An important part of the service of the believer-priest is the offering of sacrifices. When the grace believer offers a sacrifice, he does not bring an animal to be offered as a physical sacrifice as was true in the Old Testament, but he offers spiritual sacrifices to God. When the Law believer brought a physical sacrifice with a right heart attitude, God counted it as an acceptable sacrifice. Two sacrifices may be identical. If one was offered with a wrong attitude, Jehovah was not pleased while the other, being offered with an acceptable heart attitude, was pleasing to Jehovah. The Christian has a multitude of opportunities to be offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God. God has given clear revelation concerning what the sacrifices are and how they are to be offered.
"You also as living stones are being built a spiritual house into a holy priesthood, to be offering spiritual sacrifices well-accepted to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 2:5)." One of the essential purposes for the New Testament priesthood is the offering of spiritual sacrifices. There are six sacrifices clearly identified in the text of Scripture.
1. Sacrifice of Physical Body -- Romans 12:1
2. Sacrifice of Praise -- Hebrews 13:15
3. Sacrifice of Doing Good -- Hebrews 13:16
4. Sacrifice of Fellowship -- Hebrews 13:16
5. Sacrifice of Giving -- Philippians 4:18
6. Sacrifice of Faith -- Philippians 2:17
It is interesting how frequently these sacrifices overlap in their activity. There are certain times when two sacrifices can be offered to God at the same time. Sometimes the offering of one sacrifice moves the offerer to make another sacrifice directly in response to the first sacrifice. Of course, a single sacrifice may be offered without any immediate relationship to any other sacrifice.
The giving of the sacrifice is a priestly privilege. Because the believer became a believer-priest at the moment of salvation, he always has the potential to offer sacrifices to God. God's grace makes the privilege of sacrifice possible. No human being has ever had the right to approach God with a sacrifice without some activity on God's part. It was a common religious custom in the Old Testament world for people to offer sacrifices to deities. They offered animal sacrifices and, in some instances, human sacrifices. The peoples of the world considered sacrifice a primary means for appeasing the gods. They had a human kind of faith that their deities would accept the sacrifices and bless the sacrificer as a result. It is possible that the demons behind the gods may have from time to time actually given some visible indications of the acceptability of the sacrifices. At least the pagan mind was confident that the crops grew and the rains fell because their gods had been appeased.
Under the Law, only the sons of Aaron had the privilege of actually sacrificing. A man of the tribe of Judah [unless he was king in response to God's intervention] would bring his animal for sacrifice to the priest who in turn would offer it upon the altar as a sacrifice. It was their priestly privilege -- a bloody one at that. After the Law was instituted, there was only one other person who could offer an acceptable sacrifice directly to God and that was the king of Israel. He could only offer a sacrifice if Jehovah directed him to make it. As a result, most sacrifices required the offerer to bring the sacrificial animal and to have another person sacrifice it for him. Sacrificing was a priestly privilege. Later in Israel's history, there were people in Israel who offered sacrifices to other deities violating not only sacrificial procedure but also the first commandment that prohibited having other gods before Jehovah (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). Evidently, there was a desire on the part of the people to be actual participants in the privilege of sacrifice. Israel had to rely on the mediation of the priest. Would God accept the sacrifice of the righteous offerer when the priest was not qualified because of some sin or impurity? No matter how polluted the priesthood became in the history of Israel, God still expected the believing Israelite to bring his sacrifices through the priesthood. Even the pollution and perversion of Eli's sons did not make it possible for Israelites of the other twelve tribes, in the land to offer their own sacrifices for themselves. It remained a priestly privilege. The grace believer shares in priestly privilege in the priesthood of Melchisedec and can be offering sacrifices without reservation as long as he meets the requirements for offering the sacrifices. "We have a place of sacrifice [altar] out of which the ones serving the tabernacle do not have the authority to eat (Heb. 13:10)." A major purpose for the priesthood of the grace believer is to be offering spiritual sacrifices to God.
1 Peter 2:5 describes these sacrifices as spiritual sacrifices rather than physical sacrifices. They are not essentially material even though they may produce material results. Even though physical things may be involved in a sacrifice such as giving, it is given as a spiritual sacrifice by a spiritual person to be accepted by a spiritual God. There is no altar on earth for offering these sacrifices. It is a heavenly altar and only God can see the true worth of the sacrifice offered by the Christian.
If the believer is spiritual, the sacrifice is acceptable to God. A study of the sacrifices of the believer-priest provides a miniature course in the spiritual life. It is impossible to offer an acceptable sacrifice when the believer is not spiritual. Scripture uses several terms to describe this proper condition. A spiritual believer (1 Cor. 2:15) emanates the things of the Holy Spirit. He is filled (Eph. 5:18) by means of the Spirit who makes up the deficiencies in the life of the believer so that the life of the indwelling Christ can energize the new nature. God only counts the thing offered to be a sacrifice if a spiritual believer does it. Many times a believer will actually do identical kinds of activity as the activities of the sacrifices, but God refuses to accept them as sacrifices because one who is carnal offers them. When a believer is appropriating the benefits that are his in Christ, he is appropriating his priestly privilege. As a result, specific activities in the Christian's life are accepted by God as a spiritual activity of sacrifice. Whether or not an activity is truly a sacrifice is totally dependent upon the heart attitude of the offerer. If he is appropriating his priestly privilege in Christ, his activities are counted to be sacrifices.
How can the activity by one believer be a sacrifice while the identical activity of another believer be rejected as a sacrifice? When Christians think of sacrifices, they focus upon the object or act being offered as a sacrifice. In other words, a lamb is a lamb. The only restriction was that the lamb must meet the criteria established qualifying a lamb to be a sacrifice. The thing or activity offered has no acceptability of its own. It may cost the believer a great deal in time or money. It only becomes a sacrifice when God counts it to be a sacrifice.
God knows the condition of the offerer and his heart attitude. He knows the motivation behind the bringing of the sacrifice. He establishes it to be a sacrifice based on His knowledge of the way in which it was offered. As a result, the same thing or activity can be offered with one accepted as a sacrifice and the other rejected. God simply reckons [or counts] the believer as offering a sacrifice. Only as the activity positively affects the mind of God is it counted to be a sacrifice. God is not arbitrary in His determination of what is and what is not a sacrifice. He very clearly established the bases for imputing certain activities to be sacrifices. He not only tells how they are to be offered, but also what constitutes a sacrifice. When the believer meets the divine criterion, he can have the confidence that what he offers is an acceptable sacrifice. Scripture clearly reveals what the details are. While there is no smoke or incense, God finds the believer's sacrifice far more valuable than the sacrifices of the Old Testament saint.
In order to understand the New Testament sacrifices, one must have some knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system that stands in contrast to the New Testament system. Sacrifices by the patriarchs before the giving of the Mosaic Law had their own characteristics. A survey of the characteristics of the Levitical sacrificial system and their relationship to the individual Israelite as well as the nation as a whole is necessary. It is also necessary to define and delineate the concepts of sacrifice in the New Testament for the grace believer. We must study each of the sacrifices in detail so that the Christian can effectively know whether he is offering a sacrifice or not. With careful study, the revelation concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest can easily become a part of the life and practice of the grace believer. He can effectively be offering sacrifices that please God.
Many images enter the mind of the individual when the word sacrifice" is mentioned. The very requirements of the Mosaic Law lead many to think of a slaughtering floor in a meat packing plant with the braying and bleating of dying animals and the smell of freshly spilled blood. When one adds an altar to this scene with its greasy smoke and the smell of burning flesh, he pictures a rather repulsive scene in his mind. Burnt meat on a barbecue is more than enough for most people to handle. As a result, the idea of sacrifice is relegated to another era and totally disregarded by contemporary believers. A major problem is the matter of the definition of "sacrifice." "I just couldn't offer a sacrifice" is a common reaction when someone is told that they can offer sacrifices as a believer-priest. Immediately, the picture of the slaughtering of an animal as an offering to God comes to mind. Sacrifice in itself does not mean that a life must be taken. Under Law, some form of life was normally taken even in the meal and drink offerings. The Levitical requirements demanded that life be taken and given to God as a sacrifice. Israelites offered the life of an animal as a propitiation or appreciation to God. Because of the revelation of the New Testament, the definition of sacrifice must be more general. The simple definition of sacrifice is "giving God that which is in the possession of an individual that God can find acceptable." From God's point of view, the giving of something in itself is not a sacrifice. It is only a sacrifice if it is acceptable to Him and actually accepted. All other giving is religious ritual that is not acceptable to God. Because the Mosaic Law clearly described the details of sacrifice establishing basic requirements, it was possible for an unbelieving Israelite to offer an acceptable sacrifice to Jehovah. As a result, God would bless him with physical health, wealth and happiness in time. The sacrifices of the Old Testament never gave anyone spiritual salvation. The sacrifices simply covered their sins and unrighteousness so that God could provide physical salvation for them in their lifetimes.
Israel gave sacrifices either to seek God's satisfaction or to express appreciation. When anything was given, it could have been voluntarily given or demanded by Law. Jepthah vowed that he would offer the first thing that came from the doors of his house for a burnt offering to Jehovah if he was victorious over the Midianites. This indicates that a slain, physical sacrifice was not always given (Judg. 11:30, 31). He won the battle and returned home and his only child, a daughter, came running out of the house first to meet him (11:34). Afterwards she went to the mountains two months to bewail her virginity (11:37, 38); and, as a result of her fathers vow, she knew no man (11:39). Evidently, he gave her to the Lord for service in the tabernacle without taking her life.
There are a number of biblical terms that describe the sacrifices and the procedure for offering in both the Old and New Testaments. An analysis of these terms is necessary in order to understand what a sacrifice was in the Bible. The following technical sketches will provide a basis for a person to use concordances and lexicons for additional details concerning the various elements of sacrifice. It will be evident that there is a large amount of material available in Scripture on this important subject. One will see the distinctions between the concepts of sacrifices and offerings. Many of these terms reflect a heart attitude of those who are giving.
Scripture uses a number of terms that describe the sacrifices and offerings. Some are used to describe specific sacrifices for special purposes while others are general descriptions of the things given. The general terms must be studied first for they provide the essentials for understanding the concept of sacrifice.
General Terms for Sacrifice in the Old Testament. There are four terms that give a general description of sacrifices. There are 14 verbs translated "offer" in the Authorized Version and five nouns translated "offering." There are two verbs that are translated "sacrifice" and six nouns. These provide an accurate picture of some of the basic concepts of sacrifice in the Old Testament.
Sacrifice -- (zevach). Sacrifice is the general designation of a thing slain that is offered to God. This word is found 162 times in the Old Testament. Generally, most scholars relate this term to the idea of slaying or slaughtering an animal or man for God. It is here that the idea of taking a life is seen. This is a general term that is most frequently used to designate a sacrifice that was only partially consumed by fire. It came to be used of the sacrificing as a whole. Any time the word was used, it involved the taking of life. Under Law, Jehovah considered the sacrifice to be "my sacrifice" (Ex. 23:18; 34:25; 1 Sam. 2:29) since the sacrifice was made to Him (Ex. 12:27; Lev. 7:11; 22:21, 29; Num. 6:17; 15:3; 1 Sam. 1:21). An analysis of the context is in order to determine the specific type of sacrifice that is being given and designated by the word. The Authorized Version translates the term "sacrifice" (155x), "offering" (6x) and "to offer up" once. In most instances the Septuagint uses some form of (thusia) to translate the Hebrew noun.
Fire Offering -- (ishah). When the Old Testament describes specifically the burning of the thing offered on the altar, this term is utilized. Its root is the noun for fire, (eesh). It applied to any sacrifice that was wholly or partially consumed by fire. It is found 164 times in the Old Testament and is generally translated "an offering made by fire" in the Authorized Version. This word applied not only to the animal sacrifices, but also to the meal offering (Lev. 2:3, 11). As a result of the offering, smoke from the burnt flesh and fat ascended indicating that the fire offering was a true holocaust.
Offering -- (qorbahn). When this word is employed, it has the idea of approaching God with something to be given. Its emphasis is on one's coming near. It describes all kinds of offerings in its 80 occurrences. It was brought near as a sacrifice or as something for Jehovah's service. This offering or oblation did not always involve sacrifice but also was used of things that had been brought near to God (Num. 31:50; 7:13). In essence, the individual who brought the offering expected to be brought nearer to God than he had previously been before his bringing of the offering.
Gift -- (havhahv). This word is only found in Hosea 8:13 where it has the idea of something that is given or committed to God. "They proceed to sacrifice flesh for the sacrifice of my gifts ..." The root (yahba) has the idea of putting, giving or placing something.
Specific Sacrifices of the Old Testament. There were four basic sacrifices in the Old Testament: the burnt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering and the peace offerings. There were three peace offerings: the thank offering, the votive offering and the free-will offering. A part of the sacrificial procedure involved the heave and wave offerings. There were two non-blood offerings sacrificed as well: the meal [or meat] and drink offerings.
The Burnt Offering -- (ohlah). The emphasis is on the ascending of the smoke of the offering into heaven as a sweet-smelling savor. The whole animal was burned and went up in smoke. In its 286 occurrences, it is normally translated "burnt offering." This was the offering that was freely given to produce a sweet savor to God. Some believe that it has this Hebrew name because it was carried up by the offerer and then the priest carried it up and placed it on the altar. There is only limited support for this position.
The Trespass Offering -- (ahshahm). The trespass offering was a sacrifice for guilt incurred when an individual crossed over into certain forms of unrighteousness. In its 47 occurrences, the Authorized Version generally translates it "trespass offering" though it also erroneously confuses it with the sin offering four times. By bringing the offering, the individual pled guilty to specifically described forms of unrighteousness including sin and brought the animal to bear his guilt for him.
The Sin Offering -- (chatahth). The sin offering was a sacrifice made for individuals who sinned in ignorance or became ceremonially unclean. In its 290 occurrences, it is normally translated "sin offering." When the individual violated the Law without knowing or intending to, he offered this sacrifice. As a result, the offerer received a special covering.
The Peace Offering -- (shelem). The peace offering was designed to maintain peace with God. The thank, votive and freewill offerings were included in this category. Some identify this as a sacrifice of friendship or for alliance. The offering is designed to make the relationship sound, complete or whole. It also carries the idea of safety in the relationship between the offerer and his God. The noun occurs 87 times and is normally translated "peace offering" in the Authorized Version. The peace offerings express the appreciation of the offerer and the encouragement of God concerning a vow that he has made.
Thank Offering -- (zehvach hatodah). The thank offering is literally "sacrifice of thanksgiving." The word "thanksgiving" occurs 32 times [including one Psalm title]. It is normally translated "thanksgiving" in the Authorized Version. It comes from a root that means "to throw or to cast something." In the causative stem, it has the basic meaning of something that is specifically directed to Jehovah. The offering is clearly given as an expression of appreciation for God's blessing and deliverance.
Free-will Offering -- (nidahvah). The voluntary aspect of giving is central to the free-will offering. It is found 26 times and is normally translated "free-will" or "willing offering" in the Authorized Version. This is a specific offering that is given to God for who He is, rather than for what He had done. It is not just the voluntary giving of any sacrifice (cf. Ex. 25:2; Judg. 5:2, 9; 1 Chron. 29:5-17; Ezra 1:6; 2:68). This offering was not obligatory. There was some regulation concerning the manner in which it was given (Lev. 7:16; 22:18, 21). The offerer simply offered it by his own choice from his own personal appreciation.
The Meal or Meat Offering -- (minchah). The meal offering is mentioned 153 times in the Old Testament. This word is used in a general sense of anything offered whether animal or produce (Gen. 4:3-5; Num. 16:15; 1 Sam. 2:17). It is normally used of the offering of grain, oil and spices. The offering was usually given at the same time as certain blood sacrifices. There is a great difference of opinion concerning the actual root from which this noun is derived. Some feel that it comes from the root (nahchah) that means "to guide or lead" and gives it the idea of providing as a supplement to other offerings. Most modern scholars relate the noun to the root (mahnach) that has the idea of giving or loaning something. Older scholars often tied it to the root (nooach) that has the idea of rest or repose. They identified this offering as the rest offering. If this is the root idea, the offering is simply something that is given to God. Its specific designation as an offering is determined by the context of each passage in which it is found.
The Drink Offering -- (nehsehk). The drink offering was an offering in which wine was poured out before Jehovah. On at least one occasion water was poured out before the Lord (2 Sam. 23:16; 1 Chron. 11:18). The noun occurs 64 times and is translated "drink offering." It is derived from a verb that means "to pour out." The verb is found 24 times. The drink offering also accompanied other offerings.
The Heave Offering -- (tehroomah). The heave offering was a special offering for priests that involved the priests manipulating his portion of an offering before Jehovah. The right shoulder or foreleg was for the priest who actually offered the peace offering (Lev. 7:32; Ex. 29:27, 28). Normally, the heave offering was elevated before Jehovah. It is mentioned 26 times and is most frequently translated "heave offering." It is derived from the root (room) that means "to be high, exalt or use." The basic idea of this offering was that the priest was to elevate it before Jehovah and then share it with his family for a meal. Usually, the heave offering is found with the wave offering.
The Wave Offering -- (tenoophah). The wave offering comes from a term that can indicate anything that is presented to Jehovah in a general sense. It is technically used of the high priest's waving the breast of the peace offering before Jehovah. The root has the idea of waving, shaking or moving back and forth. It is found 30 times. The breast of the animal was lifted up and moved back and forth before Jehovah. The description of the offering is actually a description of the ritual by which the sacrifice was consecrated to Jehovah.
The Passover -- (pesach). The importance of the Passover sacrifice and festival is evident in the 49 times it is mentioned in the Old Testament. It comes from a root that means "to spare by passing or springing over." The Passover was celebrated at the full moon in the first month of the year [Abib=March/April] (Ex. 12). This sacrifice was clearly a memorial sacrifice commemorating the preservation of the lives of the firstborn of Israel in the tenth plague in Egypt.
Further information will be shared in an analysis of the sacrificial system of Israel in a later chapter. There are other minor terms used to describe Old Testament sacrifices but these are the most important. Several of the minor terms are derived from the same roots as those listed.
The New Testament Terms for Sacrifice. There are three primary New Testament terms that describe the sacrifice that is given. Each of the words describes the bringing of something to God. Each term reflects a different aspect of one's giving.
Sacrifice -- (thusia). The word "sacrifice" is found 29 times in the New Testament. It has the basic idea of something that is burned with its smoke rising into the air. It is a term that describes the finality or completion of the presentation. It is as though the animal has been slain, cut up and burned. The whole act of sacrificing is seen as completely finished. It is used of a wide variety of types of sacrifice from the idolatrous pagan sacrifices to the spiritual sacrifices of the believer-priest. Hence, it is used to describe not only the things presented in an offering but of the presentation of the offering to its proper recipient to the end that it is impossible to retrieve the thing offered. This is the only word used of the believer's priestly service of sacrifice.
Offering -- (prosphora). This word is found nine times in the New Testament and is used of Old Testament offerings (Heb. 10:5, 8) and the offering of Christ. It has the basic idea of bringing something to present to someone. Some believe that Romans 15:16 is the presentation of the believers themselves to God. It primarily emphasizes the thing that is given. Some translate it "gift," but the emphasis is upon the initiative taken to deliver the object being given.
Gift -- (doron). Gift is usually used to describe the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings in the kingdom. It comes from a root that emphasizes freedom in giving. There is no reluctance for giving the gift on the part of the giver. It is found in the New Testament 19 times and is always translated "gift."
The sacrifices of the believer-priest are only a part of the service of the priesthood. The New Testament only gives a few references to the sacrifices of the believer-priest, but it is very clear concerning what is involved. The instructions for sacrifice are spread throughout the revelation of Scripture for the grace believer. The sacrifices are a unique privilege that provide the Christian with great joy.
Not only is the thing sacrificed described but also the process or action involved in sacrificing in both the Old and New Testaments. The bringing of a sacrifice was complicated in the Old Testament. There is no complication for the bringing of the sacrifices of the grace believer. It is a straightforward, direct offering. A survey of the terms used will give a clearer understanding of the processes.
Old Testament Terms. In the Old Testament, an Israelite brought his sacrifice to a priest who would slay an animal and offer it or its parts on the altar. In a sense, the priest actually did the sacrificing as he stood as a mediator for the offerer. In some cases, the offerer would identify with the sacrifice by placing his hands on the head of the animal and may have assisted in the slaying of the animal. The priest actually divided the animal and placed a proper sacrifice upon the altar.
To Sacrifice -- (zahvach). The verb "to sacrifice" is not used of the priest's slaughtering victims in sacrifices, but of private persons individually offering sacrifice at their own expense through the priesthood. It emphasizes the act of slaughtering an animal as an offering to Jehovah. A portion of most sacrifices was shared with the priest and sometimes the offerer. A life was taken, blood was shed and then the animal was burned. In its 134 occurrences, it is normally used of the taking of life to be presented to God.
To Offer -- (qahrav). Occurring 279 times, the verb means "to come near or approach with an offering." Usually, the causative stem is used with the offering of a sacrifice (Lev. 27:11) emphasizing the initiative of the one who is bringing the sacrifice. Something is brought near to be presented. When the Old Testament individual brought something near, it was not really very near since there was a distance between the brazen altar and the Holy of Holies.
To Burn -- (qahtar). This verb has the idea of making smoke with fire. Either a sacrifice burning on the altar or burning incense make smoke, so the verb is used to describe both. It is found 115 ,times and translated "burn" or "burn incense." The fat of the offerings had a real potential for making great clouds of black smoke. The emphasis is on the odor produced by the offering. Generally, the verb describes a positive response to the smoke of the offering. When the sweet offerings were given, they gave forth a sweet-smelling fragrance to God (Ex. 29:18, 25; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12; 3:5, 16; 4:31; 6:9, 15; 8:21, 28; 9:13, 14, 17; Num. 5:26; 18:17).
To Bring -- (nahgash). This verb simply means to remove from one location and to bring it near to a new location. When it is used of the causing of the sacrifice to be brought near, it is only found in ten Old Testament passages (Ex. 32:6; Lev. 2:8; 8:14; Judg. 6:19; Amos 5:25; Mal. 1:7, 8; 2:12; 3:3). It has the idea of bringing something to present it to another person.
Other verbs are related to the Old Testament sacrifices, but these are the most important for grasping the idea of bringing a sacrifice. The waving, heaving and pouring out of the wave, heave and drink offerings are verbs that describe the action involved in those specific sacrifices. When one brought a sacrifice to God, it could be an action described by several verbs depending on the perspective of the offerer.
New Testament Terms. There are primarily four verbs that describe the bringing of a sacrifice in the New Testament.
To Sacrifice or Kill -- (thuo). This term is normally used for the Old Testament word (zahvach, "to sacrifice") in the Septuagint. It has the root idea of slaying a victim to offer it as a sacrifice. It is not used of the sacrifice of the believer-priest. It describes the sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor. 5:7), of the Passover sacrifice (Mark 14:12; Lu. 22:7) and of the sacrifices to idols and the demons behind the idols (Ac. 14:13, 18; 1 Cor. 10:20). In its ritualistic sense, it means to smoke or burn, and ultimately to offer any form of sacrifice. It occurs 14 times in the New Testament and is normally translated "sacrifice" or "kill" in the Authorized Version.
To Offer Up -- (anaphero). Several of the ten New Testament occurrences of this word describe the giving of sacrifices. It is a compound word that means "to bear upwards." It is used of the Old Testament offerings (Heb. 7:27; Jas. 2:21), of the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 7:27; 1 Pe. 2:24) and the sacrifice of the believer-priest (Heb. 13:15; 1 Pe. 2:5). It involves the priest's service of bringing something and placing it upon an altar. The believer should be knowingly and actively involved in sacrifice. The offering up is a definite action on the part of the individual believer.
To Pour Out -- (spendo). Even though the Authorized Version translates this word "offer' in its two New Testament occurrences, it actually means "to pour out." The Septuagint usess the term to translate (nahsak) meaning "to pour out" in the Hebrew. It has the idea of pouring out an offering as a libation. In later literature, it came to mean "the pouring out of blood in a violent death for the cause of God." Paul used the term of himself and of his prospect of being offered (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6).
To Offer -- (prosphero). This is also a compound form that dominates the New Testament references to sacrifices though it is never referring to the sacrifices of the believer-priest. It is found 48 times, most frequently in the book of Hebrews. It is a compound form that means "to bear or carry toward." As a result, it came to mean "the bringing of something to be given or the bearing of a gift or an offering. The term is employed to refer to the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 8:3; 9:14, 25, 28; 10:12), of the offerings under the Law (Matt. 8:4; Ac. 21:26; Heb. 5:1, 3; 8:3; 9:7, 9; 10:1, 2, 8, 11), of pre-Law offerings (Heb. 11:4, 17) as well as several other non-technical offering ideas.
To Present -- (paristemi). In Romans 12:1, this verb is used of the giving of the sacrifice of the human body. In its simple compound concept, it means "to stand alongside." It has the idea in Romans 12 of presenting or yielding. In several of its 39 occurrences, it carries this concept. In other words, it means to give someone something that belongs to him or her. The physical body of the believer belongs to the Lord and the sacrifice simply involves giving Him His purchased possession.
A sacrifice is giving something to God that is in the possession of the giver. All of the sacrifices of the grace believer are given because of appreciation for God's rights and provisions. Each sacrifice is an act of love for God by which the believer freely and willingly gives God his spiritual sacrifices. That which is given is solely the Lord's and is irretrievable after having been given. God "counts specific activities of the believer to be sacrifices. Activities done by the believer, knowing that they qualify to be sacrifices, are given to God; and because the believer is spiritual and has the right motives, God accepts the activity as a sacrifice counting it to be so.
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New Testament revelation concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest assumes that the readers understand the basic concepts of sacrificing in the Old Testament. Why did individuals offer sacrifices in the Old Testament? What was a proper sacrifice? How was the sacrifice handled? Who offered sacrifices? The answers to these questions provide the background to the whole idea of sacrifice. Some sacrifices were mandatory while others were voluntary. Some sacrifices were for covering over various aspects of Old Testament unrighteousness, while others were given simply to express appreciation to God for who He was and what He had done. Under Law, God provided a divergence of methods of sacrifice so that there would be no inequity in the system. The sacrifice made by a poor person who brought two doves was just as effective as the offering of a wealthy individual who could afford to bring a bullock. Under Law, specific procedures were mandated for the offering of the sacrifice. It is necessary to survey the Old Testament system in order to understand the New Testament privilege for the believer-priest that provides a clear contrast. Even before the Law was given, sacrifices were made to God. Before Exodus 20, several important sacrifices were offered to Jehovah.
One must evaluate each sacrifice that was made before the giving of the Mosaic Law in order to understand the normalcy of offering sacrifices. It is important to remember that there was no priesthood established for Israel at this time. In Abraham's era, Melchisedec was a priest of the Most High God, but he was an individual and evidently was involved with Abraham only one time. It is important to recognize that only a few select individuals offered sacrifices in the time of the patriarchs. Normally, the head of the household was the one who sacrificed as the representative of the whole family. He stood before God as the representative of specific members of the family and himself as well. Throughout Genesis, such arrangements are evident in the lives of the patriarchs. There are a variety of reasons the patriarch offered sacrifices.
When the first sacrifice was given is a question of interpretation of Scripture. Were there any sacrifices before the offerings of Cain and Abel? Some believe that the first sacrifice in the Bible was the slaying of the animals to make coats of skin for Adam and Eve after the fall. Since it was necessary to slay animals for their skins, it has been suggested that this was the first sacrifice. As a direct result of Adam's sin, he fell. Eve was a participant in that she was deceived and transgressed (1 Tim. 2:14). One of the first things Adam and Eve noticed after the fall was that they were naked [or stripped] (Gen. 3:7). They were no longer clothed and so found themselves naked because they had lost their garments of light that had clothed them prior to the fall. As a result, they sewed together the leaves [pl.] of a fig tree [maybe they ate figs instead of the traditional apple?] and made girdles to cover their nakedness. This was their condition when Jehovah found them as He walked in the Garden of Eden. Because of the fall, the serpent was cursed, the woman was penalized and the ground was cursed for Adam's sake. "Then Jehovah Elohim proceeded to make for Adam and his wife coats of skin, then He proceeded to clothe them (Gen. 3:21)." Several factors mitigate against the idea that the slaying of the animals by Jehovah was a sacrifice. It is true that this was the first blood shed in the taking of a life in human history. As a result, Adam and Eve were covered over with the animal skins. The shedding of blood did not cover Adam's sin. At the moment of eating, he died spiritually being separated from the life of God. He also began to die physically. The shedding of blood did not relate to the sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Blood was shed so Adam and Eve would have a durable covering for their naked bodies that were no longer clothed in garments of light. God provided the garments of skin to meet a need that Adam and Eve had in the physical realm and evidently the covering was satisfactory. True, innocent blood was shed, but so was the sap from the fig tree when the leaves of the fig tree were picked for the sewing of the girdle. God did not slay the animals for His own pleasure or satisfaction. He, Himself, slew the animals and did not need to make a sacrifice for Himself. Christ's sacrifice is the only sacrifice in which one Person of the Godhead directly gave a sacrifice to another Person. All three members of the Trinity were involved in the cross work of Christ. The killing of the animals in the Garden of Eden did not involve an altar or a fire. This prohibits the idea that the slaying of the animals of itself is a sacrifice. Scripture clearly identifies a number of sacrifices made to God before the giving of the Mosaic Law.
The Offerings of Cain and Abel. Whether there was an actual procedure for sacrifice involved in the offerings of Cain and Abel is not revealed in the Genesis account. It is clear that each son of Adam brought an offering, (minchah). The word translated offering simply referred to something that was brought as a gift to another. It is a very common word that comes from a Hebrew root (mahnach) that means "to give." Hence, it is something bestowed upon or given to another person with an emphasis on the fact of giving. "Then it came to be at [lit. from] the end of days that Cain proceeded to bring from the fruit of the ground an offering to Jehovah. And Abel, he also caused to be brought from the firstborn ones of his flocks and from their fat ones, then Jehovah came to focus His attention toward Abel and unto his offering, but unto Cain and unto his offering He did not focus His attention and Cain was very angry, then his face [or countenance] proceeded to fall (Gen. 4:3-5)." The procedure used by the brothers is not revealed in the narrative of Scripture. Each brother brought an offering and presented it as a gift to Jehovah. Why the offerings were brought is not revealed. Because of the record of verse seven, there is an indication that Cain had committed a sin that made his offering unacceptable to God. In this instance, there is no indication that the character of either offering in itself was repugnant to Jehovah, but the character of the offerer was unacceptable in the case of Cain. "Is it not so? If you cause to do good, lift up your face, but if you are not proceeding to cause to do good, a sin offering [or sin] is crouching [or lurking] at your tent's door, and unto you is its longing [or desire], and you will proceed to rule over it [or him] (Gen. 4:7)." The word translated "sin" is a feminine noun (though some grammarians identify this one instance as masculine because of the masculine pronouns) that occurs 281 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In the Pentateuch, it is most frequently translated "sin offering." A very common interpretation of verse seven is that a sin offering was available for a sin that Cain had committed and that God expected that offering to be a blood offering as was prescribed in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Because of this, Cain slew Abel as a sacrifice for a sin offering. One problem is why Cain denied knowing where Abel was when Jehovah confronted him with Abel's absence. If Abel was an offering to God, there is no good reason for Cain to hide such an offering from God because it would have been done to appease Jehovah. The New Testament affirms that he really did slay Abel as a sacrifice. Why Cain chose to deny knowledge of his brother's location is not revealed. It is clear that in the original offerings that the character of the individual who was bringing the offering was far more important than the character of the offering itself. God alone determined acceptability. It appears that both Cain and Abel gave the best they had; yet the character of Cain did not receive God's attention. Had Cain offered animals instead of produce, his offering would have been equally unacceptable to God. Had Abel brought fruit, his offering would have been accepted. God's analysis of Cain's condition is evident. "Not as Cain who was continually out of the evil one and slew as a sacrifice his brother; and for what reason did he slay him as a sacrifice? Because his works were continually evil, but the ones of his brother were righteous (1 Jn. 3:12)." The verb in this verse is frequently used of the slaying of an animal for a sacrifice, often by the slitting of the throat. The primary reason for Cain's denying knowledge of Abel's whereabouts is that he must have known that God rejected the death of Abel as a sacrifice. Because of the evil character of Cain, his offerings were absolutely unacceptable. The problem was in the offerer not the offering. The lesson that should be learned from this first offering is that God sovereignly chooses what is pleasing to Himself and evaluates the offerer rather than the offering. A proper heart attitude validates the acceptability of the offering to God.
The Offering of Noah. At the end of the Flood, Noah made burnt offerings on an altar to Jehovah. When Jehovah instructed Noah concerning the animal cargo for the ark, He specifically instructed Noah to collect pairs of unclean beasts and seven pairs [the Hebrew idiom is seven seven] of clean beasts (Gen. 7:2). When the Flood subsided and the land was habitable, they vacated the ark. Scripture describes the sacrifice that was given at that time. "Then Noah proceeded to build an altar [place of sacrifice] to Jehovah, then he proceeded to take from all the clean cattle and from all the clean birds, then he proceeded to offer up burnt offerings on [lit. in] the altar. Then Jehovah proceeded to smell a fragrant odor, then Jehovah proceeded to say in His heart; I will not begin to curse the ground again because of mankind, for the purpose of the heart of mankind is evil from his youth, and I will not begin to smite every living thing again like that which I have done now (Gen. 8:20, 21)." The sacrifice was not offered for a covering [i.e. protection] for sins, but in appreciation to Jehovah. It brought no grace for the salvation of Noah or his family. It was voluntary and acceptable to God as is evident in the Divine response. God blessed Noah and made a commitment to Himself that He would not again bring universal judgment upon the earth by flood "all the days of the earth (Gen. 8:22)." After He blessed Noah, He established the value of blood in the prohibition of the eating of blood even though at that point He terminated the requirements for a vegetarian diet (Gen. 9:4-6). It is clear that Noah shed blood in the sacrifice and the sacrificial animals were burned. Whether any part of the animal was eaten is not mentioned in Scripture. God had preserved the lives of Noah and his family, so Noah built an altar and presented an acceptable sacrifice to God in appreciation for His provision and protection. Noah was acting as the head of his family and performed the role of family priest.
The Sacrifices of Abraham. Of all the patriarchs, Abraham was one of the most involved in the activity of sacrifice in Scripture. He did not sacrifice very often in his long life. He was acting as the priestly head of his family when he offered his sacrifices. After Abram had entered the land of Canaan and given Lot the land of the plain, God promised Abram extensive land holdings and many offspring. At this point, He told Abram to walk through all the land that had been promised to him. As a result, Abram built an altar in Hebron (Gen. 13:18). It appears that Abram used the altar only one time in response to the land and seed promises that God had made and left the altar standing as a monument to his personal appreciation. He was an unsaved man who made an altar to Jehovah whom he considered to be one of several deities. He did not believe God and have God count it to him for righteousness until God promised him an heir through Sarah in Genesis 15:4-6 (cf. Rom. 4:1-5). The formal ratification of that covenant was accomplished by dividing animals and having each party of the covenant pass between the parts of the animal. The slaying of the animals to affirm the covenant was not a sacrifice but a solemn commitment that was sealed by the activity. As a result of this procedure when a covenant was made in the Old Testament, it is described as the cutting of a covenant in the Hebrew text.
Scripture records the offering of Isaac as the next sacrificial event in Abraham's life. Hebrews 11:17-20 identifies this as one of the few acts of faith in Abraham's life. Abraham had faith that if Isaac was actually slain as a sacrifice, God would raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:19). He really did intend to offer up Isaac for a sacrifice. Both the Old and New Testament accounts indicate that the reason God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was to put Abraham to the test (Gen. 22:1; Heb. 11:17). "... And cause to offer him [Isaac] there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will come to tell you (Gen. 22:2)." The sacrifice required wood [i.e. combustible material) (22:3), fire (22:6, 7), an altar (22:9) and a sacrifice (22:9). The procedure for sacrifice was clear. An altar was built. Wood was placed upon the altar. The sacrificial victim was bound to the altar. Then the sacrifice was slain and fire was applied to the wood. The offering was consumed by the fire (22:3-14). Abraham offered Isaac as a simple act of obedience without having any sin to be covered. Abraham considered the sacrifice a part of his worship (22:5). It was a burnt offering (22:2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 13). Abraham evidently followed every aspect of the normal procedure to the point that he was actually ready to plunge the knife into Isaac and take his life (22:10). At that point, the Angel of Jehovah intervened (22:10, 11). Abraham passed the test and was proven to have genuine faith in God. "Then he proceeded to say, stop stretching out your hand unto the young man and stop doing anything to him; for now I know that you are a fearer of Elohim and you have not withheld your one (or only] son from me (Gen. 22:12)." What Abraham understood as an act of obedience and faith was described to Isaac as an act of worship that in reality was an act of fear for Jehovah. As a result, God accepted the sacrifice of the ram that He provided (22:13) just as well as He would have accepted the sacrifice of Isaac. One must recognize that the sacrificing of Isaac would have cost Abraham everything of importance to him, but he had faith that God would raise Isaac up from the dead (Heb. 11:19). The ram that Jehovah provided cost Abraham nothing. A sacrifice does not always cost the offerer something. As is evident in Abraham's case, it was the faith of the offerer that was actually counted to be of value.
The Sacrifices of Job. In the era of Job, sacrifices were offered. Whether Job lived in the era of Abraham or before or after is a question that when answered will establish his place in the chronology of the patriarchal development of sacrifice. Job had a reputation for righteousness that carried late into Israel's history (Ezek. 14:14). "There was a man in the land of Uz, his name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright [or straight] and a fearer of God, and he turned away from evil (Job 1:1)." Job had seven sons and three daughters who were involved in a rotating feast. "Then it came to be that when the days of the feast had gone around, then Job proceeded to send, and then sanctify them and caused himself to rise early in the morning, and caused to offer up burnt offerings according to the number of all of them, for Job said, Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Job performed like this all the [or his] days (Job 1:5)." Job offered a series of sacrifices for his children as the head of the family. Every time there was a possibility that his children had sinned, he offered a burnt offering throughout his life after he had children. He was afraid that they had sinned and cursed God and so as a preventative measure, offered offerings in an attempt to appease God if that was possible. "Curse" is a translation of the Hebrew (bahrak) that normally means "to bless," but here context supports the concept of cursing or blaspheming as in 1 Kings 21:10, 13. Job offered sacrifices all the days of his life. At any time there was a possibility that his children had sinned in some way, he would again offer a sacrifice. Even if he simply imagined the possibility, he offered sacrifices to make certain that they stood before God as individuals for whom a burnt offering had been made. The text clearly indicates that Job would offer at least one offering for each of his children [i.e. at least ten burnt offerings each time]. Because of his great wealth and holdings, he could afford to offer these sacrifices as often as he wished (Job 1:3). It is important to notice these were burnt offerings. Under Law, the burnt offering was offered to produce a sweet fragrance to God and not as a covering for sin. Whether Job considered his offering to be a covering for sin by the offering of a substitute, or whether he gave the offering to God so God would look upon his sons graciously is not clear in the text. He functioned as the head of the household performing priestly service as the household priest and did so on behalf of himself and his family. It is clear that the reason for Job's offerings was his concern for his family. Exactly how many times he offered the sacrifices is not clear in Scripture except that he did it throughout his lifetime. He understood his responsibility as household priest to carry beyond the childhood of his children, since he carried it on into their adult lives when they had their own homes (1:4). Until his death, he considered his giving of burnt offerings to Jehovah to be an essential part of his life before God. It was an important part of his sanctifying [or setting apart] of his family (1:5). These burnt offerings took time. It is no wonder that he rose up early in the morning when at least ten burnt offerings were to be offered. Once Job had an altar or altars constructed, he could use them repeatedly, but the very procedure of slaying and burning was time consuming. Job considered it to be his fatherly responsibility to provide a sweet smell to appease Jehovah.
The book of Job begins with a sacrifice and ends with a sacrifice. Throughout all of Job's dialogues with his friends in the book of Job, he was right in what he said. God counted him to be a righteous man and all his difficulties were not the result of unrighteous behavior on his part. As a result of his discussions with his friends, his three friends were forced to offer burnt offerings to God. "Then it came to be after Jehovah had spoken these words unto Job, Jehovah proceeded to say to Eliphaz the Temanite, my anger glows hot against you and against your two friends; because you have not spoken right [lit. firm, established] concerning me, like my servant Job has. And now therefore take for yourselves seven bullocks and seven rams and go unto my servant Job, and cause to offer up a burnt offering for yourselves; and my servant Job will begin to pray for you; for his face I will accept [or lift up] so that I will not do with you according to your folly, for you have not spoken right [lit. firm, established] concerning me, like my servant Job has. Then Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite proceeded to go, they proceeded to do as Jehovah had spoken unto them; Jehovah accepted [or lifted up] the face of Job (Job 42:7-9)." Job's righteous character had made him acceptable to God. His acceptability was reflected in God's accepting his prayer for his friends. In a sense, Job was acting in the role of a priest for them in that he communicated to God for them. Whether each friend was required to bring 14 animals or not is not clear. The second person plural pronoun in verse seven could indicate that they were collectively to bring 14 animals or that individually they were to bring 14 animals apiece [for a total of 42 animals]. If it was a collective requirement, God was cleverly forcing a unity between the three that was not evident in their dialogues with Job. One only needs to read the dialogues with Job to see that these three men would have a major problem agreeing with one another on any thing. One can only imagine the resulting problems that existed when they attempted to divide the required 14 animals between the three of them. One would only have to bring two animals while the others brought three. Who would bring rams and who would bring bullocks [the more valuable animal]? It makes better sense that Jehovah required 14 animals from each man - a rather substantial requirement and expense. No sin was involved in their dialogue with Job, but they were wrong -- unrighteous. God would not accept them without their burnt offerings and Job's prayer of intercession for them. God accepted Job's prayer because of their burnt offerings. Job and his three friends sacrificed a large number of animals as is recorded in the book of Job. Job acted as a priest for his household and in this one instance for others outside of the household in response to God's command.
The Sacrifice by Isaac. In the lifetime of Isaac, there was a famine in the land (Gen. 26:1) beside the one that had come in the days of Abraham (Gen. 12:10). Jehovah appeared to Isaac and told him to remain in Canaan rather than to go to Egypt as Abraham had (Gen. 12:10). God reaffirmed to Isaac the promises made to Abraham (Gen. 26:2-5). When Abraham was in Egypt, he lied about Sarah, his wife, and the Egyptians suffered the results of the lie (Gen. 12:11-20). Isaac followed his father's example and lied about Rebekah and had trouble with Abimelech, the king of the Philistines (Gen. 26:6-11). Ultimately, Abimelech asked Isaac to leave the land of the Philistines because of Isaac's overwhelming prosperity. From the land of the Philistines, Isaac went to Gerar and began digging wells for water to provide relief from the drought. After each well was completed, the herdsman of Gerar would claim that they had water rights and fought with Isaac's servants. They let Isaac do all the work and claimed the results for themselves. Finally, Isaac relocated and dug a well and named the place Rehobath meaning "the well of the oath." He had been ejected from at least two other locations in the land (26:17-27) that God had promised him through Abraham (Gen. 26:2-5). At last he had found a site where he could dig a well and not have it contested by the inhabitants of the land. The reason he named the place Rehobath was "Because Jehovah has caused broad spaces to be for us and we will be fruitful in the land (Gen. 26:22)." From there Isaac went to Beersheba (26:23). There Jehovah reaffirmed His covenants with Abraham and his seed. "Then Jehovah appeared unto him in that night, and proceeded to say, I am the Elohim of Abraham your father. Stop fearing for I am with you, and I will bless you, and cause your seed to multiply because of Abraham my servant (26:24)." Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of Jehovah. He used the altar at least once and may have used it more frequently. He built the altar in appreciation for Jehovah's reaffirmation of the covenants that He had made with Abraham. Isaac did plan to stay in Beersheba for a period of time because he pitched his tent there and dug a well (26:25). It was here that Abimelech found Isaac and came to make a treaty of peace. Isaac gave a sacrifice in response to God's promises. When Isaac had a measure of assurance that the covenant would be fulfilled, he made an altar. God had affirmed the covenants when Isaac was at Gerar among the Philistines (Gen. 26:2-5), but he did not offer a sacrifice there. He waited until he was certain that he had land as his personal possession before he offered a sacrifice expressing his appreciation to Jehovah for the continuation of the covenant promises that had been given to Abraham. It is highly probable that the altar may have been built after Isaac's servants had dug the well and found water (26:32) and no one had attempted to take it away from him. He gave the name "Beersheba" to the place because this was the seventh well they had dug. The name means "well number seven." The name was only given after they had discovered that the well was productive. There is no record of Isaac's offering any other sacrifices at any other locations in his lifetime.
The Sacrifices of Jacob or Israel. Abraham and Job had been involved in a majority of the sacrifices recorded in Genesis until Jacob came on the scene. One would not expect the Usurper or Supplanter [the meaning of Jacob's name] to be an offerer of many sacrifices, but Scripture records five different sacrifices that were offered by Jacob. Not one sacrifice involved a covering for any form of unrighteousness. God was not counting sin to be sin when there was no law between the time of Adam until the time of Moses and the giving of the Law. "For until the law, that which had the quality of sin continually was in the world, but sin is not counted to be so [i.e. imputed] when there is not a law existing (Rom. 5:13)." There was no need for atonement because God did not consider that there was a need for covering unrighteous behavior. Jacob's sacrifices were made at important times in his life. After the theft of Esau's birthright and the dream of the ladder, Jacob went to Padan-aram to Laban his maternal uncle. He worked for Laban in order to get Rachel for his wife, but Laban deceived him and gave him Leah for a wife instead. He was required to work another seven years for Rachel. Finally, after fourteen years of labor, Jacob had acquired two wives. After six more years of labor for Laban, Jacob was a wealthy man and left Laban with his family and personal wealth.
Jacob was confident that Jehovah had permitted him to come away from Laban wealthy (Gen. 31:42). Ultimately, Jacob made a covenant with Laban. After the covenant was made and ratified, Jacob sacrificed a sacrifice as a part of the pact. Some believe that such a sacrifice was simply a meal that was shared with Jehovah or any other deity. Because there was an eating of food in this instance, this passage is used to prove that the motivation for early sacrificing was to sit down and share a meal with Jehovah. "Then Jacob proceeded to sacrifice a sacrifice in the mountain, then he called his brothers to eat food, then they proceeded to eat food, then they lodged in the mountain (Gen. 31:54)." What the food was is not identified in the text. The word (lechem) [or "bread"] is used in its most normal way to describe food in general. Jacob's sacrifice was his response to the covenant that he had made with Laban. Jacob's sacrifice was made because of the fear of his father Isaac for Jehovah (cf. 31:42, 53). He identified with his father's fear throughout his servitude and again as he entered into the land promised to Abraham, his grandfather. Evidently, he gave his sacrifice as an expression of gratitude to Jehovah for the safe delivery of Jacob and all that he had from Laban's bondage.
