The Spirit Of Sacrifice
Pictures from the Past
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”—Hebrews 13:15
Acceptable sacrifices are motivated by definite Godlike principles. In Hebrews 13:10-16 we read: “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and communicate forget not: for with sacrifices God is well pleased.”
The word “altar” refers to the provision which, by God’s grace, has been sanctified by the blood of Christ Jesus. There we may present in sacrifice all that we have and hope for as justified human beings. Thereby we partake of the riches of divine grace given to us in the great hope of becoming joint-heirs with his glorified son.
Ratified by the Blood of Sacrifice
The covenant God made with Israel required obedience to the law in order to gain life and the earthly inheritance promised. It had to be ratified by the blood of sacrifice that was sanctified by the altar.
The covenant we enter into with God is based on the better sacrifices and upon heavenly promises. The altar on which our sacrifice is made acceptable is sanctified by the blood of Jesus. They who seek to gain life by keeping the law have no right to eat or appropriate to themselves the things sanctified to the heavenly calling.
The Earliest Sacrifices of Lambs
In Genesis 4, we find that God sacrificed lambs to provide a covering for Adam and Eve. This replaced their efforts to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. In shame, they sensed that their sin required a covering. Christians today sometimes think they can make themselves presentable before God with the fig leaves of their own righteous endeavors.
Hebrews 11:4 says that by faith Abel offered unto God “a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Genesis 4:6, 7 implies that Cain disregarded divine instructions. Abel’s lamb was the divine symbol of Jesus. Abel was accounted righteous because of his faith. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Man-Made Gods and Our God
Smith’s Bible Dictionary states that heathen sacrifices were sometimes offered as prayers to obtain benefits or to avert wrath. The essential difference between heathen sacrificing and scriptural rites was that the gods heathens conceived were alienated by indifference, jealousy, and anger, and therefore needed to be appeased. In contrast to this, the Bible represents God as approaching man to point out the way by which rebellious man can be restored.
The Bible shows sacrifice to be the only means proceeding from and sanctioned by God as the way in which justice could be satisfied and man be restored to at-one-ment with God. Sacrifice relates to the reestablishment of the broken covenant between God and man.
The Broken Covenant Mended
The sin offering reveals that covenant as having been broken by man; but, as foreshown in the tabernacle types, it is now in the process of being reestablished by God’s own appointment through the offering of a perfect and acceptable sacrifice.
The death of the sin offering in the atonement day rites signified that the death of the offender was deserved on account of sin, but that the death of the substitute would be accepted through God’s ordinance and grace.
The sin offering also bore witness to the sinful state of man, and that the wages of sin is death, but that God had provided an atonement through the appointed death of a vicarious substitute.
Although the ceremonial meaning of the burnt offering was an indication of God’s acceptance, yet the sprinkling of its blood around the altar indicated a relation between sacrifice and acceptance, sin offering and burnt offering. The burning of the entire lamb on which the priest had laid his hands signified the complete devotion of the one doing the sacrificing.
As the burning of the complete sacrifice was essential to what it pictured, so also the death of the human will is essential to full devotion to God. The meat offerings, peace offerings and offerings of first fruits were all offerings in thankful praise for restored fellowship and blessings received.
The Spirit of Sacrifice
Sacrifice in its strict sense pertains to the offering of a person or animal of some object in propitiation or homage to deity. In its broader sense, sacrifice means to give up or forego something desired by self, but relinquished to please another. The scriptures speak of sacrifice both in the sense of propitiatory offerings and in the sacrifice of praise, good works, and the sharing of that which we have.
The word “spirit” is used to designate the invisible powers of mind, disposition, influence, whatever is operative in the Christian’s life. The holy Spirit is the mind, power and influence of God. “God is spirit, and can be worshiped only in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Of Jesus, it was foretold that he would be filled with God’s spirit, for the spirit of the Lord would rest upon him—”the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD, making him of quick understanding in the will of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2, 3).
The significance that attaches to the word “spirit” in our subject is the kindly disposition and desire to aid others, as admonished by Jesus in his new commandment.
It is the light of this spirit and the principle of righteousness that is bringing destruction to this old evil world dominated by Satan.
The Cost of Sacrifice
Our gifts and what we do must cost us something in order for them to be designated as sacrifices. Sacrifice must be rightly motivated to have the spirit that was in God when he planned the salvation of mankind. Foreknowing the helpless state of his human creation resulting from disobedience, his love and mercy contrived a way to restore mankind through sacrifice. God’s way would forever constitute the supreme example of unselfish love. For thirty-four years, he denied himself the pleasure of his Son and blissful serenity for the sake of unworthy image-bearing creatures.
We are not to think that it was only after man sinned and was condemned by the justice of God that love and mercy planned a way to save him. The plan of redemption with all its wonderful provisions, including the creation of God’s own divine family, was foreknown. Through the operation of all the divine attributes, his plan was predestined even when the Logos was created.
Peter (in his first epistle, chapter 1, verses 18-21) draws attention to God’s sacrifice: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
The divine plan was centered in Christ. Both Peter and Paul declare it to have been before the foundation of the world. The Church could not have been contemplated except through the foreknown death of Christ as a ransom.
Jesus’ Willingness to Sacrifice
Jesus prayed: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). Knowing God’s delight in rewarding faithfulness, Jesus trusted that his death on the cross would not end his existence, but he did not greedily desire to usurp a higher exaltation.
Remembering the graphic picture of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, Jesus willingly went to Jordan. In complete loyalty and obedience to his Father, the Son relied on his Father’s righteous plan.
There, at Jordan, Jesus was figuratively bound and placed upon the altar of sacrifice. It was during the forty days following that he came to understand fully the Father’s purpose in transferring him from a heavenly state to an earthly one.
God’s attributes are inherent in him, not merely adapted to control a situation. They are demonstrated in the redemptive work. They manifest God’s glory as his divine purpose unfolds. Wisdom, justice, love, and power exist because he exists.
Our theme text speaks of the sacrifice of bulls and goats under the law representing those making the offering as well as typifying Christ and his body members in this age.
David and Sacrifice
God has always taken note of the spirit of sacrifice in his children—the desire on the part of the individual to devote himself completely to the doing of the Father’s will. In Psalm 51:16, 17, David, in deep contrition for his grievous sins, says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
Stewards of Our Sacrifice
Our sacrifice is not consumed instantly. God makes us stewards over what we possess. He notes how we use the talents of time, abilities, means and influence now placed under the control of the new creature.
During our consecrated sojourn on this earth, we are judged by our works. These works cannot justify us, but they are our development in Christ-likeness, to show our appreciation of the Lord’s goodness.
God constantly admonished Israel that it was not the sacrifice of bulls, goats, lambs, and rivers of oil which pleased him. These were the typical things of a typically working justification. What God desired was evidence in his creatures of his character likeness—that they would do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God.
Likewise with us. God associates the sacrifice, the dedication of ourselves, with how we conduct our lives: the praise that we render with our lips, the use we make of our talents in his service, doing good to all as we have opportunity, sharing the means we possess, communicating the blessed knowledge of his will and purpose.
Laid on thine altar,
O Lord divine,
Accept this gift today
For Jesus’ sake.
I have no jewels
To adorn thy shrine,
No far-famed sacrifice
This will of mine,
A thing that seemeth small,
But thou alone, O Lord,—
How when I yield thee this,
I yield mine all.