Yes! Christians are expected to offer sacrifices to God! No, they are not sacrifices of dead animals, nor of oil or flour or wine as were some of the sacrifices under the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us plainly that sacrifices are expected of us as the children of God in this age.
Every Christian is expected to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God. There is not a clergy-laity distinction today as in Old Testament times when there was a priesthood who officiated the sacrifices before God. All Christians are priests, and as such, have as much right – and responsibility – to approach God as only the priests did in Bible times.
As God’s people today we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices as distinct from literal, material, earthly sacrifices. God is not looking for sacrifices of money – although Christians are expected to give liberally of what we have. In giving, the motivation is not that we give money as a sacrifice to God, but are to be like the Macedonian Christians in 2 Cor. 8:5 who “gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” The proper motivation in the giving of money is love, not sacrifice.
“I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” (2 Cor. 8:8).
We may give sacrificially, but sacrifice for its own sake is not the motivation for giving. The sacrifice in giving is the offering of ourselves – a lesson many Christians have a hard time learning.
As a holy priesthood we are to offer up sacrifices that are acceptable to God. This implies that there are offerings that are not acceptable to God. We cannot offer sacrifices for our sins. God has already done that with a sacrifice that is good for all ages – past, present and future. Before Jesus was offered as the sacrifice for our sins, people had to offer animals as sin offerings. But those offerings had to be repeated over and over again.
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4).
But Jesus’ sacrifice was a one time for all time offering. If we were to attempt to please God with animal sacrifices today it would be an offense to him! It would be to say that the sacrifice he offered was not sufficient for us. No, animal sacrifices ended when Jesus died on the cross. God is now looking for different sacrifices than these.
The sacrifices Christians offer are to be through Jesus Christ. That means everything we may do that can be considered as a sacrifice is to be done with him in view. He is to be the author of them and the object as well.
What are the spiritual sacrifices Christians are expected to offer? What are our duties as a “holy priesthood?”
First, we are to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice.” This offering is not in order to appease God nor to merit our salvation, but is a “thanksgiving” offering. It is to be done out of gratitude for what he has done for us. This offering is not merely ceremonial. It is real and practical.
“1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Here is the offering of one who has received a new life and now consecrates that life to the service and glory of God. It is to be characterized by a renewed mind – a mind that thinks upon the things of God rather than only on the things of of the world or the things of one’s own self. Paul said that this is “spiritual worship” or service – the service of the mind. It is a willing, voluntary giving of ourselves in devotion to God with nothing held back. Nothing less that the total giving of ourselves will suffice.
The Christian is to live a lifestyle characterized by sacrificial love because that was the kind of life the Lord lived for us. How could we expect to live any differently from this?
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
We are to offer the sacrifice of praise to God.
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15).
Generally this is explained as being accomplished by prayer and singing – which certainly are ways we may praise him with our lips. However, this tends to limit our thinking to what is done in a “worship” assemblies. But the text says this is done when we “acknowledge his name.” We can do this in many ways other than just by prayer and singing. We can acknowledge his name in situations where his name is being vilified by standing up and letting people know that we are a child of God. We can acknowledge his name by not bowing to the politically correct demands of our society to keep our religion out of the public marketplace. We can acknowledge his name in our efforts to teach our neighbors and friends the gospel of Christ. This may mean that we will not be very popular with most of the people around us. But what do we want more, the praise of God or the praise of men?
Again, we are to offer the sacrifice of doing good and sharing what we have with others who are in need.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16).
Numerous times in the Old Testament the animal sacrifices offered upon the altar are described as having a pleasing aroma to the Lord. If God was pleased with a burnt offering offered in a pleasing manner to him, will he not be pleased with the freely offered sacrifices of a devoted Christian? Will not the devoted life of such a one be a “sweet smelling aroma” to him?
No, the Christian life is not easy. It is a life of sacrificial living – of giving and giving and seemingly getting very little. But that is how Jesus lived and that is how his followers must live also. It is not for the thanks of men that we serve him. Whether men are pleased or not does not matter. It is God to whom we give ourselves and it is God we ultimately serve. It is God who will judge us in the last day. It may just be that the criterion of judgment will be this… “How much have you given of yourself?” See Matthew 25:31-46.