Jacob's recognition of Jehovah's deliverance was short lived. When he thought of facing Esau, he was again possessed by personal fear rather than the fear of Jehovah. Even a meeting with the angels of God did not dissuade his personal fear (31:1, 2). He manipulated his possessions and sent Esau a gift from fear that Esau would come and destroy him. In fear, he sent all that he had before himself and his family. He had not responded to the angels of God, so Jehovah Himself confronted Jacob in a wrestling match through whom Jacob gained a new name, a blessing and a crippled leg. Ultimately, his meeting with Esau was a peaceful event and they parted their ways on a friendly basis. Jacob purchased property in Shechem (Gen. 33:18, 19) and built an altar there that he called "El-elohe-Israel" [God the God of Israel]. The altar was constructed in appreciation for a portion of the land that had been promised to his fathers and that he had purchased for himself. He had arrived in safety and had a place to settle. As a result, he unashamedly identified himself with Jehovah who had made his arrival possible. No procedure for sacrifice is described nor is the number of times Jacob used the altar for sacrifice given.
Jacob had some difficulties in Shechem. His daughter, Dinah, was raped by Shechem who attempted to arrange a marriage with her. Ultimately, Dinah's brothers, Levi and Simeon, killed all the males in Shechem. Jacob was more concerned that his reputation in the land would be affected by their deed than he was concerned about the rape of his daughter. As a result, God directed him to relocate at Bethel. "Then Elohim proceeded to say unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make an altar there to Elohim, who appeared unto you in your flight from the face of Esau, your brother (Gen. 35:1)." Jacob became a monotheist at that time. He demanded that his household destroy all of the foreign gods that they had brought with them. They were to cleanse themselves and change their garments. His motivation for going to Bethel was more for the construction of the altar than for fleeing from Shechem. "And let us arise and let us go up to Bethel; and I will proceed to make an altar there to Elohim, the One who is answering me in the day of my distress and was with me in the way that I was walking (Gen. 35:3)." As a result, Jacob's family gave Jacob their foreign gods and their earrings and Jacob hid them under an oak tree in Shechem (35:4). Jacob then returned to Bethel after many years of absence. Undoubtedly, he was reminded of the dream of the ladder with the descending and ascending angels and his previous changing of the name of Luz to Bethel (Gen. 28:10-22). "Then he proceeded to build an altar there, then he proceeded to call the place "El-beth-El" [God of Bethel] because there Elohim had revealed Himself unto him in his flight from the face of his brother (Gen. 35:7)." Evidently, sacrifice was made, but it is not described in the passage. In Genesis 28:22, Jacob set up a stone that was set upon a pillar that was to be Elohim's house. He returned to the same location more than twenty years later and built an altar. Bethel had probably been one of the stops on Jacob's journey from Haran to Shechem. At that time, he had set up a pillar in response to God's promise. It is possible that Bethel was the site of the wrestling match between Jacob and Jehovah because it was as a result of the match that Jehovah blessed Jacob and changed his name (Gen. 32:24-32). It would have been an important place for meeting with Jehovah. Genesis 35:14, 15 says, "Then Jacob proceeded to set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, then he proceeded to pour out upon it a poured out offering [drink offering], and he proceeded to call the name of the place where Elohim had spoken with him, Bethel." This is the first clear record of a drink offering being poured out to God. Soon after his departure from Bethel, Jacob lost Rachel and he returned and buried her there placing another pillar on her grave as a memorial pillar (Gen. 35:20). When Jacob departed from Bethel, there remained two pillars and an altar. Sacrifices had been offered on the altar and Jacob had been reminded of the drink offering and oil poured upon the pillar as a result of his wrestling with Elohim. The altar was made in obedience to God and the sacrifices were offered in appreciation for God's covenants with the fathers and their affirmation to himself.
With the events that led to Joseph's servitude in Egypt, Jacob or Israel suffered grief. His other ten sons had told him that Joseph had been slain by a beast and showed evidence to support their story. He was filled with sorrow because the sons of Rachel were his favorites. During the many years that intervened, Joseph became a ruler in Egypt. israel had no idea that Joseph was still alive. When famine came to Canaan, Israel was forced to send his sons to Egypt for food. Ultimately, through a series of events, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and sent for his father. Jacob was reluctant at first to believe when his sons reported that Joseph was alive and had sent for him because "... His heart fainted [or grew cold] for he did not believe them (Gen. 45:26)." When he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to take him to Egypt "... The spirit of Jacob their father proceeded to live (45:27)." "Then Israel journeyed and all that belonged to him, then he came to Beersheba; then he sacrificed sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac (Gen. 46:1)." Blood sacrifice was again made in appreciation. In a vision, Jehovah communicated to Jacob that his seed would prosper and that he would be protected in Egypt. As a result of the confidence that was reflected in his sacrifice, he went into Egypt. In each of the sacrifices offered by Jacob, he offered them as the head of his household. He acted as priest for himself and his family. In most instances, there was a clear promise given by Jehovah to Jacob that his children would receive the blessings of the covenants made with Abraham.
The Proposed Sacrifice of the Nation Israel. At the conclusion of the 400 years in Egypt, God determined that Israel was to leave Egypt and to enter into the land promised to Abraham. He raised up Moses to lead the people in the Exodus. After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to the wilderness and was there tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro. The Angel of Jehovah appeared to him in the burning bush. At that time Jehovah gave Moses specific instructions concerning the departure of Israel from Egypt. "And I have said, I will proceed to bring you [pl.] up from the affliction of Egypt into the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perezzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, into a land that is flowing with milk and honey. And they will listen [or respond or obey] to your voice and you will come, you and the elders of Israel unto the king of Egypt, and you [pl.] will say unto him: Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, has met with [lit. upon] us, and now let us proceed to go, we entreat you, a journey [or way] of three days in the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to Jehovah our God (Ex. 3:17, 18)." God did not prescribe any particular method of sacrifice because He knew that Pharaoh would not permit their going (cf. 3:19 Heb.). In the first visit of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, they gave a very clear picture of the situation that brought their request. "Then they proceeded to say, The God of the Hebrews has called [or met] unto us; let us proceed to go, we entreat you, a journey [or way] of three days into the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to Jehovah our God; lest He begins to strike us with the pestilence or with the sword (Ex. 5:3)." Pharaoh emphasized his refusal by increasing the workload for the Israelites. He attributed their desire to go and offer sacrifice to laziness (5:8) and described their request as vain and false words (5:9). When the frogs of the second plague frustrated Pharaoh enough, he asked the Israelites to entreat Jehovah and have the frogs removed promising to send the Israelites away to sacrifice to Jehovah (Ex. 8:8). When Pharaoh saw that there was relief from the frogs, he hardened his heart and refused to listen to the Israelites just as Jehovah had predicted (8:15). In the fifth plague of flies or beetles, Pharaoh proposed a compromise concerning the sacrifice. He suggested that Israel remain in the land of Egypt and sacrifice there with the king's permission (8:25). Moses' response indicates the character of the sacrifice when he said, "It would not be right (or established] to do thus; because we would proceed to sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to Jehovah our God, behold, if we proceed to sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before [or for] their eyes, then will they not stone us (8:26)?" Moses knew the strength of the religious conviction of the Egyptian people concerning the sacrilege that would be committed if the Israelites sacrificed sheep. It was an abomination in the whole system of Egyptian religion.
Finally, Pharaoh agreed to let them go; but after the flies or beetles were removed, Pharaoh hardened his heart again. An important aspect of the sacrifice that was to be offered in the wilderness was that this was to be a service to God. When Jehovah gave his instructions to Moses, He told him that he would serve Jehovah on the same mountain (Ex. 3:12). Moses would be the leader in the sacrifice. It was his leadership in the sacrificing that would actually accomplish the service to Jehovah. When Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh the first time, they were rejected (Ex. 7:10-13). In the morning of the next day, when Pharaoh went down to the river, Moses met him there and confronted him again. God had given the exact words to be spoken by Moses. "Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, has sent me unto you saying: Send away my people and they will proceed to serve me in the wilderness; and, behold, you have not listened until now (Ex. 7:16)." As a result of Pharaoh's hardened heart, the water of the Nile was turned to blood in the first plague (Ex. 7:17-25). The making of a sacrifice was a part of their service to God as they presented their proposal before Pharaoh. They asked Pharaoh to permit Israel to go to sacrifice while Moses asked that they be permitted to go and serve God (7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 26). In three instances, Pharaoh commanded them to go and serve Jehovah, but changed his mind (10:7, 11, 24). When the deaths of the firstborn took place, he demanded that they go and serve Jehovah for the last time (12:31). Such service simply involved sacrifice and a simple form of worship. Moses and Aaron would have led the services for the whole nation as designated, acceptable representatives and leaders of the people.
In the ninth plague of darkness (Ex. 10:21-27), after three days of the darkness, Pharaoh gave Israel permission to go, on the condition that they leave their livestock behind. Moses' response gives more details for the intended sacrificing, expanding it to sacrifices and burnt offerings. "Then Moses proceeded to say: Also you, even you, will proceed to give in our hands sacrifices and burnt offerings, and we will do what must be done for Jehovah our God, and also our livestock will proceed to go with us, a hoof will not remain behind; for we must take from it to serve Jehovah until our coming there (Ex. 10:25, 26)." When Moses approached Pharaoh, he did not present any procedure for sacrificing. As yet, Israel did not have a priesthood. Most of the people did not have any concept concerning who Jehovah was (Ex. 3:13-15). After 400 years, the nation had forgotten what little they knew about Jehovah. When Moses came and told them that they were to sacrifice, undoubtedly, they thought of the sacrifices of the Egyptians to their pantheon of deities. Israel had degenerated to a kind of polytheism that included Jehovah who was identified as one of the deities that was especially identified with Israel. It is interesting to notice that there is a distinction inferred between sacrifices and burnt offerings. Pharaoh and the rest of the Israelites must have related the two terms to Egyptian practices of adoration and propitiation by sacrifice. The actual sacrifice was not offered until a priestly system was organized and the equipment for sacrifice was manufactured after the giving of the Law at Sinai. Aaron was involved in an aborted attempt at sacrifice that failed. When the sacrificial system was established, the goal of their exodus from Egypt was accomplished. A three-day journey into the wilderness was extended to three years before the actual sacrifices could be offered. The sons of Israel attempted to hurry the sacrifice up by the worshipping of the golden calf at Sinai, but God terminated the sacrilege requiring that sacrifices be offered in His way and according to His timetable.
The Sacrifice at Passover. The events of the feast of Passover required under Law had their roots in the actual Passover event before the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law. The slaying of the Passover lamb is identified as a sacrifice (Ex. 12:27). A survey of the Passover gives a picture of the Passover sacrifice that was later implemented in the Mosaic Law of feasts and sacrifices. The tenth plague took the lives of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. In order for Israel to be protected from the death of their own firstborn, Jehovah established a procedure for the Israelites to follow. On the tenth day of the month, a man was to take one lamb for his house (12:3). The size of the family determined the extent of involvement (12:4) based on the amount of food that would be consumed. The lamb for sacrifice was to be tested for three and a half days to make certain that it met the requirements. "A complete [or sound) lamb, a male of a year old it will be for you; from the sheep and from the goats you may proceed to keep it (12:5)." In the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, they were to kill the animal (12:6) and put the blood from it upon the side posts and lintel of the door of the house in which the lamb was to be eaten (12:7). The animal was roasted over a fire and completely eaten (12:8-10). The blood was a sign on the houses and Jehovah would pass over the house when the firstborn of Egypt were slain (12:11, 12). The events of the feast were established at that time. "And this day will be for you for a remembrance [or memorial]; and you will celebrate it as a feast to Jehovah for your generations, you will celebrate it as a statute forever (12:14)." Moses ordered that the procedure be done and instructed the elders of Israel to lead in the matter. The perpetuation of the Passover was required. "And YOU will guard this thing as a statute for you and for your sons forever, and it will be that when you finally come into the land that Jehovah will proceed to give to you like that which He has spoken, and you will guard this service. And it will be that when your sons begin to say unto you: What is this service to you? Then you will say, It is a sacrifice of Passover to Jehovah who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and He caused to deliver our houses, and the people bowed down and proceeded to worship for themselves (Ex. 12:24-27)." As a result, the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain and the firstborn of the obedient Israelites were protected as God fulfilled His word. Because they were passed over, the firstborn males of Israel both human and animal were considered to be sacrifices given to Jehovah (Ex. 13:15). This sacrifice required the shedding of blood. The blood was a covering for a specific purpose. It was not a burnt offering but was simply applied to the doors of the Israelites. Every head of house had to make certain that the sacrifice was made and made in a proper way for it to be sufficient for his family. God protected those covered by the sacrifice. The Passover events were an ideal way to refocus the attention of the polytheistic Israelites toward Jehovah as the one true God. They learned the importance of sacrifice, a lesson that carried throughout the history of Israel. Blood was shed and the family participated in the eating of the sacrifice required by God. They learned that the survival of the complete family was dependent on obedience to Jehovah.
The Sacrifice of Jethro. Jethro is identified as a priest of Midian in Scripture (Ex. 2:16; 3:1; 18:1) and Moses' father-in-law (Ex. 3:1; 18:1). Upon hearing of the works of Jehovah toward Israel, Jethro met Moses at Sinai [or Horeb] with his daughter and grandchildren. Moses had been tending Jethro's flock on Horeb when he had the burning bush experience (Ex. 3). Moses gave a detailed report of Jehovah's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. In response, Jethro rejoiced in the things that Jehovah had done for Israel. "Then Jethro proceeded to say, Being blessed is Jehovah who caused you to be delivered from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all the gods, for in the very thing in which they were arrogant He was over them (Ex. 18:10, 11)." Jethro recognized the irony of Jehovah's victory over the Egyptians and over the gods of Egypt in the ten plagues. Evidently, Jethro believed in a multiplicity of deities, but was absolutely convinced that Jehovah was the Supreme God. His response to his conviction concerning the greatness of Jehovah was expressed in sacrifice. "Then Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, proceeded to take a burnt offering and sacrifices for Elohim; then Aaron proceeded to come and all the elders of Israel to eat food with Moses' father-in-law before the face of Elohim (Ex. 18:12)." For the first time in the history of Israel, an individual who held the office of priest offered burnt offerings and sacrifices to Jehovah. Jethro reacted as a priest who was performing sacrifice in response to Jehovah's power and greatness that was manifested in the miracles of the Exodus events. It appears that Jethro had more sense than the whole nation of Israel. He saw the opportunity for sacrifice and stepped in and did the job. Jethro did not offer the burnt offerings and sacrifices for himself, his family or for Moses, but for the whole nation as is evidenced in the assembling of the elders with Aaron at the time of the offering.
The first public sacrifice of the Exodus was offered by a Midianite [a non-Israelite] priest. He was a polytheist to the extent that he recognized the abilities of other deities. He recognized that Jehovah was worthy of sacrifice and offering. Ultimately, Jethro was convinced of the absolute superiority of Jehovah and acted as a priest to Jehovah. A non-Israelite gave sacrifices and burnt offerings to Jehovah that were acceptable to Him. Because he was a priest, these were not the first burnt offerings or sacrifices he had made in his lifetime. It is possible that he had offered sacrifices to Jehovah previously, but Scripture is silent in the matter. When Moses reported the experience at the burning bush, he asked permission to go to Egypt. Jethro gave him permission to go. It would have been natural for a priest to go and offer sacrifices on Horeb because of Moses' report. Jehovah was dealing with a non-Israelite when He accepted Jethro's sacrifices. The next day Jehovah used Jethro to prepare the nation for the events at Sinai. Moses acted as a mediator between the people and God and was already overworked and overwhelmed. Jethro suggested that Moses select other men to do the judging and that Moses go before Jehovah in determining the hard matters (Ex. 18:13-26). Moses accepted his advice and then sent him away. "Then Moses proceeded to send his father-in-law away; and he proceeded to go for himself into his own land (18:27)."
Jethro was a Midianite priest who was in the habit of acting as a priest. There is no record as to whom and for whom he performed his priestly service prior to the events at Horeb, but at Horeb he acted as a priest to Jehovah. As a result of his knowledge of Jehovah, he evidently focused all of his priestly activities toward Jehovah after being with Moses at Sinai. God was dealing with a few people other than Israel at that time. He accepted the burnt offerings and sacrifices made by Jethro for the nation. Jethro was not acting as the head of a household. Israel already recognized Moses as a man who had access to God (Ex. 18:15, 19). Jethro reinforced the fact that a priest was necessary for such access by the normal Israelite. He gave sacrifices for Moses as well as Aaron, the elders of Israel and the nation as a whole. When he gave the burnt offerings and sacrifices, he gave them in appreciation for the character and conduct of Jehovah for delivering the nation from the Egyptians.
Before the giving of the Law, sacrifices were generally given by the heads of households acting as priests for the whole family. God had not established a procedure for sacrificing. He looked on the character of man and based His acceptance or rejection of the sacrifice on his heart attitude. As a result, Jehovah rejected Cain's sacrifice from the fruit of the ground and accepted Jacob's drink offering that was also from the fruit of the ground. There was no organized priesthood. Most of the sacrifices that were given before the Law were given either in obedience to Jehovah's commandment or in appreciation for what Jehovah had done. Many of the sacrifices were burned on altars. It may have been that all of them were burned [including the Passover], but Scripture is silent in many details. Even the Passover sacrifice was burned and eaten by the people in the original event. God was accepting sacrifices before the Law was given. There was no manual establishing sacrificial procedure, so a man used what knowledge he had for offering the sacrifice. The pre-Law sacrifices establish the fact that procedure was secondary, while the heart attitude was of primary importance to God. When Jethro offered a sacrifice for Israel, he was not an Israelite though he was a believer in Jehovah. It was normally necessary for the sacrificer to construct an altar of stones on which to burn the sacrifice. Combustible materials were necessary to do the burning. The animal was slain and then burned. In most cases, Jehovah accepted the sacrifices when he saw proper motives on the part of the offerer. The sacrifices did not provide or purchase any form of salvation from Jehovah. These sacrifices had the same affect on Jehovah as those so carefully designed under the Law to express appreciation to Jehovah.
When the Mosaic Law was given, it established an elaborate system of sacrifices and offerings. It prescribed the proper place, persons and procedures for all of the different sacrifices available to Israel. Heads of families acting as priests could no longer make sacrifices, but specific individuals who were of the right family and tribe were the actual makers of sacrifice. The Law limited sacrificing to one location that was very inconvenient for an Israelite living a great distance from the tabernacle or temple. The sacrificial system was another restraint placed upon Israel. Under the Law, Israel was in prison (Gal. 3:23 Gk) and in a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1). Sacrifice was no longer a voluntary activity but was a clearly defined responsibility under well-defined circumstances. It made no difference whether the offerer of the sacrifice was a believer or not. He was still required to keep the law of sacrifices or suffer the consequences. The person who offered the sacrifice was forced to expend his resources in order to meet the requirements of the Law. It was both inconvenient and expensive to be involved in the sacrificial system. Levitical law prescribed a wide variety of sacrifices and offerings that could be offered. Leviticus established the sacrificial system. There were two types of sacrifices described in Leviticus: the sweet savor offerings (1:3-3:17) and the non-sweet offerings (4:1-6:7). Sacrifices could be blood sacrifices or non-blood sacrifices (as the meal and drink offerings). Only a portion of the sacrifices was designed to make a covering for sin, while most were for totally different purposes. The purpose of this section is to provide a survey of the Levitical sacrifices that should provide a basis for understanding New Testament sacrifices for the grace believer-priest.
The Place of Sacrifice. Before the Israelites could offer any sacrifice, it was necessary to have a place for sacrifice. A major part of the giving of the Law was the blueprint for the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:1-40:38) and its furniture. It is important to see that God gave the plans for the building of the tabernacle from the inside out (Ex. 25:10-27:8; 37:1-38:8). He was looking at construction from His place of residency between the cherubim of the ark toward the outside. The brazen altar (27:1-8) or the altar of burnt offerings (30:1-7) was the next to the last item on the list and provided a place for sacrifice. It was one of the closest utensils to the nation, but the farthest from Jehovah. When Solomon built the temple, he followed careful plans (1 Ki. 6, 7; 2 Chron. 3, 4) that included utensils for offering sacrifice in Jerusalem. When Ezra rebuilt the temple, he made facilities available for sacrifice.
Under the Law, the place of sacrifice involved a specific geographical, location. From Sinai, to entry into Canaan, the tabernacle with the manifestation of the glory of Jehovah determined the geographical location for the whole nation that encamped in assigned locations around the tabernacle. Every sacrifice was taken to the center of the encampment to be offered. A large part of the forty years in the wilderness found the tabernacle at Kadesh. Evidently, it was set up at Gilgal just before entry into the land (Josh. 4:19; 5:10; 9:6, 10:6, 43). Upon entry into the land, the tabernacle was set up at Shiloh (Josh. 18:1; 19:51). By the end of the era of the judges, its permanence in Shiloh had finally given it the designation of temple (1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3). Ultimately, the ark was taken from the tabernacle by the Philistines and then returned to Israel and then the ark remained at Kidath-Jearim for a period of twenty years (1 Sam. 4:10-7:2). After sojourns in Nob (1 Sam. 21:1-9) and Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:39; 21:29), the tabernacle was placed in Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant was returned to the new tabernacle under David (2 Sam. 6:12-19). How often the rituals of the Law were performed is uncertain. The place of sacrifice was in Jerusalem with the tabernacle and then in the Solomonic temple (1 Ki. 6:1-9:10). Solomon's temple remained the center of sacrifice until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B. C. In 537 B. C., Cyrus gave orders for the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel (2 Chron. 36:23; Ezra 1:1-4). It was started and after a fifteen year delay was completed in 516 B. C. and dedicated (Ezra 6:15-22). Once again there was a place for sacrifice. In 20-19 B. C., Herod began construction of a new temple that was completed about 64 A.D., about six years before the Romans destroyed it. An Israelite, who expected to offer a sacrifice, had to go to a specific geographical location. Unless he lived in the city where the tabernacle or temple was, he was required to go to that location in order to offer his sacrifice. He was bound by his tribe to an assigned portion of land that could not be changed. In some instances, this created a great inconvenience for the offerer. Even though David established a second tabernacle in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:17-19; 1 Chron. 16:1), the old tabernacle remained in Gibeon and was used as a second place of sacrifice until Solomon's temple was completed. David's new tabernacle had the original ark of the covenant while the original tabernacle was in Gibeon. Because of this, there were two tabernacles where sacrifices were legitimately offered. With the division of the kingdom, the ten tribes attempted to change or add a second place of sacrifice to the Solomonic temple by building a temple on Mount Gerizim in 432 B. C. John Hyrcanus destroyed it in 110 B.C. One of the main complaints of the ten tribes was the inconvenience of going to Jerusalem to perform religious duties to Jehovah. They attempted to establish a rival temple after their amalgamation with foreign peoples and became known as Samaritans as a result of the Assyrian captivity. The geographical location was important but inconvenient for the offerer of the sacrifices.
Not only was there a geographical location to which sacrifices were brought, but there was also a specific instrument for sacrifice. An altar [lit. a place of sacrifice] was essential for sacrifice. In the tabernacle and temples, the altar was designed in metal and was the primary objective for bringing a sacrifice. Scripture describes several altars. One must remember that there were two altars in the tabernacle: the horned altar for burnt offerings and the altar of incense. The altar of burnt offering was the place for sacrifice in both the tabernacle and the temple.
The altar of the tabernacle was much smaller than the Solomonic altar. It was constructed of shittim [or acacia] wood and covered with brass. It was to be five cubits square and three cubits high covered with brass and with a horn at each corner. The exact measurement of a cubit is uncertain, possibly ranging from 16 to 20.6 inches per cubit. It appears that the 18-inch cubit is closest to the actual measurement. With an 18-inch cubit, the altar would have been seven and a half feet square and four and a half feet high. This would seem to be a small surface for the sacrifices of more than three million people had the Law been carefully enforced. Other altars were not prohibited by Law but were closely regulated as to what was offered and how it was to be constructed (Ex. 20:24-26). This may have provided some relief for the brazen altar. Every detail of the brazen altar was carefully given for its construction and function (Ex. 27:1-8, 38:1-7). Evidently, this altar or duplicate replacements were used until the Solomonic altar was in use in the temple.
Solomon's altar was so large that some scholars have doubted the dimensions given in 2 Chronicles 4:1. It was an altar of brass that was 20 cubits square [30 feet] and ten cubits high [15 feet]. Undoubtedly, there were steps leading up to the place of sacrifice. A large number of burnt offerings could be burned at one time as long as the fire of the altar was well stoked. The brass composition of the altar is confirmed in I Kings 8:64 and 2 Kings 16:10-15. Evidently, Ahaz added a newly designed altar to the old brazen model and moved the brazen altar to the north replacing it with a new altar patterned after an altar in Damascus (2 Ki. 16:10-16). He was an idolater who had sacrificed his own son and had sacrificed in the idolatrous high places (2 Ki. 16:2-4). He used a heathen altar as a pattern for designing an altar to be used to Jehovah. He also made other drastic changes in the temple utensils.
The need for such a large altar is evident in the account of the sacrifices offered during the eight days of the dedication festival for the temple. The king and all of Israel offered sacrifices to Jehovah. Solomon alone offered 20,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep as peace offerings that involved the burning of the fatty portion on the altar. Even with the great brazen altar, there still was not enough room for all the sacrifices, so Solomon set apart the middle of the court before the temple and there he offered burnt offerings and meat [or meal] offerings and the fat of the peace offerings. The priests were well fed because they received the right foreleg and the breast of each animal offered. The rest of the animal was eaten as a part of the feast of dedication (1 Ki. 8:62-65). What a blessing it is to know that the altar in heaven is not too small to take all of the sacrifices of the believer-priest.
Zerubbabel set up an altar on the site of the prospective temple in the reconstruction in the era of Ezra but no description of the altar is given (Ezra 3:2-6). It is interesting to note that it was set on bases on the temple site. Evidently, the altar was similar to the altars in the tabernacle or Solomonic temple. The actual temple had not been started, but the returning exiles considered sacrifices necessary to gain protection (Ezra 3:6). With the completion of the temple, the people offered 100 bullocks, 200 rams and 400 lambs probably as a peace offering while offering twelve he-goats as a sin offering. This would have taken a large altar for such a large number of sacrifices. The very first thing the priests constructed was the altar so that they could be involved in the offerings in conformity to the Levitical procedure of the Law of Moses. While they were in exile, they did not have a place to offer sacrifices. Undoubtedly, they never offered a sacrifice while they waited for the time that they could return to Jerusalem, the place of sacrifice. The altar that they used was probably a bronze altar designed to handle an adequate number of sacrifices for the number of Jews projected to return to the land.
The Persons Who Sacrifice. Under the Law, the ones who functioned as priests were a select portion of the tribe of Levi. "And you [Moses], cause Aaron your brother to come near unto you and his sons with him from the midst of the sons of Israel, with the purpose of his serving as a priest to me, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron (Ex. 28:1)." The rest of the Levites performed tabernacle service but were not priests. Before a priest could offer a sacrifice, there was a ritual of consecration that made him ceremonially clean so he could offer the sacrifice for himself and others. Exodus 29 gives a detailed account of the procedure for cleansing. An outline of the procedure will illustrate the fact that priestly function involved more than the rights of physical birth. Proper preparation was necessary so the priest and his activity would be acceptable to God. The high priest gathered his sons together for a ceremonial washing (Ex. 29:4). The high priest was clothed in the garments of the high priest, and then anointed with oil. A bullock sacrifice was offered (29:10-14) with two rams (29:15-22) and three portions of bread (29:23) in a specified order (29:24-28). The blood of the bullock was applied to the high priest and his sons (29:20, 21). Every day the priests had to go through a procedure so they would be ceremonially clean and thereby qualified to offer the sacrifices. For one to serve, he had to be of a right family or a right tribe and meet all of the qualifications in order to offer sacrifices for himself and for other Israelites.
The Procedure for Sacrifices. God gave explicit instructions for specific sacrifices for the sons of Israel. Each type of sacrifice or offering had its purpose and procedure. Some offerings were simply designed to bring pleasure to God while others directly involved payment for specific forms of unrighteousness that were covered. Special sacrifices were required for the priests as they performed their priestly duties. Though the Law was very clear concerning the procedure for sacrifice, Israel was inconsistent throughout her history in applying all of the details of the Law. With the great expense involved, many Israelites simply ignored the giving of sacrifices for themselves gambling that they would not suffer the consequences outlined in the Law. Others simply relied on the offerings of the Day of Atonement that brought a measure of tranquility until they violated a portion of the Law placing them in jeopardy until the Day of Atonement the next year. Yet there were others who saw the national implications of the sacrificial system and hoped that a majority of the population would be offering sacrifices as a form of insurance for those who did not offer them. If the majority of the nation kept the Law of sacrifice and offering, they would continue to receive the benefits of health, wealth and happiness in time.
Ultimately, by the time of the late kingdom, the sacrificial system evidently involved only a small minority of the nation. The prophets decried turning from the Divine requirements and predicted judgment upon both the nations of Israel and Judah. Judgment finally came with the defeat and dispersion of both nations and the whole sacrificial system ceased to exist with the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The righteous Jews in the Diaspora longed for a place for sacrifice and looked toward the site of Jerusalem anticipating the day when the sacrificial system would be reinstituted. With the first return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel for the rebuilding of the temple, the very first thing the returning Jews did was make an altar and offer sacrifices on it before the foundation of the temple was ever laid. The law of sacrifice remained unchanged and they easily applied it even though there was probably not one of them present who had offered a sacrifice in the Solomonic temple before its destruction.
A brief survey of the requirements as well as the procedure will establish the background for understanding the New Testament provision for sacrificing by the grace believer. A majority of the sacrifices were not provided for unrighteousness but were expressions of appreciation given to provide God pleasure. The best known offering provided in the Law was the burnt offering.
The Burnt Offering. The first of the Levitical offerings listed in Leviticus is the burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17; 6:8-13; Ex. 29:38-42; Num. 28:3-10). Of all the offerings, only this one required the burning of the whole animal on the altar in the sacrifice. The burnt offering was to be a male ox, sheep, goat, turtledove, young kid or young pigeons without blemish. Hence, the offering involved a valuable animal. Because of this, the burnt offering was also described as the complete offering (Deut. 33:10; 1 Sam. 7:9; Psa. 51:19). The only part of the victim that was not consumed by fire was the skin of the animal. The offerer was required to bring the offering to the tabernacle or temple. He was to lay his hand upon its head affirming that the animal was to be his substitute and then the offerer was to slay it. Blood was sprinkled around the altar. The animal was flayed, cut in pieces, cleansed and burned with fire on the altar. If the sacrifice was of the flock, the offerer was required to slay it on the north side of the altar (Lev. 1:11). If it was an offering of birds, the priest was to slay the offering (Lev. 1:11). The burnt offering provided a covering [or atonement] for the offerer (Lev. 1:4) and was an essential part of the temple's voluntary worship program. As a result of its being burned, it produced a pleasing odor to God (Lev. 1:9, 13, 17). The skin of the animal was given to the priest as his portion of the sacrifice.
The burnt offering was the most frequently offered sacrifice. Every day a male lamb was slain in the morning and in the evening (Ex. 29:38-42). The priests consecrated each month by a burnt offering comprised of two young bullocks, one ram and seven male lambs (Num. 28:26-29). For each day of the feast of Passover, the monthly requirement was repeated. Other feasts required burnt offerings to be given for the nation. The individual was given opportunity to offer burnt offerings voluntarily for himself. The burnt offering of the individual offerer generally involved a willing submission to God because of who He was and a desire to bring pleasure to God so that the believer would be covered as a result of the shed blood. In a sense, the burnt offering covered sins not yet committed and that is the perspective taken in Hebrews 10:6. Before anyone sinned or transgressed, he could offer a burnt offering; but it was necessary for him first to offer a sin offering. The burnt offering was the only offering a non-Israelite could bring. With the burnt offering, the offerer was clearly identifying himself with Jehovah and the covenants that Jehovah had made with Israel. There are three effects that the burnt offering brought. It was acceptable as a sweet smelling savor (Lev. 1:9). It provided a covering for the offerer (Lev. 1:4). It was necessary as a means of cleansing from ceremonial uncleanness (Lev. 14:20). This sacrifice dominated all the sacrifices for the nation Israel.
The Meal or Meat Offering. When the meal or meat offering was given, it required the giving of a special mixture of flour, oil and other ingredients, or of unleavened cakes prepared in three different ways with oil or green ears of grain (Lev. 2:1-16). Included in this type of offering was the offering called the "drink offering" that always consisted of wine [though some include oil in this offering as well). These offerings could be brought in conjunction with burnt or peace offerings [but never with sin or trespass offerings] or by themselves. There were three public meal offerings: twelve loaves of show bread, the omer on the second day of the feast of Passover and the wave loaves at Pentecost. There were four required meal offerings arranged under the Law: a duty meal offering for the high priest (Lev. 6:14), at the consecration of priests (6:20), as a substitution for the sin offering when the offerer was impoverished (Lev. 5:11, 12) and for jealousy (Num. 5:15). The priests took a handful of the meal offering and burned it as a memorial on the altar. The priest kept the rest as his portion (Lev. 6:16). The meal offering of the high priest and for the consecration of priests was completely burnt and none was eaten.
Drink offerings accompanied many of the sacrifices. None of the drink offerings could be poured on the altar of incense (Ex. 30:9). Drink offerings were presented to Jehovah at all of the feasts (Lev. 23:13,18, 37). Wine and oil accompanied all votive and free will offerings (Num. 15:4-10, 24), the continual burnt offering (Num. 28:7, 8), Sabbaths (Num. 28:9, 10) and for all the feasts (Num. 28:14-31; 29:6-39). No procedure is given for the offering of the drink offering. The significance of the meal and drink offerings was based on the fact that Jehovah had provided Israel all physical blessings in time. They were a reminder to Israel that they would receive physical blessing in time if they kept the sacrificial aspects of the Law.
The Peace Offering. The peace offering was a sacrifice of sweet savor that was divided into three categories: thank offering, votive offering and free-will offering. Leviticus 3:1-17 gives the general description of the basic procedure for the thank offering. These offerings were a response to God's goodness that had been exhibited or was anticipated. The thank offerings always followed the other sacrifices because they were indicative of a right relationship to Jehovah. The offerer was to bring a bullock, a lamb or a goat, either male or female (Lev. 3:1-17). The ritual was identical to that for the burnt offering. Blood was sprinkled on the altar. The caul, the liver and the kidneys of the animal were taken away. The fat parts were then burned on the altar. The high priest received the breast for a wave offering and the priest who offered the animal received the right foreleg as his share of the heave offering. The offerer received the remainder of the animal. The three peace offerings gave special benefits to the offerer. Wave offerings (Lev. 7:30-34; 8:27, 29) and heave offerings (Ex. 29:27, 28; Lev. 7:14, 32-34) were a part of the peace offering.
When the peace offering was a thank offering (Lev. 7:12-15; 22:29), it was accompanied with unleavened cakes made with oil and cakes mingled with oil and fine flour soaked in oil and frankincense. The flesh of the offering was to be eaten the same day with none left over the following morning (Lev. 22:30). The thank offering was given in appreciation for God's blessing and deliverance. It was given in times of prosperity and success as a means of giving thanks to God. Public sacrifices of the thank offering were rather common. They were given to inaugurate the festivals of Israel (Ex. 24:5; 2 Sam. 6:17). When a king was chosen, they offered thank offerings (1 Sam. 11:15). When major successes were accomplished by or for the nation, the offering was given (Deut. 27:7; Josh. 8:31). The thank offering was a normal part of the feast of Pentecost (Lev. 23:19). An individual Israelite could offer a thank offering in recognition of special personal provisions from Jehovah (Lev. 7:12; 22:29).
The votive type of peace offering (Lev. 7:16, 17) was given as an expression of appreciation but also included making a vow. At a time of need, the offerer made a vow to Jehovah and used the offering as a means of prevailing on God for the provision of the thing needed. This offering was to be perfect (Lev. 22:18-22). It was eaten by the offerer on the first and second days. If it was eaten on the third day, it was an abomination and the offerer was cut off from the nation (Lev. 7:18-21).
Free-will offerings were made in appreciation to God without requirements. They were voluntarily given without expecting any thing in return. The giver rejoiced in God's bountiful provision and gave the offering because of his joy. Certain imperfections were permitted in the animal for the free-will offering (Lev. 22:23), because they were strictly voluntary sacrifices. The three major sweet-smelling sacrifices to Jehovah included the burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17), the meal offering (Lev. 2:1-16) and the peace offering (Lev. 3:1-17). They all brought a special pleasure to God producing a sweet smell. They were made for sins or any other form of unrighteousness that had previously been committed.
The Sin Offering. There were two non-sweet offerings that were required by the Law: the sin and trespass offerings. These offerings were given for unrighteousness that existed in the lives of the Israelites. They were not offered to bring pleasure to God but to satisfy the requirements of the Law. These offerings were given for sins of ignorance (Lev. 4:1-35), sins of implication (Lev. 5:1-19) and willful sins (Lev. 6:1-7). These offerings were a part of the penalties prescribed for the violation of the Law. God was to be satisfied that a proper penalty had been paid, so He made it clear in the Law how the penalty was to be paid. Every violation of the Law required a taking of a life. For the violation of the first seven commandments, the Law required that the life of the violator be taken in capital punishment. In other instances, the life of an animal was taken so the sin would be covered. Without the use of the sacrifices, the first sin a man would commit would permanently make him guilty and cut off any access to God.
The sin offering was made to provide a special covering for sins of ignorance and for ceremonial uncleanness. Specific offerings were required for different groups of the nation. A suitable offering for a ruler was a he-goat (Lev. 4:22-26) and for an ordinary person a she-goat (4:27, 28), an ewe lamb (4:32), a turtledove or young pigeon (Lev. 5:7). For the priests (4:3), the Levites at their installation (Num. 8:8) and for the whole congregation, a young bullock was to be brought (Lev. 4:14). A he-goat could be brought for the congregation with the young bullock (Num. 15:24). On the Day of Atonement, a bullock was offered for the high priest and two he-goats for the congregation (Lev. 16:3-34). Specific fatty portions were burned on the altar and the rest was eaten by the priests.
The offering was made for a single purpose, "Speak unto the sons of Israel saying, when a soul sins in error against any of the commandments of Jehovah that should not be done, and he does one of them (Lev. 4:2)." The root idea of "ignorance" is to wander or stray away meaning that something was done inadvertently or by mistake. As a result of the sacrifice, the offerer received an Old Testament forgiveness for sin (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10) and ceremonial cleansing for the pollution of sin (Lev. 12:8; 14:20; 16:19). The very presentation of the sacrifice indicated that the offerer was aware of the sin he had committed (4:14, 23, 28; 5:5). When the offerer laid his hand on the head of the animal to be sacrificed, he was acknowledging that it was a sacrificial substitute for himself. As can be seen by the different sacrifices, there were different classes of offenders (Lev. 4:3-35).
When the offerer brought the proper animal, the priest would require the offerer to lay his hands on the head of the animal, then he would slay the animal before Jehovah. When he offered it for the congregation, the priest would bring the blood to the tabernacle or temple and sprinkle it before the veil seven times. He would apply blood to the horns of the altar of incense and pour the blood out at the base of the brazen altar. The fat was burned on the altar. Depending on who offered the sacrifice, the offering was either eaten by the priests or taken outside the camp and burned. It was slain in the same place as the burnt offering. It became most holy and whatever touched it was holy. If blood from the sacrifice sprayed on a garment, the garment was to be washed in the holy place. If an earthen pot was splattered, it was broken and destroyed. A metal vessel would need a thorough cleansing in the same circumstance.
Individuals brought the offerings when they realized that they had accidentally violated the Law or when they were ceremonially unclean. Sin offerings were sacrificed for the whole nation at the new moon (Num. 28:14, 15), Passover (Num. 28:17-22), Firstfruits (Num. 28:26-31), Feast of the Trumpets (29:1-6), Feast of Tabernacles (29:13-34) and the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The sin offering was sacrificed when Aaron and his sons were set apart for priestly service (Lev. 8:2-15). A special aspect of the sin offering was the sacrificing of the red heifer that was a special sin offering for purification purposes (Num. 19:1-22). After childbirth, a young pigeon or turtledove was sacrificed as a sin offering for purification from ceremonial uncleanness (Lev. 12:6-8). It was the offering that was also offered for ceremonial uncleanness resulting from leprosy (Lev. 14:9, 13, 31), issues from men and women (Lev. 15:15, 30), pollution of a Nazarite (Num. 6:6-11) or at the conclusion of the Nazarite's vow (Num. 6:16). The sin offering was used for the more general aspects of life with lesser emphasis upon the specifics of life.
The fact that the sin offering was effective is very clear in the Hebrew text. "Then he will cause to burn all its fat on the altar, like the fat of the peace offering [lit. sacrifice of peaces-pl.], and the priest will cover [or make atonement] over (al) him separating him from his sin and it will be forgiven for him (Lev. 4:26)." The sacrifice was a covering over for the offerer that separated him from his sin from God's perspective. In verse 35, it says, "... the priest will cover [or make atonement] over him concerning [or over] his sin that he has sinned and it will proceed to be forgiven for him." When the sin offering was made for the whole nation, God was satisfied. The innocent goat was sacrificed while the scapegoat bore the sins of the nation into the wilderness in the activities of the Day of Atonement for the whole nation (Lev. 16). As a result, the inadvertent, unintentional sins were covered and the nation was covered. There was no spiritual salvation from the giving of the sacrifice. God only gave physical salvation to the nation in time.
The Trespass Offering. The trespass or guilt offering was made for willful sins [i.e. sins of intent] (Lev. 6:1-7) and for sins of ignorance (Lev. 5:15, 16). It was offered when an individual unwittingly broke the Law by his association with a person who actually broke the Law. He was implicated in something, in some way, that made him guilty though he may have had a measure of ignorance of the implication. "A person [or soul] when he proceeds to trespass a trespass and sins in error from the holy things of Jehovah, then he will bring his guilt offering to Jehovah ... (Lev. 8:15)." When the Israelite took from Jehovah that which properly belonged to Jehovah inadvertently, it was a sin that needed an offering. If a man broke the Law not knowing that he had violated it, or was involved with another person who violated the Law, he was to offer a trespass offering. "And if a soul proceeds to sin and does even one of any of the commandments of Jehovah that are not to be done, and he does not know and he is guilty and he will bear his perversity (Lev. 5:17)." Some examples of such a sin are given in Leviticus. A person who refuses to be a witness to a sin of another individual must offer the guilt offering (Lev. 5:1). A person who touched any unclean thing whether it was animal or human was guilty (5:2, 3). A man who made an oath and was unable to keep it was to offer the trespass offering (5:4). Specific sins against other people demanded a guilt offering. These were identified as willful sins. Examples are given in chapter six. If a man lied to his neighbor defrauding him by taking advantage of the neighbor by theft or deliberately neglecting to return an item loaned, found or placed in his protection, he was guilty (5:2, 3). Restitution was required plus a 20% penalty in addition to the offering (5:4, 5). The raping of a betrothed slave required a trespass offering (19:20-22). The same was required at the purification of a leper (14:12) and for a contaminated Nazarite (Num. 6:12).
Normally, a ram without blemish was the offering that was given (Lev. 5:15) that was valued by the shekel of the sanctuary (5:15; 6:6). The ram was to be proportionate in value to the offense with the value being at least two shekels. When a leper or a Nazarite offered the offering, it was to be a lamb (Lev. 14:11; Num. 6:12). There is a strong indication that this was normally preceded by a sin offering (5:5-13). The animal was slaughtered on the north side of the altar and its blood was sprinkled. Specific fatty portions were burned on the brazen altar (Lev. 7:3-5). The priests ate the results in the holy place (Lev. 7:6).
The trespass offering [or offense offering] was not offered at the feasts of Jehovah. The offering was designed for the individual and not for the nation. It was possible for individuals to offer the trespass offering during the feasts but only as individual offerings and only if time was available for the priests to sacrifice them. This offering covered the basic violations of the Law that were the personal sins that offended God. In a sense, the trespass offering was for personal acts of sin providing a covering for those sins. As a result of its being offered, God was satisfied that the sin had been dealt with properly. The sin offering provided a covering for potential guilt and sins that were done in ignorance.
The Old Testament sacrifices were offered expecting two results. The sweet-smelling offerings were designed to provide pleasure for Jehovah. Some were given as an expression of appreciation of the Israelite who was at peace with his God. Others were designed to please God so that He would meet needs or simply would direct His attention to the offerer. The non- sweet offerings were given to deal with a broad spectrum of the unrighteousness of the Jewish people. These offerings covered a variety of sins and ceremonial uncleanness for individuals or for the nation. They did not provide spiritual salvation but provided for physical salvation in God's provision of peace, protection, posterity, prosperity, health and happiness in time. One must always remember that these offerings made absolutely no contribution to the eternal future of the Israelite offerer. A man could offer a thousand sin offerings and a thousand trespass offerings and never possess spiritual salvation because he was not a believer. God saved every Old Testament saint by grace through faith and not by sacrifice. His sacrifices simply covered his sins so that God would not look upon them but provide physical health, wealth and happiness that had been promised to those who kept the Law.
Only when the perfect sacrifice was offered could there be benefits that related to spiritual salvation. Believing Jews brought their sacrifices because of their faith in God. Unbelieving Israelites also brought sacrifices except they offered them because of the requirements of the Law. Both received the benefits. When God provided rain, it rained on the believer and the unbeliever alike. When God judged by drought, both suffered the same consequences. The sacrifices provided for a hope in a happy, long life in time on earth. Israel's violation of the Law tied directly to the violation of the sacrifice requirements. Devout Israelites knew that if Jehovah rejected the sin offerings at the Day of Atonement at least the high priest might die if not the whole nation. After the glory of Jehovah had departed from the temple, it made little difference. God was not resident in the Holy of Holies and was no longer available to accept sacrifices. As a result, every sacrifice offered after the glory departed was no more than empty ritual from that point forward until the glory returns to the future temple. God always looked on the heart of the offerer before he accepted the sacrifice absolutely. Some gave by faith believing that God would provide for them. Others sacrificed to prove that they had the inherent capability for pleasing God without faith. Even so the offering of sacrifices became abhorrent to God because of the corrupt spiritual condition of the offerers.
Early in the kingdom, Samuel recognized that the heart attitude was far more important than the sacrifices and offerings. "Then Samuel proceeded to say, Is the delight of Jehovah in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams (1 Sam. 15:22)." A responsiveness toward Jehovah was definitely preferable to the sacrifice prescribed by the Law when they were offered with the wrong motives.
