first gave themselves to the Lord and then…” (2 Cor 8:5). This is the right order; first ourselves (spirit, soul and body together with our aspirations) fully yielded to God and dedicated to living a holy life, before

The greatest thing we can offer to God is                                     our heart – Mark 12:30

its expression of praise, prayer and good works Along with our time, talents and desires, these are our ‘spiritual sacrifices’ (1 Pet 2:4,5).  If the Lord is truly becoming our Master, the lesser things of time and money will be coming under His Lordship and authority. Am I willing to sacrifice my all, including time, money energy and reputation for the Kingdom of God (Mt 6:33).

Giving up something of value, personal rights or agenda in submission ‘speaks’ to people. Being willing to lay down our life for others involves more than words. Love in action sacrifices for the needs of others (1 Jn 3:16-18). A grain of wheat only produces more seed if it is planted and then dies (Jn 12:24-26). The Bible’s message is “Love your neighbour as yourself…Doing to others as you would they do to you” (Mk 12:31; Lk 6:31; Eph 5:2; Phil 4:18).

Following Christ is not always easy or comfortable, often it involves rejection and sacrifice with no earthly reward for security, but wait for the reimbursement in heaven (Mt 6:20; 1 Pet 1:4)!  God is no man’s debtor, those that honour Him He will honour (1 Sam 2:30). The requirement given to anyone who would be a follower of Jesus is to "deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him" (Lk 9:23). Our cross is what brings about death to the old sinful selfish life (Rom 6:6, 8:13; Gal 2:20; Col 3:5; 1 Pet 2:24).

The ‘ultimate sacrifice’ has been required of many Christians down through the ages but they looked beyond to the ‘heavenly country’ (Jn 15:13; Heb 11:16).  We are only caretakers not owners of our lives so we should be prepared to die a martyr for the cause of Christ – either literally or in principle sacrificing it for others. It is on such altars we make Jesus Lord, surrendering our rights to Him.

Will we still love and serve Jesus even when what is precious to us is being asked of us or has been taken away? If we do turn our backs on Him, we have based our allegiance to Him on the wrong footing – a performance-based ‘conditional on Him meeting certain criteria’ requirement that we stipulate. Job’s response was the correct one, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

Don’t insult God by giving Him what is of little value to us, for what we give reflects our attitude to Him (Mal 1:8,12-14). Through the willingness of Jesus to be sacrificed we have been made holy (Eph 2:13; Heb 13:12).

See also: altar, consecrate, cross, gifts and giving, martyr, priests, surrender, tithe/tithing, worship.





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