What the Bible teaches us about … Sacrifice
The idea of sacrifice is not unique to the bible – Almost all religions in the world have some sacrificial practice.
We read about sacrifices and offerings from the time of Cain and Abel – Noah – Abraham – Isaac and Jacob ……
It was not only the Jews who sacrificed – it was part or pagan ritual as well – most of the sacrifices had an element of atoning for sin and appeasing the gods.
The idea of animals symbolically covering sin goes back to Genesis 3 were God gave Adam and Eve skins to cover themselves after their feeble attempt cover themselves with leaves. An animal had to die for those skin coverings to be given.
A Brief Look at OT Sacrifices ……
1. The burnt offering. Lev.1. (Voluntary)
- commonest — daily by priests, morning and evening. The whole animal burnt [except skin] in others parts were eaten by priests or worshippers or both.
- It was to be male without defect – only best for God
- Quality of animal important – not because God needed them BUT show attitude of worshipper. [Malachi 1v6-14 God complains about attitude – rather no sacrifice than one with wrong attitude]
- Could be bull – sheep/goat – bird –depended on wealth of person
- worshipper lay hands on animal’s head – identification [imagine noise and activity] AND substitution [this animal in my place]
- the offerer had task of killing, skinning, chopping up and washing so priests were not defiled by any dirt or excrement —
- The priest threw the blood against the sides of the altar – symbolic of offering the life to God — life is in the blood —
then pieces taken by priest and laid on altar where consumed by fire.
As you read through Lev. the phrase “ … an aroma pleasing to the lord….”
The idea of the smell going up to heaven – speaking of God in human terms – when it was offered with the right attitude to God it pleases him. And achieves its purpose — to make atonement. – [Special place on the Day of Atonement]
NT – BURNT OFFERING – atonement sacrifice Mark 10:45 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)
Romans 3:25 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished (NIV)
Ephesians 5:2 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)
Believers in Christ have no need to bring sacrifices related to atonement for Christ has offered the final sacrifice of himself on the cross.
2. The sin offering. Lev.4. (Compulsory)
- The purpose of this offering was not so much to deal with the sin itself BUT with the effects of the sin – the BURNT OFFERING was the offering for atonement and the averting of God’s anger. This was primarily a purification offering so that God could continue to live amongst his people.
- Word for sin – ‘missing the mark’ — unintentional sin – an acknowledgement that we do not live up to God’s standards.
- Even sins of neglect, carelessness and ignorance needed to be confessed and sacrifice made –
–**What a privilege we have this side of the cross – that we don’t have to go through an earthly priesthood.**
NT – SIN OFFERING – cleansing of dirt and pollution for God’s dwelling place.
NT stresses the cleansing power of Christ’s blood
Hebrews 10:19-23 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (NIV)
1 John 1:6-2:2 …… if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
…… If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
The blood of Christ is applied regularly to our lives through confession.
3. The guilt offering . Lev.5. (Compulsory)
- all blood sacrifices were related to the removal of guilt
- the difference with this one is that it has added restitution — thus sometimes called the restitution offering
- concerned not only with vertical relationship with God BUT also horizontal relationship with people
Restitution was value of thing stolen – PLUS 20%
NT – GUILT OFFERING – wrongs done to others must be put right by appropriate restitution as part of the process of being put right with God.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
There is accountability linked to wrongdoing – there must be payment and restitution.
The idea of payment and ransom is very much linked to the death of Christ –
The idea of suffering and dying in the place of others is clearly portrayed in Isa.53 – the suffering servant is dying for others / in their place..
Isaiah 53:5-7 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (NIV) cf. Matthew 8:17
1 Peter 2:24-25 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NIV)
4. The fellowship offering . Lev. 3 (Voluntary)
- Sometimes called the peace offering.
- Any kind of animal from flock or herd.
- A freewill offering.
- A variety of reason for bringing it — thanksgiving – fulfilment of a vow – the making or renewal of a covenant
- Often a time of fellowship, celebration and joy.
- Similar to burnt offering except -# male or female animal -# only the fatty parts to be burnt e.g. fat, kidneys, fatty part around liver, fat on the sheep’s tail ..
- The priest got the breast and the right thigh – the worshipper got the rest for a shared meal.
Prohibition of fat – usually rich man’s food and implication that the best should be for God ——- some today might argued that there was a health risk in eating the fat !?!?
NT – FELLOWSHIP OFFERING – offering that lead to a shared meal – embodies vertical and horizontal relationship
similar to the central meal of the new covenant – the Lord’s supper.
5. The grain offering. Lev 2. (Voluntary)
- usually offered with other offerings
- only as a first-fruits offering was it presented whole – otherwise it was worked in some way – as flour or even cooked.
- the offering was a combination of what God had first given and what man had worked and offered back to God.
- only a portion of the grain was actually burned on the altar – the remainder belonged to the priests – either as flour or cooked in some way – remember that the priests did not own land
This was a voluntary offering recognising God’s faithfulness to his creation. [Sometimes included a drink offering – wine / oil]
NT – GRAIN OFFERING – represented the consecration of God’s gifts and human work – in the NT while the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is final and sufficient. There is the element of our sacrifice of ourselves to God in Worship — our bodies – our minds – our praises – our material goods are all appropriate sacrifices to offer to him.