David echoed a similar opinion. "Sacrifice and offering you did not delight in; you have dug out my ears for me, you have not asked for a burnt offering and a sin offering (Psa. 40:6)." Jehovah deserved an Old Testament believer's absolute trust in His character that was preferential to the one who offered the sacrifices and offerings from legal necessity. "You do not begin to delight in sacrifice, or I would proceed to give it; you will not begin to find pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken [or shattered] spirit, a broken [or shattered] and crushed heart, O God, do not begin to despise me (Psa. 51:16, 17)." David wrote the fifty-first Psalm after he had arranged for the murder of Uriah and had taken Bathsheba to be his wife (2 Sam. 11:2-12:25). Under Law, he should have been slain (Ex. 21:12, Lev. 24:17; Num. 35:16-18, 21, 31), but as king he lived above the Law. As its administrator because he was king, he was above the Law so God punished him directly by taking the life of his son (2 Sam. 12:15-23). He recognized that his sin was a capital crime; and because he was unrepentant and liable for his own life and the lives of the nation, he was convinced that Jehovah would no longer accept any offerings or sacrifices. In other words, the people of the nation were suffering because of the sin of their king. He offered his own shattered heart to God so that the sacrifice would be acceptable.
Solomon was also convinced that there were things more important than sacrifice. "To do righteousness and justice is to be chosen of Jehovah more than sacrifice (Prov. 21:3)." Because of the many sins of Judah (Isa. 1:4), Jehovah was repelled by their multitudinous sacrifices (Isa. 1:11). They had persisted in giving empty meal offerings. One must hear the indictment of Judah concerning their religious rituals. "Do not keep adding to the bringing of an empty [or by partial] sacrifice [lit. the sacrifice of emptiness]; incense is an abomination to me; the new moon and Sabbath, the calling of a meeting; I am not able to endure the trouble, even the solemn assembly. My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts. They are for a burden upon me; I am tired for myself of bearing them. And when you spread out the palms of your hands, I will cause my eyes to hide from you; also when you proceed to multiply prayer, I will not be hearing. Your hands are full of bloods (Isa. 1:13-15)."
Jeremiah learned that the burnt offerings were no longer acceptable to Jehovah and that the sacrifices were no longer fragrant to Him because of the sins of the people (Jer. 6:19, 20). A heart attitude was demonstrated by a proper activity. "For I delight in lovingkindness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of Elohim more than burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6)." Israel had made many altars and offered many sacrifices, but Jehovah refused to accept them and promised to bring punishment upon them for their disobedience (Hos. 8:11-13). Without a proper heart attitude, Jehovah only permitted the sacrifice to be offered, but in actuality it was of no value to the Old Testament Israelite. The New Testament explains why. For the unsaved Jew, his offerings had no affect because the offerings were not presented mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2). It is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sin (Heb. 10:4). Hebrews 10:1-13 gives a clear statement concerning the limitations of the sacrifices of the Law. "In burnt offerings and sacrifices concerning sins, you were not well pleased (Heb. 10:6)." The work of Christ completely invalidated the Mosaic sacrifices making them absolutely unnecessary. The new and better things of the New Testament fulfilled everything that the Old Testament system foresaw. "So therefore the first covenant had also ordinances of priestly service and a worldly holy place (Heb. 9:1)." None of the people in Israel had any idea that there could be anything better. "The Holy Spirit pointing this out, the way to the holies had not yet been brought to light, while the first tabernacle still is possessing a standing (Heb. 9:8)." Hebrews gives extensive revelation concerning the New Testament arrangements for better sacrifices for the believer-priest.
In order to establish the basis for the sacrifices the Christian is to offer, one must carefully study the character of sacrifice, the place of sacrifice, the procedure for sacrifice and the purpose for sacrifice. The whole spectrum of sacrificing shifts from earthly implements and procedure because of the death of Christ. The believer now possesses a new and living way whereby he has access. The limitations placed on Israel are not binding for the Christian. While the Old Testament system was dependent on the effective service of a series of human beings so that the offerer could share the full benefit from his sacrifices, the New Testament has only one mediator and that one is Jesus Christ. An Israelite relied on the Levites who had the responsibility for having wood prepared for the altar, the priest who sacrificed the offering and the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement for himself and for the nation. Christ's sacrifice fulfilled all the shedding of blood when He shed His own blood. Because of Christ's sacrifice, the whole sacrificial system was completely changed.
The Character of the Sacrifice. As a result of Christ's death, the believer no longer offers physical sacrifices. The sacrifices of the grace believer may involve physical things but God counts them to be spiritual sacrifices. Every believer has the potential to offer sacrifices, but only a few practice their potential. Only the spiritual believer can offer an acceptable sacrifice. A carnal believer can do exactly the same things a spiritual believer does and his activity will be rejected by God because God does not count what he does to be a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ was supremely acceptable, accomplishing some essential things.
The Sacrifice of Christ. Scripture clearly relates the death of Christ as a sacrifice to two of the sacrifices of the Old Testament: the Passover sacrifice and the sin offering sacrifice of the Day of Atonement. The various aspects of Christ's death produced different results concerning how the Father and the Holy Spirit saw the sacrifice. It is essential for one to remember that death is accurately defined as separation and not the absence of life. Physical death involves the separation of soul and spirit from the physical body. Spiritual death involves separation of a person from God. In Genesis 2:17, God promised Adam the certainty that he would die if he disobeyed God and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. "Then Jehovah Elohim proceeded to command unto Adam, saying, From every tree of the garden you may certainly eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will not begin to eat from it; for in the day of your eating from it you will certainly die (Gen. 2:16, 17)." In the day that Adam ate of the tree, he died spiritually losing his garment of light and was separated from God. He began to die physically as a result. In order for Christ's sacrifice to be effective, it was necessary for Him to die in both of these areas. He was separated in His human nature from the other members of the Godhead for three hours. During the three hours of darkness, His separation is seen in His crying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani: that is to say, my God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me (Matt. 27:46 cf. Mk. 15:34)." From 12:00 to 3:00 p. m. Roman time, the whole land of Palestine was in complete darkness. All activity stopped and moved into nighttime mode. It was during that time that Christ fulfilled Isaiah 53:11, 12. "He [Jehovah] will come to see the anguish [or sorrow] of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge my Righteous Servant shall justify (lit. cause to be right] many; for He will vicariously bear their perversities. Therefore I will proceed to divide for Him a portion among the great ones, and he will proceed to divide the spoil with the mighty ones because that He caused His soul to be naked for death, and He was counted with transgressors, and He bore the sin [sing.] of many, and He made intercession [lit. caused to meet] for the transgressors." When Christ suffered within His soul, He was not yet physically dead. The Father saw His travail and was satisfied. Luke gives the most detailed account of the three hours brief though it may be. "And it was now about the sixth hour (12:00 noon], and darkness came over all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 p.m.] with the sun failing [or being defeated]; and the veil of the holy of holies was torn in the middle (Lu. 23:44, 45)." At the ninth hour, Jesus cried, "My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me (Mk. 15:34; Matt. 27:46 cf. Psa. 22:1)?" Then there is a clear indication of the resumption of fellowship between God the Father and the Holy Spirit with the Person of God the Son. "Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit (Lu. 23:46)." Then He said, "It is finished," and then He willingly gave up His spirit (Jn. 19:30). He had been separated from the Father for three hours as a spiritual substitute for mankind, dying the spiritual death that mankind deserved to die in Himself.
His physical death involved the necessity for the shedding of His blood. There are believers today who deny that the blood of Christ was of any value in itself, because the blood is simply indicative of a life that was taken because "the life is in the blood (cf. Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11, 14; Deut. 12:23)." Christ did not place his physical life on the altar in heaven but His physical blood. His physical death involved a three-day separation of soul and spirit from His physical body. Christ's resurrection confirms to human beings that His work was effective; and as a result, there is hope because of His resurrection (1 Cor. 15). That is why the resurrection is essential in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without a resurrected Savior, there is no assurance that the benefits of His death are applied to the believer. The resurrection of Christ also confirms His deity. Scripture clearly identifies the resurrection as an essential part of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1, 3, 4) in spite of what men may say. Paul was given trouble in his own ministry because he insisted that the resurrection of Christ was an essential part of the Gospel (2 Tim. 2:8-10). Christ's once-and-for-all entry into the heavenly Holy of Holies had been completed and the resurrection affirms its accomplishment.
The Father accepted Christ's death as a sweet-smelling savor. The Father was satisfied and pleased with the sacrifice of Christ. He was not angry nor did He direct His venom on Christ as He bore the sins of the world. "And be walking [i.e. ordering every detail of your life] in love, as also Christ loved you and freely gave Himself up in place of us an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of fragrance (Eph. 5:2)." When Christ was spiritually separated from the Father, He was a sweet-smelling sacrifice and not a non-sweet sacrifice. Christ freely gave Himself as a sacrifice. All three members of the Trinity participated in the death of Christ and His resurrection.
Christ is clearly identified with the Passover lamb. "Purge out the old leaven, in order that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed. So let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, not with the leaven of a lacking in character or malignant evil, but by the unleavened loaves of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7, 8)." Christ is the grace believer's Paschal Lamb. The whole context of 1 Corinthians five describes the spiritual life of the grace believer as being lived in light of the fact that Christ is his Substitute. The Christian has the opportunity to be living as though every day was the Passover because of the provision of Christ. Sin leavens the bread of the feast of Unleavened Bread that was a part of the Passover festival activities. Because Christ is the believer's Passover, he should be living every day righteously without the pollution of unrighteousness. The sacrifice of Christ provided more than a covering. Christ, the Passover, spiritually guarantees that the believer's sins are permanently forgiven and that he is secure. Christ fulfills the Passover perfectly. The only parallel between Christ and the Passover is that in both instances someone died for someone else.
Hebrews identifies Christ with the lamb of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is necessary to examine the Leviticus 16 requirements for the offering in order to understand Hebrews. Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu had offered strange fire before Jehovah and were burned to death by a strange fire fromJehovah (Lev. 10:1, 2; 16:1). Because of this, Jehovah put restraints on the high priest and priests concerning entry into the Holy of Holies. Prior to this time, entry had been permitted with some frequency throughout the year. God now permitted entry into the Holy of Holies one day each year and the high priest was permitted to enter twice on that day. He entered once for himself and once for the nation. After Aaron brought a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, he put on his holy, priestly garments and washed his flesh (Lev. 16:3, 4). From the congregation of Israel, he took two kids of the goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering (16:5). Then he offered the bullock for himself and for his household (16:6). Then he took the two kid goats to the door of the tabernacle and selected by lot one for the Lord and one as a scapegoat (16:7, 8). The goat on which the lot fell as being the Lord's was offered as a sacrifice. The other goat was presented alone before Jehovah to be a scapegoat for a covering over [or atonement]. He had the sins of the nation placed upon his head and was released into the wilderness alive. Aaron entered into the veil of the Holy of Holies the first time when he entered for himself and his household. He took coals from the altar and made smoke with incense within the Holy of Holies producing a cloud of incense smoke that covered the mercy seat [or propitiatory] of the ark of the covenant (16:12, 13). Then he took the blood of his bullock and sprinkled it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat seven times. He could identify the location of the mercy seat by the wings of the cherubim on the ark that extended above the heavy smoke. He entered the second time after he had killed the goat of the sin offering and entered the Holy of Holies with its blood for the people (16:15). He also made a covering [or atonement] for the holy place (16:16) and for the altar (16:18, 20). After he had made a covering for the holy place, the tabernacle and the altar (16:20), he brought the live goat laying both hands on its head confessing the perversities of the sons of Israel, all their transgressions and all their sins putting them on the head of the goat (16:20, 21). A fit man took the scapegoat out into the wilderness. In other words, the guilty goat was sent outside the camp while the innocent goat was slain as a sacrifice. After Aaron had entered into the Holy of Holies, he presented himself to the people.
Before Aaron could enter the Holy of Holies, he had to take the life of an animal. When he entered for himself, he slew a bullock and carried its blood into the Holy of Holies behind the veil. He took the blood of the goat in the second time. It was necessary to perform specific service at the brazen altar. "And Aaron shall cause the bullock of the sin offering that is for himself to be brought near, and he will make atonement [or cover over] on behalf of himself, and on behalf of his household, and he will slaughter the bullock of the sin offering that is for himself (Lev. 16:11)." After he went in for himself, blood was again shed at the altar. "And he will slaughter the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and he will bring its blood into the veil [lit. from the house of separation] ... (16:15)." A sacrifice was necessary in the outer court in order for the blood to be applied on the place of propitiation [or satisfaction]. Even so, Jesus Christ was slain in the outer court of the heavenly tabernacle so that His blood could be applied in the Holy of Holies in heaven. As He hung on the cross, only a small amount of blood was shed as He bled from the stripes of the judgment hall, the crown of thorns, the nails in His hands and feet as well as the blood spilled when the spear pierced His side. The blood He shed did not remain on the ground or in a burial shroud for it was taken up into the third heaven. He shed His own blood to deal with every aspect of unrighteousness. "How much more should the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot [or unblemished] to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14)." Christ Himself was the sacrifice. "... But now once at the completion of the ages, He has been manifested for the annulling of the sin nature through the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26)." He was an offering. "So also Christ was offered once with the purpose of bearing the sins of many ... (Heb. 9:28)." When Christ was hanging between earth and heaven, He was slain as the Lamb of God fully bearing the sins of the world. Hebrews emphasizes the fact that Christ made only one offering and that offering was His body (Heb. 10:10). His shed blood gives the grace believer direct access into the holiest (Heb. 10:19). With the shedding of His blood, Christ established the beginning of the process for salvation and for keeping grace believers saved. Preparation for entrance into the Holy of Holies was necessary.
The Levitical high priest had to be cleansed. He was required to conceal the place of propitiation [the propitiatory] before -he entered. "And he will take a full censor of coals of fire from upon the altar from before the fire of Jehovah and hands full of incense of spices ground fine, and he will bring it within the veil (Lev. 16:12)." Christ's preparation met the requirements for entering the Holy of Holies. "Wherefore when entering into the world for Himself, He says, Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You provided [lit. thoroughly adjusted] for Me; You did not have a good opinion of burnt offerings and sacrifices for sins. Then I said: Behold, I come (in the volume of the book it stands written concerning Me) to do Your desirous will, O God (Heb. 10:5-7)." Christ's desirous will was in perfect conformity with the will of the Father when He entered into His cross work. He was the perfect sacrifice absolutely willing to accomplish the plan of the Godhead in His death and entry into the Holy of Holies. He did something that all of the Old Testament sacrifices could not do (Heb. 10:1, 2, 11). The Old Testament sacrifices were simply memorials to the sins of the Old Testament offerer (Heb. 10:3) while Christ's cross work took away all unrighteousness.
Christ entered into the Holy of Holies with His own blood. The Old Testament priest first took blood for himself and then for the people. "And he will take from the blood of the bullock and he will sprinkle it with his finger upon the face of the covering eastward; and before the face of the covering he will proceed to sprinkle seven times from the blood with his finger. And he will slaughter the goat of the sin offering that is for the people, and he will bring its blood into the veil, and he will do with its blood like that which he did to the blood of the bullock, and he will sprinkle it upon the propitiatory and before the propitiatory (Lev. 16:14, 15)." The blood was to be actually applied to the place of propitiation or satisfaction -- the propitiatory that is called the mercy seat in the Authorized Version.
The propitiatory was on the Ark of the Covenant between the two cherubim. Christ did not enter the Holy of Holies based upon the sacrifice of animals, but by His own sacrifice. "Neither through the blood of goats and calves, but through the instrumentality of His own blood, He entered once for all into the holies, having found eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12)." Christ offered only one sacrifice and that settled the issue permanently. No more sacrifices were needed concerning sin because His death dealt with every aspect of unrighteousness permanently. As the believer's substitute, He fulfilled every need for blood sacrifice and paid the whole penalty for every act of sin as well as all other unrighteousness. "Then He said: Behold, I am coming with the purpose of doing Your desirous will, O God. He is taking away the first, in order that He might make the second stand; by which desirous will we are the ones standing sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:9, 10)." When the Old Testament priests offered sacrifices, they may have offered the same sacrifices many times the same day or many times for the same individuals. No matter how many sacrifices were offered, they could not take away sins (Heb. 10:11). This was made clear on the Day of Atonement, because the scapegoat had the sins of the nation placed upon him and he was set free to wander in the wilderness for the rest of his life. Christ's sacrifice not only took away sins but also took them away permanently. "But this Man having offered one sacrifice on behalf of [or as a substitute for] sins, perpetually sat down at [lit. in] the right hand of God.... For by the one offering He has brought to completion perpetually the ones who are being sacrificed (Heb. 10:12, 14)." There is no longer any need for offerings for sin because of the sufficiency of the work of Christ, "But where forgiveness of these is, there is no longer offering concerning sins (Heb. 10:18)." The sacrifice of Christ was perfect. The God-man made provision for everything that was repugnant to God. His death in all its aspects was a perfect provision as He completed the cross work.
As the Lamb slain, He took His blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies and sprinkled the ark in heaven with it. His blood is in heaven. Some deny the possibility of blood ever being in heavenn because it is a physical substance. There are several physical things in the third heaven at this moment. Christ's glorified body is physical. It is a body of flesh and bone rather than flesh and blood. A heavenly ark of the covenant is there (Rev. 11:19). There will be blood in the New Jerusalem when it comes down from heaven identified as the "blood of sprinkling" that is the blood of the new covenant (Heb. 12:22-24). The New Jerusalem itself is a physical thing in heaven being prepared by Christ (Jn. 14:1-3).
Jesus Christ is seen in heaven as the Lamb that has been slain (Rev. 5:6) indicating that the presence of His blood was visible in some way or John would not have identified the Lamb as slain. When Christ comes from heaven in His second coming to earth, His garments will be dipped in blood (Rev. 19:13). John was looking into the heaven [sing.] when he saw Christ in this condition (cf. Rev. 19:11). Christ's blood was taken to heaven for several reasons. Scripture had prophesied that Christ would see no corruption or decay (Acts 13:35, 37 cf. Psa. 16:10). Peter clearly indicates that Christ's blood was incorruptible (1 Pe. 1:18, 19). It was blood that would not decay. If it had been left on earth, it would have been corrupted to some degree. It was taken to heaven to cleanse the heavenly holy place just as the high priest cleansed the earthly holy place with blood. He took His blood to heaven to extend the benefits of His physical death. Another reason He took His blood to heaven was so that He could give God the Father a tangible reason for forgiving or taking away sins. It was also needed so Christ's own humanity could enter the Holy of Holies in heaven. For the first time, humanity could enter the heavenly Holy of Holies. Christ took His blood and applied it in heaven. The earthly sacrifices could only gain momentary access to Jehovah in the earthly Holy of Holies once a year. The heavenly application of Christ's blood gives a permanent heavenly access for the grace believer to the whole Godhead in the third heaven itself.
Christ had applied His blood in heaven before His resurrection in one of His spiritual prior ascensions during the three days His body was in the tomb. His resurrection proved that the blood had been applied in an acceptable way on the heavenly altar. In the Old Testament, it was tremendously important for the high priest to return to the people indicating that the blood of the sacrifice had been acceptable to Jehovah. They made special provisions so the people could follow the progress of his sprinkling of the blood. "And you will make upon its [the high priest's garment] hem [lit. lip] pomegranates of blue and purple, and fine linen, and upon its hem [lit. lip] round about, and bells of gold in their midst round about: A bell of gold and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. And it will be upon Aaron for ministering [in his priestly duties], and its sound [lit. voice] will be heard, when he goes in unto the holy place before Jehovah, and when he comes out and he will not die (Ex. 28:33-35)." The whole congregation could hear the bells as the high priest sprinkled the blood in the Holy of Holies. When the bells could be heard in the holy place as he came out, there was instantly relief for the people, because they knew that Jehovah had accepted the blood of the sacrifice and had not taken the high priest's life. Christ returned to His people and remained forty days after his resurrection to prove that the sacrifice had been accepted and had done the work necessary to provide the benefits that would accrue to grace believers. He provided an anticipation that results from His resurrection and ascension. Christians have a solid basis for anticipating Christ's soon return. "So also Christ having been offered once with the purpose of bearing the sins of many, He will appear a second time without sin to the ones who are anticipating Him for salvation (Heb. 9:28)." Christ's resurrection gives a ground for the blessed hope that when He returns to catch His Church to Himself in the air, there will be nothing that will prevent the Church from being presented to God the Father (1 Thess. 3:13). Christ is the perfect sacrifice and has perfectly applied His shed blood for all of the unrighteousness of the world. He died as the innocent Lamb of God undeserving of the punishment, yet He paid the penalty for the sins and all the rest of the unrighteousness of the world. As a result, the believer has a Heavenly Intercessor (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34) and the Mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 9:15). He is now appearing in the presence of God for the believer (Heb. 9:24). His substitutionary work is continually being carried out as a result of His substitutionary sacrifice. His appearing before the Father is on the believer's behalf (huper) as a perfect substitute.
The Sacrifices by the Grace Believer. The grace believer does not offer physical sacrifices. Peter clearly identifies them as "spiritual sacrifices (1 Pe. 2:5)." Physical things may be involved but God counts all of the grace believer's sacrifices to be spiritual. When the believer presents his physical body to God, it is counted to be a spiritual sacrifice. No blood is shed and no life is taken, but God counts it a more effective sacrifice than all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. The same is true for giving. Physical things or money may be given, but God counts it as a spiritual sacrifice. The physical activities of praise, doing good and fellowship are all beneficial to individual believers but are counted as spiritual sacrifices. God sees these as a spiritual part of the spiritual service of spiritual believers.
The believer's sacrifice is a sacrifice springing from appreciation that is similar to the motivation for the peace offerings of the Old Testament. As the believer appreciates what God has done for him, he offers the sacrifices as an expression of that appreciation in activity. When the Christian offers the sacrifice, it does not provide any benefits from God. God does not make a person more prosperous because he offers a sacrifice. The believer only benefits from the joy he receives from performing the sacrifice knowing that it is acceptable to God with no strings attached. Scripture does not teach that the sacrifices of the believer-priest bring any grace, nor do they purchase preferential treatment from God. They are given without the expectation of any benefits but with the anticipation of pleasing God and thereby making Him happy. It cannot be said often enough that only the spiritual believer can please God in this way. The heart response of the spiritual believer leads him to sacrifice knowing that the sacrifices are well pleasing to God. A spiritual believer can direct his love toward God through his sacrifices. A carnal believer can do the same activities expecting to receive a benefit from God, but God will never count the activity to be a sacrifice. Giving sacrifices is a privilege provided for spiritual believers.
The Place of Sacrifice. As has already been indicated, the heavenly tabernacle is the place where these spiritual sacrifices are offered. The earthly tabernacle or temple was tremendously limited in what could be done. Even the Solomonic brazen altar was not large enough to handle all the offerings on the day of dedication.
The Tabernacle and Temple. The "worldly sanctuary" was only a shadow of its antitype that was the heavenly tabernacle. In Hebrews nine, there is a description of the first tabernacle identifying its layout and furnishings (9:1-7). The Holy Spirit had not revealed the existence of the true heavenly tabernacle when the first tabernacle existed. "The Holy Spirit makes this evident, that the way to the holiest had not yet been brought to light, the first tabernacle still having a standing (Heb. 9:8)." Scripture uses several words to describe the relationship of the old tabernacle to the heavenly tabernacle. It was a parable, an example, a shadow and an antitype. Because of the resemblance of the earthly tabernacle to the heavenly tabernacle, Moses received specific detailed instructions for building the tabernacle. "Who [the high priest] is serving as a priest to an example [or model] and a shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to complete the tabernacle for, See, he is saying, you will make all things according to the pattern [or type] shown to you in the mountain (Heb. 8:5)." On Sinai God gave every detail of the tabernacle, its furnishings and its service to Moses. They were not given as a mere whim of Jehovah but with specific design and intent. They were an earthly reflection of what was a heavenly reality. Hebrews 8:5 uses two words to compare the earthly tabernacle with the heavenly. The first word is "example," (hupodeigma). It is derived from the verb (deiknumi) that means "to show." The noun literally has the idea of that which is shown under, giving it the meaning of a representation or an imitation of something else. In other words, it shows how something is, though on a reduced scale. It is undoubtedly like the architects scale model of a building that gives a visible representation of a structure that is not yet constructed. In this case, the heavenly tabernacle existed but was not visible to human beings on earth. The same word is used in Hebrews 9:23. "And according to the Law, nearly all things are cleansed by blood, and without the shedding of blood, there does not come forgiveness. It was necessary, therefore, for the model [or representation] of the things in the heavens to be cleansed by these, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these (Heb. 9:22, 23)." The earthly tabernacle was a shadow of the heavenly tabernacle (Heb. 8:5). It was a visible representation of a different object. The image of a shadow is not a clear, accurate representation of the thing it represents. If a person sees a shadow of another individual that he had not seen for a period of time, it is highly unlikely that he would be able to identify that person by simply looking at his shadow. He would need to turn and see the person himself. The shadow gives a basic outline and, depending on the angle of the light source, a disproportionate representation of the actual object. This is true of the heavenly tabernacle. The court was the largest part of both the tabernacle and the temple. In the heavenly tabernacle, the court is the smallest part since it only includes the surface and atmosphere of the planet earth. The holy place is the second heaven -- the starry spaces. The very Holy of Holies is the third heaven where God the Father and God the Son presently have their residency. The shadow provided a measure of access for men who were spiritually separated from God. A shadow is not a clear image. It is disproportionate though it does give an outline of the structure so that it does have a likeness to the original.
The first tabernacle was also a "figure." "That was a parable [or figure] into the present time, down from which both gifts and sacrifices are being offered not having ability concerning conscience to bring the one who is serving as priest to maturity (Heb. 9:9)." It is clearly identified as a parable or a figure of another tabernacle. A parable is something thrown or placed alongside another thing for a comparison, there being a certain resemblance between the two. The tabernacle was laid alongside the tabernacle in heaven in that it was set up in the court of the heavenly tabernacle and provided a miniature basis for comparison.
"For Christ has not entered into holy places that are handmade which are antitypes of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:24)." An antitype is that which a type represents -- the original. Only those things that are called types in Scripture should be identified as types. A type is a copy of the archetype standing in place of the real thing. Some translate the term as "copy." The heavenly tabernacle is the real thing, while the type is the earthly tabernacle that was a corresponding representation [an antitype]. As a result, the Old Testament tabernacle presented a primitive representation of the true heavenly tabernacle in several ways.
The magnitude of the heavenly tabernacle is reflected in its description in Hebrews 9:11. "But Christ having appeared for Himself a high priest of good things having come through the instrumentality of the greater and more perfect tabernacle [or tent] not made by hand, this one is not of this creation." The heavenly tabernacle is far greater when compared with the earthly not only in size but also in service. It is superior in the accessibility that it makes possible. The heavenly tabernacle is more complete or perfect. The earthly tabernacle only met a part of the standards while the heavenly perfectly meets all the divine standards. It is a tabernacle that is not of this creation. The heavenly Holy of Holies always existed. God always dwelt there. Wherever the Godhead chose to reside, the Holy of Holies was there because the Persons of the Godhead were there. The Holy of Holies involves Persons more than it does place. The presence of the Persons of the Godhead made the place holy. Before the creation of the universe, the Holy of Holies existed. The most important part and the very reason for the whole tabernacle always existed because God has always existed. He is eternal. With the creation of the universe, the holy place and the courtyard came into existence. The superiority of the heavenly tabernacle exceeds the best service of the earthly tabernacle. The grace believer has actual access to the Holy of Holies in heaven. God came to earth and communed with Adam before the fall. For the first time, man has had direct access to the third heaven. What a privilege it is to have this access.
Hebrews uses several descriptions of the heavenly tabernacle. It is heavenly in character in contrast to being earthly (9:1). It has a Holy of Holies into which Christ took His own blood (9:12). The grace believer has access to the Holy of Holies. "Therefore, brothers, possessing confidence [or boldness] for the entering of the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19)." The heavenly tabernacle has a veil through which there is access. "Which He dedicated for us, a new [lit. recently slain] and living way through the veil, that is His flesh (Heb. 10:20)." When the veil was rent in two in the Herodian temple (Matt. 27:51; Lu. 23:45) with the death of Christ, nothing on earth separated man from God on earth. The only access to heaven was through Christ and His flesh. There is also an altar in heaven (Heb. 13:10). As a result of the work of Christ, the heavenly tabernacle was cleansed and a better sacrifice was offered once and for all. Sacrifices of appreciation are acceptable from the grace believer as they are offered through Christ upon the heavenly altar.
The Altar. In a sense, there is a place within a place for offering sacrifices. The heavenly altar is in the heavenly Holy of Holies. Grace believers offer sacrifices on the heavenly altar. Christ offered Himself on the brazen altar as the believer's substitute. Christians have an altar in the very presence of God. "We have an altar [or place of sacrifice] out of which the ones serving as priests for the tabernacle do not have authority to eat. For the blood of which animals is brought in concerning sins into the Holy of Holies through the high priest, of these, the carcasses [or bodies] are burned outside the camp. Wherefore Jesus, also, in order that He might sanctify [or set apart] the people through His own blood suffered outside the gate. So let us be going out toward Him outside the camp bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:10-13)." The altar for the believer-priest is outside of the camp where Christ is. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father and the offerings of the believer-priest are offered here on earth while God counts them as having been offered on the altar in the third heaven. Through Christ, one makes the sacrifice (Heb. 13:15). Only the spiritual believer has the opportunity to have his sacrifices counted adequate through Christ. The heavenly altar is never overloaded with sacrifices, for the infinite God of the altar can receive an infinite number of sacrifices at one time. If a hypothetical church full of spiritual believers offers sacrifices of praise at the altar at the same time, God accepts each sacrifice at that moment in addition to every other individual sacrifice offered anywhere in the world at the same time. If the spiritual believer's motives are right, God gladly accepts every sacrifice he offers. It is impossible to provide too much pleasure to God who possesses the attribute of goodness by which He maintains His own happiness and that of others, especially that of His children. The grace believer has a heavenly temple and a heavenly altar on which to offer his sacrifices. When the grace believer brings his sacrifices, they are considered to be better sacrifices (Heb. 9:23). A survey of the procedure for offering the sacrifices is very helpful.
The Procedure for Sacrifice. one of the beauties of the procedure for the Christian's sacrificing is its simplicity. Every Christian has the potential for offering sacrifices. A young child who is a believer can very easily learn how to offer the sacrifices. Every new Christian should learn how to offer sacrifices soon after he is saved. Intelligent and unintelligent Christians can all learn how to sacrifice. Every Christian can be offering the sacrifices. Exactly how are they offered?
Know What the Sacrifices Are. If a believer does not know what the sacrifices are, he will never have the ability to enjoy them. Scripture gives extensive information concerning each of the six sacrifices of the believer-priest. Many Christians are performing activities that are identical with those of the sacrifices. In some instances, God may count them to be the sacrifices of a spiritual believer, but they are never the full blessing they might be because of a believer's ignorance. In other instances, the activities are repugnant to God because they are activities done in the flesh. One must know what the sacrifices are and how they become sacrifices from God's perspective. Every Christian needs to be taught the practical doctrine of the sacrifices. One of the great frustrations of human life is taking a new job and receiving no instructions concerning how the job is to be done and what company procedures are. The same frustration can exist in the Christian's life when he hears that he should be offering sacrifices to God. The sacrifices are a part of the ABC's that every believer should be able to teach others (Heb. 5:12). Later chapters will specifically identify the sacrifices of the believer-priest.
Know the Reality of Direct Access. Because of the work of Christ, every Christian has direct access to God through Christ. Many believers feel it is necessary for a pastor, a teacher or a stronger Christian to intervene for them. As has been seen, the Christian has direct access into the Holy of Holies. God the Father sees him in Christ seated at His right hand (Eph. 2:6 cf. 1:20; Heb. 10:12) and just as near to Him as Christ is (Eph. 2:13). There is access stretching into the very center of the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19) by a new and living way (Heb. 10:20). "Let us approach [lit. come before] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts having been sprinkled from an evil conscience and the body having been washed in clean water (Heb. 10:22)." God encourages every saint to know that he has direct access and to utilize the access in sacrifice as well as other areas of Christian living. There is no earthly mediator standing between the believer and his God. An Israelite had several barriers concerning his access to God. The sacrifices for unrighteousness only provided a covering for sin. The individual priest and then the high priest stood between the Israelite and Jehovah. The high priest only had access for a short part of a single day each year. In a sense, the Israelite really did not have any access to Jehovah. The priests communicated for him and offered his sacrifices. There was always some intermediary unless the person was the high priest for whom the sacrifices were the only means of mediation. Christian hearts should be filled with appreciation for the accessibility potentially available to grace believers. When the sacrifice is offered, it is presented before God the Father directly through Jesus Christ when offered by the spiritual believer. Positionally, the believer is qualified to offer the sacrifices directly to God. If he is not living in his position in Christ, it is impossible for him to enjoy the privilege of direct access. In Christ, he is a priest but he must be exercising the priesthood as a spiritual believer. He must learn how to live the spiritual life.
Learn the Spiritual Life. How is the believer spiritual? The most common and erroneous formula for spirituality is for the believer to read the Bible, pray, witness and confess sins every day and he is automatically spiritual all the time. The saddest part of such a program is that Scripture does not teach such a process. A diversity of passages taken out of context is used to establish the system. Anyone can read the Bible. Secular colleges offer courses on the Bible as literature and unbelievers are required to read sections of the Bible. The Bible is a source of information but until the Christian has been illumined and puts the teaching of Scripture for the grace believers into practice in his life, it is impossible for the believer to benefit from reading the Bible every day. An unbeliever can understand the Bible just as well as the carnal believer except for the fact that the carnal believer may have a better reservoir of background information. Many people who read the Bible every day have never been filled by the Spirit since starting such a regimen. The only communication God hears from a carnal believer is confession of sin. All other praying is rhetoric that reverberates off the walls with no Divine response. One must be spiritual for his prayers to be heard. When a believer is living in his position in Christ, the Father listens and responds to the communication that He considers to be coming from His own right hand. Without the filling of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), the witness of the Christian will be ineffective. Simple confession of sin (1 Jn. 1:9) is not enough to make the believer spiritual. After confession, it is necessary for the believer to determine to be spiritual and to set his reflective thinking on things above (Col. 3:1-4). As a result, the Spirit will produce His fruit in the life of the Christian. As the believer matures, he learns to direct the fruit of the Spirit properly.
Once the believer is spiritual, it is necessary to know how to defeat his spiritual enemies [the world, the flesh, and the devil] that attempt to make the believer carnal again. He must know how each enemy approaches and how to defend against each distinct enemy. The world system will attempt to make the believer misdirect the fruit of the Spirit. It appeals to the spiritual believer, attempting to cause him to misdirect his love (agape). The spiritual Christian only needs to stop loving the world system in order to gain the victory (1 Jn. 2:15, 16 Gk.). The flesh is an appetite within the believer that takes good things that God has given and abuses them. In Christ, the believer died to the flesh and was raised thereby having the potential to defeat its appetite by appropriation of the believer's position in Christ (Rom, 6). Satan is an external enemy who attacks the believer with his own peculiar lusts. The spiritual believer simply puts on the armor of God to defeat Satan and his demons (Eph. 6:10-18). The Christian must know the normal progression of the approaches of each enemy: lust temptation -- sin (Jas. 1:14, 15). Only spiritual believers can offer spiritual sacrifices. Hence, an accurate knowledge of the principles for grace Christian living is absolutely necessary for the believer to exercise his priestly function. Once the Christian is spiritual and armed with the facts concerning the sacrifices, he must be alert to the opportunities to offer them.
Be Alert to the Opportunity to Offer Sacrifices. When the believer knows what the sacrifices are, he can be alert for the opportunities to offer them. When he learns that biblical praise is a sacrifice (Heb. 13:15), he is able to be looking for opportunities to offer praise to God. As he understands that praise normally follows thanksgiving, he can see that as a spiritual believer, he is to be thankful in everything (1 Thess. 5:18), for all things and at all times (Eph. 5:20) and for all men (1 Tim. 2:1). What a wide spectrum of opportunities for praise exists as a result of thanksgiving. Every day there are opportunities to be doing things that make other believers happy. There are frequent opportunities to give something to another person to the glory of God. When the Christian learns how to direct his faith, there are a multitude of opportunities for offering the sacrifice. Every hour of every day is filled with opportunities for offering the sacrifices. Many Christians miss many opportunities every day because they are not looking for the opportunities.
The New Testament demands no elaborate procedures. There is no need to go to a specific geographical location to offer the sacrifice. As opportunity arises, sacrifices can be given while driving the car, walking on the sidewalk, milking the cows, working at the office desk, studying at school, washing the dishes and even while jogging. Without geographical limitations, the sacrifices can be freely given at any place and at any time. The sacrifices of faith and praise can be given in the middle of the night when the spiritual believer is awake and thinking about life and its circumstances. Opportunities may come at any time and in any place. All that is necessary is an awareness of the opportunities by the believer. "Let us offer up the sacrifice of ... (Heb. 13:15)."
Be Involved in Offering Sacrifices. Spiritual sacrifices are not conspicuous sacrifices. Every time an Israelite brought a sacrifice it was a conspicuous event. As he led the animal to be sacrificed down the street, he was a public spectacle. Human nature only thinks the worst. One can imagine the reaction of the people who saw him lead a ram down the street on his way to the temple. They would know that he was going to offer a trespass offering because that was the only offering that required a ram. They could only guess what the sinful activity was that demanded a ram. "What did you do this time?" "Isn't this the second time this week?" "You'll go broke from all these offerings!" "Same old sin?" "I'll meet you there with my ram as soon as I borrow the money." One can imagine what went on in the minds of the people and the activity of the gossips every time a man went by with a ram. Even a female goat would stir up questions, since it was possible to offer it for either peace offerings or for a sin offering. An Old Testament saint could not afford to be embarrassed at offering sacrifices. The New Testament believer's sacrifice is not a public spectacle. It involves spiritual activity that may be visible in external manifestations that are commendable and generally not embarrassing. Even the most timid believer can offer the spiritual sacrifices to God. They should become a normal part of the saint's activity.
The more involved the believer is with the sacrifices, the better he can see the opportunities for offering them. In a sense, practice makes perfect, but in reality God looks at the heart of the individual. Because of this, if the believer makes mistakes with the sacrifice, God still accepts the sacrifice with pleasure. When the believer gets the sacrifice habit, it is one of the easiest aspects of his Christian life. He may feel like an Israelite chasing a goat around the temple plaza, but he should not be discouraged. By faith, he believes God. He sees his sacrifice is acceptable because God has promised to accept the sacrifices of spiritual believers. If the believer knows that he is spiritual [and he should know], it gives him the confidence to be offering up the sacrifices to the glory of God.
Sacrifices for the believer-priest do not normally take great periods of time. Praise, faith, giving and physical body sacrifices only involve short periods of time. Fellowship and doing good may take more time but not much in comparison to the sacrifices under the Law. Most Israelites lived a great distance from the tabernacle or temple. After rounding up an animal or selling an animal, a journey was necessary to get to the place of sacrifice. Then it was necessary to get in line at the temple and to wait one's turn. The sacrificial procedure itself took time. Then the Israelite had to journey home. If he lived in Jerusalem, it probably took a half a day to sacrifice. If he lived a distance away, it could take several days to offer a sacrifice. Sacrificing was not a matter that was convenient. The grace believer can offer the sacrifice of praise at any moment, in a moment, in his mind and with his voice. Because of this, the believer can offer sacrifices pleasing to God multiplied times more than the Israelite could under Law.
Most of the sacrifices for the grace believer cost him very little. The major expense comes in the privilege of giving. The only cost of the other sacrifices is a little time and reflection. When the Israelite brought an animal, it was expensive. If he raised the animal, it was a part of his living. If he paid for the animal, it was a big expense. Even two turtledoves were a major expense to the poor Israelite. Every animal had its own value whether an ox, goat, lamb, bullock, sheep, turtledove or young pigeon. The meal or the drink offerings also involved expenditure. God, by His grace, established a sacrificial system that does not require a great expense to offer sacrifices for the Christian. As the Spirit of God leads the cheerful believer, expensive sacrifices of giving may be made. When he is a spiritual believer, the Christian will offer them with joy in his heart. Nothing should prohibit the grace believer from offering sacrifices.
The Purpose of Sacrifice. if the Christian is directing his love toward God, he desires to please God. There is no better way for a spiritual believer to please God than to offer spiritual sacrifices. Another purpose for the sacrifices is to bring glory to God through his activity. When a sacrifice is made and witnessed by human beings or spirit beings, it brings glory to God. A later chapter will specifically discuss the ways the sacrifices of the believer-priest affect God.
The Contrast Between Sacrificial Systems. The sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law stands in direct contrast to the sacrificial system of the Dispensation of Grace. Many illustrations have been presented concerning these contrasting systems. There are just a few things that are common between the two. Both sets of sacrifices are brought to God who in turn counts the thing offered to be an acceptable or rejectable sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ fulfilled the non-sweet sacrifice requirements and much more for the grace believer. By His cross work, Christ became the believers Passover sacrifice and Day of Atonement offering. He dealt with all aspects of unrighteousness including sin. By His blood, He keeps on cleansing the Christian from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). In His death, He made provision for the sin nature, Adamic sin guilt and the acts of sin of mankind. When the benefits of Christ's cross work are applied to the believer at salvation, he has a new status and relationship with God. God the Father sees him in Christ as a member of a spiritual priesthood with the potential for offering totally different types of sacrifices. The whole sacrificial system for the believer-priest is completely changed from that of the Aaronic priests under the Law. He offers spiritual sacrifices rather than physical sacrifices (1 Pe. 2:5). There is no longer need to go to a specific place to give the sacrifice because the grace believer's sacrifice can be offered on the altar in heaven from any place on earth. The sacrifices of the New Testament believer are given as a privilege rather than as a necessity mandated by Law. Only spiritual believers can offer grace sacrifices while both believers and unbelievers offered sacrifices in the Old Testament. Both sets of sacrifices were pleasing to God when offered in a proper way. The following chart summarizes the distinctions between those sacrifices required in the Mosaic Law and those sacrifices available for the grace believer.
Sacrifices of the Mosaic Law Sacrifices of the Grace Believer 1. Physical Sacrifices 1. Spiritual Sacrifices 2. In Earthly Tabernacle or 2. In Heavenly Tabernacle or Temple Temple 3. On a Physical Earthly Altar 3. On a Spiritual Heavenly Altar 4. In a Specific Location 4. From Any Location 5. At Limited Times 5. At Any Time 6. Mediated Through 6. Directly Through Priesthood Through High Priest 7. Sweet and Non-Sweet Sacrifices 7. Sweet Sacrifices 8. By Commandment 8. As a Privilege 9. By Believers and Unbelievers 9. By Spiritual Believers Only 10. Anticipated Physical 10. Anticipates God Being Blessing in Time to Result Glorified and Pleased 11. Ceremonial Cleansing Necessary 11. Christ's Cleansing Applied 12. Human High Priest 12. Heavenly High Priest 13. Aaronic Priesthood 13. Melchisedecian Priesthood 14. Levitical Priests 14. Kingly Priests 15. Required and Voluntary 15. Only Voluntary 16. Presented in Court of Temple 16. Presented from the Right Hand of God
These contrasts provide a clear picture of the uniqueness of the privilege of the grace believer in offering sacrifices. No Israelite could even imagine that anyone would have such unique privileges as the grace believer has. That which was considered impossible under the Law becomes a common activity for the grace believer. Without a doubt, the spiritual realm is far more important than the physical realm. It is essential for the Christian to realize the uniqueness of the privilege. Sacrificing is a very serious business and not to be approached lightly. God will not strike the believer dead because of his frivolous attitude in offering activities that could be sacrifices. He just does not count them to be sacrifices. Some Christians like to advertise any Christian activity they do to impress others with their spirituality. They perform activities that could be sacrifices and say, "Look at me, I'm offering a sacrifice to God!" As a result, the activity of the sacrifices becomes a law unto itself demonstrating one's personal righteousness to men rather than exhibiting the righteousness of God. A sincere, silent offering of a sacrifice to God may not be impressive to men; but when offered by the spiritual Christian, it is counted to be an acceptable, well pleasing sacrifice by God. O that the Church of Jesus Christ would learn how to offer proper sacrifices to God today.
Scripture gives clear descriptions of each of the sacrifices of the believer-priest. Each of the six activities that God counts as a sacrifice must be considered in order for the believer to understand what they are. Scripture identifies these activities by the word "sacrifice" (thusia). Some would add other activities to the list of sacrifices. Scripture only calls six activities sacrifices. The primary sacrifice is the one that needs to be considered first -- the sacrifice of the physical body. "Let us offer the sacrifice of ... (Heb. 13:15)."
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One of the first passages of Scripture that introduces the new believer to priesthood concepts is Romans 12:1, 2. When Christians seem to need confrontation in matters of "surrender" or "dedication" because of their carnality, this passage is presented as the answer to the problem. Unfortunately, the New Testament provisions for being victorious over the sin nature are frequently ignored because of Romans 12:1, 2. It is considered to be an instant solution for a wide spectrum of spiritual problems. Interestingly enough, the verse is strictly speaking of the giving of the physical body as a living sacrifice to God, not the sin nature. Paul has already dealt with the problem of the believer's sin nature in Romans six and seven. There is no clear reference to the believer's dealing with his sin nature in Romans 12:1, 2. Paul simply deals with the logical activity of the believer in light of Christ's work and its results concerning the physical body and the believer's involvement in the legal age. What a joy it is for the new believer, and even the believer who has been saved for a period of time, to grasp the simplicity and uniqueness of the passage. When the work of Christ is applied to what a believer is to do with his body, the beauty of God's provision becomes clear.
The sacrifice of the physical body is the primary sacrifice of the New Testament believer-priest. It is possible to offer the other sacrifices without offering this sacrifice, but the full appreciation of the reason for making them is not completely understood if this sacrifice has not been offered. An accurate understanding of Romans 12:1, 2 will give the believer a proper motivation for every other sacrifice. Giving sacrifices to God is perfectly logical. Christ's cross work provides a basis for the believer's sacrificing. The logical result is that the sacrifice of the physical body makes perfect sense to both the believer and to his God. If one is a priest, it is only logical for a priest to perform priestly duties as prescribed in Scripture. Unfortunately, many believers have been deprived of the joys and satisfaction of living as believer-priests because they have not offered this single sacrifice to God. A reluctance in giving the body as a sacrifice frequently is the basis for reluctance in most other areas of Christian activity. This sacrifice is not an abnormal activity. It is not limited to a few "dedicated" servants of God. It is for every Christian to offer.
