What Should a Christian Sacrifice?–and
Why should a Christian need to sacrifice if Jesus already gave
the ultimate sacrifice of his life? Why should a Christian need
to sacrifice anything–since God is very rich and has stores
of blessings ready to pour out on His children who have faith?
a believer has already given up drugs, smoking, drinking, swearing,
stealing–what more could be asked? Is sacrificing our
sinful habits what God is asking us to do? Sinful habits could
hardly be considered a sacrifice "holy" or "acceptable."
What kind of "living sacrifice" is God accepting?
the Temple–a Tabernacle
Moses went up the mountain, he not only came down with the Ten
Commandments, but also instructions for building a Tabernacle
and conducting a system of sacrifices. This Tabernacle was originally
used as a moveable Temple which was dismantled and constructed
again and again as the camp of Israelites moved through the
wilderness for forty years.
a priesthood was consecrated–with animal sacrifices! Then
every year the Day of Atonement with its sin offerings made
the people acceptable to God for the year ahead. During the
year the Israelites could come to this Tabernacle and offer
their personal sacrifices–expressing thankfulness, commitment
to God, sorrow for their sins. Even after they came into the
Land of Promise, the Tabernacle was in use at Shiloh (north
of Jerusalem) for 369 years before the Temple was built. Archeological
evidence in that place today confirms the location of the Tabernacle.
King Solomon built a Temple in Jerusalem where sacrifices were
to be made. It functioned like the Tabernacle–only on
a much grander scale–for hundreds of years. Although the
Babylonians destroyed the first Temple in BC. 606, it was rebuilt
after the 70-year desolation. And in our Lord's day, Jesus who
taught in Herod's Temple never criticized the animal sacrifices–only
the abuses that accompanied the preparations for worship.
did God ask for animal sacrifices? The Apostle Paul unlocks
the reason. "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of
the good things to come and not the very form of things, can
never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer
continually, make perfect those who draw near....But in those
sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year" (Hebrews
10:1-3 nas). So the sacrificing of animals was a finger pointing
to the real cause for the need for the sacrifice of a perfect
human life. That cause was sin. "Therefore the Law has
become our tutor [literally: a child-conductor] to lead us to
Christ, that we may be justified by faith." These sacrifices–even
before the Law Covenant at Mt. Sinai–had a message, "Without
the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews
9:21). But once Jesus shed his own blood–all the animal
sacrifices pointing to his sacrifice of life were made obsolete.
Needed to Die as a Sacrifice
Jews stumbled over the fact that their Messiah first had to
die. They missed the point of all those sacrifices! They had
no idea that Messiah would be a priestly king. They overlooked
the point spoken by "the mouth of all his prophets, that
Christ should suffer" (Acts 3:18; Luke 24:26) and die,
seeing only the promised blessing work of the royal priesthood.
Today many "modern Christians" (who appreciate Jesus
to some extent) also do not understand that Jesus had to die
for sin atonement. They see him as leading a wonderful, exemplary
life–but they fail to see the need for blood atonement.
However, it is a simple matter of justice: "The wages of
sin is death." Since Adam, our first parent, sinned and
was condemned to death with all his posterity–in order
for him and us to be freed, someone had to die in his place.
Jesus satisfied those claims of justice. "My flesh, which
I give for the life of the world" (John 6:51).
questions yet remain, Why then would the Apostle Paul be asking
Christians to "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice"?
What would be the point of sacrificing after Jesus already sacrificed
his life? Would not any additional sacrifice be just as useless
as continuing to make animal sacrifices after Jesus already
died for sins?
Apostle Paul was not the only one who talked about giving oneself
for a "sacrifice." The Apostle Peter talks about our
being a "holy" and a "royal priesthood"
which offers up "sacrifices" (1 Peter 2:5,8). What
could Christians possibly offer God as an "acceptable"
is easy to understand how Jesus is our high priest offering
himself as a sacrifice on our behalf for sin atonement: "Since
then we have a great high priest who has passed through the
heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession"
(Hebrews 4:14). However, Paul is calling Christians to sacrifice
and Peter is saying Christians are part of a priesthood–"royal"
no less! John the Revelator also calls followers of Christ,
"priests to our God" (Revelation 5:10).
himself gives us the key to unlocking just how Christians are
part of a sacrificing priesthood. Unmistakably, he refers to
the Day of Atonement when he says, "For the bodies of those
animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high
priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through
His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out
to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach" (Hebrews
Day of Atonement
closer look at what happened on that important Atonement Day
(Leviticus 16) presents the answer to our question.... The two
animals offered for sin on that day were first a bullock and
then a goat. Moses was instructed at Sinai that the bullock
was for Aaron himself and "for his house." The goat
was specified "for the people."
happened to the bullock also later happened to the goat. The
high priest himself donated the bullock then laid his hands
on it. By this action he was saying: "This is me!"
Then the sacrifice was killed in the Court of the Tabernacle
and burned on the Altar–a pleasing fragrance. But the
hide, flesh and waste were burned outside the camp of Israel.
What an awful smell! By contrast, the high priest also burned
incense on the incense altar as he went into the innermost room
of the Tabernacle (the Most Holy) with the blood of the bullock.
the Priest laid hands upon the Lord's goat–taken from
congregation of Israel. It was killed and burned as was the
bullock–its blood, too, was sprinkled in the Most Holy.
Jesus offered himself in sacrifice at the River Jordan and said,
"I come to do thy will," he was offering his humanity.
His human will was killed, so to speak. For three and one half
years it was as if his flesh burned on the altar. When the world
outside observed what he was doing with his life, it was a stench
to them. But to God it was a sweet-smelling sacrifice. Finally,
he died on the cross. When resurrected, appearing "in the
presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24), the merit of his
blood was presented to justice in the presence of God. What
more could be done?
more needed to be done. But God has been selecting a church
to follow in Jesus' footsteps. To make our sacrifice acceptable,
our high priest laid hands on us because we have no value apart
from Jesus. Jesus makes our sacrifice "acceptable"
and "holy." As the bullock was sacrificed, so the
goat likewise–including the burning "outside the
camp." And that is precisely why the Apostle Paul says,
"Let us go to him without the camp bearing his reproach."
He is calling on Christians to be faithful to their commitment
of sacrifice–no matter what the world thinks! "For
we are a fragrance of Christ to God to the one [the world] an
aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to
life" (2 Corinthians 2:15,16).
numerous places we are invited to suffer and die with Christ.
If indeed "we suffer with Him in order that we may also
be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:17). "It is a trustworthy
statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with
Him" (2 Timothy 2:11,12).
God is pleased to accept our sacrifices–"present
your bodies"–to become part of one sin-offering "sacrifice."
Though our wills are dead to self–still it is a living
sacrifice because in reality we have to consciously keep it
dead on the altar till totally consumed. God is not asking us
to sacrifice a sinful life–we do not have the right to
that anyway! Our acceptable sacrifice is putting aside or surrendering
our legitimate human hopes, plans and ambitions to the will
and service of God.
since we are part of the priesthood too, we can look forward
to the privilege of blessing the people of the world after all
the Atonement Day sacrificing is done. Being part of a "royal
priesthood," this will mean the church with her Head Jesus
will have the authority and power to effectively bless the whole
groaning creation (Romans 8:22).