Philippians 4:18 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (NIV)
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (NIV)
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
Worship – accepted.
Paul talks about two aspects of worship in this passage: Our Bodies and Our Minds.
Romans 12:1 ……. offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)
The language Paul is using is plainly that of sacrifice — in the OT sacrificial system would have been clearly understood by Paul’s readers
God doesn’t want burnt animals – he wants us – living sacrifices // ‘living’ and ‘sacrifices’ sound contradictory put together [like saying a “giant midget”] The whole point of a sacrifice is that it is dead – so how can you have living dead? If you are living you are not sacrificed; if you are sacrificed you are not living. Better to think of sacrificial lifestyle – not isolation /withdrawal from the mainstream BUT godly sacrificial living/lifestyle ///
– he wants our love, our service, he wants us to live lives that are in accordance with his pattern // his will – so that we begin to live unselfishly, sacrificially, spiritually — this is our spiritual act of worship.
spiritual – can equally be translated ‘reasonable’ or ‘rational’ this ties in with the renewal of mind in the next verse –
Worshipping and serving God is not a purely emotional exercise – [emotions are involved BUT so too is the mind – when we worship we are to use our minds – offering ourselves to God is not a mindless exercise but an act of intelligent worship. It is what ALL humans should do.
This spiritual worship that God requires of us is not offered in a Temple Court or a Cathedral BUT in our home life, school/college life, our work life, …
We talk of giving our hearts to Christ – he wants all of us!!
Worship that is purely inward and abstract and mystical – if that is all it is then it is not true worship — it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies.
There was a view in NT times that taught that the body was not important – only the soul – this led to all kinds of immorality – NO says Paul the body is important so don’t abuse them – we are to care for our bodies [not worship them] and use them in the service of others for God’s sake.
Romans 6:13-19 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. ……
Not instruments of wickedness but instruments of righteousness so that our feet will walk God’s way, our lips will speak his truth, our hands will lift those who have fallen, and perform the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing-up and mending -[even spring-cleaning the Church building and cutting the Church grass and hedge!!! — going to Broadwater Lodge and singing hymns with the old Folks some of whom don’t know whether its Christmas or August], our arms will embrace the lonely and the unloved, our ears will listen to the cries of the distressed [and go to Sudan to do something about it – or across the street].
Romans 12:2 … be transformed by the renewing of your mind. .
This is not simply a fleeting whim – a brief bright idea and then back to the old ways – this is Metamorphosis – it is a process – but it is permanent – it is a revolutionary change brought about by the work of God’s Spirit and the Word of God.
God wants to change us – he wants to change the way we think – ‘Thinking right always proceeds acting and speaking right’.
“You are not what you think you are BUT what you think, you are!”
We make a big mistake if we think God will be satisfied with second best – he wants ALL that we are!! We can’t doff our caps to God on Sundays and live the rest of the week as we please!
We have this strange notion sometimes that if we give ourselves to God – body and mind – then somehow we are loosing out//we will miss something /// “What plans do you have for the rest of your life?” “Is God tagged on the end OR is He at the centre!”
Young People – as you think about your future – University, marriage partner, career are you considering how this all fits with God’s purposes/kingdom –
Why should we be living sacrifices to God???
Why – Answered.
Romans 12:1 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, ..
ILLUS. Stuart Briscoe in one of his books tells how while staying with an elderly widow on one of his preaching tours she told him that she was not inclined to be a living sacrifice. He suggested that she read through Romans 1-11 and makes a list of all God’s mercies to her. Next morning she accused him of being the cause of her sleepless night but confessed to being willing to give herself unreservedly to God in view of his mercies to her.
If you have difficulty with ‘sacrificial lifestyle’ I suggest you read ch.1-11!!
If Christ suffered and die for me – gave everything/his life for me — surely it is not too much that I should serve him wholeheartedly!! Not grudgingly but eagerly.
God may not ask you to go Abroad BUT he does ask you to follow a sacrificial lifestyle!!
NB Paul says 1 Therefore, I urge you, … to offer …. God wants us to love him and serve him willingly.
ILLUS.: A little girl was given 10 bright new pennies. Instantly she began to part with them. “This one is for Jesus. This one is for you, Mummy. This one is for Daddy, ..” and so on until she only had one penny left. “And this one is for Jesus.” she said again. “But you have already given one to Jesus” said the mother. Yes, Mummy, but the first one belonged to Jesus. This one is a present!”
Old Testament Sacrifices / Offerings New Testament
Atonement for unintentional sin in general; expression of complete devotion to God
Christ is Sacrifice of atonement – Rom.3v25; 1John 2v1
Mandatory (blood or grain
Atonement for specific unintentional sins; confession of sin; forgiveness of sins; cleansing from defilement.
Christ’s blood cleanses from sin – Heb.10v19-23;
1 John 1v6-2v2
Atonement for unintentional sins requiring restitution; cleansing from defilement; make restitution; 20% fine
Christ pays our debt – Isa.53;
we too must forgive – Matt.6v12
Voluntary (blood or grain)
Thanksgiving and fellowship – including communal meal
Communion / fellowship with God and each other – 1John 1v3,6-7
Voluntary (grain or oil / wine)
Recognising God’s goodness and provision;
devotion to God
Offer all our gifts / praise / resources to God – Rom.12v1-2; Heb13v15-16