"I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God ..." The importance of the sacrifice is based on the character of God as is evidenced in His gracious provision as illustrated in His treatment and provision for Israel as a nation. In Romans nine through eleven, Paul has used Israel as an illustration of the righteousness of God in His dealing with the nation. As Paul has just considered Israel and her condition, he immediately is drawn to the contrasting provisions that God has made for the grace believer. He draws himself alongside the reader encouraging him to have a positive response to the tender compassions of God. It Is important to notice that neither the word "mercy" nor the word "grace" is used in this description of the benefits from God. Even though the Authorized Version translates the five occurrences of the word (oiktirmos) "mercy," it is a bad translation having nothing to do with the Greek term for mercy normally used in the New Testament. True mercy is directed toward those who are suffering the results of sin. The concept here is that of tender compassion in response to those who need to be pitied. God the Father is the "Father of compassions (2 Cor. 1:3)." The direction of God's compassion is sovereignly determined. Already Paul has reminded the Romans that God will have compassion on whom He will have compassion (Rom. 9:15). The compassion of God is exhibited toward the grace believer in the fact that God has graciously given the Christian all the provisions for life and godliness. Since the work of Christ has provided victory for the believer over all of his spiritual enemies, there should be a logical response to these gracious provisions.
Paul's strong encouragement is emphasized by his use of "beseech," (parakaleo). He calls the Romans to his side to encourage or exhort them to positive action on their part because there is a need for positive change in their lives. Evidently, they had not done that which was most logical for every believer to do. Even though it makes perfect sense for the believer to present his body as a sacrifice, the Roman believers had not offered this sacrifice. Hence, Paul is drawn to them by his own personal concern. He moves to exhort them compassionately to do what is considered normal. He confronts them as brothers, continually encouraging them to perform their priestly duty.
The basis for Paul's appeal is the tender compassions. These are found in the realm of one's emotions. God's feelings toward grace believers are different than they are toward unbelievers or were to Israel (Rom. 9-11). While the emotional sensations of God toward the believer exist within His character, they are only manifested in His helpful activity toward the recipients. Compassions are manifested in behavior that is clearly visible to the Christian. They are the basis for all elements of the Christian life. On a human level, true compassion is projected into compassionate activity that in turn assures the recipient of the reality of the compassion for the believer. What one does is a mirror of his true feelings. All of the provisions of grace are evidence of God's true compassion toward the believer. Christ's work on the cross provided every blessing and benefit possible for the Christian. Paul's appeal is rooted in the tender compassions and their outworking as revealed in the preceding chapters of Romans. God's compassion is manifested in justification by which He declares the believer righteous giving him a quality of Divine righteousness (Rom. 3:25, 26; 4:6). As a result of justification, the believer has peace with God (Rom. 5:1) that is an evident result of God's tender compassion. Other evidences of God's compassion in Romans include the potential to walk in newness of life (6:4), victory over the sin nature (6:4-13), no condemnation in Christ (8:1), freedom from the law of sin and death (8:2), the indwelling of Christ (8:10), joint-heirs with Christ (8:17), an indwelling Intercessor (8:26) and security in the love of Christ (8:35-39). Because of the new relationship, a believing human being has with God, why shouldn't the believer give God his body as a sacrifice?
Are Christians "Indian Givers"? Is this sacrifice retrievable after it has been given? Would it be possible for an Israelite to bring an animal sacrifice to a Levitical priest for a burnt offering and to retrieve the remains so that he could bring them again for a later sacrifice? It is inconceivable! The sacrifice was once for all within the ritualistic guidelines of the Mosaic Law. When a sacrifice was brought, in some instances, it was possible for the person who brought the sacrifice to receive a portion of the carcass of the animal for food for his own family. The problem was that the meat was not prepared by a French chef but a priest who wasn't interested in the tenderness and flavor of the meat. This was only true in limited instances. Other portions of the sacrifice were for the priests and their families. Once the sacrifice was brought, slaughtered and sacrificed, there was no possible way for the sacrifice to be repeated without bringing another animal and offering. It is a separate, distinct sacrifice. A sacrificed animal could not be sacrificed a second time. It was a single event that was completed with the actual sacrifice. One animal was accepted for a single sacrifice. In the same way, the sacrifices of the believer-priest are individual and seen as completed actions even though in some instances a series of sacrifices may be offered for the same thing (example: praise). When the believer offers his body as a sacrifice, it is not retrievable. It cannot be offered again.
The physical body is the sacrifice. Where is the believer going to get more than one physical body to offer as a sacrifice? He has only one body. Can he retrieve the body that he offered as a sacrifice? No! It is a legitimate sacrifice or it was no sacrifice at all! While the logic surrounding the whole concept of sacrifice supports a one-time sacrifice, the form of the Greek verb also indicates that the presentation is a once-for-all situation that occurs at a single point in time [aorist tense].
All standard Greek grammarians see the aorist tense as punctiliar [or point] in its action. The verb "present," (paristemi) is in the aorist in Romans 12:1. Paul comes alongside the Roman reader encouraging him to respond by presenting his body a sacrifice. At this point, "to present" is the purpose for Paul's beseeching [a purpose infinitive]. He expects the reader to present his body as a living sacrifice once-for-all at a point in time. There is no concept of rededication or surrender in this verse, just the concept of freely giving a sacrifice with no strings attached. Why should anyone pervert Greek grammar to make this verse fit some preconceived notion?
A study of the verb translated "present" will produce some beneficial material for understanding the whole concept. In its 39 occurrences in the New Testament, the Authorized Version translates the verb in a wide diversity of ways. The dominant translations are: "stand by" [12 times], "present" [8 times) and "yield" [3 times]. It is a composite verb that compounds the preposition "alongside," (para) with the verb "to stand," (histemi) simply meaning "to stand alongside." In the New Testament, it is used in its simple form. "Yield" and "present" relate to the root idea in that one stands alongside with the objective of giving something to another person. Paul uses this limited concept here assuming that the Romans understand some critical areas of Bible doctrine. He assumes that they know that God has the right to receive the sacrifice. He assumes that they understand their individual responsibility as believers.
Paul drives home the importance of the presentation of a sacrifice by using this specific verb. He has already used the verb in Romans 6:13 and 19 where he describes the potential for their having victory over the appetites of the sin nature. He expected them to know their position [i.e. location] in Christ's death and resurrection (6:3-10). God the Father imputed the work of Christ to them to the extent that from His perspective, when Christ died, they died; and when He rose from the dead, they were raised from the dead. Christ's death made complete provision for victory over the sin nature. After the Roman believers knew these facts, Paul encouraged them to reckon the facts to be true or to count them to be true (Rom. 6:11). They are positionally dead to the sin nature but alive unto God in Jesus Christ. Because of what they know and reckon, they can yield themselves and their members to God (6:13). It makes perfect sense for the believer to know and to reckon that he has victory in Christ over his sin nature. The work of Christ is sufficient for victory if it is appropriated. The yielding or presenting of Romans six has the idea of remitting something that has been purchased. The work of Christ has paid the price and the believer is logically to give Him that which He has purchased. The same concept is carried to Romans twelve.
When an individual gives another person something and then takes it back, it is abhorrent. What a breach of faith! In Romans twelve, there is even a greater problem because once the sacrifice is given; it can never be taken back. It is irreversible, irrevocable and permanent. No man has the ability to take anything from God that belongs to Him. To believe that this is possible is blasphemy. God's grace is not manifested in His returning things given to Him.
There are some assumptions that must be made at this point. One must assume that the giver has possession of the property and the right to give it. The one who receives the sacrifice must desire to have it given and a willingness to accept it. The sacrifice itself must have characteristics that make it appropriate and acceptable to the receiver. In other words, you can't give away something nobody wants. Because of the work of Christ, the body of the believer is something that God desires and will accept as a proper sacrifice. Since God encourages the believer to present his body as a sacrifice, he must understand its basis from the text. The believer's body is not his own to give. He only possesses something that was purchased by Christ in His cross work. In this sacrifice, the believer simply gives or presents that which has already been purchased to its rightful owner as a sacrifice.
Imagine buying a new automobile and having the dealer refuse to give you the keys after you have paid for it. Imagine paying for a new suit and having the clerk refuse to give you the suit. Imagine paying for groceries and having the checker take your money and keep the groceries in the check stand. It would never happen! All reason dictates against such behavior. The purchaser paid the price for the merchandise and thus became its owner. It is the most logical progression in the world: seller - buyer - sale - possession. Undoubtedly, that is the reason that Paul calls the presentation of the body as a sacrifice to be a reasonable [or logical] service. It is illogical for the believer not to give his body as a living sacrifice to God.
When the believer gives the sacrifice of his body, he is simply giving God that which is rightfully His by purchase. The verb "present" involves ownership on the part of the recipient. The believer's body is the temple, (naos i.e. Holy of Holies) of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). The believer has been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Without the sacrifice of the physical body, it is impossible for Christ to be magnified in the body (Phil. 1:20).
Christ purchased the believer's body through His cross work. The believer must recognize the fact, and then see the logic for giving the body to its rightful owner as an acceptable sacrifice. When the sacrifice is presented, the body is given to its Purchaser once-for-all. Though the sacrifice is a single act, it is an important part of the believer's priestly service.
What if a believer, who has given his body in this sacrifice, becomes carnal and abuses the body by the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21)? Didn't he take the sacrifice back? No! If the verb form of "present" means what it normally means in the Greek New Testament, it is impossible. A proud young father may give his 18month-old first son an electric train set for Christmas. He takes possession of it for his own pleasure. If dad does not break it first, the child will ultimately receive it when he is old enough to play with it. People laugh at young parents that do such things in the physical realm. Similarly, some children will buy presents for parents that will be for the child's personal benefit. A young man may give his father specific tools for Christmas so that the youthful backyard mechanic can use them on his own car. How many children have given their mothers candy as a gift making certain that they have chosen their own favorite flavor anticipating her sharing the gift with them. The purchase seems to do double duty -- meeting the need for a gift and satisfying the need of the child. While the gifts belong to their designated owner, the giver frequently has use of them. Human beings often use that which belongs to someone else. Some will abuse an item borrowed, while others exercise extreme care to see that it is returned to its owner in its original condition. This is true in the spiritual realm as well. Which is worse, abusing something that belongs to you by repossession or abusing something that belongs to another.? Most will agree that the second is worse and creates more guilt for most individuals who understand what they are doing.
When Paul wrote to the Romans, he refused to permit them to think that they could reclaim that which they had been given. There are no "Indian givers" in the New Testament sacrifices. There is no such thing as a rededication of the physical body. Paul exhorts the Romans to recognize the rightful owner and to treat that property as belonging to God rather than to oneself. What if the believer abuses the sacrificed body? When this happens, the sin nature (cf. Rom. 6) with its appetites controls the body of the believer. When the lusts from the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) influence the believer, they can easily become actions that will directly affect the body. Sexual lusts lead the believer to sin that can definitely affect the body. A believer, whose body is infected with venereal disease, has abused the purchased possession of God. Unhealthy diet for religious reasons, non-biblical fasting, flagellation, religious use of drugs, refusal of medical treatment, and such things all directly affect the body and its well-being. It is amazing how many believers abuse their bodies by their zeal. Zeal is a work of the flesh translated "jealousy" in the Authorized Version. In Galatians 5:20, the list of the works of the flesh, it is translated "emulations." The carnal Christian manifesting zeal will lose sleep, have unhealthy eating habits and endanger his physical health because of his driving zeal. The modern church has made a great effort to make zeal honorable in every instance even though it is included in the New Testament as a work of the flesh. Hatred, strife and anger all provide basis for bodily harm. The resulting right hook to the jaw does do some damage to the body. One of the most obvious abuses of the sacrifice of the body is drunkenness. Habitual drunkenness brings disease and death to the body. The internal damage is great while the potentials of external abuse from drunken carousing and driving also affect the body. The carnal believer, who has given his body a living sacrifice, is guilty of abusing God's property -- not his own.
If the believer is carnal, he must appropriate the New Testament provisions for dealing with the sin nature. He must confess his sins (1 Jn. 1:9) and set his reflective thinking on things above (Col. 3:2). A part of the things that are above is the fact that God the Father sees the believer as dead to the sin nature and alive to God (Rom. 6). The whole procedure is a mental process between the Christian and his God. Since the believer has given his body a living sacrifice, he is stimulated to live in the realm of the new nature rather than the sin nature so the body that belongs to God can no longer be abused. Christ paid the price so that the body could emanate the things of the Spirit ["spiritual"] in this life. Hence, it is absolutely illogical for it to be emanating things of the flesh [i.e. "carnal"].
God expects certain characteristics to be evident in the body that is presented as a sacrifice. It is to be living. It is to be holy. It is to be acceptable to God. Some Christians have believed that the physical body is evil, and hence, could not meet the last two criteria. God does not ask that which is impossible of the believer. Some Christians may not appear to be living, but unless they occupy a gravesite, there must be some life there. God assures us that it is possible for the physical body of the believer to be living, holy and acceptable.
God expects the physical body to be living. Without a doubt this is written to contrast this sacrifice with those of the Old Testament and those of the pagan society of the day. When the sacrifice was burned on an altar, it was dead not alive. Its life had been taken from it. It has been said that it is easier to die for Christ than it is to live for Him. One wonders what would happen in the contemporary church, if God demanded physical sacrifice of the physical, human body in Romans twelve. Could it be that there would be more physical sacrifices than there are spiritual sacrifices? A carnal believer, living by the religious works of the flesh, would be quick to have himself put to death as a sacrifice just as quickly as a spiritual believer.
What kind of life is involved in a continually living sacrifice? Is it physical, biological life? Is it eternal life? Is it resurrection life? It is true that the indwelling of the eternal Son of God in the believer gives the believer true eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12, 13), but the concept does not fit here. Resurrection life is imputed to the believer in his position in Christ and does not fit here either. The focus is clearly on physical life. The contrast with other sacrificial systems affirms this. Every sacrificial system in human history involves the taking of biological life from its victims.
The sacrifice of the physical body is the first sacrifice a believer should offer to God. A new believer coming either from paganism or from Judaism would naturally be thinking in terms of kinds of physical sacrifice. Paul uses the continuous action of the present participle to show that physical life must go on for the sacrifice to be effective. There can be no proxy sacrifices in God's program for the sacrificing of the living body.
Secondly, the body is to be holy or set apart as a sacrifice. A substantial portion of what is written about practical holiness these days analyzes behavior that is acceptable or unacceptable [from the perspective of the individual author] to God. In essence, the things the believer does not do are the criteria for true holiness. "I don't drink, I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do!" is considered to be a part of personal holiness. The New Testament does not emphasize these principles. New Testament holiness does not focus on the negatives but rather on the positive.
There are two aspects of holiness in the New Testament. The first is that of being set apart to something or someone. The second aspect is being set apart from something or someone. The believer is set apart to God. This is essential in every facet of personal holiness or practical sanctification. The believer's positional sanctification sets the believer apart at God the Fathers right hand in Christ in the third heaven (1 Cor. 1:30).
Because he is in Christ, the believer is a saint from the moment of salvation (Phil. 1:1). Practical sanctification is evident when the believer is set apart to God in his daily life with the Holy Spirit making up deficiencies (Eph. 5:18). In Romans 12:1, Paul focuses on practical sanctification. A believer has the responsibility to apply the provisions of Scripture so that he can be holy. Since the body is to be holy, the believer should make certain that he is in that condition when he offers it as a sacrifice.
What an insult it is to God to list all the things that the believer does not do to prove that he is holy. If a child met her father at the door and gave a list of things she didn't do to please her father, the human parent would feel as though he was a failure. Yet if the child comes and expresses her love and her desire to be close to the father, he is filled with joy and appreciates her desire to be his very own girl. The first relationship is one of fear while the second is one of love.
Practical holiness focuses on one's relationship to God rather than the reaction to the unacceptable. If a believer is truly separated to God, he will have little problem with the things of the world system. God is the focal point of all his attention and automatically the things of the world system become secondary and are ignored. As a spiritual believer, he is directing love as a part of the fruit of the Spirit toward God rather than toward the world system (1 Jn. 2:15). His desire to please God is a deterrent for his involvement in things that would displease God. When one is set apart to God, his concerns are only for Him and all else is extraneous.
The third quality of the sacrifice is that it is to be well pleasing to God. The adjective "acceptable" is found in verses one and two. It is a compound form that can be defined as that which is good, bringing contentment or satisfaction to its possessor. In the New Testament, nine passages use the adjective to describe God's satisfaction. As in Romans 12:1, it is normally translated "acceptable" in the Authorized Version. When the believer gives his body as a sacrifice, it will bring pleasure to God because it meets the Divine standards for His own pleasure.
By presenting his body as a living sacrifice, the Christian is doing the logical thing. Coming from the Greek word (logikos), "reasonable" clearly is the source of the English word "logical." In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter expects the believer to come like a newborn babe possessing a strong desire for the logical and unpolluted milk so that he may grow spiritually. This is the only other New Testament occurrence. It is obscured by the Authorized Version's translation "word" that is not found in the Greek text. In classical Greek, Plato's dialogues were described by this root. It had the classical sense of an oral presentation that had been well thought out and organized with the purpose of persuading an audience to accept the validity of the argument. Modern logic has its roots in classical reasoning. It builds syllogisms upon premises to establish the validity of an argument. Paul builds his argument upon a single premise -- Christ in His cross work purchased and should rightly receive the believer's body. The logical response for the believer is that he should be active in the priestly service of presenting a sacrifice to God. He should have no reluctance. It makes perfect sense. It is a logical conclusion. Since a believer is a priest, the most sensible service he can render to God is to present his body a living sacrifice.
Paul expected every Roman believer to offer this sacrifice, not just a select few. He describes this as "your" service. By using the plural pronoun, he confirms that every Christian can present the sacrifice. The service was a temple-type service as will be seen in the chapter on the service of the believer-priest.
In Romans twelve, verse two cannot be divorced from verse one. The "and," (kai), is not changing the subject but rather continuing the thought of the previous context. "Be not conformed to this age" very neatly fits into the whole context. Paul actually writes, "Do not be continually conformed for yourselves to this age." What does a believer do to be conformed? What age is involved? Context and the study of the words clearly identify both the action and the age.
"Conform," (suschematidzo), is a compound Greek word. It literally means, "to have an identical fashion or outward appearance" with the tenants that characterize the age. The root is found twice in the New Testament and is translated "fashion" in both instances (1 Cor. 7:31; Phil. 2:8). The verb found in Romans 12:2 is also found in 1 Peter 1:14 where it is translated "fashion." In First Peter, the standard for the fashion is former strong desires in ignorance. There are nine occurrences of the noun "fashion," (schema), found in the New Testament. A closely related form, (metaschematidzo), has the idea of masquerading with an intentional, temporary change being made in outward appearance with no change in inward reality (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 1 Cor. 4:6). Here the verb is a compound with the (sun) preposition that has the idea of an identifiable togetherness. The motive of the one who is an age conformer is to be closely identified with the age that is established in context. He has no desire to be identified in any other way. Visibility with an acceptable outward appearance is his basic goal in life. It is a superficial appearance. In Romans twelve, the person is deluded to the point that he thinks it is logical for him to be identified with the age. It is not necessary to have witnesses observe the outward appearance even though the whole idea is to give an external impression to any observer. His appearance is superficial because the inward reality is totally different than the image he makes for himself. There is no internal change that is identical with the external representation. Even though the Christian may believe that his age conforming is right and meets certain standards for "Christian" behavior, God sees the conformity as unacceptable to Himself. Men may believe that the Christian has great spiritual maturity while in reality he is functioning outside of God's provisions for the grace believer. Whole churches may gather together and represent themselves as true Christians ,obedient to the will of God by their age conforming. They never please God by their standards or conduct. When children play, they often dress up to appear to be adults and they are cute. Christians, who dress up by age conforming, are not cute but are to be pitied because of their need for real, substantial spiritual growth. "Be not conformed" is a strong encouragement to believers not to be involved in the age.
When the Authorized Version's translators translated "age," (aion), with the English "world," they provided the basis for an error that has had a great influence on the lives of many Christians. The passage is not speaking of "worldliness" but "age conformity." Multitudes of worldly Christians have been rebuked from this passage of Scripture for their worldly attitudes and lifestyles. Major life decisions have been made in response to admonitions against worldly influence, activities and attitudes. There are other New Testament passages that confront the believer's relationship to the world system and present the means of victory over it. Romans 12:1, 2 is not one of them. The word in Romans twelve is "age," (aion), and not "world," (kosmos), even though the Authorized Version frequently translates "age" as "world." An age is totally different from world.
It is important for the believer to understand what an age is in the New Testament. An age is not a dispensation. Scripture never speaks of a church age or an age of grace. It clearly speaks of "the dispensation of the grace from the God (Ephesians 3:2)." An age is a period of time in which God reveals something about Himself to created beings whether human or spirit beings. There were ages before the creation of man (Heb. 11:3 cf. Col. 1:26) and will be ages in the future (Eph. 2:7). Scripture teaches that there are two ages running concurrently today: the legal age (Ac. 3:22-26) and the present evil age (Gal. 1:4). The legal age began with Moses at Sinai and will continue through the second coming of Christ to earth. It is also called an age of the prophets (Ac. 3:21). A literal translation of the verse is "God spoke from an age through the mouth of His holy prophets." The present evil age has a god who is Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). A believer can love the present evil age as Demas did (2 Tim. 4:10). When the believer was an unbeliever, he ordered every detail of his life ["walked"] by the present evil age (Eph. 2:2). Which age is involved in Romans 12:2? An immediate response is that it is the present evil age but the context of the passage points directly toward the legal age.
The roots and reasons for the content of verses one and two are chapters nine through eleven. God has dealt with Israel in the legal age. They did not consider His revelation of Himself to be sufficient for them to believe God and to keep its legal requirements. They were totally at fault for their failure in that they had challenged God to give them anything that He wanted them to do so they could please Him. As a result, the majority of the Jews were ultimately taken from the place of God's blessing and the Gentiles who became grace believers were engrafted in their place (Rom. 11). With the manifestation of the grace of God to the Gentiles who would believe, Paul encourages the Church believer not to behave like the Jews did in their failure. Rather than accept God by faith, they used the Law as a means of justifying themselves before God. Through the Law, they attempted to demonstrate their righteousness by their works by doing what the Law prescribed. The character of the legal age involves man's attempt to show a righteous God that he could be just as righteous as God by living by the Law of God. "Whatever you say, God, we will do (Ex. 19:8)" is the trigger God used to begin the legal age and the Dispensation of Law. At Sinai, God revealed Himself as holy and righteous. Israel assumed presumptuously that within themselves they could do anything that God could ask them to do. There was nothing to be gained from challenging God to give them something to do rather than to accept the covenant that God had made with Abraham by simple faith.
In verse one, Paul uses "therefore," (oun), to tie the passage to its preceding context. Some will say that the "Amen" of 11:36 ends the discussion of the legal age and that the "therefore" is simply a rhetorical device. Unfortunately, such a statement is not only illogical but is also poor Greek grammar. "Therefore" (oun) is a particle that expresses consequence or simple sequence to the previous statement. It is rarely used as a rhetorical device and it is very clear in the instances where it is.
The "mercies of God" are clearly identified in the preceding context reaffirming the tie to chapters nine through eleven. Another argument for the legal age is the near demonstrative pronoun "this." What is the antecedent of the pronoun? The preceding verses have presented the elements of the legal age. There is no mention of elements that immediately relate to the present evil age except in the very early chapters of Romans. The near demonstrative pronoun is never used as a designation for the present evil age but is used to describe the age in a context that clearly gives an antecedent for the pronoun (Eph. 1:21; 6:12 Gk.). How many believers are confident that they have no problems with the present evil age while living wholeheartedly in the legal age? A believer will never represent the holiness and righteousness of God in this life [his present tense salvation] without the sovereign intervention of God Himself. An age conformer lives by the Law as a grace believer who is showing himself [by his sin nature] capable within himself of possessing righteousness like God's righteousness. Most of these believers have no idea that in Christ they possess the righteousness of Christ without any work involved (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Cor. 1:30).
From the Garden of Eden forward, Satan's goal has been to make men act independent of God. One of the greatest acts of independence from God a Christian can commit in his life is attempting to justify himself before God by the Mosaic Law. Satan has little problem with Christians who have voluntarily enslaved themselves to the Law. They generally keep out of trouble and will not hinder Satan's plans and strategies against Christ and His Church. Every aspect of their lives is independent of God demonstrating a submission to Satan's attack of independence. Age conformers have taken the freedom that they have in Christ and replaced it with the yoke of bondage of the Law (Gal. 5:1). They prefer the prison of the Law to the freedom in Christ (Gal. 3:23 Gk.). It was, and still is, impossible for a person to mature living under the Law (Heb. 7:11). Hence, the age conformer will never grow up spiritually. Satan is pleased when the Christian is an age conformer. These believers control their sin nature with the Mosaic Law and are satisfied with their spiritual infancy justifying it with Old Testament principles. The age conformer attempts to show God how righteous he is by living by the Law or a quality of law.
When the Christian understands that he is a New Testament believer-priest, he must recognize that his sacrifices are of a spiritual value to God though several sacrifices are physical in nature. An age conformer will bring a sacrifice from necessity, by force rather than by faith. He prefers the tithe to grace giving. He prefers to say, "Praise the Lord!" rather than actually praise the Lord. He does good by mandate rather than from biblical Christian love. He fellowships with other saints because it is the proper thing to do rather than from a real unadulterated love of the brethren. He sees the sacrifices as legal regulations rather than privileges. When Paul tells the Roman believers not to be conformed to the legal age, he is telling them to give their bodies willingly and freely as a living sacrifice not by necessity but to the glory of God. There are no requirements or restraints that make the presentation of the sacrifice necessary for the Christian. By His grace, God makes it the most logical thing a believer can do as a result of his understanding of the results of the work of Christ.
Since the presentation of the sacrifice is not a mandated, legal obligation, there is no useful purpose for the believer's outward exhibition of something that is not an inward reality. Paul encourages the believer to think in the realm of the renewedness of mind that he received as a result of his spiritual birth. When his thinking is proper, he will be aligned with the form in which his Heavenly Father sees him. The English "transform" means "to change the form or shape of something." In biology, the Greek root is carried over to the English in the word "metamorphosis." Caterpillars (larva) turn into pupa that in turn change into butterflies. Frog eggs produce tadpoles that in turn change into frogs. In each of these cases, there are some very obvious metabolic changes in the internal as well as external forms of these living creatures. Geology describes natural changes in rock as metamorphic. A transformation of chalk into primary limestone by the pressures of earth and water creates a change in form. One cannot write on a blackboard with a piece of primary limestone but can with ordinary chalk even though both are composed of the same basic elements. If there is an internal change in essence, how is such a change in essence accomplished in the life of the believer? The verb is a passive verb pointing to the fact that someone else is acting on the believer. It is very important for the Christian to recognize the passive form. Who brings about the transformation? God, Himself, has perfectly made the arrangements. "But be transformed by the renewedness of the mind." Scripture presents two concepts of transformation.
Transformation describes the open, visible change in the form of an object. When Christ went up to the Mount of Transfiguration, He was changed in form and appearance. He was transformed or transfigured. His garments were gleaming white (Matt. 17:2; Mk. 9:3; Lu. 9:29). The appearance of His face was totally different (heteros) (Lu. 9:29 Gk.). His face was shining like the appearance of the sun (Matt. 17:2). The Shekinah glory of God possessed by the Son was manifested to men, as it had never been before during Christ's earthly sojourn. Peter, James and John witnessed a human body lead them and climb up the mountain. There that body was transformed temporarily so that they could see the manifestation of deity of the great I Am. There was a definite change in form. The change in form, as well as the appearance of Moses and Elijah, had been so great that the three disciples did not tell anyone else of their experience until much later (Lu. 9:36; Mk. 9:9, 10). Peter later described himself as an eyewitness to the very majesty of God on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pe. 1:16-18). There had been a change in form from a human body designed to manifest a human nature to a body that clearly manifested the majesty and glory of God the Son.
Transformation in the New Testament also has the idea of an inward transformation that does not need necessarily to be manifested on the outside. In Romans 12:2, emphasis is made upon the inward transformation that results from a mental activity. Such a transformation is ultimately going to be visible to external witnesses but may not be immediately seen. There may be a duration of time between the transformation and the manifestation of the change.
"Form," (morphe), is a noun that is used to describe Christ in two ways. In Philippians 2:6, 7, Christ is identified as being in the form of God [i.e. inhering in the very essence of God], yet He emptied Himself of His glory and took on Himself the form of a bond slave to the Father. He became one who was in the likeness of men and was found having the outward appearance, (schema), of man (Phil 2:8). He willingly changed His form taking on a human nature along with His Divine nature, setting aside His glory and submitting to the will of the Father. The form of a body adapted to and manifesting a human nature was an absolute contrast to the infinite expression of the Divine nature in all of eternity prior to the incarnation events. The second way the noun describes Christ is in His post-resurrection appearance. Evidently, Mark 16:12, 13 are references to the events on the Emmaus road with the two disciples (Lu. 24:13-35). In Luke 24, their eyes were held [i.e. prevented from actually seeing the reality] so that they could not recognize Christ. Luke tells how their eyes were grasped or held so that He appeared in another form that was unrecognizable (Lu. 24:16). It was a completely different kind of form that did not resemble His form that had been so familiar to them (Mk. 16:12). When the two returned to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples, they were able to report as eyewitnesses. Evidently, the eleven did not believe the report of the two from their description of Christ's outward appearance (Mk. 16:13). When the two recounted Christ's breaking of the bread, the disciples in Jerusalem accepted the validity of the account. Their report concerning the form of Christ's body was held in question because of the visible differences in their description from His original appearance. Clearly, this was a substantial change. His features differed, voice differed, height differed and build differed from His previous appearance during His earthly ministry among them.
The second concept communicated by "transform" in the New Testament illustrates Romans 12:2. This concept goes back to the root idea of the verb that involves being loosely in the company of and identified with a form. It carries the idea of giving an outward expression of an inward nature. A translation of 2 Corinthians 3:18 will clarify the concept. "But all of us with face [refers to person cf. 2:10; 4:6 Gk.] standing being unveiled, while continually reflecting as a mirror [or mirroring] the glory of the Lord, are being made to give an outward expression of our inward nature with reference to the same image [i.e. the image of Christ] from glory into glory even as from the Spirit of the Lord." In other words, the Holy Spirit has written something on the inside that is to be reflected on the outside. Something already exists but must be manifested as an accurate representation of a reality. Romans 12:2 emphasizes the second concept.
Each grace believer has two options: to choose to live in the sin nature or to choose to live in the new nature. In order to live in the new nature, it is essential that he be living in his position in Christ. He is to set his reflective thinking on things above (Col. 3:1-4). These things include his position and possessions that accrue to the believer because he is in Christ. It is a mental process. A believer can live in his sin nature and revel in his old position in Adam, the old man (Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:22). He can choose to live in his new nature and enjoy his new position in the new man, the Christ (Eph. 2:15, 1 Cor. 12:11, 12). The transformation of Romans twelve involves the believer's thinking. God expects him to use the renewedness of his mind to reflectively think so that he will be living in light of his being in Christ. As a result, the reality of his being in Christ will be reflected to the outside world. Paul carries the theme of being in Christ on down through the following context of Romans twelve. All Christians have a measure of faith being in Christ (12:3). Each believer is a member of the Body of Christ, but each member has a different practice than other members (12:4). Each believer is dependent on other believers in the Body (12:5). Each believer has a spiritual gift because he is in Christ (12:6-9). A grace believer, in Christ, will consider the presentation of his body as a sacrifice because it is the most logical thing he can do. In his position in Christ, God the Father sees every believer's body as belonging to Christ who is the Head of the Body. Simple Christian living and understanding make the sacrifice of the body an essential sacrifice for further participation in priestly service.
The renewedness of the believer's mind is the instrument that brings about transformation -- "by the renewedness, (anakainosis), of the mind." To translate the noun "renewing" as the Authorized Version does is inaccurate. True, the noun has the Greek -sis ending that describes an action, but it still names the nature of the noun. The word simply describes the act of making something new in its character or quality. It does not have the idea of making new in time [i.e. recent). It is a new quality of mind. One is expected to use a new kind of mind or a different type of mind. Paul uses the verb in 2 Corinthians 4:16 saying, "... the inward man is renewed day by day." He uses the "day by day" to communicate the idea of time. When the believer directs his thinking to what he is in Christ, he uses a new quality of mind with the result being a transformation. The believer can use this new quality of mind at any time. There is an inference in Romans 12:3 that there are two characteristics of the old kind or quality of mind [in addition to others not listed] that may be evidenced. These are lofty and high thoughts that are beyond that which is necessary to think and outside of the bounds of propriety in the realm of one's present tense salvation. The believer is not to think more highly than he ought to think but is to be sober minded. "Sober minded" has the idea of a saving quality of reflective thinking with an emphasis on how a believer is to behave in his present tense salvation. Hence, the renewedness of the mind will bring about a transformation as the believer lives in light of his position in Christ enjoying his present tense salvation.
When a believer sacrifices his body, he is putting the will of God to test. Paul uses a purpose infinitive to tell why the believer should present his body as a sacrifice and be transformed by the renewedness of the mind. Early in the Christian experience, very few believers actually become actively involved in what they assuredly know is the will of God. The very act of presenting the body as a sacrifice puts the will of God to the test. One must remember at this point that there are two aspects of God's will revealed in Scripture: the broader aspect of His desirous will, (thelema), and the limited aspect of His determinative will, (boule). Here Paul anticipates the believer's putting the desirous will of God to the test. When a believer lives in light of the sacrifice of his physical body, he is continually putting the will of God to the test as to its validity and worth.
An old metallurgical term, "prove" (dokimadzo), has the idea of testing something to guarantee that it meets a standard. Any mineral found in a metal that affected its purity would be discovered and removed until the metal met the standard of purity. Scripture expects the believer to present his body and be transformed so that he can begin to learn what the will of God is and what it is not. Three characteristics of the will of God are learned in the process: (1) What the complete will of God is = perfect; (2) What is acceptable to God; and (3) What makes God happy = good. Very few believers have any idea of what the will of God is or what its characteristics are. Scripture clearly tells believers what the will of God is in at least a dozen specific areas. If the believer practices doing the will of God as it is described in Scripture, he soon masters its characteristics and can discern the will of God outside Scripture in his personal life (1 Jn. 2:17, 20). Knowing that one sacrifice is the will of God, one should recognize that it is logical that the other sacrifices in Scripture must also be a part of God's will for the Christian. Every sacrifice should make God happy, fill Him with pleasure and completely meet the Divine standards for sacrifices. (See Will of God chart, Appendix I)
The first sacrifice of the believer-priest is the sacrifice of the physical body. It is only offered once. It is given to the one to whom it rightfully belongs. It is a sacrifice that is living and set apart to God. It is the logical result of the believer's understanding of Christ's cross work. As a result of the sacrifice, God is well pleased and the believer puts the desirous will of God to the test. When a believer recognizes that Christ's cross work purchased his body, he logically responds by presenting it to God. He simply mentally accedes to the fact that it belongs to God and gives it to Him. This can be done within the believer's mind or it can be voiced in his verbal communication with his Heavenly Father. It would be interesting to know how many Christians have actually done this in accordance with the literal meaning of Romans 12:1, 2. God has given the Church this privilege and each individual should offer up this sacrifice to God. If the believer truly understands the sacrifice of the physical body, he will constantly be aware of the fact that he lives in a body that belongs to someone else and that it is a body that has been given in sacrifice to God.
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Hebrews 13:15, 16 mentions three sacrifices of the believer-priest together that include the sacrifices of praise, doing good and fellowship. The first of the three is the sacrifice of praise that is described and defined in verse 15. The verse not only identifies praise as a sacrifice but also gives a clear definition of praise in the Greek. The definition is obscured in most English translations.
Many Christians say, "Praise the Lord!" They seem to think that the statement itself is true praise. While they may ask another person to praise God or to respond to God's provision in the statement, they are not praising God by saying, "Praise the Lord!" The statement is an imperative, a suggestion that others be involved in praise. The one making the statement may be encouraging himself to praise. There is a great amount of confusion in the Church concerning what Scripture teaches concerning the believer's communication with God. Praise is only one of eight forms of communication available to the grace believer. It is the only form of communication that is identified as a priestly sacrifice. Some other forms of communication are a part of the believer's priestly service but are not described as sacrifices. Praise is often confused with thanksgiving or worship. If true praise is offered to God, it is an acceptable sacrifice for the believer-priest. "Praise the Lord!" is verbiage that indicates someone should be doing it or is doing it but frequently it stops there without a response in true praise. "Praise the Lord!" has become a trite phrase with little or no meaning in the minds of many believers. It is a badge they wear to identify them as Christians. Preachers have used it to replace "ah" when they are attempting to gather their thoughts in a message. Some Christians use it to impress others of their spirituality. Some identify themselves with certain segments of Christianity by the statement. The world uses it in their ridicule of Christianity. God sees it as an unkept commitment. Christians tell Him what they are going to do over and over, yet they rarely actually do it knowingly. The Hebrew Hallelujah simply says, "You guys praise [2nd masculine plural imperative] Jehovah."
How many Christians can distinguish and define praise, worship, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, supplication, asking and vowing? Scripture clearly distinguishes between each of these terms. Because of the sacrifice of praise and its confusion with thanksgiving and worship, it is important to clearly distinguish between these three forms of communication with God.
Worship communication, (proseuche), dominates the prayer concepts of the New Testament. It has the central idea of repeating back to God that which He has said about Himself. When one worships in the New Testament sense, he gives God His full worth or weight as to whom and what He is without consideration of what He has done for the believer. The Christian's thoughts are to be focused on the character of God as it is revealed in the Bible. He shares these thoughts with God in worship. Worship is a reflection on the Word of God concerning the character of God directed to God with positive enjoyment of His Being in response to His self-revelation of who He is. It is a response to who He is and not a response to what He has done.
Thanksgiving communication, (eucharistia), is a response to the good grace of God that has been expressed in His provision of something to the believer or others. It is a mental and emotional activity in response to the working of God. Thanksgiving is an expression of appreciation to God for a benefit that He has provided. This should be the most easily understood of all the believer's communication. "Thank you, Father, for the food." Most believers are frequently reminded to express their appreciation. In most cases, when Christians say, "Praise the Lord!" they really mean, "Thank the Lord!" They intend to thank the Lord for some benefit provided. Thanksgiving will be the initial response to a blessing from God that is then followed by true New Testament praise. God expects worship to dominate the believer's life while thanksgiving will be the second most used form of communication. When one grasps the significance of thanksgiving in his life, he finds himself responding both to the good and bad in life with thanksgiving to God. The spiritual believer will be thankful for all things and at all times (Eph. 5:20), in everything (1 Thess. 5:18) and for all men (1 Tim. 2:1). God desires [thelo - desirous will] for the believer to be thankful (1 Thess. 5:18).
The normal order for these forms of communication in relation to events of life is important.
Thanksgiving -- an expression of appreciation for the thing God has supplied Praise -- an expression of appreciation for the character of God manifested in supplying the thing Worship -- communication of thoughts about God and repeated back to God not motivated by His provision of a benefit
Praise is normally the second response to something God has done or provided. God meets a need. The believer thanks Him for the provision and then he responds to the character of God that was manifested in something done or provided. Hebrews 13:15 gives the biblical definition of praise in the Greek text. in this verse, the Authorized Version uses "thanks" as a part of the definition of praise. "Thanks" is not found in the Greek text of Hebrews 13:15. Unfortunately, the Authorized Version translation removes the distinctions that are clearly made in Scripture. Thanksgiving and praise are not the same. They are distinct entities. Even though they may be made in response to the same thing, they express different kinds of appreciation. Thanksgiving appreciates the thing provided by God. Praise appreciates the character of God.
An accurate translation of the text gives a clear picture of the significance of New Testament praise. "Through Him, therefore, let us potentially be offering up the sacrifice of praise always to God, this is a fruit of the lips continually confessing His name." It is evident that there is a significant difference between confession and thanksgiving. Scripture says that praise is the fruit of the lips confessing His name.
Words for praise occur 29 times in the New Testament. It occurs in a simple form, (ainos), and a compound form, (epainos). It is not necessary to consider every occurrence of these words to understand the sacrifice of praise. An analysis of Hebrews 13:15 gives the essential idea of true biblical praise.
"Through Him" the believer-priest has the privilege of offering the sacrifice of praise. "Through," (dia), has the idea of agency in this context. Christ is the agent by which the believer-priest has access. In the preceding context, the antecedent of the pronoun "Him" is "Jesus" (13:12) and "Jesus Christ"(13:8). As has already been noted, Jesus Christ is the believer-priest's High Priest. Through Him, the believer has direct access to God. He has set believers apart through His own blood (13:12). He is the Unchanging One (13:8). He shed His blood so that the believer could have access. Hence, the believer must avail himself of this priestly privilege. Christ is not only the High Priest, but He is also the Mediator between God and man (2 Tim. 2:5). He is the Mediator of the new covenant with the Church (Heb. 8:6; 12:24). He affirms that access is not only possible, but also is a proper activity for the believer's life. He is the believer's Advocate who is the place of propitiation (1 Jn. 2:1). He is the believer's Intercessor who keeps the believer from being condemned keeping him saved (Rom. 8:34). Christ has personally dealt with everything in the life of the believer that might hinder or prevent direct access to the throne of grace. It is essential for the believer to appropriate the work of Christ in his daily life in order to make such access practical. Christ has dealt with acts of sin and the sin nature making this access available. God will only accept praise from the spiritual believer. All other praise is simply verbiage satisfying only the one who is giving it. As thanksgiving is the response of the spiritual believer to God's work (Eph. 5:18, 20), so also is praise. Only a Spirit-filled Christian can appropriate for himself the work of Christ.
In the Old Testament sense, a sacrifice was offered up at the moment the slain animal was placed on the altar. James 2:21 uses the same verb to describe the offering up of Isaac by Abraham as Hebrews 13. "Was not Abraham our father declared righteous out of works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar?" Isaac was not slain but was placed upon the altar to be slain. God considered placement on the altar to be an offering up. Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice (Heb. 7:27; 9:28). When a sacrifice is carried to the altar and then placed on it, God will either accept it or reject it. Since God encourages the sacrifice for the spiritual believer, it is acceptable when the spiritual Christian offers it. Because of the verb form, one can say that it is possible that a person may be offering this sacrifice consistently [present subjunctive].
How often can the sacrifice of praise be offered? When the present tense is used, there is a potential for continuous action on the part of the believer. "Always" further emphasizes the fact that this should be the habitual, consistent activity of the believer-priest. Thanksgiving is offered for all things and in all things (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18) so the logical result is that praise should be given as the normal response to God resulting from thanksgiving. A Christian's communication with God is a continuous activity. Worship communication is to be directed to God without ceasing [better "without signing off"] (1 Thess. 5:17). At no time is a spiritual believer to terminate his communication with God. He has the potential to lay down the phone but not to hang it up. Praise can be offered to God at any time, in any circumstance and for any aspect of His character.
Praise is defined as the fruit of the lips confessing His name. Praise may be verbalized in response to God's provision of a need either in speech or song. Without a doubt, praise can be presented through the mind but verbalization of praise is a more natural response. As an emotional response to the rational recognition of God's personal involvement in providing benefits, praise springs to the lips whether in an appreciative whisper, a jubilant shout or a robust song. Abuse of praise has put a damper on outward expressions of praise. "Canned" expressions and frivolous religious ecstasy have prevented many believers from attempting to express their praise to God verbally. Any spiritual spontaneity has been deterred by uncertainty as to what is true praise and what is human convention and identified as praise. "Praise the Lord!" in itself is not praise. Without a biblical thought process, it becomes Christian slang with no real substance.
What is true praise? It is the fruit of the lips confessing His name. As has already been noted, the word "thanks" is not in the Greek text. The word "confess," (homologeo), stands in the text. It is a compound term that is used in Hebrews 13:15 in a non-technical way. It simply means "to speak or say the same thing" or "to agree with." Many English words have the (homo-) prefix. One buys homogenized milk. Because of the Process of homogenization, the milk and cream are combined in a common solution becoming the same thing. There is no separation of the two because they are one - the same kind. Language has words called "homonyms" that have the same sound even though they are spelled differently and have different meanings. Homonym is a compounded form of two Greek words meaning the "same name" [i.e. same pronunciation]. When the believer confesses his sins, he says the same thing that God does about them (1 Jn. 1:9). God identifies his acts of sin as sin, so the Christian calls them sin as well. Praise is saying the same thing about His name.
In Scripture, "name" is used in two ways. It can be used of a title or designation of a person, place or thing. Name is used of titles in many instances in Scripture. Names of persons are given as titles such as Jesus (Matt, 1:21, 25; Lu. 2:21), Simon (Matt. 27:32), Peter (Mk. 3:16), Jairus (Mk. 5:22), Zecharias (Lu. 1:5), Elisabeth (Lu. 1:5), John (Lu. 1:13), Joseph (Lu. 1:27), Mary (Lu. 1:27) and many others. These titles or names were normally given at birth to designate the individual. Cities also were named to distinguish them from other cities as Nazareth (Lu. 1:26) and Emmaus (Lu. 24:13 Gk.). "Name" can be used to reflect the character and nature of an individual. In history, it was said, "He is as good as his name," meaning his character was honest and his word and commitments were considered to be absolutely reliable. Praise is not calling out one of the 365 titles of Jesus Christ given in the Bible. Praise can be addressed to any one of the Persons of the Trinity though primarily to the Father. If a title was necessary, someone should write a book, "Titles of Deity for Special Praise Occasions." Since it would be used "always," it should be a rugged, weather-resistant' pocket edition designed for quick and easy access. The writer of Hebrews is not referring to titles. His readers had a solid grasp of the meaning and use of "name" in the Old Testament. Other writers of Scripture as well as most believers reading the New Testament in the early church understood its use in the Bible.
Old Testament writers used the word "name," (shem), as a title when a name was given at birth. Examples of this are Solomon (2 Sam. 12:24), Manoah (Judg. 13:2), Seth (Gen. 5:3), Mordecai (Esther 2:5) as well as many others. It is used of a person who was famous and who had a celebrated name. When someone made a name for himself, he became famous and a celebrity. Such fame could be prestigious [positive] or could be filled with notoriety [negative]. In Genesis 11:4, men wanted a unique reputation so they built the tower of Babel to establish a name among God's created beings [especially the spirit beings]. Jehovah's miracles in the plagues of Egypt and in the Exodus gave Him fame (Jer. 32:20; 2 Sam. 7:23). Offspring of the union of the sons of God and the daughters of men were celebrities identified as "men of a name" because of their uniqueness (Gen. 6:4 Heb.). Nobles were called "men of a name (Num. 16:2)." In the Old Testament, a good name meant that a man had a good reputation (2 Sam. 8:13; Eccl. 7:1; Prov. 22:1). On the other hand, a bad or evil name indicated that an individual had a bad reputation (Deut. 22:14, 19; Neh. 6:13; Job 30:8 Heb.).
It is true that "name" was used of the titles of God. Most frequently "name" designated the Tetragrammaton (Jehovah). This is especially true in the Prophets. "Name" carried the idea of fame or reputation in many instances when used of God. It referred to His nature and character (Amos 5:8; 9:6; Jer. 33:2; Ex. 3:15; 6:3). God's character is built on his nature [the sum total of His essence and attributes]. Some important Old Testament examples clearly relate "name" to specific aspects of God's nature. The Psalms provide extensive material relating "name" to the character of God in its manifestation. A careful study of the context of each passage will give the picture of the manifestation of the character of God. Psalm 96:2-4 relates the name of God to His immensity that is a part of God's essence. His eternality and immutability are evident as parts of His nature in Psalm 72:17, 19. The following list ties "name" to specific attributes of God. The seven attributes of God are listed and the passages that use "name." A careful study of the context [preferably in Hebrew] will clearly show that the character of God is emphasized when "name" is used.
1. Omnipotence -- Psa. 8:1, 9; 18:49; 20:1, 5, 7; 29:2; 31:3; 54:1; 66:2, 4; 69:30, 36; 148:5
2. Righteousness -- Psa. 9:2, 10; 31:3; 45:17; 48:10; 89:16; 116:4; 118:10, 11; 143:11
3. Love -- Psa. 9:10; 25:11; 34:3; 61:8, 79:9; 86:9, 11, 12; 109:21; 115:1; 138:2
4. Goodness -- Psa. 25:11; 52:9; 54:6; 135:1, 3
5. Holiness -- Psa. 29:2; 33:2 1; 111:9
6. Omniscience -- Psa. 44:20; 142:7
7. Truth -- Psa. 45:17; 61:8; 89:24; 92:1, 2; 115:1; 138:2
In the Old Testament, the character of God was the basis for praise. "According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth ... (Psa. 48:10)." The Old Testament saint was to gain knowledge from the name (or character] of Jehovah (Isa. 52:6; Jer. 48:17; Psa. 9:10). He was to love the name of Jehovah (Isa. 56:6; Psa. 5:11; 69:36; 119:132). He was also to fear the name of Jehovah (Psa. 61:5). The readers of Hebrews completely understood that "name" was used to describe the character or nature of God that was manifested in what He did. They knew that when God delivered Israel in the Old Testament, there would be some manifestation of His character that should be appreciated by the people. They expressed praise to God as they reflected upon His character.
The New Testament has similar ideas in the use of "name." Because of Christ's relationship to believers as sanctified ones, He is not ashamed to call them brothers (Heb. 2:11). As a result, He will announce His name or character to them and will sing praise [lit. hymnize] in the Church (Heb. 2:12). In other words, grace believers possess a unique ability to grasp revelation of God's character and to respond properly to such revelation. God does not expect the believer to praise Him without proper information and potential for accurate praise. When a believer is enjoying the benefits of spiritual living in progressive sanctification, he will learn about the character of God and then will be able to bring the sacrifice of praise to God. An understanding of the character of God is not just for theologians and a few pastors. Every Christian should have a thorough understanding of God's nature with His essence and His attributes. Many believers have made a real effort to avoid learning "Bible doctrine" considering it to be sectarian rather than the simple teaching of God's revelation for Christians. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that some believers are so ignorant of the character of God that they have little or no potential for true biblical praise. Christ has made the revelation of His name available by announcing it to His brethren, grace believers (Heb. 2:12).
An interesting New Testament example of "name" denoting the character of God and directed toward all three Persons of the Trinity is in Matthew 28:19 in the Great Commission. "Having been made to go, therefore, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." "Name" is a Greek singular that is used of all three Persons of the Trinity. Each Person is a distinct individualization of the divine nature being isolated by the definite article in the text. All three Persons inhere in the same essence and hence, the use of the singular. In John 17:6, Christ manifested the name of the Father to men in His earthly ministry. Those that the Father has given to the Son are kept by the Father's name (Jn. 17:11, 12). Again the sharing of God's character is evident. They all manifest the same attributes and thus exhibit the same character. The sacrifice of praise may be directed to any one Person of the Godhead or may be directed to all Three Persons collectively. In Scripture most praise is directed to God the Father.
In the New Testament, particular attributes have been associated with "name." Omniscience can be seen in many passages by implication while other attributes are clearly identified in the passage or in its immediate context. The following New Testament passages illustrate the close connection of the uses of "name" with God's attributes. As a basis for Divine activity, the attributes are clearly visible in God's works on earth.
1. Holiness -- Matt. 6:9; Lu. 1:49; 11:2; Rev. 15:4
2. Love -- Jn. 17:26; 1 Jn. 2:12
3. Righteousness -- Rev. 15:4 (cf. vs. 3)
4. Truth -- Rev. 15:4 (cf. vs. 3)
5. Omnipotence -- Rev. 16:9; Jn. 2:23; Ac. 3:16; 4:10, 30; Rom. 9:17; 1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Thess. 1:11 (cf. vs. 12)
6. Goodness -- 2 Thess. 1:11 (cf. vs. 12)
7. Omniscience -- 1 Jn. 3:20
When Old Testament saints living during Christ's earthly ministry received Christ, they were given authority (Gk.) to become the born-ones of God (Jn. 1:12). These were a segment of those who believed on His name. They focused their faith on the fact that Christ was God as was manifested in the exhibition of His character. One of the expressions of His name was in the miracles He performed (Jn. 2:23). God expected them to believe in the name of the Only Begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). As God, Christ could heal the sick and forgive sins (Mk. 2:7-12). Even the Jews of Jesus' day knew that when He said that He was the Son of God that He was claiming to be God. They were determined to kill Him because He "... said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God (Jn. 5:18)." Because Christ claimed to be the Son of God and claimed to come in the Father's name (Jn. 5:43), they persisted in their attempts to assassinate Him. His proclamation that He was the Son of God before the high priest brought forth the charge of blasphemy of which He was found guilty and sentenced to death by the Jewish religious court in the series of trials leading to His crucifixion. As God, He manifested the same essence and attributes of the Godhead. When He claimed to be the Son of God, He was claiming a position of privilege as an equal with God.
The name or the character of God can be hated (Matt. 10:22), can be feared (Rev. 11:18), can be blasphemed (Rom. 2:24; 1 Tim. 6:1; Rev. 13:6; 16:9) and can be glorified (Rev. 15:4). Believers have a privilege that is unique to the Dispensation of Grace in that they can ask the Father in the name or character of Christ and receive the thing asked for (Jn. 16:23-26; 14:13; 15:16).
Why would any believer ever neglect learning of the character of God? Theology proper with a consistent analysis of God's nature, essence and attributes establishes a beautiful foundation for biblical praise. An understanding of the Trinity and the relationship between the Persons of the Godhead projects praise to its proper recipient. An appreciation of the magnitude of the character of God makes it possible to praise God always. When the believer is ignorant of the manifestation of God's character, he is limited in his potential to truly praise God. Maybe this is the reason that so many Christians just say, "Praise the Lord!" They have nothing else to say to God because they have not had a close, intimate, personal involvement with God in their lives or learning.
How does the Christian gain adequate knowledge for praise? Some would immediately recommend the purchase and study of systematic theologies for this purpose. Why not go to the original source before considering secondary sources? With a good concordance [an original language oriented concordance is preferable], a Christian should look up the words that relate to the attributes of God. God's attributes provide the basis for all of His activity and some are manifested throughout Scripture. A listing of the attributes of God will help. For the study of holiness, one can look up all the words for holy, sanctify, saint and set apart. For the study of God's love, look up love and the manifestations of love expressed in loving-kindness, tender compassion and grace. For a study of the righteousness of God, righteous, right and justify provide the backbone. For truth, one needs to study truth and faithfulness. For omnipotence, one should study all the biblical words for power. For omniscience, a pursuit of the words for knowing while tying them to understanding and wisdom is necessary. For goodness, a study of the word "good" and all that makes happy provides a background for understanding the goodness of God. When a believer digs into Scripture in this kind of study, he will learn what these attributes are and the resulting activities. With a basic understanding of the attributes, the believer's Bible will blossom with the revelation of the character of God. Very few pastors preach series on the attributes of God. Theologies are inconsistent and unclear in their presentations of the attributes. What a shame that so few believers hear or read what they need to know in order to properly offer the sacrifice of praise to God. When a Christian clearly sees the character of God expressed in Scripture, he will have little trouble understanding the character of God as it is manifested in his daily life. As a result, the sacrifice of praise will be offered with the consistency expected in Hebrews 13:15. When a Christian's mind is focused on his God, he begins to look at the things in his life in the same way that God does. As a result, he can accurately express his appreciation for the character of God as it was manifested in His provision of benefits for the believer.
Some New Testament illustrations of praise are in order here. In Luke 18:35-43, Christ arrived at Jericho and met a blind man who was begging. Being informed of the presence of Jesus, the blind man sought pity or mercy from Christ. Finally, Jesus had the man brought before Him and He asked the blind man to tell Him what he desired. The blind man simply said that he desired to see again. Christ responded and told him to see again because his faith had healed him. At once, the blind man saw again and proceeded to follow Jesus glorifying God. The people, seeing the man healed, gave praise to God. In response to the power and love of God, they expressed their appreciation for the manifestation of these attributes that were evidenced in the man's being healed.
In what has been called Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the multitude of disciples were involved in praise (Lu. 19:37, 38). As Christ came riding down the Mount of Olives, they praised God for all the mighty works they had seen. They had seen the power of God manifested in the mighty works (dunameon) that were miracles that Christ performed to show His power. Their praise was in response to the character of God. They did not express their appreciation for the thing but rather for the character of God that had been manifested. This is evident in what they said in verse 38. "Well-spoken of is the King who is coming in the name/character of the Lord, peace in heaven and glory in the highest places." Reflecting on the character of God that had been revealed in Christ's power miracles, the multitude ascribed peace [because of His power] and glory in the highest places as He manifested His power. Undoubtedly, there was some thanksgiving given on the part of the recipients of the healings and other exhibitions of power, but the whole multitude of disciples sounded forth their praise to God for His character. Both the reason for praise and their response to what they had witnessed is evident in the passage.
Praise is offered as a sacrifice by the believer-priest. It is an expression of appreciation to God for His character as is manifested in His provision of a benefit. Praise always involves the believer's knowledge of the character of God or it cannot be expressed. Though praise is primarily directed to the Father, it may also be directed to any single Person of the Godhead or to the whole Godhead collectively. It should be the habitual expression of the believer. When expressed before others, it will draw attention to God and His nature. Praise is defined in the Greek of Hebrews 13:15 as the fruit of the lips that is saying the same thing [confessing] concerning His name or character. It is clear that there is much more in praise than saying, "Praise the Lord!"
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Why should a Christian be doing good? Only the individual believer truly knows his motives. Is the activity done to please men? Is the activity done from duty? Is the activity done from necessity because no one else would do it? Is the believer motivated by the potential for bringing glory to God? Doing good may become a drudgery or a source of disinterest or boredom. When the Christian understands that when he is doing good as a spiritual believer he is offering a sacrifice to God, his whole perspective should change. Priestly privilege becomes the basis for motivation. Wholesome God-directed activity will be done for the glory of God rather than for personal purposes.
"Do not forget for yourselves doing good and fellowship." In other words, the believer is to avoid forgetting these sacrifices. "You must know something before you can forget it." Hebrews 13:15, 16 reviews truth that had already been taught and learned. As with many things a person learns, these truths had the potential for escaping the minds of the believers who received the letter. Faithful review of material one has already learned is essential and also necessary for the Word of God. Both the mind and the activity of the Christian are affected. When the believer remembers his priestly privileges, it is only natural for him to become an active participant in the privilege of sacrifice.
"You can't forget for someone else." When the writer of Hebrews uses a reflexive [middle voice] verb form, he says that a person can only forget for himself. Some things are irretrievable. Words spoken in haste, erroneous information, deeds done in anger and bloopers cannot be retrieved. Most people have situations in the past that they would like to have someone forget. The Hebrews are to keep their priestly sacrifices in mind; and by remembering them, they should become active in performing the sacrifices.
There are two kinds of forgetfulness: intentional and unintentional. Intentional forgetfulness is the deliberate neglect of something that one has known. An "I don't care" attitude prevails. When a person determines that he will forget, he exercises his will. He shows his disinterest in the subject to be forgotten by neglecting it in his mind. Some Christians have done this with the sacrifices of the believer-priest. Seeing the sacrifices as insignificant, minor areas of truth, they prefer to forget them. Truth has slipped from the mind even though they read their Bibles where the truth is found. It is easy for a person to forget the point of a message that he does not like. Because the truth of giving sacrifices is supremely important, the writer of Hebrews appeals to Christians by encouraging them not to forget the sacrifices intentionally or unintentionally.
The root "forgetfulness" (lethe) has carried over into the English language in an interesting way. The English words "lethargy" and "lethal" have their basis in the Greek word for forgetfulness. While lethargy is a condition of inertia and apathy, its root idea is that one who is in this condition is generally forgetful. "Lethal" refers to that which will cause death [i.e. permanent forgetfulness]. In Greek mythology, Lethe was a river in Hades, the water of which produced forgetfulness of the past in those who drank from it. It came to be known as the "river of oblivion." Believers were not to permit their thoughts to float off into oblivion concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest.
Forgetfulness is considered an unfortunate and unacceptable problem by many people. It is easy to say, "I have a good forgetter," while being inwardly frustrated by forgetfulness. Paul believed in a positive kind of forgetfulness. The best way to forget something is to have it replaced by something so much better that the mind is completely focused on the new thing. This will be true in the new heavens and new earth where the "former shall not be remembered, nor come upon the heart (Isa. 65:17)." A glorious present distraction erases the memory of the past. All of Paul's accomplishments were forgotten in light of his position in Christ and his anticipation of personal involvement with the benefits of his being in Christ in the immediate future. Since everything one has in Christ is magnificently superior to the past, he should focus his whole attention on his position. Paul speaks of it in this way, "Brothers, I do not reckon myself to have laid hold; but one thing forgetting for myself on the one hand the things behind, but on the other hand stretching forward to the things before, I am pursuing toward a mark for the prize of the above [or up] calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13, 14)." Some things should be forgotten by the believer. Scripture also lists several things that should not be forgotten by the Christian.
A believer becomes involved in sin. In practice he has forgotten that if he is a true child of God, he will be chastened for such behavior. If a person sins and is not chastened by God when the sin is not handled properly, he should question as to whether or not he is a true child of God (Heb. 12:8). "For whom the Lord happens to love, He chastens [or child trains], and scourges every son He is receiving (Heb. 12:6)." A response and remembrance of the exhortation should be a deterrent to sin. The Hebrews had forgotten the exhortation (Heb. 12:5-11) that should have been central in their minds so they would be persistent in resisting sin.
As an expression of brotherly love, God does not want hospitality to be forgotten by the believer (Heb. 13:2). Affection for strangers or aliens should be a normal Christian attitude. Some who enjoyed being hospitable, entertained angels without a conscious awareness of the true character of their visitors. When an opportunity comes to invite a stranger into one's home for food and shelter, the believer should remember the potential and exhortation.
If a man looks in a mirror and sees the face he was born with and then forgets what kind of man he is, he is like a forgetful hearer (Jas. 1:24, 25). A forgetful hearer is one who hears, but does not respond in activity. He has forgotten what he has heard before he has any opportunity to apply it to his life. Such a forgetter will not be blessed in what he is doing. He can look at the perfect law of liberty and forget it while professing to be religious, but in practice not living as he ought to live.
An immature believer who has not grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ has forgotten that he was cleansed from his past sins (2 Pe. 1:9). He is barren and unfruitful in the full experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. He has never experienced the potential for the Christian life in activity. Peter mixes metaphors saying that this individual is blind and nearsighted. Carrying the guilt of past sins, he has no assurance of salvation (2 Pe. 1:10) and has a generally unstable life. Peter encourages the Christian to be growing spiritually and not to forget that past sins have already been cleansed by the cross work of Christ.
Christians should not forget the sacrifices of doing good and fellowship (Heb. 13:16). Practice of the sacrifice should indicate that a believer remembers the responsibility. There is a positive potential for remembering the activity of doing good. A study of the terms in Scripture gives a believer clear direction for offering the sacrifice of doing good.
Scripture describes the sacrifice as doing good or beneficence. It is a compound noun with a eu- prefix that is translated "good" or "well" attached to the noun "doing (poiia from poieo)." These components describe what one does and how it should be influencing the recipients.
Though there are many Greek words translated "do" in the English Bible, there are four that dominate the concept of doing. Each one has a different emphasis. "Energy" is an English word that finds its source in the Greek (energeo). It is translated "do or do work" in Mark 6:14, Philippians 2:13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:7, having the root idea of directing energy to a task in active work. The work concept is also evident in (ergadzomai) in Galatians 6:10, Colossians 3:23 and Third John 5, describing the actual labor involved in performing a task. (prasso) is frequently translated "do" but has the idea of habitually doing or practicing of something (Jn. 3:20; Ac. 15:29; Rom. 1:32, etc.). Hebrews 13:16 uses the simple root for actually doing something, (poieo) with an emphasis on personal involvement in a task. When one is personally involved in an activity, he is actually participating in that activity. Personal involvement with good is essential for the believer who intends to offer this sacrifice.
In order for the sacrifice to be effective, it must have a positive effect on someone. This effect is denoted by the word "good." The prefix Eu- (eu-) is a rather common prefix in the Greek New Testament [as eucharistia, "thanksgiving" and eulogia, "wellspoken of"]. As an adverb standing alone, eu is less common occurring only six times in the New Testament (Matt. 25:21; Mk. 14:7; Lu. 19:17; Ac. 15:29; Eph. 6:3). In classical Greek, the word carried the idea of "well, prosperous or noble." When the sacrifice is offered, the recipient of the activity will receive an abundance and so prosper by the act of the offerer resulting in relief and ease. Hence, some lexicographers define it as "beneficence." It appears to combine the ideas Of (kalos) and (agathos). Good that is obviously good because of its outward appearance is identified by kalos. It is evident to the external observer. Agathos, on the other hand, is an essential good that is internal. It seeks the happiness of its object and in turn maintains its own happiness. A piece of fruit may have the external appearance of being good; but when cut open, it is spoiled on the inside. It may be good on the inside as well as on the outside and the one who eats it will enjoy its essential goodness as a result. Evidently, this is also true of the sacrifice of doing good.
When the sacrifice is offered, it will have a very acceptable outward appearance to any who witness it being offered. The one who benefits from the sacrifice will testify to its essential character. He is happy with the activity of the believer-priest. God is the final analyst of the value of the sacrifice. He knows whether it is truly the activity of a spiritual believer or simply a work of the flesh designed to impress other individuals. He evaluates its true worth. Not every good that is done is acceptable as a sacrifice to God. Men may give praise for good that is done. This is exactly what the carnal believer wanted when he performed the deed. When the sacrifice is offered by a spiritual believer, it is not done expecting the praise of man but anticipates the glorification of God. Only God knows the condition and motivation of the believer when he does good.
Doing good is activity performed by a believer for his God. Other individuals may benefit because most activities are people oriented. A true sacrifice is not offered to please men but to please God. God accepts it because it makes Him happy and He is pleased with it. His pleasure should dominate the believer's thinking. Only Spirit-directed sacrifices will be acceptable to God. A believer should not expect praise from man because the sacrifice is offered to God for His pleasure.
A believer can scurry around his church and community attempting to find good things to do. He could spend his life doing good things and never offer the sacrifice of doing good. The religious works of the flesh ("idolatry, sorcery and heresy" - Gal. 5:20) have an insatiable appetite for doing good. Many unbelievers are more successful at doing good than their Christian counterparts. Beneficial activities are often designed to show God good works that many believe will bring them salvation. "With all the good deeds I have done, God would never turn me down." No merit is gained with God by believer or unbeliever by good deeds. In some cases, Christians do good as a public relations event. They attempt to show their righteousness to other believers announcing their "spirituality" by their actions. In other cases, Christians attempt to demonstrate their righteousness to God as an act of independence having yielded to Satanic attack. A spiritual believer participates in doing good as the Holy Spirit leads him into the good works that God has ordained for him (Eph. 2:10). When God leads the believer in the sacrifice of doing good, it is an acceptable sacrifice to the glory of God and not the one who performs the sacrifice.
"Put to test all things; hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21)." The believer puts all things to the test in order to ascertain their intrinsic worth. He needs to discard the flawed, adulterated and polluted things. He must accept and accomplish the good. When the test proves that an activity is good, the believer holds fast to the good. Careful examination provides confidence concerning the character of the thing or the activity. How many hours are wasted in the Christian life by involvement in the untested? This does not bring happiness to God or to the believer. What a potential for the believer to make good his own possession!
"There is not one who is doing good, no not one (Rom. 3:12)." The indictment concerning the nature of man seems to indicate that the sacrifice of doing good is impossible for him. Another word for "good," (chrestotes), is used and refers to that which is useful with the potential for accomplishing something worthwhile. It is a part of the fruit of the Spirit and is translated "gentleness" in Galatians 5:22. "Kindness" is a better translation. Because of its inward character and outward manifestation, the activity of the unbeliever is not useful for anything in relation to God. This is typical of the unbeliever's activity. For all the effort expended, the endeavor is useless in the eyes of God. The same is true of the activities of the carnal believer. All righteous behavior springing from the sin nature is absolutely unacceptable to God. Only a spiritual believer can do good that is acceptable to God. It is difficult to offer a proper sacrifice when it is offered to the God who sees the true character of the believer (spiritual or carnal], the actual motivation of the believer, the attitude of the believer and the purpose of the sacrifice.
In Scripture, there are general principles that relate to everything a believer does. These principles go beyond the sacrifice of doing good. Some of the principles seem logical, but it is important for the Christian to see the specific passages and their implications for the sacrifice of doing good.
It would seem obvious that everything a believer does should be done for the glory of God. His motivation and intentions should always be directed to giving God His full weight. "Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)." A grace believer is free to do anything that is not prohibited in Scripture. It makes no difference what he eats and drinks. If another believer has a problem with conscience, a believer limits those things that he can do in his freedom because everything he does should glorify God. When a believer's action violates another believer's conscience, he should abstain from the activity because of the brothers conscience. If there are factors that prevent the believer from glorifying God, he should not participate in the activity. Such limitation anticipates the growth of the other believer in his knowledge of the Word of God so that this behavior will not affect his conscience in a negative way in the future. Because everything that a believer does should be to the glory of God, the sacrifice of doing good is also controlled by the same purpose. God's opinion of Himself is clearly presented in Scripture. God delineates the characteristics of behavior that will give Him full glory in the believer's life. Jews, Gentiles and the Church of God (1 Cor. 10:32) are witnesses to what the Christian does. Each of these distinct groups will react to what the believer does. As a result, God is either glorified or He is not glorified. It is easy to behave like a Christian with other believers, but activity before Jews and Gentiles is far more difficult. An offering of the sacrifice before unbelievers provides an advantage so that the believer might have opportunity to share the gospel so that some of them might be saved as a result of what he has done (1 Cor. 10:33).
Not only is the believer to do all things to the glory of God, but he is also to be doing the desirous will (thelema) of God. Without a knowledge of the will of God, the believer lives in a state of confusion and uncertainty. Knowing the will of God is the result of personal practice. Scripture clearly reveals specific elements of God's desirous will. When a believer habitually is practicing the will of God as it is revealed in Scripture, he automatically is able to discern what God's desires are in other areas of life. "The world system is passing away and its strong desires; but the one who is doing the will of God feels at ease into the age (1 Jn. 2:17)." If the believer is drawn away into the world system, he enters into an unstable environment. Meanwhile, another believer may be doing the will of God and he feels at ease even though he is living in the world system. A spiritual believer has a potential to know all things because he can use the anointing from the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 2:20). In Paul's day, the composition of the church included many slaves in Europe and Asia. God expected believing bond slaves to be doing His will from the soul, the center of emotion, by obeying their human masters as they would Christ, their Heavenly Master. God's will for their activity is clear -- they work as though Christ was the master. They were not to perform their duties as slaves just when men were watching them. The Christian slave's service to his master was to be done because he knew it was the will of God that he serve and that he was to serve with a good feeling and a good mental attitude (Eph. 6:6, 7). Employees often have real problems feeling good about their jobs and employers. Undoubtedly, this was true in a slave society where there was little hope for freedom to find other employment. Paul encouraged Christian slaves to do the will of God from the soul with a good mind because they knew that each man would receive from the Lord benefits whether he is a slave or a freeman (Eph. 6:8). Some good things a Christian does may be repulsive and unpleasant to the person doing it, but the Lord will provide the benefit. Other good things the believer does are enjoyable and give a real sense of accomplishment. When the Christian offers the sacrifice of doing good, it will always please God no matter how repulsive or difficult it may be. [See Will of God Chart, Appendix I]
Frequently, believers begin a project that qualifies as a sacrifice of doing good and quit before the task is completed. Every man proves himself by his own work (Gal. 6:4). He has been taught all good things by another believer (Gal. 6:6). For positive results in this life, he should be sowing to the human spirit from the Holy Spirit, reaping a quality of eternal life. He is capable of enjoying the benefits of the indwelling Christ who is eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11, 12). How important it is for the Church to be reminded of the need for getting the job done. "And let us not be in a bad way [or remiss] in doing that which is obviously good, for we will reap in its own proper time not fainting (Gal. 6:9)." The whole sacrifice must be given because partial sacrifices are not considered sacrifices. What is done is accomplished or it isn't done at all.
As has been mentioned, only spiritual believers are capable of giving the sacrifice of doing good. Paul reiterates this in Colossians 3:17. Colossians three clearly describes the behavior of a spiritual believer. Only spiritual Christians have the ability to manifest the character of Christ. "And whatsoever you happen to do in word and work, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, while giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Several principles can easily be seen from this passage of Scripture. What a believer does should be done in the character of Christ (cf. the prior chapter on praise]. What an individual does can be something spoken as well as something actually accomplished. Thanksgiving should accompany the activity. Thanksgiving is an indication that the believer is spiritual (Eph. 5:18-20). Hence, the sacrifice should be offered in the character of Christ and with thanksgiving to God. Paul includes the lives of spiritual slaves who are to be doing their tasks from the soul as they serve their masters (Col. 3:23).
Another general principle for the believer's doing good is that if he knows that God wants him to do good and he does not do it or does something else, it is sin to him (Jas. 4:17). It is important to realize objectively that this is not written so that believers can judge other believers. To him, it is sin. In other words, only the believer and his God can know whether or not his not doing good is sin. There are as many human standards for good as there are individual Christians. The Bible does not give the Church a catalog of every specific deed that God considers to be good. If it did, Christians would be involved in an active program of earning merit badges. James describes a man who made his own plans for relocating and for gaining great wealth within a year's time in the new location. The man avoided the will of God in the matter, and as a result, didn't do good by his moving to a city. He was the only one who really knew that he had avoided good. An individual believer must absolutely determine what God's will is in his life. Then he might refuse to do it. Where Scripture is silent, no believer has the right to tell another believer what God's will is for him in his life. When the other believer does something that other believers dislike or feel would not be God's will for them, they have no authority to use James 4:17 to declare the believer to be a sinner. To him and him alone, it is a sin. Only he knows whether he deliberately has avoided doing a specific good thing. God declares it a sin but not in public or by human standards. When the opportunity arises to offer the sacrifice and a believer knows that it is God's will and does not do the good, it is a sin to him. Hence, in some cases, when a spiritual believer refuses to offer the sacrifice of doing good, it is sin.
Every Christian faces a dilemma when he is faced with doing good. When a believer is carnal, he knows what is good and what should be done but he is incapable of offering the sacrifice though he may attempt to accomplish the necessary task. In Romans seven, Paul describes the dilemma produced in his own life because he possessed two natures and one personality (ego) or "I." First person pronouns occur in 7:14-24 fifteen times with sixteen first person singular verbs. A literal translation of verses 15-21 shows the real meaning of the different words that are translated "do" in the Authorized Version and exhibits the dilemma every believer faces. "For that which I am working out for myself, I do not experientially know; for that which I am not desiring, this thing I am practicing, but that which I am hating, this I am actually doing. But if I am actually doing this thing that I am not desiring, I agree with the law that it is obviously good. But now I am no longer working it, but the indwelling sin nature [or sin principle] in me. For I have an intuitive knowledge that good does not dwell in me [this is in my flesh]: for to desire is present with me, but not to work the obvious good; for the inherent good that I am desiring, I' am actually doing, but that evil that I am not desiring, this I am practicing. But if I am actually doing that which I am not desiring, I am no longer working it but the sin nature dwelling in me. I am finding then the law, that when I am desiring to be actually doing the good, that the evil is present with me (Rom. 7:15-21)." A Christian's sin nature is opposed to doing that which is truly good by God's standards whether it is inherently good (agathos) or obviously good (kalos). A carnal Christian will oppose the will of God in matters that relate to doing good. Frequently, he will have his own standards of what is acceptable and good. He reacts to the teaching of the sacrifices of the believer-priest by calling them "details of doctrine that are unimportant." He says, "Don't complicate my life with details!" In many cases, the believer knows what is right in his person, but his sin nature influences his thinking convincing him that it is unnecessary for a believer to be bothered with the clear revelation of Scripture. Paul, the apostle, had similar conflicts so no believer should ever imagine that he is free from such a dilemma in his own life. Knowing to do good yet practicing and actually doing something else is always the result of carnality.
There are several things that a believer can do in response to the revelation of Scripture. Some of these actions are very essential for Christian maturity. Practical Christian living and consistent personal study are the results of responding to the message of Scripture. Spiritual believers have the potential to be living a life in which love is directed toward fellow believers in activity.
James prohibits preferential treatment in the assembly (Jas. 2:1-18). He suggests that when one fulfills the Royal Law, he is doing a good thing. The Royal Law was described in Matthew 22:39 as the second most important commandment in the Mosaic Law. "Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)." Because of the preference for attempting to live by the Law in James, He points out the inconsistency of giving preferential treatment to the rich and influential. Every believer is considered equal and a neighbor. Who is the believer's neighbor? The one who enters the assembly of believers and is thereby identifying himself as a Christian brother (Jas. 2:2). Christ gave a superior love to the selflove prescribed in Moses. In the new commandment, He shared His own type of love with believers - a kind of love never before shared with human beings. "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn. 13:34)." Christ's love for the Christian should be the basis for loving the brethren. Modern teaching concerning selflove has placed man on a pedestal and focuses attention on all the good in man ignoring his inherent weaknesses and God's opinion of the true character of man. One can show his faith by his works as he relates to other believers. Preferential treatment violated the Mosaic Law and also violates the Law of Christ. One does good when he loves a brother because he sees Christ loving that brother.
Scripture is very clear in its teaching that faith is not a work (Rom. 4:5). Even though belief is an activity of the mind, it is not a work. When a Christian believes that there is one God, that is to say that God is one in essence [1=1], he does a good thing (Jas. 2:19). In verse 18, James says, "... I will show you my faith by my works." Faith in one God is not evident unless there are works that demonstrate that previously existing faith. To illustrate this, James says, "... the demons believe and tremble." Before their fall, the demons knew that the three Persons of the Trinity [1+1+1=3) inhere in one essence [1=1]. Based on personal knowledge, they believe that God is one, even after their fall. As a result, they tremble or shudder. Their belief and knowledge did not manifest itself in their works. They fell and now bear the designation "demons." Faith without works as a proof of its validity is dead no matter how loudly one proclaims his faith in one God. The implication is that one does good to believe, but does better by proving his faith by his works. Simple faith is enough for God but not enough for the external observer who sees the works manifested in activity.
Another thing that the believer can do in response to revelation is to make his own election and calling sure for himself (2 Pe. 1:10). Both "election" and "calling" are soteriological terms. God has chosen the believer to be saved. He called the believer to salvation. Many believers have doubted the reality of their salvation. As a result, they have never grown spiritually. They need to be assured in their minds and make it firm for their personal benefit (middle voice]. God is not affected in any way by their making this solid for themselves. God has saved them -- objective fact. They may doubt it -- subjective feeling. Their feelings will not change the fact. This certainly is seen in the last part of the verse literally translated. "... For while doing these things you will absolutely never, not even once, happen to fall [lit. to overthrow a building] ever." While the believer is firming up things for himself, his relationship to God absolutely will not change in any way. Scripture reveals that God has provided salvation for men. One thing the Christian should do is to respond to that revelation and make certain for himself that he has truly been called and chosen to salvation. This should be one of the earliest offerings of the sacrifice of doing good that the believer offers. Gaining the assurance of salvation, he will go on to other sacrifices.
Christendom is divided on the matter of the importance of prophecy. Some say that there is too much emphasis on prophecy in the church while others feel that there is too little emphasis. Many believers avoid prophetic teaching because it "isn't practical" and because it is hard to understand and because there are so many different interpretations. Peter teaches that one obviously does good when he is taking heed to prophecy. "We have also a more firm prophetic word, to which you are doing well to be taking heed ... (2 Pe. 1:19)." God placed control on prophecy in that it does not have its own unloosing [solution or interpretation]. In other words, because of its Divine origin, man has no right to give it his own interpretation. God gives prophecy its interpretation and that interpretation should be accepted and appreciated, Prophecy should give the believer a glimmer of hope like a lamp shining in a dark place. Prophecy sheds light until the events actually come to pass. The believer is doing good when he is living in light of prophetic truth. Rapture awareness is a sacrifice of doing good, Every day should be thought of as "Perhaps Today!"
Undoubtedly, there are many other things that can be done in response to the revelation from Scripture but the ones listed are clearly presented in Scripture to be a part of the believer's practice. It is evident that a believer must know and understand Scripture in order to do anything in relation to its revelation.
Galatians 6:9, 10 gives five general principles for doing good:
(1) one is not to falter when doing good;
(2) Reaping will come in its own time;
(3) One is to do good as he has the time;
(4) One is to do good to all men; and
(5) One is to focus his doing good upon the household of faith.
When the believer does good, he should expect results. The good done will directly affect the recipient whether to the end intended by the doer or not, When the result is slow in coming and the task becomes difficult, the believer should not falter in the task. A balanced motivation will give a positive direction as the believer seeks to be doing what God desires him to be doing. In its own time, the result will be produced. What a great variety of crops is harvested from doing good. A multitude of needs are met. Encouragement is provided. Concern is evidenced. Life is more stable. A Christian witness is presented. God is glorified.
Opportunities to do good are not to take precedence over necessary activities in life. After the routine, essential tasks of life have been accomplished, the believer should take advantage of the opportunities to offer the sacrifice of doing good. As he has the time, he can do that which makes others happy seeking to meet their needs. If he is in a marriage relationship, he cannot only meet necessary responsibilities in the marriage but can also be offering the sacrifice of doing good in his relationship with his partner. Too often church work takes away essential time from the marriage and the family because of the drive to be doing good. The same quality of doing good can be accomplished in the home just as well as it can be accomplished in the church. As the believer lives in the will of God, he should be looking for opportunities to be offering the sacrifice of doing good. As he has time, he does good. He does not replace basic responsibilities with his good activities but performs them in his free time.
Who is to receive the good? All men, whether believer or unbeliever, may be recipients of the good that is done. Many unbelievers have responded to the Gospel because a spiritual believer offered a sacrifice of doing good. God can use such a sacrifice to get the unbeliever's attention. Since the Christian will be spending most of his time with saints, the primary focus of doing good is toward believers.
It is natural for an individual to do good first in relation to his own household and then that of others. The same is true of the household of faith. It is the responsibility of the church to care for its own. Believers tend to spend a great deal of time with other believers and will naturally have more opportunity to express their love by doing good to one another. One of the joys of doing good to one another is seeing reciprocity that results from doing good. Doing good in different ways for different situations paints a beautiful picture of true Christian compassion.
There are many good things that a believer may do. Only a few are a part of God's will for the individual believer. There are not enough hours in a thousand years for an individual to do all the good potentially available to do in a single day. It is necessary to discern the will of God in order to know what should be done and what should be avoided. Only God the Father can make it possible for the believer to know that he is doing the will of God. "May he adjust you in every good thing to do His desirous will, while doing in us the thing that is well pleasing before Him through Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:21)." Every believer needs regular adjustment so that he can know for certain that the thing he is doing is the will of God. On any given Sunday, a believer is confronted with many opportunities to do good from simply helping a child to participation in the public aspects of the meeting. The same is true for every other day of the week. Divine guidance is essential, As a result, the believer will take the best opportunity and accomplish the task with God receiving the greatest glory from the thing done.
Scripture gives some clear examples of what activities are good. Many opportunities like these arise and the believer can offer the sacrifice of doing good by taking advantage of the opportunities. As a result, there are some positive benefits to the recipient of the good activity.
Poverty in the community always provides an opportunity to offer up the sacrifice. Poverty will always exist among men even with all the programs organized to alleviate the problem. Christ indicated this when He said, "For you are having the poor with you always (Mk. 14:7; Matt. 26:11; Jn. 12:8)." The potential for doing good is always present when there are impoverished people. Doing things that relieve the pressures of poverty are sacrifices of doing good. Food, clothing and shelter provided by the believer do a great deal of good.
Under the Mosaic Law, Israel was encouraged to help the poor by doing good. "For the needy/poor will not come to cease from the midst of the land; therefore I am commanding you, saying; You will absolutely proceed to open your hand to your brother, to your poor and to your needy in the land (Deut. 15:11)." When an Israelite opened his hand, he provided physical benefits for the poor. Under the Law, the proper treatment of the poor was a prerequisite for God's blessing of the individual and the nation in time. Deut. 15:7-11 gives several principles for Israel's proper treatment and provision for the poor. Every Israelite was expected to have a good attitude toward the poor and toward giving to them (15:7, 10). Liberality was to characterize the meeting of the needs of the poor (15:8). Giving could be considered a loan that made up that which was lacking in the life of the poor person (15:8). They could not charge interest [i.e. usury] for money loaned to another Israelite [though the Law permitted it when a foreigner was involved]. Every seventh year was a year of release in which the debts of the poor were erased (15:9). Refusal on the part of the creditor could bring a call to Jehovah by the poor debtor and the creditor's refusal would become a sin (15:9). An Israelite who obeyed this aspect of the Law was promised that "... for this thing Jehovah your God will proceed to bless you in all your doing [or work] and in all the stretching out of your hand (Deut. 15:10)." Jehovah commanded Israel to assist the poor as a mandate -- there was no option. Any violation was sin and directly affected their physical blessing in time. Grace believers have the privilege of ministering to the poor as a priestly privilege not by the precepts of the Law.
When Mary anointed Jesus' feet with spikenard, Judas and some of the others present were highly critical of what they considered waste. Recognizing the value of the ointment, they suggested, in anger, that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Since these individuals were still living under the Law, they made a subtle appeal to the Law in this case. Christ responded by directly relating the statement of the Law that poverty would persist. Analyzing their true intentions, Christ said, "... And whenever you desire (thelo), you have the ability to do good for them, but you will not always have me (Mk. 14:7)." All it would take was a little desire and anyone could do good for the poor at any time. This was an open rebuke to Judas who as the treasurer of the group was a thief and would have stolen a part of the money designated for the poor (Jn. 12:4-6). Mary, on the other hand, had worked a good work in pouring ointment on Christ (Matt. 26:10).
Even though the statements concerning the poor were made in the environment of the Law of Moses, the grace believer has similar privileges. Twice Paul was involved in gathering offerings for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Ac. 11:28-30; 1 Cor, 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8, 9). He encouraged believers to give financially so that there would be relief to the brethren in Jerusalem. There are many ways a believer can assist the poor that may not involve money. Clothing and food donated to Christian organizations [as skid road missions and missionary agencies] to assist the poor. This kind of doing good usually involves the sacrifice of giving. Assistance can be given directly to individual believers and families in the local church program. A believer Who has a spiritual gift that gives him the ability to discern needs of the poor will encourage the church's involvement with helping the unbelieving poor in the community as well as poor believers. Every believer has the potential for offering the sacrifice of doing good when he assists the poor. With some relief from the pressure of poverty, the poor believer is better able to be used of God in the local church and to live a consistent spiritual life.
As a result of dissension in the church, a council was convened in Jerusalem with the apostles and representatives of the church in Antioch. Was circumcision necessary for salvation (Ac. 15:1)? As a result of the council, a double standard was adopted and established. Believers in Jerusalem [both Jews and Gentiles) were required to be circumcised while Gentile believers elsewhere in the Roman world would not need to be circumcised. Other criteria were presented to demonstrate Christian behavior. As was typical for those well acquainted with the Law, prohibitions became the criteria for Christian behavior. The Holy Spirit and the leaders in the church in Jerusalem did not wish to burden the Gentile believers with anything but the necessities [i.e. the bare minimum] (Ac. 15:28). They were to abstain from four things: idols, blood, things strangled and fornication (Ac. 15:29). By keeping themselves from these things, they would be doing good. Idolatry and fornication are two of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19, 20). Why be concerned with blood and things strangled? These restrictions existed before the Law of Moses (Gen. 9:4-6) and so the church at Jerusalem considered them to be applicable to the Gentiles who were also the sons of Noah. When an occasion rises where the believer is invited to participate in any of the four, it was evident that he did a good thing by holding himself away from such activity. It would appear that when the Christian has a clear opportunity to sin and abstains it would be considered an act of doing good with the potential for being a sacrifice for the spiritual believer.
As an option to unrighteous behavior, doing good should be encouraged. A thief should stop his stealing and use his hands in a proper way. "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that has a need (Eph. 4:28)." He labors so that he may give rather than to scheme to take. When the believer yields to Satanic attack and steals, he needs to cease such activity and be involved in a positive option. Honest, hard labor (kopos) will do the good thing with a specific purpose for the believer - helping the one who has need. In a society where thievery was a way of life, the Christian was to recognize its sinfulness and replace the activity with righteous behavior. He makes a sacrifice to his God by doing good while he avoids evil and participates in good.
A Christian slave could do good by giving a good day's work to his master just as though he was working for the Lord (Eph. 6:6-8). He is to do this by design, knowing that each believer will receive from the Lord whatever good thing he does, whether a slave or a freeman (Eph. 6:8). This applies to anyone working for an employer. Working as unto the Lord is always a sacrifice for the spiritual believer. All parties (employer, employee and God] are satisfied with a job well done as a result of the believer's being motivated by his priestly service of doing good.
Benefits for doing good are distributed in several ways. It is obvious that the recipient of the good deed benefits but so does the one who does the good. When a believer does good, it is possible for him to benefit in time and in the future as well. Benefits received should never be the motivation for doing good. Christian love directed to God, the brother and then the unbeliever should provide a basic motivation for offering the sacrifice. Scripture describes several benefits for doing good.
Whatever a man sows will ultimately produce a harvest. Galatians 6:7-10 distinguishes reaping for that which was sown in the flesh and reaping for that which was sown from the Spirit. Works done in the flesh are in the state of decaying and have only temporary value. Works done from the Spirit will reap a quality of eternal life. In its own time, the reaping will take place to the glory of God and to the benefit of the believer. Everyday trials (6:1-4) and individualism (6:5) are often used as excuses to avoid doing good. The believer is not to be led astray by these excuses. He is to continue planting while anticipating positive results from his sacrifice.
Naturally, the recipient of the good deed receives a benefit. If a task was performed for someone, they receive a measure of relief and are able to enjoy such a result. Assistance rendered to the needy meets their needs. When the Philippians sent physical gifts to Paul, he considered that to be a good work (Phil. 4:14). When a believer abstains from sin, he keeps other believers from falling into the sin. When an employee does a good day's work, the employer benefits from the increase in the employee's production. It is important to remember that God finds the sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing. As a result, God receives thanksgiving and praise from believers who have received the benefits of the sacrifice. If the sacrifice of doing good is offered according to the will of God, the work of God will go on to the glory of God through the spiritual believer.
In time, the believer may receive specific benefits for doing good. Other human beings seeing the good deeds done will praise the believer for his activity. The praise of man can come from a large variety of areas. Rulers are one of the highest levels of human society that can give praise to the believer (Rom. 13:3, 4). They are not to be a source of fear for good work. When good is done, there is a potential for the praise from the ruler. Those who are continually doing good will receive praise from a ruler in some way on some level at some time. Doing good is seen as a service to the community so man gives his praise. Whether it is a job that is well done or bills paid on time, men appreciate the fact that it is not necessary to use government to enforce civil law toward the believer.
Ultimately, at the Bema seat of Christ [called "the judgment seat of Christ"], the believer will be rewarded based upon the things done in his body (2 Cor. 5:10). If the thing done is good, there will be a reward given. If the thing done is bad, it will not count for reward. The word "bad," (phaulos), means "not producing anything." Fallow ground is nonproductive ground. The believer is not judged but his works are. Every man's works will be brought to light and tested as to their character (1 Cor. 3:13). Works that do not meet the test will be destroyed as though by fire and the man will be saved but will suffer loss (3:15). The works that remain will be the basis for reward. Every man will receive praise from God whether he receives reward or not (1 Cor. 4:5). Victors' crowns, (stephanoi), will be rewarded to believers for things done in their lives. An incorruptible crown will be given to believers who keep their bodily appetites under control (1 Cor. 9:25-27). The crown of rejoicing will be given to believers who have shared the Gospel and had a person saved through faith in Christ (1 Thess. 2:19). The crown of life will be rewarded to those who have overcome testing and temptation even to the death (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). This crown is known as the martyrs crown. When a man has the pastor-teacher gift, he has the potential for receiving the crown of glory for his service under the Chief Shepherd (1 Pe. 5:4). Scripture clearly describes these five crowns that will be given to the believers who qualify for them. The rewards will be directly presented to Christ who essentially earned them through the believer. The only reward motive is to have something to present to Christ in the future for good works done by the spiritual believer here on earth.
What a privilege it will be to cast crowns at Jesus Christ's feet, giving Him glory for work done by the activity of the Holy Spirit in a Christian's life. A sacrifice of doing good brings glory to God and will bring reward to the believer who in return will give the crown to Jesus Christ.
In bringing the sacrifice of doing good, the believer-priest comes as a spiritual believer led by the Spirit, knowing the will of God in the specific task. Having an open, obvious acceptability as well as an inherent character of good, the sacrifice will give God glory for the work He is doing in and through the believer. As a result of what is done, other individuals benefit. Either the believer or the unbeliever can receive the benefits of the good that has been done. Not every good deed the believer does is a sacrifice to God. When the carnal believer does good, he will have a different motivation for his activity than a spiritual believer. God will reject his activity as a sacrifice. This unique sacrifice has the potential for pleasing God while all other good activity is not accepted by a holy God. "Let us offer up the sacrifice of doing good ...."
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A third sacrifice mentioned in Hebrews thirteen is the sacrifice of fellowship (13:16). When a Christian reads the Authorized Version, he might conclude that when he talks to another person, he is offering this sacrifice since "fellowship" is translated "communicate." Only a part of fellowship involves communication. There are a number of biblical facts that are essential for understanding fellowship.
Fellowship is one of the most used and least understood Christian terms in the Church today. A little food and a cup of coffee with two Christians and the result is instant fellowship. Any communication between Christians is called "fellowship." Many Christian meetings are identified as fellowship meetings. Sunday School classes are identified as Koinonia classes. Youth groups are called fellowships. Just because the term "fellowship" is used does not make the meeting a true time of biblical fellowship. Scripture clearly describes valid biblical fellowship for the Christian.
Because Christians organize times for sharing together does not mean that they are having fellowship. Personal involvement in the lives of other saints may or may not be fellowship. All six forms of "fellowship" occur in the New Testament 46 times. Koinonia is one of the best-known Greek terms used among Christians. As is true with many theological Greek terms, "fellowship" is found in a technical sense as well as in several non-technical senses. In the New Testament, it is used of business that is conducted in the marketplace (Lu. 5:10). In classical Greek, the word was used of a marriage relationship where two people shared together in common. The form of Greek used in the New Testament is called Koine Greek meaning it is "common" Greek. Fellowship means "to share in common or jointly." English words that reflect this root include communion, communicate, companion, company and commute. The com- prefix relates directly to a commonality or togetherness in a relationship or activity. One must understand what the common ground is in order to make the relationship fellowship. Is the church a social club comprised of believers? Some churches with believers as members have never experienced true New Testament fellowship. Fork + Food + Friends does not equal Fellowship in a "fellowship" dinner even though every participant may have all these in common. True New Testament fellowship is limited by what the believer shares in common with other believers. Generally, Christians have been taught that the common ground for fellowship is salvation, but it is evident that salvation was not enough in the Corinthian church. True fellowship is only possible when believers are spiritual and living in light of their position in Christ. All believers have a common position and possessions in Christ.
Some Christians rarely attend church because they feel that church attendance is not necessary. Evidently, there were some of the readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews who had this attitude. They are admonished, "And let us consider one another to incite to love and good works, not forsaking the coming together of ourselves, as the habit of some is, but exhorting ... (Heb. 10:24, 25)." It is true that fellowship does not require a church building or a church meeting, but the gathering of the church should stimulate the Christian to be an active participant in Scriptural fellowship. Certainly, contemporary churches are organized around a common doctrine, common government and common discipline. Each member agrees to support and conform to common areas of belief and practice before he becomes a member. A name on the roll and a profession of faith are not elements of New Testament fellowship. Believers should have fellowship because they are sharing together in what they have in Christ and because they are filled by the Holy Spirit manifesting the character of Christ to one another. They revel in all of the common benefits that they are sharing in Christ at that moment. The early church shared a common salvation; but as they learned what they had in Christ, they came to build fellowship around that relationship.
Those who were saved on the day of Pentecost found their foundation for growth comprised of four elements: the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers of worship. Fellowship was one part that was important to them that day (Ac. 2:42). They were together and had all things in common in an experimental socialism that was not mandated by God (Ac. 2:44). They sold all their goods and distributed them to the poor (Ac. 2:45). They possessed a singleness of mind when they entered into the temple and broke bread from house to house. Here was common activity of the whole church in one city that was filled with the thrill of the events of Pentecost. Fellowship was simple. Fellowship was only based on faith in Christ. Fellowship was a mutual adaptation into a world that had a religious structure but that had never seen anything as unique as the infant Church.
Fellowship is not automatic for the believer, but it is based on information revealed in the Word of God. Without revelation, biblical fellowship is impossible. John describes it in this way, "That which we have seen and have heard, we are announcing also to you, in order that [purpose) you may potentially be having a quality of fellowship with us, but indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:3)." Specific segments of biblical revelation make fellowship possible for the believer on all levels. One of the themes of First John is the indwelling Christ (1 Jn. 5:11, 12). Each believer has the potential to live in the light and to manifest the life of God in his life [i.e. eternal life]. Light is the manifestation of the life of God. Scripture reveals how the Christian can be ordering every detail of his life [walking] in the light. Only believers who are walking in the light can have First John fellowship. "But if we should happen to be walking in the light as He is in the light, we are having a quality of fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7)." Here John uses the first of four third class conditions in chapter one (1:6, 8, 9, 10) indicating that it is possible for the believer to walk in the light, but it is not certain that he will actually practice such a walk. The criteria of the "if" clause (protasis) or condition must be met in order to accomplish the activity (apodasis). In other words, if a believer is not walking in the light, it is impossible for him to have true fellowship with other believers and to be enjoying the cleansing of sin for himself. A Christian who does not know how to be walking in the light will never enjoy fellowship. He has no ability to offer the sacrifice of fellowship. Walking in the light, a spiritual believer has a potential to have fellowship with every other believer who is walking in the light.
In ignorance, some Christians believe that a Christian can never know when he is spiritual. Scripture clearly teaches that if a believer does not know that he is spiritual, he is not spiritual. A proper frame of mind makes spirituality possible and without it, the Holy Spirit will not fill [or make up the deficiencies] the believer. As believers fellowship with one another, they share their position in common in Christ. As a result, they manifest the character of Christ [the fruit of the Spirit], live in the light and exhibit the life of God. Every believer has the potential to have fellowship with the members of the Godhead as he practices the spiritual life. A knowledge of and practice of the spiritual life is essential for offering the sacrifice of fellowship. Believers can share in common in an improper way as well as a proper way.
Union with an unbeliever is an unequal yoke in any circumstance. Marriage, business partnerships and political agreements as well as many other activities with unbelievers are prohibited. "Stop being yoked with another of a different kind [i.e. unbelievers] ... (2 Cor. 6:14)." Paul proceeds to illustrate the problem by using some examples of impossible relationships. It is impossible for righteousness and lawlessness to have anything together. The two cannot coexist. Where one is the other cannot exist. It is impossible for light and darkness to have anything in common [fellowship]. Christ and Belial have no agreement. The believer has no part with an unbeliever. The Holy of Holies of the temple of God has no place for idols or it ceases to be the Holy of Holies. Separation from yoking with unbelievers is essential for spirituality. Even though it does not make the believer spiritual, it does not prevent him from being spiritual. A Christian should not make any intimate ties that are binding with an unbeliever. Scripture does not prohibit friendliness with or working with an unbeliever on a job. There are situations where it is possible for the believer to retain his Christian testimony without compromise. Where compromise is necessary in matters of what Scripture describes as right and wrong, coexistence is impossible. As a result, such relationships should be terminated and avoided. It is impossible for believers to have true fellowship with unbelievers just as it is impossible for light and darkness to coexist in the same place at the same time. Unfortunately, believers have popularized the idea of fellowship to the point that every human relationship falls into the category of fellowship. Jobs, membership non-Christian organizations, political influence groups, athletic leagues and hobby groups have fallen into the category of being fellowships in many believers' thinking. In no way can a believer make a binding agreement with an unbeliever and not be negatively influenced by the unbeliever in the relationship. Should a believer consider fellowship with an unbeliever to be a sacrifice, it would be just as unacceptable to God as a swine slain on the temple altar under the Law.
Why have fellowship? Because Christ has made provisions for Christians that are outstandingly superior to anything an unbeliever possesses, we have fellowship. Other believers possess the same benefits. Only spiritual believers can have fellowship sharing with one another the benefits that the Holy Spirit has provided in their lives. Fellowship is not only possible, but God prefers it for His children. God has made all of the arrangements for the spiritual life so that the believer can live in the light ordering every detail of his life by the manifestation of the life of God. Fellowship brings experiential knowledge. One's fellowship with God and other believers will give him a greater appreciation for all the provisions of God for Christian living.
Every Christian has the potential for fellowship with any other Christian. His whole spiritual life determines whether or not he will actually meet the potential. Only spiritual believers can have fellowship with other spiritual believers in the New Testament sense. A carnal believer who remains carnal cannot have true fellowship with a spiritual believer or another carnal believer. Certainly carnal believers can get together and have a good time [and even talk about Christian things], but they can never have biblical fellowship. A believer cannot have fellowship with an unbeliever. Scripture places severe restrictions on who can have New Testament fellowship.
God does not desire a believer to hold another believer's sins in common with him. When believers participate together in the same sins, they will suffer the same results. Paul warns Timothy of such a potential when he says, "Lay hands quickly on no man, nor lay hold in common the sins of others of the same kind, keep yourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22)." A carnal believer may attempt to drag a spiritual believer into his sins. It is important that the spiritual believer resist the temptation to share in the sin. He will become carnal because of his own personal participation in the sins. Purity is essential for biblical Christian fellowship.
Unbelievers have many different external appearances. Some are very religious while others are not at all concerned about morality. When an unbeliever is convinced that he has the ability to please God by his works, he may be aggressive in his attempts to involve others in his way of thinking. Channeling personal merit is the backbone of world religion. Religion is an element of the world system designed by Satan to control the works of the flesh. Cult members are driven by religious zeal to convert people to their respective cult. The Apostle John saw the deception inherent in the cults of his day. "Many deceivers are entered into the world who do not confess that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (2 Jn. 7)." As a result of their doctrine, they are identified as deceivers. The implications of their doctrine are evident. When one denies that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh, he denies the deity of Christ and the union of His divine nature with a human nature. Some say that Christ's cross work is not sufficient because He is seen as a mere man only capable of bearing his own sin or He is considered to be a lesser deity. If such a person comes to the believer, he is not to receive the unbelieving cultist into his house and not to give him a positive greeting (2 Jn. 10). If the Christian tells him to rejoice [in what he is doing], the believer becomes a partaker [i.e. one having fellowship with] in the malignantly evil deeds of the cultic unbeliever (2 Jn. 11). Christians should not encourage in any way the unbeliever as he spreads his pernicious doctrine. Dialogue will accomplish nothing. A believer is not even to appear in the smallest way to have anything in common with the one who denies that Christ is coming in the flesh. Without Christ as full deity, there is no Christianity and no hope for the believer. God does not want the believer to consider anything that resembles religious fellowship with the religious unbeliever. The god of the cults and other religions is not the God of the Bible and creation.
No fellowship exists between Christ and false religions. Every religious system in the world [aside from biblical Christianity] is directly influenced by demons [fallen angels]. In Corinth, a center of a diversity of religions, a Corinthian believer was absolutely inconsistent if he went for lunch at a pagan temple and ate food and drank liquid offered to idols and then came to partake in the communion service at the church. Pagan practices and Christian practices do not mix even though men attempt to unite the two. Eating of sacrifices offered to idols identified the eater with the demon receiving the sacrifice (1 Cor. 10:18, 19). Paul says, "... I do not wish you to become sharers (or fellowshippers] of the demons (1 Cor. 10:20)." A believer must not have fellowship with false religion. What a conundrum to eat in allegiance to idols and then to come to eat the Lord's table in remembrance of Christ's work and its many provisions. Such a contradiction will never accomplish anything positive in a Christian's life. His involvement with the unbeliever will prohibit the offering of the sacrifice of fellowship.
As has been seen, a believer should not attempt to have true fellowship with an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14). He should make no attempt to have binding ties of any sort with the unbeliever. Friendship is permitted as long as special care is taken so that there will be no commitments that could produce an unequal yoke for the believer.
First John 1:7 clearly teaches that God expects the believer to be spiritual using the knowledge given to him in the Bible. When he is spiritual, he can then have true fellowship with other spiritual Christians. Walking in the light is a prerequisite for proper fellowship with each other. Who can have fellowship? One spiritual believer can share in common with another spiritual believer. There can be no fellowship with an unbeliever or a carnal believer. Fellowship involves the spiritual realm in New Testament revelation.
Fellowship is not limited to a geographical location. Church buildings with their fellowship halls are not the only places where fellowship can take place. When spiritual believers get together and share their common benefits in Christ, fellowship exists for the benefit of the believers and to the glory of God. Physical location Makes little difference while spiritual location or position is essential for true fellowship.
Fellowship finds its basis in the believer's being in Christ. As a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the believer is in Christ. Each individual believer has been placed in Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). Because of this, he is in the Body of Christ, "one body" that is identified as "the Christ" (1 Cor. 12:11-13). The Body of Christ is a unity characterized by "oneness" (1 Cor. 10:17). In the communion service, the single loaf signifies one Body (1 Cor. 10:16, 17). Paul identifies this oneness in Christ as "one new man" (Eph. 2:14, 15). At the call to salvation, the believer is in one Body (Col. 3:15). "For we have members in one body, but all the members do not have the same practice, so we are, the many, one body in Christ and each one members of one another (Rom. 12:4, 5)." The oneness is also identified as "one in Christ"(Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14, 15; 4:3-7). Unity in Christ is the basis of biblical fellowship. When a believer is living in light of his position in Christ, he will be reflectively thinking of the same things, possess the same love and have the same soul (i.e. feelings] as other spiritual believers (Phil. 2:1-4). Unity should be evident in the lives of spiritual believers. Having their reflective thinking focused on their position in Christ, they have a basis for commonality in relationships and conversation (cf. Eph. 4:3, 13). If one is not in Christ, there is no basis for fellowship. If one is not enjoying his position in Christ, there is no potential for fellowship. Because the saint is in Christ, he has the basis for offering the sacrifice of fellowship. When he is spiritual and relates to another spiritual believer on the basis of their oneness in Christ sharing that oneness, they offer the sacrifice of fellowship together.
In practice, it would seem evident that an ideal place to offer this sacrifice is when the church is gathered together. This is especially true of the communion service (1 Cor. 10:16). One of the primary reasons for meeting is for fellowship (ex. Ac. 2:42). Most church constitutions clearly state that one purpose of the local church is gathering together for fellowship. Without a church meeting, many believers will rarely meet one another because the paths of their lives are so divergent. Without meeting together, Christians have only limited relationships with other believers. Just because one works with a few Christians and has some Christian friends or family does not negate the need for sharing with a broader group of believers. Sharing between the young and old, rich and poor, men and women and persons of different social and racial backgrounds enhances Christian growth. In every meeting of the church, spiritual believers should be sharing together. Carnal believers should be encouraged to become spiritual so that they can benefit from fellowship. In His arrangements for the local church, God made it possible for it to be a manifestation of the Church that is Christ's Body. No other organization on earth has the same potential, whether it is Christian or not. Knowing together and growing together leads to an effective sharing together in fellowship.
Of course, it is possible for believers to get together as individuals and have fellowship. Christian friends sit around a kitchen table sharing the glories of the grace of God in fellowship. Christian employees share a lunch hour in the study of the Word of God and prayer in biblical fellowship. A group of believing men from the church can go fishing together and share fellowship around a campfire under the open skies. In some instances, one believer can become so close to another believer that he is identified as a partner or sharer with that believer. Titus had such a relationship with Paul since he is identified as Paul's partner [lit. fellowshipper] and fellow worker (2 Cor. 8:23). Paul appealed to Philemon to respond to him as a spiritual believer and to consider him to be a partner and to receive the runaway slave Onesimus as he would receive Paul (Philemon 17). In times of great affliction, believers are often drawn together. Persecution brings the spiritual believer to the forefront. Church history describes many who were drawn together by their suffering to share what they had in common in Christ. Other Christians were drawn in mutual support and encouragement to those who were persecuted. Fellowship blossomed in the dismal dearth of persecution and deprivation. Early in history, the Hebrew Christians found fellowship in the environment of persecution (Heb. 10:32, 33). Where can believers fellowship? Anywhere two or more spiritual believers meet and share the joys of what they have in Christ is a place of fellowship (1 Jn. 1:7).
How can the Christian offer up the sacrifice of fellowship? Does a church potluck qualify? Does a ping-pong game in the fellowship hall qualify? Does a youth beach party meet the qualifications? Do two pastors playing golf together meet the requirements? Potentially all of these can qualify depending on the spiritual condition of those involved and what is shared. All believers have a common salvation (Jude 3) and a common faith (Tit. 1:4) so there is a real potential for offering the sacrifice in any of the above circumstances. All share in the same benefits.
Paul was willing to conform to the condition and standards of others in order to give them the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 9:18-22). His purpose for such conformity was that those who were saved might have the potential for fellowship with him (1 Cor. 9:23). How often does one see another person who is an unbeliever and say, "Wouldn't it be great if he was a Christian?" Paul seemed to have a similar reaction when he was in Corinth. In Philippi, God had used Paul to give the Gospel and he was an instrument of grace resulting in a co-fellowshipping with the Philippian saints after they were saved (Phil. 1:7).
Because of the relationship that the Philippians had with Paul, they shared in common some of their physical things with Paul (Phil. 4:15, 16). Affliction had encompassed Paul. He needed relief. The Philippians responded by sharing their physical wealth. As a result of their attitude toward Paul, they offered three different kinds of sacrifice to God on Paul's behalf: fellowship, giving and faith.
Fellowship can be shared in several areas of Christian living. John, the apostle, mentions three of them in Revelation 1:9: in tribulation, in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the patience of Jesus Christ. Nearing the end of his life, John writes from the isle of Patmos reminding the believers that he had shared these things in common with them. A persecuted church is drawn together by the very persecution that is designed and administered to tear it apart. All of the pressure and tribulation that occurs in the life of the Christian becomes a basis for fellowship with other spiritual believers who are sharing in the same difficulties. Encouragement and sympathy are shared for the mutual benefit. For those who are participating in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, fellowship holds their attention on the common objective. At the moment of salvation, the Christian is rescued from the danger of the authority of darkness and is positionally transferred into the kingdom of the Son of the Fathers love (Col. 1:13). Peter anticipated actual entrance into the kingdom when his position would be actualized (1 Pe. 1:11). With the call to salvation, the believer was called into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 2:12). Paul also anticipated his future involvement in the Lord's heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18). An understanding of the relationship that is possible because of one's position in Christ's kingdom and the anticipation of kingdom benefits becomes a solid basis for offering the sacrifice of fellowship. Patience is essential for the Christian awaiting the coming of Christ in the air to catch His Church to Himself. The Church labors patiently [lit. abiding under) without unstable speculation as to when Christ will return. Such patience shared between believers forms a common bond. Christ could return at any moment, but the Christian will patiently wait for His coming doing the will of God while anticipating personal involvement in Christ's kingdom.
Fellowship often involves sharing in matters physical as well as spiritual. Love is manifested among believers in many ways (Rom. 12:9-15). One of the manifestations of love is "sharing in common" with the needs of the saints (Rom. 12:13). In Romans twelve, the needs [or things lacking] could be either physical or spiritual, though the matter of hospitality [lit. fondness of strangers] infers physical provision of the needs of one who visits the believer's home. The Philippians provided for Paul's physical needs when he was lacking. They shared an attitude of fellowship in giving the thing and offered their fellowship together with him as a sacrifice, and then they offered the sacrifice of giving to God for him. The two sacrifices run hand in hand in Philippians four. In Romans 15:26, the word "contribution" is fellowship (koinonia). Once again the common relationship among Christians as a whole is the basis for sharing physical things in common. "For Macedonia and Achaia considered it good to make some fellowship [or contribution] for the poor saints in Jerusalem, For they considered it good, and they are debtors to them; for if in their spiritual things the Gentiles shared in common, they ought to perform priestly service to them in fleshly things (Rom. 15:26, 27)." Based on common salvation and common benefits from that salvation, these Grecian believers were convinced that they should share physical relief with the saints in Jerusalem. They understood the significant position of the church in Jerusalem in disseminating the Gospel that had provided the spiritual benefits and felt it best to assist in meeting the physical needs of those who had been so generous to them. Because of this, they provided abundance for the poor of the church in Jerusalem. "Through the proof of this ministry, while glorifying God upon the submission of your confession into the gospel of Christ and the liberality of the fellowship unto them and unto all men (2 Cor. 9:13)." The response of the saints to this priestly service is evident in verse twelve, "Because the ministry of this priestly service is not only making up the things that were lacking of the saints, but is also abounding through many thanksgivings to God." An attitude is reflected in the actual giving. Saints share in common their position in Christ and so are motivated to provide physical assistance for those believers who are in need. How often the sacrifice of fellowship leads to the sacrifice of giving! Another believer shares in common in all of the heavenly provisions of salvation, so why shouldn't a Christian share with him in things physical? Very often Christians will do this for men and women who are in professional Christian service. They serve the Lord and are supported by the Lord's people. As needs arise, other saints step in with money or goods that meet the needs to the glory of God.
In the meeting of the church, the communion service is the best place for true New Testament fellowship. Since communion is a translation Of (koinonia), "fellowship," it is evident that common ground is shared in the service. Scripture designates each of the elements as a basis for communion. "The cup of blessing [lit. well spoken of] that we are blessing [speak well of] is it not a fellowship with reference to the blood of Christ? The bread that we are breaking, is it not a fellowship with reference to the Body of Christ? Because we being many are one loaf -- one Body; for we are all partakers of one loaf (1 Cor. 10:16, 17)." Because of the work of Christ, every believer is a part of one loaf and is a recipient of the benefits of the new covenant. Every communion service should cause the believer to think of the provisions of the work of Christ. In the memorial symbolism, each Christian should be perpetually reminded of the provisions of the work of Christ until Christ returns (1 Cor. 11:26). His attention must be focused on the benefits that accrue to the believer as a result of Christ's death. The bread is a reminder of the provisions provided for the believer in Christ as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, "This is my body which is for you" (1 Cor. 11:24).
Traditionalism has attempted to divorce First Corinthians ten from First Corinthians eleven, but such a division is a flagrant violation of the rules of literal interpretation. The cup is a reminder of the benefits of the new covenant with the Church provided by Christ's shed blood. "This cup is the new covenant by my blood (1 Cor. 11:25)." As a result of regeneration, the believer has received these benefits. What a privilege it is to have the Indwelling Christ within the believer as a primary benefit of the new covenant! The church may be offering sacrifices of fellowship in the communion service. Unfortunately, too many believers are drawn back to a stick of wood and revere it more than the work accomplished there and applied to the believer. It is interesting that in the history of the Church, communion has been a major point of division rather than a true holding in common. Communion should not be a funeral for remourning the death of Christ but rather a jubilant reminder for rejoicing in the continued provisions of the work of Christ. The Church on earth and in heaven shares in common these gracious provisions. Oh that the somber, melancholy attitudes of many communion services would be transformed into joyous sacrifices of fellowship! If religious superstitious awe was replaced by spiritual objectivity, more communion services would conform to the New Testament pattern.
Believers can offer the sacrifice of fellowship with those who teach spiritual things. "Let the one who is being instructed in the Word continue to share in common with the one who is instructing him in all good things (Gal. 6:6)." Christians can share fellowship in several ways in such a circumstance. Paul is specifically speaking of physical assistance with food and finances as an expression of appreciation for the instruction. He can also share the truth that he has learned as a matter of fellowship. What a privilege it is for a student to share common truth with his instructor! Pastors, who are truly gifted as pastor-teachers, must meet the "apt to teach" requirement in order to hold the office if they meet New Testament qualifications for the office. If they teach the Word so that the church can properly grow in the grace of God, they deserve an adequate salary as a part of their fellowship with the saints.
First Corinthians 12:12 clearly identifies "The Christ" as one Body with many members and Christ as the Head and the Church the members. This was the mystery that was revealed in Ephesians 3:4. The Gentiles are participants in the Christ. "That the Gentiles be joint [or together] heirs and a joint [or together] body and joint [or together] sharers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel ... (Eph. 3:6)." This togetherness is the basis for the offering of the sacrifice of fellowship. All believers have a position in Christ and so should share in common with one another. Fellowship is not limited to fellowship between spiritual believers alone. A sacrifice of fellowship can be offered when the spiritual believer has fellowship with the Persons of the Godhead.
It is possible for each individual to have fellowship with each Person of the Trinity. Few have actually enjoyed the privilege of holding things in common with the Godhead. Without a doubt, the fellowship of the believer with Members of the Godhead is the ultimate sacrifice of fellowship. Every Christian should be challenged to discern from Scripture how to have this fellowship. He should know grace principles for spiritual living that enable him to share with the Godhead as he matures.
Immediately available is the fellowship of the believer with the Holy Spirit. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with you all (2 Cor. 13:14)." It is true that God is the source of grace, love and fellowship but that is not Paul's instructive intention in Second Corinthians thirteen. Each Person of the Godhead possesses and uniquely directs the characteristic described toward the believer [indicated by the possessive genitives]. Grace is the possession of Jesus Christ and directed by Him. The Father possesses love and has directed love toward the believer. The Holy Spirit possesses fellowship that He makes available to the believer. In the Divine essence, all three Persons possess these characteristics but they have mutually agreed to permit each Person to manifest that part of the character of God distinctly. Even though most translations translate this as a potential or a wish of the apostle, the grammar of the verse indicates that all of these are present for the Corinthian believers. In a Greek verbless clause where the "to be" verb is to be supplied, the verb "to be" should be supplied in the indicative mood ["is"] rather than the subjunctive mood ["be"]. It is a fact that the fellowship belonging to the Holy Spirit is immediately available for the grace believer to enjoy. How is that possible? It is only possible if the believer is spiritual [emanating things of the Spirit]. Speaking of the fellowship of the Spirit, Paul expected the Philippian believers to fulfill his joy and to share the same love (Phil. 2:2). With a series of first class conditions, Paul affirms this. "Therefore since there is some comfort in Christ, since there is some persuasion of love, since there is some fellowship of Spirit, since there are some compassions and tender compassions ..." The fellowship is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit not the human spirit. Some have built their theology on the false assumption that when "spirit," (pneuma), is found in the New Testament without a definite article [anarthrous] in the Greek, it refers to the human spirit; and that when the article is found, it refers to the Holy Spirit. A careful study of every context in which "spirit" (pneuma) is found proves that such uniformity does not exist. Philippians 2:1 does not have an article before "spirit," so some make it refer to the fellowship of the human spirit. Context refutes such a position. A spiritual believer manifesting the fruit of the Spirit is having fellowship with the Holy Spirit. When a believer walks [i.e. ordering every detail of his life] by the Spirit, he has fellowship with the Holy Spirit. As a result, the spiritual believer will also share in common with other believers who are spiritual. We love with a common love. We rejoice with a common joy. Since the Spirit produces His fruit, we share in common that fruit and its various manifestations.
When the believer is feeling at ease [i.e. abiding] in his position in Christ, he has the potential for fellowshipping with Christ who is the Head of the Body. Christians are called at salvation into the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). It is a fact that every believer has the potential to share actively in such a fellowship (1 Jn. 1:3). This fellowship may be evident in trials and times of adversity. When a member of the Body of Christ suffers, Christ, the Head, suffers. Spiritual believers are able to share [have in common] with the sufferings of the Christ (1 Pe. 4:13). Clearly these are spiritual believers because they enjoy the circumstance because they have joy that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. In Philippians 3:10, the concept focuses on Christ Himself and the suffering He has when a believer suffers. "That I may experientially know Him and the inherent power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings while being conformed to His death." When the believer is feeling at ease in Christ, he is able to share with Christ in the sufferings of other believers [for any reason]. Fellowship with God the Son is available to all believers though few actually offer the sacrifice in relation to the Son.
When the believer is living in the realm of his new nature, he is sharing in common with God the Father. At the moment of salvation, the believer enters into a new condition. He becomes a partaker in the Divine nature (2 Pe. 1:4). John confirms that the Christian can offer the sacrifice of fellowship to God the Father (1 Jn. 1:3-6).
How can a Christian have fellowship? By being a spiritual believer who is maturing. As he learns the spiritual life from the Word of God, he is able to offer the sacrifice more frequently. His recognition of his relationship with other believers and the Godhead provides the incentive for being involved in fellowship. Fellowship does not happen spontaneously by itself. The individual believer is responsible for his own involvement and his offering of the sacrifice of fellowship.
Where fellowship exists, things are held in common with other participants. Such sharing is made possible for Christians by the work of Christ. Fellowship is based in the believer's position in Christ and appropriated when he is spiritual. There are positive and negative aspects. The believer is not to have fellowship with unbelievers, the sins of other men or those who hold false doctrine. Ideally, fellowship should be most visible when the local church is gathered for its meetings and for the Lordian Table. It is possible for one to have fellowship with other believers or groups outside the local church. Fellowship with the Persons of the Godhead is the most important fellowship available to the grace believer. Every time the spiritual believer shares in common spiritual things with other believers and his God, it is a sacrifice that is acceptable to God. A mutual benefit is shared and the results are a substantial blessing to the believers who share together in common offering the sacrifice of fellowship. "Therefore let us offer up the sacrifice of fellowship ..."
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Whether the believer gives money or goods, he has the potential to be offering a sacrifice in his giving. This priestly privilege is clearly evident in the provisions sent to Paul by the Philippian church. Paul's needs were met and God received a sacrifice. "But I have all things and abound, I stand as one who is filled having received from Epaphroditus the things from you, a fragrance of sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18)." Whatever the things were that Paul received were sacrifices of things that had been given. There may have been little money. But in a society built on barter, most of what Paul was given must have been goods. The fair and profitable exchange of goods and services was the backbone of the Roman economy. All of Paul's needs were met as a result of the willing giving of the Philippian believers.
Christian giving is one of the most confused issues in the Church today. As a result, Christians are uncertain concerning God's program of giving and their own attitude toward giving. How is the money used? The proper distribution and use of funds, that are given, are controlled by a few and frequently only that select number can know where it goes. Christian leaders have become pragmatists in order to raise money for the "work of God." Every gimmick used by the world system for raising money has been used by Christian organizations [in some cases with great success]. In frustration, many believers wish the Lord would come down to earth visibly and take what they give and use it for His glory without any human middlemen. Some churches require an annual pledge be made and paid to the church for the individual to retain his good standing. Other churches just send a bill based on the individual's annual income. Others expect ten per cent of the individual's income and argue as to whether it should be given on the gross or the net income. Other churches suggest giving be done as the Lord leads while only the leaders know the leading of the Lord as manifested in their budget. The New Testament expects the believer's giving to be a priestly sacrifice. Giving should be a sacrifice made to God as a part of one's priestly service. In the Bible, sacrificial giving ideally should be normal giving. If one gives until it hurts, he is not participating in grace giving nor is he involved in true sacrificial giving. If it hurts, the believer is not happy. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving is a privilege between the believer and his God.
One of the blessings of living after the cross is the things that a believer has that are far better than before Christ's cross work. Most Christians who believe in a tithe have deliberately ignored the revelation of both the Old and New Testaments. A tithe in the Old Testament did not resemble the tithe practiced in churches today. Arguments supporting a tithe reflect an ignorance of the New Testament. It rarely mentions the tithe and then only in historical reference. One must contrast tithing and grace giving so that the Christian can fully appreciate the privileges of giving as a believer-priest.
"Wasn't there tithing before the Law was given to Moses?" Does this mean that there is an unchanging principle that carries over to grace believers? Abraham and Jacob were both involved with the tithe before the Law was given. Abraham actually gave a tithe while Jacob promised to give a tithe though there is no record that he ever actually gave the tenth. The patriarchs did not give tithes in the same manner as was required of Israel under the Mosaic Law. Some strong limitations are evident in Scripture.
Tithing Before the Giving of the Law. Abraham gave the first tithe recorded in Bible history (Gen. 14). Soon after Abram entered Canaan, he gave Lot the choice of the land he wanted to possess. Lot chose the plains and lived in the cities of the plains (Gen. 13:5-12). Abram remained in the hill country of Canaan. Four kings waged war with the kings of the plain and ultimately defeated the kings of the plain (Gen. 14:1-10). They took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:11) and Lot (14:12). Abram heard that Lot was taken and took 318 trained servants to fight the kings (14:13, 14). He defeated the kings and brought back all of the goods and people taken (14:16). Melchisedec came out to meet Abram. Melchisedec was the priest of the most high God (14:18). He blessed Abram and Abram "gave him tithes of all (14:20)."
Hebrews refers directly to this event and adds some details. "For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, the one who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and the one blessing him, to whom Abraham divided a tenth from all ... (Heb. 7:1, 2)." It is obvious that the word "all" is crucial for determining how much Abraham tithed. Genesis fourteen indicates that the tithe was of the spoils (14:11, 16, 20). Hebrews reiterates, "Now consider how this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils (7:4)."
It seems that everywhere Abraham went and every time he got in trouble he came out a richer man. "And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold (Gen. 13:2)." When he tithed, it cost him nothing for he tithed of the spoil. He refused any other remuneration for his military victory returning all that remained to the people of the land after he had paid his men (14:22-24). When Abram went home after the event, he returned just as rich as he had been before he left. His tithing had cost him nothing. He tithed only that which was his by right of plunder.
There is no indication in Scripture that Abraham ever gave a tithe again in his lifetime. Furthermore, he brought the tithe as an unsaved man. Abraham was not saved until Genesis 15:5, 6 when he believed Jehovah concerning the promise of a seed and it was accounted to him for righteousness. He gave the tithe voluntarily when the tithe was not required. The actual value of the tithe was probably much greater than ten per cent. Abram gave Melchisedec ten per cent of the bulk and that came off of the top of the pile of booty. The most fragile and valuable items would have naturally been placed on the top of the pile to prevent damage. After that, he paid his hired servants and then gave the remainder to the king of Sodom to distribute to the people who had been plundered. Thus it would seem logical that Melchisedec received more than ten per cent of the value by receiving ten per cent of the volume of the booty. If one desires to follow Abraham's example for tithing, he must be unsaved, have plunder and do it once in his lifetime. Hence, no general rule can in any way carry over to the grace believer from Abraham. To read the Levitical tithe back to Abraham is dishonest and inaccurate. In order to justify teaching the tithe for the grace believer, exegesis must be set aside and replaced by pragmatic subjectivism.
After Jacob dreamed the dream of the ladder, angels and Jehovah God, he reacted by attempting to make a deal with Jehovah. He set up a pillar and renamed the location Bethel. He attempted to make some conditions with God for his giving God the tithe. "Then Jacob vowed a vow saying, If God will proceed to be with me and will guard me in this way that I am continually going, and will give to me food to eat and a garment to put on, and I return in peace unto my fathers house, then Jehovah will be to me for a God, and this stone that I have placed as a pillar will proceed to be God's house, and all that you will proceed to give to me, I will surely proceed to give a tenth to you (Gen. 28:20-22)." Jacob asked for Divine provisions and protection as a condition for his giving the tithe, "if ... then" indicates that Jacob was attempting to strike a bargain with God. In other words, Jacob says, "Give me all I need and I will give you a tithe from what you provide." It is easy to give a portion of something someone else has given a person. What an interesting bargain! Jacob was using the tithe as a lever to get God to meet his needs. One might notice that Jacob went on to the land of the children of the east to the land of his family (29:1). As a result, Jacob worked for Laban in absolutely unstable conditions for at least twenty years for two wives and riches. He was cheated in the wife situation and Laban tried to cheat him out of the cattle that had made him rich. Finally, he was able to return home but was nearly defeated by Laban on the journey and faced his brother, Esau, who had been hostile to him. There is no indication that Jacob ever felt that God had met the conditions. He was convinced that he had gained everything he possessed by his own labor and ingenuity. Scripture does not give any indication that Jacob ever gave a tithe of what he possessed. It was not that his vow was violated or rejected, but that the terms or conditions of the vow had not been met from Jacob's point of view. How long Jacob remembered the vow is a good question. Throughout his conflict with Laban, Jacob had been forced to work and to do his own scheming. He was cheated and did his own cheating. From his point of view, he had made his own way and Jehovah had not met the conditions of the vow. He promised to tithe on the condition that Jehovah would care for him in time. In Jacob's mind, the bargain had not been accomplished, so he did not keep his end and give the tithe. One must realize that the whole vow with its conditions was one sided. There is no indication that God ratified it in any way. Grace believers are not to make vows of this type with the Lord though many have tried. Jacob's vow was conditional with his response being contingent on God's blessing him in time. It was voluntary on Jacob's part and not commanded by God. The tithe was never given even though God had in actuality met the conditions for Jacob. Jacob returned to the land of Canaan in safety even though it was more than twenty years after the original vow had been made.
Since the tithe was mentioned in Scripture twice before the giving of the Mosaic Law, it has been important to evaluate the two sets of circumstances and results. Neither situation gives a basis for saying that the tithe was required by God before the Law. In both instances, it was strictly voluntary. Abraham freely gave while Jacob did not give anything. Both men took the initiative without having God ask for anything. Abraham's tithe cost him nothing while Jacob's tithe would have cost him a portion of what God had given him. To use these patriarchs as support for tithing in the Church is to ignore the true significance of their tithing and to make their tithing apply to every other patriarchal saint. No other pre-Law believer is ever described as having given the tithe in the Old Testament. The tithe was never required of any patriarchal saint. Hence, tithing is not required by God outside the Mosaic Law.
Another argument presented for the contemporary requirement of the tithe is that there was no priesthood to accept from any of the patriarchal saints except for Abraham. Many Bible teachers speculate that Melchisedec was a manifestation of God the Son. Hebrews 7:15 refutes this by saying, "And yet it is more abundantly very clear, if according to the likeness of Melchisedec another of a different kind of priest arises." The author of Hebrews uses this as part of his argument that the priestly order of Melchisedec is superior to the Levitical order. It is evident that there were priests of God outside of Abraham's seed as is true of Melchisedec. Later Jethro, the Midianite and Moses' father-in-law, was a priest who offered sacrifices and an offering to God (Ex. 18:1, 12). Evidently, Melchisedec was close enough to Abraham to be available for future tithing, but Abraham did not offer a tithe again. The head of a patriarchal household acted as a priest for his family. There is no record of any tithe given to the head of any household for Jehovah by his children. Furthermore, if a priest is necessary to accept a tithe, Scripture clearly teaches that the grace believer is a priest and should then primarily be the recipient of the tithes and only secondarily the giver of tithes. When a distinction is made between clergy and laity, the clergy becomes the priesthood receiving the tithes while the laity becomes the giver of the tithes. The New Testament makes no distinction between clergy and laity. One who holds the office of bishop, working as an overseer being gifted as a pastor-teacher (1 Pe. 5:1, 2) is not the only priest in the church. All believers are priests. As will be seen, the tithe was designed to support the priesthood under the Law. It is impossible for the Church of Jesus Christ to actually practice the tithe without being dishonest with Scripture and absolutely inconsistent. The character of the tithe under Law is filled with elements that are impractical and nearly impossible for the Church.
Tithing Under the Law of Moses. A critical part of the Mosaic Law was the imposition of the tithe on Israel. In the various accounts in the Pentateuch, there are some important contradictions that must be considered. Ten per cent was designated for the priesthood and considered to be holy to Jehovah (Lev. 27:30-33), while ten per cent was to be taken to the temple [or tabernacle] to be eaten by the givers family and to be shared with the Levites (Deut. 12:17-19; 14:23). In other words, one passage says to give the whole tithe to the Lord while the other passage says the tithe was to be eaten by the giver and his family during the festive days of Israel. To confuse the issue even further, the tithe was to be given at the end of three years designated for the Levites, the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12). Some feel that the Deuteronomy account is a further development of the Leviticus account that had been given forty years earlier.
Was Israel required to give one tithe, two tithes or three tithes? It would be simple to limit the tithe to a single tithe, but the contradictions prohibit such a possibility. How was the righteous Israelite to obey the Law requirements? God demanded a tithe as a part of the Law. He demanded, "You will absolutely tithe all the produce of your seed, that is coming out of the field year by year (Deut. 14:22)." In the agricultural society of the ancient world, the produce from farming was to be tithed. Agricultural goods and services were the backbone of the whole economy of Israel. Wages were paid in produce and livestock. Nations lived with a limited money supply. As a result, it was necessary for the temple to have storage barns for the things brought in as a tithe. Were the tithes brought once every three years? If so, what was the procedure followed? A farmer who raised melons could not store them for three years before bringing them as a tithe. Even modern technology has problems with the preservation of melons for extended periods of time. If the tithe were taken from the third years profits, it would be inequitable for that year. Instability is normal in any type of farming. One year could produce poor crops because of poor weather conditions or by insect infestation such as a locust plague. Another year could have perfect weather and be free from all other problems and produce beautiful crops. The mechanics of simply organizing a third year single tithe would have created tremendous organizational, collection and storage problems. Some feel that there were just two tithes: an annual tenth and the third year tenth. Recognizing three distinct tithes clarifies the problem of contradictions of the passages of Scripture. This was not contradicted in Jewish practice. In the time of Josephus, the Jews practiced three tithes. He was confident that this was the original intention of the Mosaic Law.
Josephus is very clear in describing three separate tithes. "Besides those two tithes, that I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that want; to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans (Antiquities, IV, viii, 22)." Tobit supports three tithes by his own personal practice (Tobit, 1:6-8). It appears that Jewish practice reflected the actual intention of the Law. In the original giving of the Law at Sinai, a perpetual annual tithe was prescribed. This first tithe was clearly to be given from the produce of seed and tree as well as the herd and flock (Lev. 27:30-33). The second tithe was given for the feasts in which the family of the giver and the Levites were to participate in the place where the tabernacle or temple was located (Deut. 12:17-19; 14:24-27). The third tithe was given every third year and designated for the indigent of the land (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12). Later rabbis denied the legitimacy of three tithes and generally preferred two probably because of their own self-interest. It would certainly be to their advantage if they could contrive a way to save an additional ten per cent from gross earnings of the people since the rabbis were not considered to be priests and did not benefit in the same way that the priests did. Very few even considered the possibility of a single tithe because of the contradiction in the requirements of the Pentateuch. There is strong internal evidence that would indicate that the three tithes practice was what God intended for the nation Israel. How Much Was to Be Given? Most Bible scholars agree that Israel tithed more than a simple tithe of ten per cent. If Israel had three tithes, the tithe totaled over twenty per cent as an average. If there were two tithes, it was about a thirteen per cent tithe. The word "tithe" comes from the Hebrew root (ehser) meaning "ten" or "tenth." Evidently, every year ten per cent was taken from the gross income. Then ten per cent was taken from the remaining ninety per cent. Every third year a ten per cent additional tithe was levied for the needy. It is not difficult to see how much would be given each year in the three-year cycle presented in the Law.
TITHES: The Three-year Cycle Presented in the Law Years One and Two Year Three Tithe #1 10% 10% Tithe #2 9% 9% Tithe #3 --- 10% Total 19% 29%
Some churches and pastors would love to implement the Old Testament system for church income, but few believers would accept the validity of the triple tithe. Without some strong pulpit hard sell, they might even question the legitimacy of the contemporary ten percent tithe.
If the procedure were not followed, the expense for the Israelite was even greater. When the herd or flock was tithed, the animals were herded under an extended rod and every tenth animal was taken out as a tithe to Jehovah (Lev. 27:32). The tithe was accomplished by random selection from the animals. If an Israelite should choose specific animals from his herd or flock keeping his favorite or best animals for himself by replacing it with another animal when it was the tenth under the rod, he was required to give both animals to Jehovah. In other words, he had to pay a ten per cent penalty every time he violated the tithe laws (Lev. 27:33).
If an Israelite had given the fruit of the tree or grain of the field as a tithe and decided that he needed it, he could redeem it by paying a fifth [20%] of the tithe as a penalty. The farmer who brought a tenth of his wheat and a tenth of his barley and returned home to find his storage barn flooded and his grain mildewed and unsalvageable could return to the temple and redeem his grain by paying its value plus a fifth so that he could have seed for spring planting and food for his family (Lev. 27:31). Need did not relieve the tither from the debt, but the grace of the system provided a measure of relief to the Israelite in a predicament.
The tithe was a debt to God. It was owed as a tax. There were no deductions. It was a pure flat rate tax. It was a burden to every Israelite. As a tax, it was a religious tax without respect for the parties paying it. It took the labor of a man's hands and gave it to Jehovah. The tithe was a part of the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1) and the prison that garrisoned Israel (Gal. 3:23).
If Israel neglected the debt, they robbed God of that which was rightfully His (Mal. 3:8). The root translated "rob" is only found in Malachi 3:8 and Proverbs 22:23. It has several inherent concepts that produce the concepts of defrauding, overreaching or taking by force. Israel had asked where they had defrauded God and He identified their fraud as being in the realm of tithes and offerings. As a result, the nation was cursed with a curse that ultimately deprived the nation of the ability to tithe at all. Physical blessing that provided the nation with produce and livestock was taken from them and replaced with barrenness, drought, plague, insect infestation and crop failure. This was not an isolated incident of the violation of the Law, but the whole nation had defrauded Jehovah of both tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:9). They rejected the yoke and suffered the consequences. Malachi infers that God had tantalized them with potential blessing only to bring failure. God could corrupt the fruit of the plants and trees so that the produce appeared to be good on the plants, but then the fruit would prove to be rotten and ruined internally when picked. The grapes of the vine would drop to the ground before the time of harvest (Mal. 3:11). There is an indication that this carried to the herds and flocks of animals that would miscarry ["cast her fruit") before the fetus was properly developed in the womb. When the debt was paid, God would open the windows of heaven and rain would fall on the crops and physical blessing in time would be the portion of the whole nation.
What Was Given? In order to enjoy physical blessing in time, Jehovah expected Israel to give specific things in the tithe, "All the tithe of the land ... is Jehovah's (Lev. 27:30)." Such a simple statement should need no definition, but God saw fit to clarify explicitly what was to be given in the tithe. Two forms of produce are distinguished: the seed of the land and the fruit of the tree. Human nature would like to argue its way out of God's requirements so God makes it clear that the fruit grower had the same responsibility as the grain grower or the vegetable grower. As has been mentioned, it was possible for the produce raiser to redeem his tithe with a financial tithe plus penalty to stay in business in times of emergency. The Israelite cattlemen and herders were not free from the tithe. "And every tithe of the herd and the flock, whatever passes over under the rod, the tenth shall come to be holy to Jehovah (Lev. 27:32)." A herdsman or shepherd could not select the worst animals of his herd or flock, but was required to select the tithe randomly or be subject to penalty.
Whenever one reads the Old Testament, he must always remember that the people were living in a land-dependent agrarian [i.e. agricultural] society. Generally, commerce was built on an exchange of agricultural goods and services. The exchange of money was not the normal means for doing business. As a result, when a man prospered and lived a substantial distance from the tabernacle or temple, it would have been very difficult for him to transport a tenth of his goods to the house of God. Rather than have great cattle and sheep drives from great distances, it was possible for the man to convert his produce and livestock into silver. "And if the way proves to be too far from you so that you do not have the ability to carry it, because the place proves to be too distant from you, where Jehovah your God will proceed to choose to place His name (i.e. manifestation of His character] there, then Jehovah your God will proceed to bless you. And you will give [or convert] into silver, and you will bind the silver in your hand, and you will go unto the place in which Jehovah your God will finally choose (Deut. 14:24, 25)." The Israelites were then to take the money to the place and purchase whatever his soul desired and was to eat it before Jehovah with his family sharing it with the Levites as a part of the second tithe (Deut. 14:26, 27). In the journey from Sinai and the forty-year wilderness wanderings, the tabernacle was easily accessible for all of Israel since it was the center of the encampment of the congregation of the tribes. There was no transportation problem -- animals could walk and there were no crops to be carried to the tabernacle because all of the nation's food was Divinely provided in the manna for them. In Deuteronomy, Israel was poised on the border of the land preparing for entry. The nation was about to be scattered to various locations that would be allotted to the individual tribes. The practical implementation of the tithe system in the land was different than it had been in the wilderness when the tribes were together. Moses was about to die. God used him to review the Law that had been delivered before and to add necessary details for entering into the land. It would appear that the principles for the second tithe applied to the first tithe as well in that it is likely that those Israelites living at a distance brought all their tithes at the same time. If one tithe was converted to silver and the other was not, the same problems recur. Hence, the tithe was normally from the land. In the Talmud, the tithe included "everything that is eaten, that is watched over and that grows of the earth (Maaseroh 1:1)." It could be temporarily converted into money but had to be reconverted before it could be given.
Why Was the Tithe Given? Was the tithe given because an Israelite loved God? No! The reason an Israelite brought the tithe was because it was commanded in the Law. He had no choice. Because of the penalties that came with the command, the Israelite knew that he would lose physical blessings in time if he neglected the tithe. Self-preservation was his basic motivation.
What were the purposes for the command to tithe? In Leviticus 27, the first tithe was described as being given for the purpose of setting apart the tithe to Jehovah because it belonged to Jehovah (27:30). Whatever was given was holy (27:30, 32, 33), even if it was an animal that was added to the tithe as a penalty because of the specific selection of the animal. Belonging to Jehovah, the tithe was to be used for His purposes alone. Because the tribe of Levi was not given a land inheritance and so had no land to cultivate in an agricultural society, it was necessary for them to receive support. The first tithe became an inheritance for the Levites (Num. 18:21), because Jehovah was their inheritance (Num. 18:20). When the children of Israel offered the tithe, it was considered to be a heave offering (18:24). There was a benefit to other tribes for giving the tithe. They were not required to work in the temple area. The Levites were given the responsibility of service in the tent of meeting, tabernacle and temple (18:21). They acted as a buffer between the rest of the nation and God. If any person from the other tribes should enter the tent of meeting, he would bear his sin by being put to death. Because of this, all of the other tribes were prohibited from entry. The Levites would bear their perversity (Num. 18:22, 23). A tenth of the tithe was to be offered by the Levites as a heave offering (Num. 18:26-32).
The Levitical tithe of the tithes was to be given to Aaron (Num. 18:28). This heave offering was the best of the tithes given. Because of the heave offering of the tithe, the Levites could participate in priestly service without being immediately accountable for their sin. Thus they would not die if they entered into the tent of meeting. Specific prohibition was given to prevent the Levites from polluting the heave offering or they would die because of the pollution (18:32). Hence, the Levites, who served as buffers, needed the buffer of the heave offering of the tithe.
In order for an Israelite to participate in the second tithe, he was required to go to the place where God had chosen for His name. This tithe had to be brought to the tent of meeting, tabernacle or temple. Since an Israelite could partake of this tithe, he was prohibited from eating it in the gate of his own city (Deut. 12:17). The members of the household who participated in the eating were the tither, his son, his daughter, his servants and the Levites (12:18). It was imperative that the Levite be included in the eating of the tithe (12:18-19). The second tithe was clearly an annual tithe (Deut. 14:22). These festive occasions, where the tithe was eaten before Jehovah, were the times of feasting required in the Law. The whole family had a solid reason for obeying God's demand that they celebrate specific feasts in the place where God had chosen to place His name. Evidently, there were two purposes for the second tithe: the provision of food for families at the feasts of Jehovah and further provision for the needs of the Levites.
Every third year a tithe was given for the purpose of meeting the needs of the indigent of the nation. This tithe was given in the Israelite's hometown to those who were needy within the city (Deut. 14:29; 26:12). As a result, Jehovah promised to bless the Israelite in all the work of his hand that he would do (Deut. 14:29). One of the indictments of Israel in the prophets was their habitual refusal to give this tithe in the late kingdom era. Jehovah pronounced judgment and Israel and Judah were defeated, ruined and exiled as a result.
Because of the tithe, the other twelve tribes supported one tribe. Levi was given no land, but was a tribe that was a unique possession of Jehovah. Support was necessary, so Jehovah used the first tithe for primary support and the last two tithes to provide secondary support. The first tithe was evidently distributed to the Levitical cities for their support from the central gathering place where the tabernacle or temple was located. The second tithe subsidized the Levites who were serving in the tent of meeting, tabernacle or temple. The third tithe met the needs of a Levite who was living in a city that was not a Levitical city. Since it was given every third year, it must have been a deterrent to Levites from living outside their assigned cities. Tithes supported Levi in a sort of welfare system. The rest of the nation supported 1/13th of the population. The third tithe provided relief for those who were needy among the people who were unable to provide their own support. Because God promised to bless the nation if the tithe was given, Israel had initiative provided for a consistency in giving the tithe.
Who Was to Give the Tithe? Every Israelite was required to give a tithe of his earnings. The Law gave no room for exceptions. If a person raised crops or animals, he was required to give a tithe. Even the priests were required to tithe (Num. 18:26; Neh. 10:38). The tithe was the duty of the whole nation. There was no distinction made between believer and unbeliever. The same requirement was equally mandated for everyone. Because of the national promises in the covenants, God chose to deal with Israel as a nation rather than on an individual basis in providing penalties or judgment in time. National blessing was contingent on the behavior of the whole nation in keeping all the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The tithe provided no spiritual benefit to either the believing or the unbelieving Israelite. As was also true of the sacrifices and offerings, the unbeliever was expected to be an equal respondent with the believer. In other words, spiritual salvation was not contingent on the system of tithes, offerings and sacrifices but only the physical salvation of the nation in time was absolutely dependent on the use of the system. Spiritual salvation was by God by grace through faith.
How Was the Tithe Handled? When the Israelite brought his first tithe to the priests, it was necessary for there to be an orderly system for storage and dispersal. Before Israel arrived in the land of Canaan with the tent of meeting and then the tabernacle, simple procedures were adequate since Levi was located in close proximity to the collection point. Evidently, the tithes were collected and then a tenth was taken and offered to Jehovah for the support of the sons of Aaron and then the remaining ninety per cent was distributed to the rest of the tribe of Levi. With entry into the land, the collection was far more complicated because of the scattering of the people and Levites. With the setting up of the tabernacle at Shiloh, a central place for the gathering was established, for there Jehovah had temporarily chosen to place His name (Josh. 18:1). The sons of Levi were given 48 cities chosen by lot from the cities of the other tribes in the era of Joshua (Josh. 21:1-42). It appears that the sons of Aaron were given administrative duties over these cities, since the cities were allotted to each of Aaron's sons. The Levites possessed cities in the land of each tribe. When the tithe was gathered at Shiloh, it had to be warehoused and then distributed throughout the whole land. Whether the priestly cities sent transportation to pick up the tithes or the sons of Aaron at Shiloh had a delivery system to the priestly cities is uncertain. With the construction of the Solomonic temple, the same problems existed except the population was much greater -- both people and Levites. By Solomon's time, the road system had improved and easy access was available to any part of the kingdom though limited by the speed of transportation. Greater tithes were brought so greater storage was necessary. A more efficient delivery system was required to disburse the tithe. A significant part of the temple structure included storage barns for the tithes. This was also true of the reconstructed temple of Zerubbabel (516 B.C.) following the destruction of the Solomonic temple in 586 B.C.
At least the tithe of the tithes had to be stored for use by the sons of Aaron who were performing priestly duties. This is reiterated in the prescribed legal procedure for Levitical service. "... And the Levites will proceed to bring up the tithe of the tithe to the house of our God, unto the chambers, to the house of treasure (Neh. 10:38)." These chambers are further described for the temple of Zerubbabel in Nehemiah 12:44 and 13:5, 12. The "treasure house" is translated "storehouse" in Malachi 3:10. It is literally "a house of treasure" (beth haoztzahr). The word is used of the king's treasury (1 Ki. 14:26; 2 Ki. 14:14; 16:8; 18:15; 1 Chron. 27:25 etc.) as well as the temple (1 Ki. 14:26; 2 Ki. 24:13; 1 Chron. 9:26; 26:20-26). It is also used of storage places for food (1 Chron. 27:25; 2 Chron. 11:11), wine (1 Chron. 27:27), and oil (1 Chron. 27:28). A place of storage near the tabernacle existed in Joshua's day. "But all the silver, and gold and vessels [or instruments] of brass and iron, are holiness to Jehovah, they will proceed to come to the treasury of Jehovah (Josh. 6:19)." Old Testament storehouse tithing was simply the bringing of the produce and livestock to the priests who in turn warehoused them for personal use or for dispersal to the Levites in the Levitical cities. It is interesting to note that Jerusalem was not one of the priestly cities so the priests served in a city in which they were strangers. When God through Malachi demanded Judah, "Cause all the tithe to come unto the storehouse [or house of treasures] and there will come to be substance [for the priests] in my house ... (Mal. 3:10)." He expected animals and produce to be stored in the temple barns for future use. Lives depended on the tithe. Without the tithe, the Levites and their families were deprived of food. They had no land on which to raise their own and so would suffer greatly if a tithe was not brought to the temple storehouse. Full barns meant full priestly and Levitical bellies.
The second tithe was brought to the place where Jehovah had chosen to place His name [tabernacle or temple] by the tither and he dispensed the tithe himself. It was dispensed to his family and then to the Levites. Undoubtedly, this aspect of the tithe gave everyone in the family a greater anticipation of the journey to Shiloh or Jerusalem for a feast of Jehovah. The tithe was to be eaten before Jehovah.
When the third year tithe was given, it was handled at home in the tither's own city. It was dispensed by the tither within his own gates. The recipients were clearly described as Levites, poor strangers, orphans and widows. There is no record of any community organization that handled the responsibility of dispensing the tithe for the tither. The Law required it and the tither implemented it.
If an Israelite earned money, he tithed of that money. As time went along, the tithe was given of anything that was earned. As has already been mentioned, most of the tithe came from farming but the merchants and traders dealt in other merchandise. By the time of Christ, the standard clearly required a tithe of everything a Jew possessed. The Pharisee bragged that he kept every detail of the tithe (Lu. 18:12). When the Pharisees focused their attention on minutiae, they neglected the major aspects of their lives as Israelites. Christ disclaimed them. In order to prove their righteousness, they were tithing of the smallest herbs and leaves of valuable plants. "Woe is to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you are tithing the mint and the dill and the cumin, and you have left the heavier things of the Law, judgment and mercy and faith; but these things it was necessary to do and not to forsake those (Matt. 23:23 cf. Lu. 11:42)." Money was easily dispersed but some of the other merchandise would have created some real problems. There is a possibility that some items were converted to money to simplify dispersal.
What Were the Results? Since the tithe was an important part of the Mosaic Law, as a whole, specific penalties were not prescribed for the refusal by an Israelite to tithe. Violation of the Law brought physical judgment to the whole nation. One of the most effective judgments on an agricultural economy was drought. Without rainfall, there were no crops. Without crops, there was no food. When rain was promised, it was a promise of prosperity. In a land that had only minimal rainfall every year, life was totally dependent upon it. Even as late as Malachi (433-425 B.C.), the remnant in the land had opportunity to give the tithe and receive the benefits of rainfall. After the destruction of the land of Israel by the invading Assyrian and the land of Judah by the invading Babylonian armies, the land was left in terrible desolation. As was normal in the Middle East, the armies destroyed most of the vegetation and had salted the land of key agricultural areas. Farmable land was scarce and what was found had minimal topsoil. Without rain, there could be no crops. Israel was challenged to put Jehovah to the test and to bring the tithe and to see if it would rain. "... And put me to the test now by this, says Jehovah of hosts, if I will not proceed to open for you the windows of heaven and cause to empty for you a blessing, that will be more than sufficient (Mal. 3:10b)." Peer pressure among the Jews for giving the tithe would seem to have been important. If another person did not tithe, it was possible that one who did tithe would suffer the consequences on his own farm. Obedience brought blessing in time as was typical in all aspects of the Mosaic Law.
Another result of the tithe was a perpetual responsibility -- tithes had to be given every year. The first and third tithes were not sources of joy to the giver. Only the second tithe provided any immediate benefits to the tither and his family. Essentially, the tithe was a tax, a religious tax. Because of the potential results, when a man did not pay the tithe taxes, the nation would pressure him to pay his obligation. This was true taxation without representation. Jehovah had ordered the tithe and had the power to enforce the tithe over the whole nation. If 500 tithed and the rest of the nation refused to tithe, the 500 suffered the consequent drought, famine, pestilence and plague along with the rest. The tithe was a straight tax of at least 19% of one's income per annum and on every third year it was 29% of one's income.
Some may say that the rate is not bad compared to the taxes in some modern nations. One must remember that the tithe was instituted in a theocracy with Jehovah ruling over His people. The only bureaucracy was the priesthood and the judges that assisted Moses. With Israel's rejection of the theocracy and cry for the monarchy, the system became much more burdensome and difficult (1 Sam. 8:5-9). Samuel warned Israel that if they had a king, they would have additional tax burdens as well as problems with personal possessions. He predicted that a king would conscript Israel's sons for work and war (8:11, 12). A king would take their daughters to be cooks of all kinds (8:13). He would take property (8:14), slaves and asses (8:16). Further taxation would come with a tithe to be taken of the seed and vineyards (8:15) and of the sheep (8:17). God promised Israel, "And you will cry out in that day because of your king that you will have chosen for yourselves; and the Lord will not hear you in that day (1 Sam. 8:18)." Solomon organized a system of taxation whereby a tribe paid all the bills for the nation one month a year (1 Ki. 4:7). Government had great expenses (11 Ki. 4:22-26). Solomon was a great builder, building his own house and the temple as well as many other structures. As a nation, the people suffered from excessive double taxation. They could do nothing about the religious tax [the tithe], but could attempt to change the king's civil tax structure. After Solomon's death, Rehoboam was made king. The people requested that the tax burden and other burdens be lightened (1 Ki. 12:4) but he increased the burden (1 Ki. 12:14). Because of this, the nation was divided leaving Rehoboam with two tribes while ten tribes served Jeroboam as king. It is impossible to imagine how great the combined burden of the religious tax and the civil taxes was but without a doubt it was great. No percentage requirement is noted in Scripture for the civil government, but it was substantial.
The following chart gives a basic overview of the tithe system that was legislated under the Mosaic Law.
| Tithe #1 | Tithe #2 | Tithe #3 Percentage | 10% of gross | 10% of net | 10% of gross When? | Annually | Annually | Every third year Who Benefited? | Priests & | Giver, Family | Levites, Strangers, | Levites | & Levites | Orphans & Widows Where? | Tabernacle or | Tabernacle or | Distributed in | Temple | Temple | One's Own City Why? | Support Levites | Food for Festivals | Relief for Indigent | & Priests | & Relief for Levites | Scripture | Lev. 27:30-33 | Deut. 12:17-19; | Deut 14:28, 29; | | 14:22-27 | 26:12
Under the Mosaic Law, the tithe was a debt to God (Lev. 27:30-34; Deut. 14:22-26; 26:12). It was the duty for the whole nation whether the individual Israelite was saved or not. The tithe was despotic taking at least nineteen per cent of an individual's income. It supported the Levites who comprised a thirteenth of the population. Storehouse tithing was the bringing of cattle andd produce into the temple storehouses for the priests. Why should a grace believer consider giving a tithe when there is so much more possible for the believer-priest? It is so easy for the Christian to see the bottom line potential for results. It might just balance a church budget! Who has given any believer the right to ignore most of the requirements contingent upon the tithe? God did not. He replaced the system with the privilege of grace giving through offering the sacrifice of giving. A contrasting of the two provisions for giving provides a good introduction to the sacrifice of giving.
Grace Believer < Not > Israelite Under Law A Priest < Not > A Taxpayer A Privilege < Not > A Taxation A Proportion < not > A Tenth Pleasure < Not > A Task
When the Christian functions as a believer-priest, he will have no need for the tithe. What about believers who are not willing to function as believer-priests preferring carnality? Shouldn't there be some means to encourage them to help with the finances of the church? It would be interesting to know how many believers are trying to buy God's blessing with the tithe! It is a far greater blessing to do God's business in God's way rather than to incorporate a system of bondage that stymies true Christian growth. When the sacrifice of giving is offered, grace principles of giving are applied and the believer has a proper attitude that truly pleases God.
Paul used the Macedonian believers as shining examples of grace giving. Their whole attitude and approach were a special blessing to Paul who testified to their character in the churches throughout the Roman Empire. Of all the Macedonian locations of ministry mentioned in Scripture [Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea], the church first involved in giving was the church at Philippi. They had sent Paul a gift that was acknowledged in the Philippian letter. This gift was not the first gift they had sent his way. Already they had sent support to Paul at least twice. They had started their giving early in their Christian experience. Philippi was the first church Paul visited in Europe in response to the Macedonian vision (Ac. 16:9, 10). It is true that Lydia, the first convert in Europe, was probably a wealthy business woman (Ac. 16:14, 15). By the time Paul wrote Second Corinthians (Ac. 20:1), the churches in Macedonia were extremely poor. No information is available as to how long Paul was in Philippi aside from the fact that he had been there a number of days (Ac. 16:12) and many days (16:18). When Paul cast out the demon identified as a spirit of python from a young woman, his ministry was quickly terminated in Philippi. Men who had anticipated profit from the ability of the demon possessed girl dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates accusing them of stirring up trouble and teaching principles that were not permitted by the Romans, As a result, Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and thrown in jail. They were miraculously delivered and the jailer was saved. They were technically freed and asked to leave the city. Within a short time, they arrived in Thessalonica where they spent nearly a month. During the month's stay in Thessalonica, the Philippians sent two offerings to Paul. "But you also intuitively know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I went out from Macedonia, not one church fellowshipped [or shared] with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone, because even in Thessalonica even once and twice you sent because of my need (Phil. 4:15, 16)." These new believers financially contributed to Paul and Silas very soon after their salvation. Certainly Lydia had a part in the giving since their last meeting with the Philippian saints was in her house before Paul's departure (Ac. 16:40). These believers learned to offer the sacrifice of giving very early in their Christian experience, Evidently, it was the normal thing to do. Some commentators have suggested that the reason for the Philippian giving was motivated by their previous pagan practices for supporting idolatry. Other Scripture refutes such a position by indicating that their giving was a response to the work of Christ for them (2 Cor. 8). As a result, they received fruit from the gifts though Paul actually received the gift.
The Substance of the Sacrifice. When Paul received the sacrifice of the Philippian believers, he had all things provided [i.e. everything he needed]. In fact, he had abundance. As a result, he was in a state of being full (Phil. 4:18). Prisoner Paul had his needs met by a group of believers miles away from his Roman prison. They made a great effort to get things to him. A part of the fruit that the Philippians received was the comfort that Paul was in good condition and had been assisted by their gift. One might speculate as to what the things were that had been sent to Paul. Even if Paul was only restricted to a house, he had specific needs. The Roman government normally did not provide food, water and prison uniforms. It was the responsibility of friends and family to care for these physical needs. Spare garments and extra pairs of sandals would meet their needs. Writing and reading materials would help Paul during the time he spent in prison. There may have been some money for the purchase of other necessities of life. When the Philippians gave the sacrifice of giving, they met Paul's needs.
Savor of the Sacrifice. The sacrifice of giving produced a special fragrance that was pleasant to God. Though the aroma of the burning flesh and freshly shed blood of an animal sacrifice would be repulsive to most Christians, it was completely acceptable to God. While the Old Testament sacrifices may have been repugnant to human beings, both God and the recipients of the spiritual sacrifices enjoy the New Testament sacrifices. What a sweet fragrance exudes from the sacrifice of giving. Needs are met. God's work is accomplished. The believer finds strength. In God's opinion, the sacrifice meets His standard for excellence. It has a fragrance of sweet smell that is agreeable to God. He responds to the sacrifice with His good pleasure. More will be said later concerning the Divine responses to the sacrifices of the believer-priest.
The Supplying of Needs. Philippians 4:19 is a well-known and frequently quoted passage of Scripture. Spiritual believers who have offered the sacrifice of giving will have every need met by God in glory in Christ Jesus. As the believer functions in his position in Christ, he has the potential for seeing his needs met from the riches of God. God the Father is the Source of glory and the Possessor of glory. "Now our God and Father is the glory into the ages of the ages. Amen (Phil. 4:20)." He has received glory in the sacrifice that is offered and is filling full [supplying] the need of the believer giving Himself glory. Where the giver of the sacrifice might be depleted, his Heavenly Father fills him full again. Scripture clearly describes the principles for grace giving and the believer's attitude in his giving.
Is the believer offering a sacrifice every time the offering plate is passed and he makes a contribution? Does every believer offer the sacrifice of giving when he gives to the church? The answer to these two questions is "No!" When the believer who is filled with love for the Lord and His work gives as a spiritual believer, it is a sacrifice. A believer, giving out of habit or because he has pledged, is not offering the sacrifice of giving. Money may be given to support the Lord's work, but the motivation can be wrong. Mandated giving of a tenth by a grace believer, who has substantial financial needs, will put unnecessary pressure on that believer. A wealthy believer will be satisfied that his tithe is sufficient and may miss many opportunities to offer the sacrifice of giving because of his complacency. He may even have a case of the "tithe and offering" syndrome where ten per cent is required by God and anything else is a free-will offering that is not required. It is the attitude of the believer who is spiritual that makes his giving of money or substance a priestly sacrifice. An improper attitude causes giving to be a charitable donation [in a worldly sense], while a proper attitude offers as a sacrifice that which is accepted as a true sacrifice. Giving with the wrong attitude is not acceptable to God. Certainly, it may be used to the glory of God but the act of giving is not a source of pleasure to the Lord. What a man gives will bring him no favor with God. It is a matter of how it is given. In God's eyes, it is not the amount that is given, but the attitude by which it is given. The Macedonian church had little to give because they lived in abject poverty (2 Cor. 8:2), yet their giving was acceptable to God and an example of a proper attitude. Two examples of a proper attitude in giving on the highest level are given in Scripture: God the Son and God the Father.
"For you are experientially knowing the grace [unmerited favor] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that because of you, the One being rich impoverished Himself, in order that you by the poverty of that One might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9)." Paul asked the Corinthians to put their love to the test and to give to the Lord. Jesus Christ exhibited His grace in His coming. He gave all that was necessary to accomplish His work - no more and no less. He gave what was needed to meet the need. The recipients did not deserve His provision. He poured out His all for those who would receive the gift. Consequently, because of His poverty, others were made full. He set aside His glory and willingly and freely made sufficient sacrifice for all the unrighteousness of mankind. As a result, the grace believer is rich in the realm of spiritual things because of the application of the work of Christ. Christ is an example of our giving in that He gave all that was needed to meet the need and did so willingly.
God the Father is also an example of giving. "Thanks is to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 9:15)." God the Father gave an unspeakable or indescribable gift. When God the Father gave the Son, He gave with no reservation or restraint. At the point of the Father's loving the people of the world, He gave His only begotten Son (Jn. 3:16). He willingly gave without reluctance. "Who indeed did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him in place of us all, how will He not graciously give for Himself together with Him all things to us (Rom. 8:32)." God the Father willingly sent the Son providing for the Christian's salvation. God the Father provides a perfect example and motivation for Christian giving.
In the New Testament, there are several principles given for proper Christian giving. These details give the believer clear directions in the matter of offering the sacrifice of giving. In the early church, giving was a simple process. The only record of giving that exists in the New Testament is giving to individuals or groups of people through the local church. A number of factors brought financial poverty to a number of the saints at Jerusalem. Paul was involved in at least two collections for the poor of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:27-30, Paul and Barnabas were selected to be envoys representing the church at Antioch to Jerusalem taking relief for the saints in Judea. A great drought had spread across the whole Roman world in the days of Claudius Caesar putting great pressure on everyone. On Paul's third apostolic journey, he collected money for the poor of the church in Jerusalem. It appears that he arranged for the collection to be gathered by the churches so that he would simply have to pick it up without delay. He often took representatives of the individual churches with him to accompany the collection to Jerusalem. This is evident in the fact that as Paul came from Macedonia, he expected to have a delegation from the Macedonian churches with him when he arrived in Corinth (2 Cor. 9:1-4). When the churches gathered on the first day of the week, they were asked to bring in their giving to be treasured or stored until Paul arrived (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). Essential characteristics for grace giving are evident in Paul's letters concerning the method and means of collection.
There are nine words used for collection in the New Testament. These words give a sense to the whole idea of Christian giving. Paul described his own involvement as the "making of alms," (eleemosune) (Ac. 24:17). The term describes a compassionate response to those who are suffering the results of sin (their own or others] in the provision of mercy. Alms were designed to provide relief for the necessities of life. Christian giving has the potential for lightening the load that another believer has by providing something out of Christian pity.
When something is delivered in giving, it is considered to be an offering, (prosphoras). Paul "made" offerings when he came to Jerusalem (Ac. 24:17). A grace believer also brings something to be sacrificed. Most often the root is used of the act of offering up or sacrificing. Christian giving involves offering something in full knowledge of its significance and value in the Lord's work.
In First Corinthians 16:1, 2, the word "collection" or "gathering," (logia), describes the Corinthian church's giving. When the word is found in the verbal form, it has the idea of gathering or assembling something. A variety of contributors with a variety of contributions are all collected together. A need is mentioned and the people respond. Generally, the individual churches took the collection and then dispersed it to the proper recipient. The collection in First Corinthians 16 was organized so that the money would be accumulated before Paul arrived. All of the sacrificial giving by spiritual believers and the donations of the carnal believers were gathered and then held in safe keeping until Paul arrived.
Giving was considered unmerited favor. The giver did not deserve to give it and the recipient did not deserve to receive it. When giving is done freely, there are no strings attached. Corinthian believers could not choose specific believers in Jerusalem for their giving, but they were to give no preference to believers who were needy. Paul identifies this giving as grace, (charis), in First Corinthians 16:3 [A.V. "liberality"] and Second Corinthians 8:4. Grace giving is to be done in response to the grace of God (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 16; 9:8, 14, 15 Gk.). When God leads in the matter of giving, nothing should place limitations on who receives it or on how it is used. Grace is to be manifested in the Christian's giving. Giving is a kind of sharing or fellowship. One takes something of his own and gives it to another so they have held the same thing in common. All believers share their position in Christ in common and such a sharing can carry over into the sacrifice of giving. Fellowship, (koinonia), is used of the participation and partnership of believers with one another in their giving (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13). Giving is a means of sharing physical things or money with another believer.
Paul sees such a service as a ministry (2 Cor. 8:4, 9:1, 12, 13) by which food and the necessities of life are supplied. One believer renders service to another believer by his giving while furnishing those things that are lacking. It is the believer's ministry (diakonia) or business to be assisting others. Giving is a service by which one serves another in providing assistance when needed.
Giving is an abundance, (hadrootes), that is ministered by other believers (2 Cor. 8:20). When believers respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit and their love for the Lord, abundance is the result. In classical Greek, the word usually describes rich, fat men. The root idea is that of being mature or full. What is given is seen as bounty as it is offered. This is considered the very best of the sacrifices a believer can offer. Grace giving should be bountiful giving. Spiritual believers can give to the Lord and it is the best sacrifice possible that can be given.
Giving is a thing that is well spoken Of, (eulogia). When Paul arrived at Corinth, he had anticipated a large collection for Jerusalem and that it would become the object of good works (2 Cor. 9:5 trans. "bounty" A.V.). All parties involved should have nothing but good to say about the sacrifice that was collected. The givers, the recipients and the deliverers were all to share the same opinions in the matter of giving. True grace giving should be free from grumbling and murmuring in the giving. A eulogy for every offering should be, "These gifts were given by spiritual believers to the glory of God for His use and enjoyment as He accepts them as pleasing sacrifices of giving." All Christian givers should share good words concerning the privilege of priestly sacrifice, concerning the presentation of the sacrifice and concerning the provisions that result.
Paul identifies the sacrificing as priestly service, (leitourgia). Such a service makes up the things lacking on the part of the saints (2 Cor. 9:12). When this word is used with an activity that is clearly identified as a sacrifice, it indicates that the sacrifices are really a part of the believer's priestly service. Every Christian should know that when he gives something to the Lord, he is performing priestly service as a spiritual believer. When a gift is given, it involves service that is distinctly rendered by the believer-priest functioning in normal priestly activity. How often does one hear an offertory prayer saying, "O Lord, accept our tithes and offerings." Ideally, the prayer should be, "O Lord, may these our sacrifices be well pleasing and acceptable in Your sight as we render to You our priestly service." What joy there is when one sees the Christian's giving as a positive priestly activity.
Grace giving involves the assembling of funds that have been graciously given. It is a sharing in common as a ministry that fills one with satisfaction. It is well spoken of as a priestly service. All of the words that describe the giving of the believer paint a beautiful, symmetrical picture of what God expects from the grace believer in his giving. Most believers rarely ever consider one of these words when they drop a check in the offering plate. Giving is seen as an obligation that is commanded in Scripture when individuals believe that they must tithe. Others expect God to bless them as a result of their giving. What a joy it is to be free in offering up the sacrifice of giving.
Paul used the Macedonian church as an example of proper grace giving. He encouraged the Corinthians to follow their example. The Macedonians gave of what they had, even though it was very little. They did not give what they did not have. When the grace believer is asked to make a faith pledge or promise, it is a conundrum. Scripture teaches that the believer is to be walking by faith expecting God to meet his needs. A pledge is a commitment. It may be presented as a commitment between the believer and his God or the believer and his church, but it remains a commitment. Theoretically, the believer should direct his faith toward God to provide the amount pledged that is over and above what is normally possible. These programs are pragmatic in that they are confident that since it works it must be right. Most Christians are carnal and do not have faith to direct toward God in matters of giving or anything else. It would be far better to call it a "presumption pledge" rather than a "faith promise." A believer, trusting God and walking by faith, should not make such pledges. There are Christian fund-raising organizations that help churches and Christian institutions prey on individual believers for their money in programs implying that pledging is godliness. A specific need arose and the Macedonians stepped in and helped with that need as they walked by faith. They had no false standard. They were certain that the need was a legitimate need and that their giving was the will of God. A carnal believer can make a pledge and have the religious works of the flesh satisfied without ever pleasing his God. Any unbeliever can make a pledge to the church as a charitable cause. The local church has money, as a result, for its various programs, but very little was given in God's way and thus was unacceptable to God. While the work goes on, the individual Christian has had no spiritual benefit from his giving and has been deprived of the tremendous blessing of offering sacrifices as a believer-priest. Second Corinthians 8:11, 12 clearly rejects a believer's pledging of that which he does not have. Pledges are either "grave clothes" from traditionalism or an adaptation of Madison Avenue fund-raising techniques. They openly contradict the clear teaching of Scripture. Several other Scriptural principles oppose the pledge system. When the believer understands the principles of grace giving, he will enjoy the freedom of giving in conformity with the will of God rather than the will of man. Some teach that what a man gives will be the basis for the amount of Divine favor he will receive. It is impossible for the believer to buy God's favor. If it were possible, it would cease to be true favor or grace. When giving is done as prescribed in Scripture, the believer will experience the blessings of true priestly service to God.
Positive Requirements for Grace Giving. "Get out your check book and sign your name ..." What grace giving is and what it is not are very important. A thousand methods are used to get a believer to sign a check and give as much as they can or have. Scripture clearly describes the requirements for giving as God desires it. The Christian must be in a proper spiritual condition to know what is legitimate and what is not legitimate for his giving. Too many Christians have sent their money down the rat's hole of fund collection. There are some good reasons for giving through the local church. The local church should have more than one person who determines where the giving goes if it is organized in a New Testament manner. Any consistent local church will not permit money to be given through it for organizations or individuals that have questionable doctrine or practices, The combined vote of the church determines where church giving is to go. If the individual believer does not agree with the will of the majority, he can simply refuse to give toward the item or person in question. One must have a good reason to give.
In the early church, there were no buildings or grounds to support since the church gathered in homes. They supported their pastors and other Christian workers. They stepped in and gave financial help when it was needed. Generally, their giving was simple and uncomplicated. They were expected to give when the need was obvious and when the Holy Spirit led. Spiritual believers would see the need and give. The carnal saints would often feel obligated to share. The Lord's work was supported in the Lord's way.
A Need for Purpose for Giving -- 2 Cor. 9:12. The saints in Jerusalem were lacking physical things. A need was very much evident. Could it be that the word was spread throughout the world of the starving, tattered Christians who called Jerusalem home? Stories may have been told of the hunger swollen abdomens protruding from bodies with bones projecting through skin stretched tight by malnutrition. Christians, living in rags barely able to cover their emaciated bodies, were living in the streets as homeless refugees in their own city. Were there Christian beggars seeking alms of religious Jews in the streets? Modern fundraisers would have used vivid descriptions and shown slides, videos and movies of the most severe cases of poverty to raise funds. Enough information was given to the churches to let them know of the need and its severity. Historically, there had been many droughts in the land of Judea. Jerusalem was not in an ideal position for an agricultural society. Its location was selected because of its defensibility as a fortress not as a place for growing crops. Small amounts of land were arable. The church in Jerusalem had grown numerically (Ac. 4:4; 6:7). In 44 A.D. during the reign of Claudius Cesar, there had been a famine and Paul and Barnabas had gone to the whole province of Judea with relief (Ac. 11:27-30). Over the years, the Jews outside Jerusalem in the Diaspora had sent donations to the Jewish population in Jerusalem in an early Palestine Relief Fund. By Acts eight, persecution had scattered a large part of the Church throughout the world. Persecution still existed in Jerusalem depriving the Christian Jews from receiving the relief funds that the rest of the Jewish population received. Without outside help, these believers could not remain in Jerusalem and survive. Already Jerusalem was reliant on a sort of tourist trade for a portion of its income. Religious Jews would make pilgrimages to the Herodian temple and bring money with them supporting a part of the economy [until its destruction in 70 A.D.]. Scripture does not reveal the extent of the poverty, but the extensive effort of Paul and the reaction of the Macedonians indicates that the poverty was great and extensive. It was a long term poverty as is seen in the fact that this late in Paul's third apostolic journey the need was still great and had as yet not been met. There was a clear purpose for giving -- a need. The need was so great that the Macedonians supplicated [i.e. cried for help] with Paul that they might participate even though they themselves were living at the very lowest level of poverty.
Some individuals, institutions and churches encourage giving when the needs are limited just to keep the people in practice. That is not grace giving. Has anyone ever told a church to slow down their giving when giving is over budget? No! The church finds a new building project or adds a new missionary instead. Every church should ideally be able to ascertain the will of God in the budget process. Needs and wants must be distinguished. God's desire for the church must be known. People need to know where their money is going and how it is used. Giving must always be secondary to consistent personal Christian living. Grace giving is not spirituality. Grace giving is the result of a consistent Christian life. To encourage the result without a New Testament cause produces complacent believers, who are good givers but in reality poor livers. When a person has a need, the spiritual believer will see it and attempt to do something about it. As an immediate response to the practical will of God, the Christian has the potential to participate in doing the will of God in the situation. The Macedonians had been practicing the will of God as it had been revealed to them, and they had given themselves to the Lord and then to Paul and those believers who were with him (2 Cor. 8:5). As a result, they knew exactly what God expected of them in their giving.
A Need for Giving One's Self First -- 2 Cor. 8:5. In order to understand God's will in the matter of giving, the believer should be practicing God's revealed will in his life. Seeing the Macedonians' abject poverty, Paul had discouraged their participation in the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Historically, Macedonia had been a center of rebellion and civil unrest in the Roman Empire. Major confrontations had taken place in Macedonia. Caesar had fought with Pompey there as had Augustus with Antonius. The Roman government had seized the gold and silver mines of Macedonia that were rich resources for revenue for the Macedonian economy. In the iron and copper industries, the government nationalized and took over the lucrative smelting business by imposing high taxes. The importation of salt and the felling of trees for the construction of ships were taken over by the Roman government. To increase the pressure on the people, heavy taxation was levied. Christians living in Macedonia not only suffered from the resulting economic depression but also from continued persecution from the Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul describes the Macedonians as being under a test of great affliction. Even in such great financial pressure, they had an abundance of joy (2 Cor. 8:2). How bad was their poverty? Paul describes it as being the very depth (bathos) of poverty. They were in such extreme poverty that there was no one else who was any worse. They were at the very bottom yet they abounded in giving what they had. Their giving was similar to the widow who was poorer than anyone else yet she gave her two mites that was all she had to the Lord (Lu. 21:2-4). Christ saw her as giving more, though it was very little, than the gifts of the rich. The Macedonians followed her example in their giving. They were quick to demonstrate their love to the brethren who had a need (1 Jn. 3:17).
Before the Macedonians gave anything, they gave themselves first. It made perfect sense to them that God desired them to give their persons ["themselves"] to Him. Evidently, they had already given the sacrifice of their physical bodies to God (Rom. 12:1) and now saw the importance of giving their persons to the Lord. A personal pronoun or a reflexive pronoun always refers to personality unless the context clearly indicates that it refers to something else. Their giving was done freely with no stipulations accompanying the giving. They gave themselves of their own free will. At the moment, it made sense for them to give themselves to the Lord, so they gave themselves once and for all. Evidently, this happened early in their Christian experience. One must notice the title of Jesus Christ that Paul selected: Lord. They gave themselves to the Lord. They understood that Christ was to be made Lord or Master in the Christian's life. Peter describes this requirement, "But set apart [sanctify] Christ as Lord in your hearts ... (1 Pe. 3:15)." When the will of God was clear that a believer was to make Christ to be Lord in his life, the Macedonian believers actually made Him Lord, as they comprehended the will of God. God's desirous will is clear in written Scripture, but the Macedonian Christians evidently learned this directly from the teaching of Paul and Silas. True grace giving is a response to the Lordship of Christ that is already understood as God's desire for the believer. What a pity that so few Christians have seen that it is God's will for them to set apart Christ as Lord in their lives. They have never practiced the first step in grace giving. They have not given themselves to the Lord.
Not only did the Macedonians give themselves to the Lord, but they also gave themselves to other believers (2 Cor. 8:5). They knew the value of giving themselves to others because of the benefits that resulted in their lives. In his writing to the Corinthian church in this letter, Paul has been dealing with the problem of the Corinthian rejection of his apostolic authority. It may well be that when he adds "to us," he is strongly inferring that the unrefined, backward Macedonians had more sense than the suave, suburban Corinthians did. The Macedonians had a better understanding of what the will of God was than the Corinthians. They had learned how to give by practicing grace giving. First they freely gave themselves to the Lord and then to other believers knowing that was the will of God. Only God knows how many believers in the church today have followed His will in their giving. Christians have been indoctrinated with the importance of giving their money to the neglect of the primary giving of themselves to Christ as Lord and then to other believers. Grace giving results from an attitude of the mind that reflects on the desires of the Lord and the actual needs of others.
A Need for an Eager Desirous Will -- 2 Cor. 8:11, 12. "But now also bring to completion the doing of it, so that as the readiness of mind of the desirously willing, so also will be the bringing to completion out of what you have. For if the readiness of mind is present, it is acceptable according to whatever an individual happens to have, not according to that which the individual does not have." With a readiness of mind, the believer should give with a proper kind of desirous will of his own. Readiness of mind is an eagerness or preparedness to do something. The believer is poised, prepared to give to another believer or to the Lord. His desirous will should be attuned to the needs of the Lord's work and the Lord's people. One must be willing, ready and able to give as he discerns the will of the Lord in his giving.
A Need for Individual Choice -- 2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 16:2. "Each one as He has proceeded to choose for himself in his heart, not from grief or from necessity ... (2 Cor. 9:7)." Each individual is to choose in his own heart when he is to give and what he is to give. Choosing involves acting by choice or personal preference. From the heart, careful consideration determines personal preference that in turn is the basis for the action. With the mind and emotions cooperating, the decision must be made concerning what, how, when and to whom the believer is to give. His choice or preference is based on his measure of prosperity (1 Cor. 16:2). The believer alone knows the extent of his prosperity. Every believer should freely determine for himself what his involvement will be in giving in every situation. Before the Lord, he should be able to choose to give what is pleasing to the Lord for himself. There is always a need for individual choice in grace giving.
A Need for a Cheerful Heart -- 2 Cor. 9:7. Giving should never be a dismal responsibility for the believer. It should be an enjoyable privilege. "... For God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)." "Cheerful" conveys the idea of being of such a mind that the believer enjoys the possibilities of his giving. "Hilarious" is an English derivative from the Greek root. A proper attitude is necessary for one to be a cheerful giver. The Greek noun is tied directly to the word for propitiation that directly involves personal satisfaction on the part of the recipient. A cheerful person is satisfied with his giving and is in a good state of mind as a result. Satisfaction does not produce regret or reticence in the mind of the believer. God directs His love in a special way toward a believer who is satisfied that he is giving according to the will of God and enjoying his potential in God's program for grace giving. When money is placed in the offering plate, there should be no restraint at giving what has been given. The cheerful giver basks in the love of God every time he offers the sacrifice of giving.
A Need for the Love for the Lord -- 2 Cor. 8:8, 24. A grace believer needs to be spiritual in order to give an acceptable sacrifice. When a Christian says he is spiritual [emanating the things of the Spirit], his giving can put his statement to the test. Giving proves the sincerity of the believer's love (2 Cor. 8:8). "I am not speaking by way of command, but through the diligence of others also proving sincerity of your love (2 Cor. 8:8)." "Sincerity" involves the genuineness and legitimacy of the love. Is that which the believer calls love really love produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22)? "Therefore while exhibiting in the presence on your behalf to them (2 Cor. 8:24)" describes the test. The Authorized Version translates (endeixis) with the English word "proof" while the word more accurately describes a pointing out with the idea of a manifestation to establish the validity of something. If a believer says he loves God and the brethren, one can look at the proportion of his income, willingly given to the Lord and know whether the love is valid or not. When a believer loves the Lord, he gives to the Lord's work.
A Need for an Anticipation of Blessing -- 2 Cor. 9,5 6. Philippians 4:18 teaches that the spiritual believer who gives can expect God to make up the needs that he has as a result of his giving. It does not promise that God will make a Christian rich because he gives a great deal of money. As a result of giving, the believer can expect God's provision of blessings. These blessings are not concealed but are openly visible. When the Authorized Version translates (eulogia) "bounty," the good giver seems to be instructed to build bigger barns. In reality, the word simply means "blessing" or "a thing well spoken of." God provides that which is well spoken of for the believer. A translation of Second Corinthians 9:5, 6 will clarify this potential for the believer who gives. "Therefore I thought for myself it necessary to beseech [or encourage] the brethren that they go ahead unto you and arrange [or adjust] beforehand the blessing that has been promised by you, that this thus be ready as a blessing and not as a desire to have more. But this I say the one who is sowing sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who is sowing blessings will also reap blessings." A bountiful blessing will be given to the one who gives as the Lord has blessed him. A believer should anticipate blessings as a result of his giving.
A Need for a Good Opinion -- Rom. 15:26, 27. "For it was considered a good opinion [by those of Macedonia and Achaia] to make some sharing [or contribution] for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26)." There was a need for a good opinion in giving. Verse 27 gives the basis for the good opinion. They considered the church in Jerusalem to be the source of the message of salvation that had been shared with the Gentiles. As a result, they felt they were indebted to assist with the physical needs that existed in the church there. When a believer gives, he must be confident that what he is giving is the Lord's will. Because of this, he will have a good opinion in his giving. Whether the recipient deserves the gift or not is not the question. The question is whether the Lord is the Motivator in giving to His work or not.
A Need to Be Proportionate -- 1 Cor. 16:2. "On the first day of every week, let each one of you put it alongside himself, treasuring up whatever he has been prospered, so that whenever I come then there might not be collections." When the believer brings the sacrifice of giving, it is to be based on his prosperity. Grace giving is proportionate giving. As the believer journeys through life, God provides whatever he possesses. When a believer is very prosperous, he may be accountable for a large percentage of his income in his grace giving. An impoverished saint may only give a pittance yet bring great glory to God. How is this proportion determined? There is no magic formula that can be applied to an individual's income. He must know the will of God in the matter. Without such awareness, his giving will be inconsistent and he will miss the blessings of proportionate giving. Proportionate giving is not a basis for church power. Many churches give extensive authority and preference to the big givers and limit the authority of the small givers. Such inequity is an outworking of the flesh that causes divisions and abuses the oneness of the believer in the Body of Christ. Wealth never makes a man a better Christian. Every believer is a priest no matter how much he gives to the local church. It is one man, one vote in congregational church government, not one dollar, one vote. When a Christian is spiritual and gives a proportion of his income as the Holy Spirit leads by His desirous will, he will have the satisfaction that he has shared as an equal in the Body of Christ no matter how much was given. One gives as God has prospered him to the glory of God. As a result, God's work progresses and God's people serve as priests.
Negative Requirements for Grace Giving. Scripture presents some negative requirements for grace giving. Grace giving is not compulsory. It is not communicated in Scripture with a set of mandates like the commandments of the Mosaic Law. It must not bring grief or a burden in the life of the giver. When a person gives of his substance in a proper biblical way, God counts it to be a sacrifice of giving. Christians need to learn how to be spiritual and how to respond to God as spiritual believers. Giving can then be encouraged from a biblical perspective. Unfortunately, many new Christians leave churches because of abuses of various areas of giving in the church program. Giving has been mandated without accurate teaching of the priestly service of the believer-priest in the sacrifice of giving.
Giving Is Not Compulsory -- 2 Cor. 8:3-5; 9:7. When Paul used the Macedonian believers as an example, it is evident that they were not commanded to give. In fact, they made a great effort to convince Paul that he should take their offering. They supplicated [i.e. cried out for his help] with much exhorting attempting to encourage Paul to take their collection (2 Cor. 8:4 Gk.). Paul had hoped that they would not be involved because he knew the extent of their own extreme poverty (2 Cor. 8:5). They gathered the offering of their own accord (8:3). The believer is not to give of necessity (2 Cor. 9:7). In other words, he is not to give because of pressure. The verb form of the word "necessity," (agcho), means "to compress." Necessity is an obligation that is pressed on an individual pressuring him to do something. Human constraint should never motivate the Christian to give. Only an awareness of the will of God can legitimately, biblically motivate the spiritual believer in his giving. This is not to say that a believer should not give until he knows the will of God, but rather to say that the fullness of blessing in giving is based in a Spirit-filled life manifested in giving. Grace giving is right and proper. How much is given, when it is given and where it is given is entirely decided between the believer and his God. As a result, everyone benefits from the giving.
Giving Is Not Commanded - 2 Cor. 8:6; 9:7. In a sense, this reiterates the fact that giving is not a necessity. Paul carefully tells the Corinthians that he is not commanding them to give. The compelling reason for his encouragement was the diligence of other believers (2 Cor. 8:8). Paul did not give a command like a general issued commands to an army demanding a proper order concerning their giving. He did give a charge to the churches [not individuals] concerning the specific collection for the poor in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1). He charged the churches in Galatia as well as the Corinthian church to participate. Since the church is composed of individual believers, the charge carried down to them. The primary charge simply asked the church to gather and to protect the offerings of the members. No amount was required, only an orderly collection. No command was given that required the believer to participate in the collection. Every believer should be encouraged to give, but there is no New Testament command ordering him to do so. "I am not speaking down from a command, but through the diligence of others of a different kind also while proving the genuineness of your love (2 Cor. 8:8)."
Giving Is Not to Bring Grief -- 2 Cor. 9:7. Giving is not to be done grudgingly. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7 A.V.)." It sounds as though there should be no reluctance in giving, no unwillingness. The Greek of First Peter 4:9 is properly translated "grudgingly" since the word used in that text means "to murmur." It is a different Greek term than lupe that is used in Second Corinthians 9:7. (lupe) is a term that means grief, pain, sorrow or distress. Scripture prohibits the believer from giving in grief. When the Christian drops Ulysses Grant in the offering plate, it is not time to mourn his departure. God does not desire a believer to give money and to be sorry afterwards. This kind of grief can come from several directions. A covetous believer grieves because when he gives, he has less rather than more than when he started. A poor believer could give and grieve because of the distress of resulting financial pressure. A worldly believer could give and grieve because a new dress or a new fishing rod went into the offering plate. A selfish Christian might grieve because he did not think the pastor deserved his salary. A spiritual believer will rejoice at the privilege of offering a sacrifice.
Giving Is Not to Be a Burden -- 2 Cor. 8:13. Giving should never place a believer in straits. "For I do not intend that others be relieved, and you afflicted [or under pressure]." Ideally, if a believer is giving proportionately as the Lord leads, every need would be met and there would be no reason for affliction and pressure to result in the life of the giver. Unfortunately, some believers have been compelled to give more than they are able in order to keep the work of God going. Some believers have the spiritual gift of giving and can give more than others proportionately without finding it burdensome. How can a believer be a cheerful believer when he is overloaded under the pressure of his giving? Scripture teaches that the giving should be a blessing and not a burden. In some churches, the people place the burden of giving on the pastor. They expect him to pay the church's bills by keeping his salary so low that there is enough to pay the bills without putting any pressure on the people to support the man of God. Scripture calls for equality in giving (2 Cor. 8:14) so that there will be less a burden of giving for the few. What the believer has left over after his giving is more important than what he gives. New Testament giving is proportional and systematic within the guidelines of Scripture.
The Results of Grace Giving. Aside from the obvious results of giving, Scripture clearly indicates that there are other results. It is important to recognize that many of these are spiritual benefits that are produced by the giving.
Giving Brings Blessing -- 2 Cor. 9:6. When one's giving is a blessing to others, he is also blessed. The things that are a blessing [well spoken of] may be physical or spiritual. Blessings may come from the church, other individuals or God Himself. Giving provides the Christian with a good reputation in the world since other people speak well of his good behavior in providing his giving for needs they see.
Giving Brings Forth Fruit of Righteousness -- 2 Cor. 9:8-11. It is a righteous act for the spiritual believer to offer the sacrifice of giving. When the believer gives, he recognizes that God is his sufficiency and makes grace abound to every good work (2 Cor. 9:8). The fruits of righteousness are produced when the giving is sown as seed that produces spiritual results in the lives of other believers. They respond to God who is the ultimate source of the provision. Righteous behavior has the potential for producing righteous results.
Giving Supplies the Needs of the Saints -- 2 Cor. 9:12. When the Christian gives, the needs of the recipient are adequately met. "Because the ministry of this priestly service is not only making up the things that are lacking of the saints, but is also continually abounding through many thanksgivings to God." Needy saints who lack essential things for life have appealed to God for aid and relief. A spiritual believer discerns the will of God in the matter and God uses him to make up the thing lacking in response to their appeal. Without giving, the needy in the church and in the Lord's work would lose their testimony concerning the sufficiency of their God. In the world system, the Christian reputation has been one of caring for its own and others because of their faith in Christ.
Giving Produces Thanksgiving to God - 2 Cor. 9:12. When a believer receives something from God, he normally will respond with thanksgiving. He is thankful for both the giver and the gift. The recipient of the gift expresses his appreciation for the things that God has provided. When the sacrifice of giving is offered, the believer will first be thankful and then offer the sacrifice of praise. One sacrifice becomes the basis for another sacrifice. Giving not only supplies the needs but "also is continually abounding through many thanksgivings to God (2 Cor. 9:12b)." Thanksgiving should also be the response of the believer to the privilege of giving. In Philippians 4:18, Paul was full of joy for what the giving had done for the givers. A multiplicity of thanksgiving should result from any grace giving. Christians who witness the results of the giving will join in thanksgiving for God's provision.
Giving Brings Glory to God -- 2 Cor. 9:13. God exhibits His opinion of Himself [i.e. glory] through the involvement of spiritual believers in accomplishing His work. God is glorified in many ways in the giving. The whole Church of God is glorified by the believer's giving. A check sent to another believer can bring many different responses toward God. If he owes a serious debt that is due and that is met by the gift, he may glorify God for His power. If he has just discovered an error in his income tax payment owing more "than he has and it is met by the gift, he may glorify God for His omniscience because God knew the problem long before he did. If a missionary receives new shoes in a package from home, he may glorify God for His goodness because his suffering feet have been given a measure of relief. Grace giving will glorify God in many ways among His people as a testimony to His character before the unbeliever.
Giving Provides for God's Servants -- Phil. 4:18. While many apostles evidently received a measure of support from the churches, Paul refused support from several of the churches to which he ministered. He preferred to boast that he did not preach the Gospel for financial remuneration (1 Cor. 9:7-15). Financial remuneration was absolutely proper. God expected the one who was instructed to share good things with his instructor (Gal. 6:6). Special joy was experienced when believers met the needs of Paul (Phil. 4:10-19). In First Corinthians nine, Paul gives several illustrations of individuals who are normally reimbursed for their work. "Who becomes a soldier for himself paying his own wages at any time? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who is shepherding a flock and is not eating of the milk of it (9:7)?" Soldiers were paid by the government or by patrons. Vineyard owners make a living from the vineyard. Shepherds make a living from the flock. In the Old Testament temple, the priests, who served, lived from the temple sacrifices and tithes (9:13). Paul clearly says that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel (9:14). A man who is using his pastor-teacher gift in the office of overseer should be living from his shepherding. As a pastor, the gifted one has a shepherding gift. As a bishop, he is overseeing the spiritual operation of the church. In the office, his pastor-teacher gift is most effective. As a result of such service, Scripture expects financial remuneration to be properly provided. As an elder, he has the maturity to render wise decisions. "Let the elders who are ruling well be considered worthy of double honor especially the ones who are laboring in word and doctrine to be believed and not practiced. For Scripture says, 'You will not muzzle an ox that is threshing,' and 'the workman is worthy of his pay' (1 Tim. 5:17, 18)." The pastor is not only to be paid with pay commensurate with the rest of the church, but may be eligible for double pay. If he is diligent in the study of the Word and doctrine to be believed but not practiced, he is worthy of double honor. His study and spiritual contributions expect at least a living wage as he serves God and the congregation. Spiritual believers will be concerned for the well being of the man that the Spirit has led to be their spiritual shepherd. What a shame for Christians to resent paying a pastor a decent, living wage.
In a sense, the support of the servants of the Lord may be considered a debt. Because of their work on behalf of the saints, they deserve remuneration. In no way should this he considered a debt to God but to individuals or to groups of individuals. In appreciation for the contribution the pastor has made in the life of a believer, the saint should feel obligated to assist in meeting the pastor's needs. Love is the basic motivation. Because of the role of the church in Jerusalem in the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul considered the Gentiles obligated to assist in meeting the needs of the poor saints in that specific church (Rom. 15:27). God the Father counts love motivated grace giving as a sacrifice when given in support of Christian workers. While some believers may give money, others may give things such as produce and livestock for the support of the pastor. Other things may also contribute to the professional Christian worker's life and ministry such as clothing, equipment and transportation. As a result, the Christian worker should have the same standard of living as those who receive the benefits of his ministry in the local church.
Grace giving requires a proper attitude and condition. A spiritual believer benefits from the joys of giving and finds his giving a sacrifice to God. He is to give with a willing mind and a cheerful heart. God desires that he give himself to the Lord first then to other believers. As a spiritual believer, he is able to direct love, that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, through his giving. He gives a proportion of what God has given him. When the believer has much, he gives much. When the believer has little, he gives little. As a result, every believer has enough left over to live at an adequate standard of living. No believer is Scripturally bound by a particular percentage. As God gives to him, the percentage of what he gives will vary. Wealthy believers will not please God or have their giving counted to be a sacrifice with ten per cent but will give more because God has given them more. Still the individual is the one who makes his own choice as to what to give and when to give. Grace giving is a gracious response of the spiritual believer to the gracious provision of the Lord. God the Father and God the Son are examples for grace giving. They gave what was necessary freely and without constraint. One's love for God is brought to light in his giving. May every believer experience the fullness of joy available through grace giving.
The sacrifice of giving is a privilege of the believer-priest. Whenever the spiritual believer gives to the Lord and His work, God the Father counts it a sacrifice. Grace giving provides the system in which the sacrifice is offered. It should be a pleasure for the believer-priest to offer the sacrifice. No longer bound by the restrictions and restraints of the Mosaic Law, there is now freedom to give as a grace believer. As a result, God is glorified, needs are met, saints are thankful and the fruits of righteousness are produced. Every believer can eagerly anticipate the time when the offering is taken in the church service. It is not just a time for paying the church's bills, but it is a time for offering the sacrifice of giving. Christians need to be looking for opportunities to offer the sacrifice of giving whether to the church or to individual believers. To give with a cheerful heart, an eager will and a ready mind is an acceptable sacrifice to God, the ultimate Authority. "Let us offer up the sacrifice of giving."
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The sacrifice of faith is the sixth sacrifice available for the believer-priest. It would appear to be a simple task to identify this sacrifice. "Isn't faith just faith?" However, Scripture uses faith in a number of different ways. There is the act of faith that occurs at the moment of salvation that is called "saving faith." There is an attitude of faith that involves the directing of the fruit of the Spirit that has been called "sustaining faith." There is a body of doctrine that is identified as "the faith." This is doctrine that tells the Christian how to live in his present tense salvation victorious over his spiritual enemies. Some would like to make this the sacrifice of faithfulness encouraging dependability and reliability but that is another Greek word (pistos). Every time one reads the word "faith," it is necessary to determine what the term is referring to. There are 244 occurrences of "faith," (pistis), in the New Testament, so a study of the word is a formidable task because it has such an importance in Scripture. Proper interpretation will produce information. Paul describes the sacrifice in Philippians 2:17, "But if indeed I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith, I am rejoicing and rejoicing together with you all." Paul shared the benefits of the faith of the Philippian believers when they gave the sacrifice of faith. Such faith is a part of normal priestly service for the believer-priest. It is important to establish a definition for faith before examining the specific aspect of faith involved in the sacrifice.
Scripture gives a clear definition for faith so further definition is unnecessary. "But faith is the reality [or basis] of things that are being hoped for, the proof [or persuasion] of things not being seen (Heb. 11:1)." Faith accepts as reality the things hoped for. It accepts an assured impression that the very essence of the thing hoped for is so. Hope is rooted in revelation. God has revealed something and the believer expects God to perform the thing promised because He said it in His Word. Faith gives substance to that which has been revealed. As a part of faith, there is a conviction or persuasion of the certainty of the thing that cannot be seen. In other words, faith accepts as certain that which has been promised in the Word of God. Faith is rooted in the believer's confidence in his God. He is fully aware of the ability of God to accomplish anything He promises. Blind faith is not based in a Divine Person or on a promise from God. Christian faith is founded on God's self-revelation building faith upon faith. Scripture builds on the premise that God is reliable and capable of accomplishing whatever He desires to do. Faith recognizes the potential for God's working with other believers as well as with the individual believer himself. In Scripture, a great body of revelation is addressed to grace believers revealing God's program for Christian living. Because God promised it, the believer accepts it and expects the promises of God to be effective in his own life and in the lives of other believers.
"Belief' and "faith" are from the same root communicating the same basic concepts in Scripture. The act of believing results in faith. The verb (pisteuo) is normally translated "believe" in the English text. When one believes God, he accepts God at His Word and assumes it to be so, even though he cannot see it with his eyes. The Scriptural definition is sufficient. The biblical order is promise > hope > faith.
The sacrifice of faith is not a reference to the act of faith at the moment of salvation. That faith is a free gift of God (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 1 Cor. 3:5 Gk.) for those who believe. At the moment of faith, the individual believes in Christ through the Gospel of Christ. There is only one Gospel for salvation and it is clearly presented in First Corinthians 15:3, 4. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I had received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." This clearly identifies the good news by which one is saved and through which one believes in Christ (1 Cor. 15:1, 2). The Philippian believers were already saved (Phil. 1:1) and offered the sacrifice of faith for Paul who was also a believer. A believer can never have saving faith for another individual so that they will be saved. The sacrifice of faith is not the act of faith at salvation.
The sacrifice of faith is not the body of doctrine identified in Scripture as "the faith." "The faith" is a body of practical doctrine that is addressed to believers. Doctrine itself cannot be offered as a sacrifice. The practicing of certain areas of Bible doctrine can be a sacrifice when it teaches the concepts of the six sacrifices of the believer-priest. It is important to be healthy in the body of doctrine identified as "the faith" (Titus 1:13). A bishop is to possess the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (1 Tim. 3:9). Ephesians 4:13 establishes the fact that "the faith" directly relates to the believer's living in the Body of Christ in his present tense salvation. When a Christian relates to the unity of the faith, he is gaining victory over the attacks of his spiritual enemies (Eph. 4:14) as he is maturing in his position in Christ. When the Christian is under Satanic attack, he is provided with the potential to resist the devil by "the faith" (1 Pe. 5:8, 9). Jude encourages believers to contend for "the faith" once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). "The faith" is the body of doctrine that tells the believer how to work out his present tense salvation defeating his spiritual enemies by Scriptural methods rather than being defeated by them. The Philippians were living in their present tense salvation and many of them were practicing the faith. This is evident from the expressions of the fruit of the Spirit in their midst. They offered the sacrifice for Paul and not for themselves in this case. The sacrifice of faith is not the practicing of a body of doctrine even though God is well pleased with such practice.
The sacrifice of faith involves the directing of the fruit of the Spirit in a proper way. One must be spiritual to possess the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, the word "fruit" is singular and is used with a singular verb. It is one, single fruit. It is not a cluster of grapes or a collection of various kinds of fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is a single fruit with sections or parts (Gal. 5:22, 23). A major part of the process of the Christian's maturing is his learning to direct the proper part of the fruit of the Spirit to the proper object at a proper time. God expects him to take something that the Spirit has produced and to direct it properly. It is easy to say that a Christian should be manifesting all of the single fruit at once, but it is clear from Scripture that there are appropriate times for one aspect of the fruit to be focused while the other aspects are not focused. Every spiritual believer has the fruit produced because he is emanating the things of the Spirit [i.e. spiritual]. No other part of the fruit is identified as the sacrifice of a believer-priest. When the grace believer learns how to direct faith in a proper way, God counts it to be a sacrifice. This sacrifice may be offered for the believer himself or for other believers. While the spiritual believer is walking by faith enjoying an attitude of faith, he may be directing that faith to his God and in specific instances be offering the sacrifice of faith.
Any use of the fruit of the Spirit involves mental activity. It is not emotional though it may produce emotional responses. It is not physical though there may be physical activities that result. While the Holy Spirit produces the fruit, the believer must learn to use his mental faculties to use the fruit of the Spirit properly by directing it correctly toward a proper object. Every one of the nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit involves mental attitudes and activities. A man's life is controlled by his thoughts. The unbeliever suffers from a bent of mind resulting from the fall of man that perverts his way of thinking. Likewise, when a believer is carnal, his perception of life is completely different than it would be if he were spiritual. A spiritual believer must learn to take hold of a part of the fruit of the Spirit mentally and to direct the appropriate part effectively toward a proper object.
It is possible for the spiritual believer to misdirect parts of the fruit. As an example, love should primarily be directed to God, then toward other Christians and then toward the unbelievers. If it is directed improperly at an improper object, it can be the basis for spiritual failure. If the spiritual believer directs his love (agape) toward the world system, he could become carnal as a result. "if anyone happens to love the world system, the love for the Father [objective genitive] is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15)." It is possible for the believer to direct his love toward money (1 Tim. 6:8-10) and the present evil age (2 Tim. 4:10). The reason for mentioning love at this point is that love and faith are found together more often than any of the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit [nearly 20 times]. Love usually energizes the faith of the believer. Unfortunately, not all that is called faith is really faith.
Christians have called presumption faith for many years. Presumption has no sound basis in Scripture but more than likely finds its roots in personal desires and feelings. When one assumes something to be so without some basis for such a conclusion, it is presumption. Actually, when the believer tells God what He is going to do, it is nothing but presumption. In other words, the assumption commits God to something that the believer has no right to commit Him to. Just because Jesus walked on the water did not give Peter the right to think that he could do the same thing. His leap from the boat was not a leap of faith, but the jumping to a presumptive conclusion that ultimately gave him an unnecessary bath. Christians often do what they want, confident that they will get what they want with no ground for it in the Word or will of God. A believer should be capable of distinguishing between faith and presumption. He should be very careful to avoid being presumptuous. Only God knows the extent of suffering among Christians that has been a direct result of presumption. Presumption results in religious speculation that is not grounded in faith.
The attitude of faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit can produce specific activity that springs from that faith. As an example, the believer can ask for himself in communication by faith (Jas. 1:6). Because of his faith in his asking, the believer will have no doubt as to whether or not he will receive the thing asked for. Scripture tells the believer that when he asks for himself in the character of Christ (Jn. 14:13, 14) and according to Christ's desirous will (1 Jn. 5:14, 15), he will receive the thing he has asked for. Scripture provides the basis for his hope. As a result, he believes Scripture and asks by faith and has no reason for doubting or wavering in the thing he has asked for. The specific act of faith in asking is counted to be a sacrifice by God the Father.
As the believer studies Scripture, he becomes more and more knowledgeable concerning the Godhead. He understands the character of God and His provisions. As the believer grasps the ability of God to insure His accomplishing of all that He has promised, he has a clearer object for his faith in his thinking. Just as the believer believed in Christ in his salvation, he has the potential to direct faith toward Christ in his everyday living.
Faith in God the Son -- Eph. 1:15. Scripture clearly teaches that Christ's cross work is permanently effective and sufficient. When the believer thinks of the kind of salvation made possible by Christ's cross work, he has the potential for directing his faith toward Christ. In Christ, the believer not only has redemption (Eph. 1:7) but also was made an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14 Gk.). Being saved individuals, the Ephesian believers directed their faith toward Christ after their salvation. "Wherefore I also, after I heard Of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints ... (1:15)" is Paul's recognition of the double direction of the fruit of the Spirit by the Ephesian believers. They thoroughly knew of their position in Christ as is indicated by Paul's familiar use of "in Christ" terms throughout the letter. Faith was directed to the Head of the Body while love was directed to the individuals composing the Body. Paul reminds the Ephesians that, because of their position in Christ, they have access and boldness. He says, "In whom [Christ] we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him [objective genitive] (Eph. 3:12)." The relationship of the believer in the Body of Christ gives him the confidence that God the Father sees him in Christ seated at His own right hand. A maturing believer learns to settle down and feel at home in his position in Christ. As a result, he will have a confidence and boldness in his access to God. Faith in Christ for the privileges of participation in present tense salvation is essential for Christian living.
Faith in God the Father -- 1 Pe. 1:21. God the Father is the object of the believer's faith and hope. In response to his faith in the Father, the believer remains pure. Faith in God the Father directly relates to the believer's resurrection life. "The ones who through Him [Christ] are believing in God, the one having raised Him [Christ] out from among dead ones and having given a quality of glory to Him; so that your faith and hope might be in God (1 Pe. 1:21)." When the Father raised Christ, He saw the believer as a participant in the resurrection of Christ by imputation. As a result, He counts each believer to be raised in Christ. Christians are directing faith to the Father because they recognize His role in providing a place for the believer in Christ. Because the Holy Spirit is resident on earth today, it would seem logical that He also should be an object of the believer's attitude of faith. Even though there is no passage that indicates that the Producer of the fruit is to receive the fruit, it is apparent that He can also be the object of the believer's faith. As the spiritual believer is walking by means of the Spirit, he is walking by faith in his defense against the sin nature in the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the believer's faith is directed toward the Persons of the Godhead.
Faith in the Godhead. Groups of believers can have the reputation of being people who direct their faith toward God. This was true of the Thessalonian believers. "For from you was sounded the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith towards God has gone out, so that we have no need to speak anything (1 Thess. 1:8)." Context identifies the object of faith here as the Father, while believers by faith are also waiting for the return of Christ for the Church (1:10). God has given a triple guarantee concerning the continuation of salvation. All three Persons of the Trinity are involved in the believer's present tense salvation and are duly qualified to receive the believer's faith. A spiritual believer's faith may be directed to God for another believer.
A Christian friend may live a great distance away. Word is sent concerning serious difficulties in the life of that believer. Knowing the spiritual condition of the other believer and the sufficiency of God, the believer directs the sacrifice of faith to God on behalf of the other believer. Faith can be directed to God for physical or spiritual needs. Faith assumes that God will care for every believer based on His promises. In any given situation, the believer can be certain that God's provisions will not change no matter how difficult the circumstances might be.
There are a number of Christians who believe that faith is to be directed to God for healing a sick believer. Unfortunately, this teaching leads to presumption. Some have said, "if I only had more faith, he would have been healed!" That is a statement of pure presumption. While a spiritual believer may have faith that God can or may heal, he cannot assume that God will heal every sick believer. Faith assures the believer that God will do all things well to His own glory whether the believer is healed or taken home. God has not failed. The believer has not failed because of his lack of faith. God will do His will in His way. A believer must direct his faith to such a God. Faith assures the believer that God will perfectly meet the needs of the other believer as God sees him, not as man sees him. Faith produces trust in God and in His solutions for the other believer's problems. James 5:15 is often used as proof for the need for faith for other believers who are sick. There are two men described in James 5:14, 15, who have different kinds of illness and who are treated with two different procedures. The person who is sick in 5:14 has a normal debilitating illness that produces weakness, (astheneo). That individual can call the elders of the church who can share with him in worship communication and administer whatever proper medicine is available to the individual believer and give him a measure of physical relief. In 5:15, there is a second individual who is afflicted with a mind-induced illness (kamno). The vow of faith is not the communication of an external believer but the communication of a vow by the believer himself for himself.
One of the benefits of Christian fellowship is reciprocity in sharing one's faith with other believers. As a result of directing faith for one another, there will be a common encouragement. "But this is for the purpose of co-encouragement with you through both your faith and my faith in one another (Rom. 1:12)." As believers relate to one another in personal contact, it is possible for them to direct faith on behalf of each other. Paul had anticipated sharing with the Roman believers some spiritual gift that is identified as a together type of encouragement (1:11). The instruction and fellowship of the saints creates a bond in which the fruit of the Spirit can easily be directed. Faith is energized by love (Gal. 5:5, 6 Gk.). The Roman Christians are "beloved of God" (1:7) and "dearly beloved" (12:19). As faith and love go hand in hand, there will be mutual encouragement. In his apostolic ministry, Paul anticipated sharing revelation with the Romans that would give them an opportunity to learn how to direct faith better toward one another. A part of Paul's instruction is implied in his discussion of the righteousness of God. "For a quality of the righteousness of God is revealed out of faith into faith, as it stands written, 'But the righteous man will live out of faith' (1:17)." Of all the verses in the New Testament that indicate that salvation is by faith, Martin Luther chose one as his byword that speaks of a believer [a just or righteous one] living by faith to be a basis for his contention that salvation was by faith alone. Faith, directed toward another believer who is in one's presence, is just as much a sacrifice to God as faith directed to God for a believer who is a great distance away.
While Paul was incarcerated in Rome, the Philippian believers directed their faith to God for him. It is not clear why they directed their faith to God for Paul. They may have suspected some of the difficulties he suffered or heard a report of his condition. As Paul sat in prison, he shared a mutual rejoicing with the Philippians over the content of their faith, as well as the fact of their faith. Mutual faith in the soon return of Christ in the day of Christ was the object of faith (Phil. 2:16). Certainly, it would have produced joy for every believer involved. Their faith could have been directed to God for Paul's care and protection in a very difficult circumstance. Another possibility is that they were living a consistent Christian life proving Paul's labor was not empty; and by that life, they were directing faith on his behalf. When each Philippian believer read Paul's letter, he knew exactly about what Paul was writing. There may have been one or more possibilities, but they knew for certain that faith had been directed for Paul. "But since I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith, I am rejoicing and I am rejoicing together with you all (Phil. 2:17)." Sacrifice and priestly service share a common idea grammatically [Granville-Sharpe construction] and refer to the same activity. Every sacrifice is a priestly service though every priestly service is not a sacrifice. As a result of the Philippian sacrifice, everyone rejoices. Revelation from God provides a basis for the directing of their faith for Paul. With many miles between them, the Philippians had great faith that they would see Paul again on earth or in the air in the Rapture. God's plans for Paul would be carried out to Paul's benefit and for the joy of the Philippian Christians. Paul heard that they were directing their faith and joined them as they directed their joy to the Lord and His provision together.
Paul communicated to others in the same way. He was a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Tim. 2:7 Gk.). He directed faith toward those Gentiles who were his students. He gave them truth [seeing things as they really are) and did so by faith. It was a characteristic of Paul's teaching to direct faith toward God for his students. He accurately presented the truth as he had been taught it by Jesus Christ. He was confident that illumined spiritual believers, consistently interpreting God's Word literally, would learn to live that which they had been taught. In turn, they would also have faith in the Word of God as well as the God of the Word. Any teacher of the Word of God can direct faith in this way when he is teaching the Word accurately. Pastor-teachers and teachers have a great potential to share in similar offerings of the sacrifice of faith as they communicate Scripture to people.
When Paul encouraged Titus to "Be greeting the ones who are fond of us by faith (Tit. 3:15)," he expected a sacrifice to be offered by someone in some way. Here the grammar is important though it does produce some interpretive problems. "Faith" does not have a definite article in the text. A major question is where the prepositional phrase "in faith" or "by faith" should go. Does it modify the main verb, the participle or the personal pronoun? Is it locative [in] or instrumental [by]? In other words, is Titus expected to greet them by faith, are they loving ones by faith or is Paul in faith? If the verb "love" were agapao, it would make interpretation much easier, but the participle is (phileo). It is a fondness for someone. Since agapao energizes faith, it would appear that if agapao were the form, the phrase would immediately relate to the participle. To direct faith in giving greetings makes some sense if the audience was hostile, but these individuals are affectionate toward Paul. It appears that the giver of greetings would be directing love and joy to the recipients. Undoubtedly, Paul and those with him were in faith but that seems to be a remote reason for writing it as he does. The phrase "in faith" or "by faith" makes perfect sense with the ones who are affectionate [the participle]. They have a fondness for Paul by faith. The simplest interpretation of the preposition is to accept it as instrumental "by." God encourages Titus to be greeting the ones who have a fondness for Paul. This fondness is evidenced by their directing faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. In any case, faith is directed for other believers.
When the Christian directs faith for another believer, he is not to be prejudiced. Partiality for certain individuals can provide the opportunity for a prejudicial direction of faith springing from favoritism. A wealthy man may be preferred over the poor man. A white man may be preferred over a black man. A man may be preferred over a woman. All believers are one in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). James affirms the fact that the directing of faith is not to be prejudicial. "My brothers, stop having the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one of glory, with respects [pl.] of persons [or partialities] (Jas. 2:1)." A Christian must not direct his faith for another believer because he has wealth (Jas. 2:2-6) but because he is an equal. Love energizes the directing of faith (cf. 2:8) toward all believers no matter what their social, racial or generic status may be. External characteristics should never deprive another believer from having the sacrifice of faith given for him. Discrimination of any kind deprives the believer of his privilege of giving the sacrifice of faith and deprives the other believer of the joy that results from having the sacrifice of faith offered for him. The sacrifice of faith can be given for other believers, but it is not limited to these subjects. A large part of the giving of the sacrifice is by the believer for himself.
A majority of the sacrifices of faith offered by the spiritual believer are for himself. If he is truly walking by faith, he is ordering every detail of his life by faith. Each step is made by faith affirming that he is doing the will of God to the glory of God. "Needs make faith strong." Unfortunately, many Christians live life deluded by this kind of statement. They feel that when their needs are met and they are comfortable, there is no need for faith. Often they put faith in position nine on the list of the parts of the fruit of the Spirit and save it for a time of need or decision-making. The philosophy of the position is that those who have the greatest and most extensive needs require more faith than those who have fewer needs. It is almost as though the wealthy or well-off believer does not need any faith. One can offer the sacrifice of faith for the needy even if he does not offer it for himself. God expects an attitude of faith from every believer. God chose the poor to become heirs of His salvation. "Did God not choose the poor of the world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom that He promised to the ones who are loving Him (Jas. 2:5)." Because of their condition of life and the abuse of the poor, the poor man needs to be rich in faith. He wears shabby clothing (2:2). He is relegated to a position of dishonor when people gather (2:3). He is dishonored and dragged off to court by the oppressive rich (2:6). His name is blasphemed (2:7). He may be naked and lacking drink and food (2:15). He must have faith that God will direct other believers to provide assistance in his time of difficulty. By the standards of the world system, he is poor. By God's standards, the poor believer should be rich in faith. It may be easier for a poor man to walk by faith than a rich man, but this should not be the normal situation. A rich man may live by self-confidence being certain that he will make all the right decisions without relying on God. The one, who has the most, needs the most faith to effectively use what God has given him. James seems to infer that poor Christians give more sacrifices of faith than the rich do. Thank God that the spiritual sacrifices of faith cost no money and can be freely offered by the poorest of God's saints. Rich and poor alike can appropriate this privilege for themselves.
The Character of the Sactifice for Oneself. When the Christian offers the sacrifice of faith, there are several characteristics that will be evident to other Christians. By the exhibition of the believer's faith, a clear witness is given concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. By learning to direct the fruit of the Spirit, the Christian moves on toward maturity. Because of the relationship of the fruit of the Spirit to Christian growth, every believer should be diligently pursuing the principles of Scripture for Christian living so that the Spirit of God will be producing the fruit of the Spirit. This is especially true for the man of God.
Paul not only encouraged Timothy to possess faith but also to learn how to direct faith in his ministry. "But you, O man of God, be fleeing these things; but be pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patient endurance, meekness (1 Tim. 6:11)." Paul encouraged Timothy to pursue three parts of the fruit of the Spirit: faith, love and meekness. The word translated "patience" in the Authorized Version is not the same term as "longsuffering" in Galatians 5:22 but has the idea of a patient endurance. As an apostle, Timothy was expected to endeavor to follow earnestly in the direction of righteousness [acting right by Divine standards], godliness [giving God His full weight by not withholding from God that which is due in the life], faith, love, patient endurance and meekness [tameness of mind]. He did not encourage Timothy to pursue in order to capture something, but he was to pursue as a matter of course in his life. Paul expected him to possess these things and then use them in a proper way. In Second Timothy 2:22, Paul reminded Timothy, "Also be fleeing from the youthful lusts, but be pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace with the ones who are calling upon the Lord out of a clean heart." He adds "meekness" (2:25) as he did in the first letter. "Peace" [an unruffledness of mind] is a fourth part of the fruit of the Spirit that is added here. Paul expected Timothy to follow a stable course in which he not only possessed the fruit of the Spirit, but he also was directing it for himself as he moved along the course. Different circumstances demand that different parts of the fruit of the Spirit be used so that the Christian's walk will be appropriate before God. As Timothy matured in the Lord, he began to learn how to direct the appropriate part of the fruit of the Spirit at a proper time so that God could receive the most glory. Even though Timothy had a special gift, it was still necessary for him to mature and to use the fruit of the Spirit properly.
A commendable characteristic of a believer's faith is steadfastness or firmness. It should be solid and not unstable or fluid. The Colossian church was a good example of a church that had a solid faith in Christ. "For since indeed I am absent in the flesh, yet I am together with you in the spirit, while rejoicing and seeing your order and the steadfastness of your faith with reference to Christ (Col. 2:5)." A steadfast faith is a faith that is focused upon a proper object. Jesus Christ, as Head of the Body, is the object of the Colossians' faith. They directed the fruit of the Spirit toward a proper object. As a result, they walked [ordered every detail of their lives] in their position in Christ. Their feelings or external distractions did not move them. They kept their attention on their responsibilities to Christ as Head of the Body. They were rooted and built up in Christ (2:7), while being firmly established in the body of doctrine called "the faith." Faith as a part of the fruit of the Spirit is used in the believer's participation in the benefits of present tense salvation.
As believer-priests, believers should have absolute assurance of their access through Jesus Christ their High Priest. Christ has consecrated a new and living way into the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19, 20). "Let us come near with a true heart by a full conviction of faith ... (Heb. 10:22)." Christians direct faith to the fact that provision has been made by the blood of Christ (10:19). As a result, the believer is able to act on the information and enter into the Holy of Holies. The "way" is unique in time and kind for it is recently made (prosphaton) and living (zao) in its character. By faith, the believer has absolute confidence that when he approaches, he is absolutely qualified to enter. Faith should be manifested in the absolute confidence that we can use God's provision now. The believer has direct access to the very presence of God in the third heaven. As the believer clings to the confession of his hope unwaveringly, God proves Himself to be good to His Word (10:23). As a result, God can use the believer to stir up other believers to use the fruit of the Spirit in their own lives. What a privilege it is to have access and to have God-given faith available for personal use.
When the Christian has defects or shortcomings in the way that he directs his faith, it is possible to correct it with a proper result. Such a correction in direction is accomplished through the teaching of the Word of God. Even though Paul had spent less than a month with the Thessalonians (Ac. 17:2), he communicated a substantial amount of Christian doctrine to them. Not only had he taught them how to have the fruit of the Spirit (1 Thess. 1:8), but also how to direct certain parts of the fruit. Timothy had brought good news to Paul concerning the faith and love of the Thessalonian believers. Paul was encouraged in his distress and affliction by the faith of these relatively new believers (1 Thess. 3:7). The strength of their faith is evident in verse eight, "Because now we are living, since it is a fact you are standing in the Lord." Based on their relationship to Christ as Head of His Body, these believers stood firm in their position and confidence toward Him for Paul. They offered the sacrifice of faith just as the Philippians were. Paul responded to their faith by being thankful and by directing his joy toward them and their consistent Christian behavior (3:9). Even though Paul saw faith directed on his behalf, he saw that the Thessalonian believers still needed some adjustment concerning other ways in which faith might be directed. Paul rejoiced "Night and day while supplicating exceedingly with the purpose of seeing your face and of adjusting the shortcomings of your faith (1 Thess. 3:10)." Filled with eagerness of heart, Paul cried out for Divine help to permit him to return to Thessalonica to be of further assistance to the saints there. His supplication is not a cry of desperation that is made for persons in serious trouble but is an appeal to God for help or assistance so that he would have the opportunity to expand his apostolic ministry among them. He asks God for help. He is willing to trust God for the results. As a teacher, Paul wanted to teach these Christians more than he had been able to teach them on his visit among them. Either he did not have time or the Thessalonians were not ready for the teaching when he had been with them previously.
As Paul writes, he is confident that it is time for them to be adjusted by teaching concerning the directing of their faith. Adjust ["make perfect"] has the idea of mending or making whole again. Classical Greek used the term for medical treatment. A broken bone would be set or a bone pulled out of its socket would be put back in its joint. In Scripture, it is employed to describe the repairing of fishing nets (Matt. 4:21; Mk. 1:19) so that they would function at their best potential. It also has the idea of making a business deal good.
It is evident that the Thessalonians were using faith from the context of First Thessalonians, but Paul wanted to adjust that which was lacking or deficient in their directing of that faith. He anticipated teaching them how to be more effective in directing their faith. He knew the strength of their faith and that it had been beneficial for him, yet he knew that they could improve as a whole. Their love was the trigger for their faith. One must note that Paul expected the Lord to make them abound and increase in love to one another and all men (1 Thess. 3:12). Paul himself expected to come and activate their faith. By the time Paul had written the second epistle, both their faith and love had grown (2 Thess. 1:3). Paul does not clearly state what differences there were in direction. By what he says about love, it is very likely that the Thessalonians were having trouble knowing exactly how to direct faith for one another and for all men. When a believer truly directs love toward another person, he seeks the very best for that person. Faith expects the best for the other person when directed by love. In many cases, there are conditions in Scripture that must be met in order for that which is best to occur in the life of the other person. It may be that the Thessalonians had directed their faith for others who did not meet the conditions. As a result, the love energized faith failed to see its expectations come to be reality. God will only accomplish a spiritual believer's desire for another believer for the best benefit to the other believer. When the Thessalonians directed their faith for Paul, he was a spiritual believer who received the full benefit of their faith as he served God. If the Thessalonians had directed faith to God [and they probably did] for Paul when he was in Athens and entering Corinth, he was carnal and could not receive the full benefits of God's provisions for him.
A fellow Christian is unemployed and desperately in need of an income. All the believers in the local church direct their faith to God because of their love expecting God to meet his need. After a Month of interceding with God for the man, the church discovers that he has not filled out an application, prepared a resume or even looked for a job. Their motives were right. They directed the fruit of the Spirit properly, but the man did not meet the conditions. He was a lazy bum. Had the church known, faith would have been directed toward the man's apathy and senselessness rather than toward a job that would meet his needs. Another illustration will help in the realm of spiritual things. A Christian lady arrives at the ladies prayer group filled with anger and hatred for her mother-inlaw who had slighted her at a recent family gathering. Out of love for the lady, the ladies side with the daughter-in-law and direct their faith toward God for His dealing with the insensitive motherin-law. As a result, faith is misdirected. The Christian lady has come to the meeting manifesting two of the works of the flesh [anger and hatred] demonstrating that she is carnal by her visible behavior. She was either carnal when the mother-in-law slighted her or became carnal as a result of her being slighted. In order for faith to be directed properly, it should be directed toward the lady concerning her spiritual condition rather than the mother-in-law. Some practical encouragement for the confession of sin and setting her reflective thinking on her position in Christ would be proper and then faith could be directed concerning her spirituality. Every Christian should be objective when offering the sacrifice of faith. An adjustment in faith's direction may be necessary because of the circumstances towards which faith is directed. One makes adjustment through the teaching of the Word of God and its proper application to circumstances that need a proper directing of faith.
Another characteristic of the sacrifice of faith is that when it is consistently offered, it creates a reputation for the individual or individuals who offer it. "For from you distinctly sounded forth [as a trumpet call] the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to be verbalizing anything (1 Thess. 1:8)." Paul's ministry in Thessalonica was verified by the exhibition of the faith of the Thessalonian believers. In their home province of Macedonia, their reputation had spread. In the adjacent province of Achaia, word had sounded forth concerning their faith. When the Christians at Thessalonica were mentioned in the church at Corinth, their first thought would be of the faith of the Thessalonians. Everywhere in the world, where there were Christians, the Thessalonians were known as a people of faith.
At least a majority of the individuals in the Thessalonian church were spiritual so that the whole church possessed the reputation. Both churches and individuals can possess this reputation. One must remember that some individuals who have the reputation for having faith have the spiritual gift of faith and so manifested a greater amount of faith than other believers. The spiritual gift graciously gives the individual faith above what is normal. Spiritual people, using their spiritual gifts, should have a reputation because of their gift and its consistent use. The believer who does not possess the gift of faith, but possesses another gift can have a reputation for his faith as he learns to properly direct his faith. Many pastor-teachers have been known as men of faith.
As a Christian matures, he learns how and when to direct faith. When he actually does this, he becomes known for his faith. Presumption must not be mistaken for true biblical faith. Carnal men honor presumption more than they honor true New Testament faith. A proper directing of the attitude of faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit brings a reputation to the individual. A group of believers who meet together can have the same reputation as the believers in Thessalonica did. Some think of churches that build great buildings, great Sunday Schools or great congregations as having great faith. It is true that faith can be directed in these instances, but many times presumption breeds the "big is better' syndrome. The New Testament emphasizes the centrality of the individual Christian living by the grace of God.
Without spiritual believers, there is no fruit of the Spirit, and hence, no faith to be directed. A church that emphasizes the importance of teaching the Christian life has the potential for having the reputation of being a group of believers that has great faith no matter how large or small it is. Without teaching, it is impossible for a church to have such a reputation. One can visit a church that has a reputation for faith and know if it is true faith or simple presumption by what is preached and taught in the church program. Pastors need to know the New Testament teaching for the spiritual life and be consistently living the Christian life. People will rarely rise above the level of their pastor in their Christian lives. Contemporary churches need to have the Thessalonian reputation. Even though there were many local assemblies in the early church, the church of Thessalonica was the one church that had this reputation in Scripture. When the corporate offering of the sacrifice of faith is consistently given, the church is identified by its consistent faith.
As the believer directs his faith properly, other believers who are not the direct recipients of faith can observe it. While the believer himself does not advertise his faith, the observer can closely examine the faith and learn how to direct his own faith as he follows the example of the other believer. As a result, when one directs his faith, it is possible to have the same kind of directing of faith perpetuated by other believers as they live for the Lord.
Paul taught Christian slaves to subject themselves to their own masters in everything exhibiting their faith as they directed it toward their work and service. "Slaves are to be subject to their own masters (despotes) in all things, to be well pleasing, not speaking against them, not having secret reservations, but displaying all good faith, in order that they may show the orderliness of the doctrine of God our Savior in all things (Tit. 2:9, 10)." It is possible for both believers and unbelievers to see faith as it is properly directed. The Authorized Version translates "faith" (pistis) by the word "fidelity" interpreting it to mean "faithful" (pistos). This gives it the idea of performing faithful service to the despotic master. The purpose for displaying good faith is designed to cause the observer to relate the display of Christian faith to the doctrine that the slave believes concerning Jesus Christ. By directing his attitude of faith while he is laboring for the master, the Christian slave provided a clear testimony concerning the uniqueness of Christ in His deity. Because of the blessed hope the slave had in the imminent return of Christ, his faith had a basis and a motivation (2:13). The believer can exhibit this same attitude of faith on his job.
Undoubtedly, Timothy possessed an interest in the way Paul, his spiritual father, directed his faith. Paul was confident that Timothy paid close attention to various aspects of his life. "But you have closely followed [mentally] my doctrine to be believed but not practiced, my guidance, my purpose, my faith, my longsuffering, my love, my patience ... (2 Tim. 3:10)." When a Christian is -spiritual, the fruit of the Spirit is visible to all forms of scrutiny. To Timothy, his observations of Paul's life were more than a response to his personal interest but were also for his personal instruction. He could see how Paul directed his faith and could follow his example. One believer shows another believer how to direct his faith. Timothy knew how difficult it was for Paul to direct his faith because a large part of the time Paul was being afflicted and persecuted (3:11). Yet by faith, Paul bore up under the difficulties and the Lord delivered him. Timothy had a clear testimony for his own times of persecution concerning the proper ways to direct faith in such situations (3:12, 13). Because of his observation of Paul, he learned how to direct three parts of the fruit of the Spirit [faith, longsuffering and love] during times of persecution and affliction. Every Christian should anticipate the possibility that the way he handles the directing of his faith will be an example to other believers -- an awesome responsibility. How important it is for each Christian to learn how God intends for him to be directing his faith. Timothy had been encouraged by Paul to discover the proper way to direct faith and to learn to be an example to other believers in several areas of his life including his faith.
"Let no one despise [or slight] your youth, but become a type [or pattern] for the faithful ones in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12)." Paul wanted Timothy to make such an impression on others by his accurate directing of faith and love that they would conform to the pattern that he had produced. What Timothy had said was to match up with what he actually did, especially in the ways he directed love and faith as well as his personal purity. Every Christian leader should provide a pattern for other believers. In reality, every person who has been saved should be such a pattern. Unfortunately, very few are accurate examples. A believer who has been living in the realm of his sin nature does not have the ability to be a pattern for others. He is a babe because he is immature and incapable of doing those things that are an essential part of Christian maturity (Heb. 5:11-14). One of the greatest failures of Christians today is the practical, personal rejection of New Testament revelation for Christian living. Many Christians consistently conform to man's standards for Christian living rather than to the clear revelation of the New Testament for grace believers. One must have the fruit of the Spirit to direct it. Without the fruit, there is no attitude of faith to be directed. Human systems of Christian living produce no fruit and only satisfy the appetites of the flesh. The Church needs Pauls to be examples to Timothys who in turn are patterns for others. How can a believer direct faith for himself if he has not learned how from Scripture and other believers?
Circumstances for the Sacrifice of Faith. The sacrifice of faith can be offered at any time and in any place. As long as the believer is spiritual, there is no limitation for properly directing faith. A spiritual believer can offer the sacrifice many times in a single day. Faith can be directed when life is easy or when life is rough. Often faith is put to the test in the most difficult times. Yet the simple directing of faith to God because of a truth newly learned from the Word of God is as much a sacrifice as faith directed under the greatest duress. When a Christian walks down the street directing faith toward the Lord because of his love, it is as much a sacrifice as for a believer who directs his faith for the same reason from a communist dungeon in Castro's Cuba. It is interesting that Scripture does not emphasize the directing of faith when the believer's life is running smoothly but emphasizes it when pressure comes. Paul describes his giving of the sacrifice in times of afflictions, distress, persecution and trials.
Paul had suffered a great deal of affliction; even then the Thessalonian believers remained a primary object for his concern. He was concerned about their faith and its continuation. He had seen it evidenced in them soon after they were saved. He had heard of it long after he was driven from Thessalonica, but he had not heard for a period of time. As he thought of the saints, he was afraid that Satan had tempted them so that the principles of proper Christian living were no longer being practiced (1 Thess. 3:5). As a result, he sent Timothy to ascertain their spiritual condition. Timothy returned reporting that the Thessalonians were still directing their faith and love in a proper way (1 Thess. 3:6). Their faith encouraged Paul in his distress and affliction. Others can have faith for the believer as well as the believer himself when he is in frustrating circumstances and under pressure (1 Thess. 3:7). Frustrating circumstances do not need to bring frustration. Calamity need not bring collapse. Pressure is not to produce panic. When the sacrifice of faith is offered in the situation, the believer can be confident in the Word of God that God will accomplish His will to perfection for the benefit of the believer. He leaves all the pressure and distress in the hands of God and confidently goes on his way rejoicing in his God. The Thessalonians themselves suffered a great deal.
"So that we ourselves boast in the churches of God for your patient endurance and faith in all your persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring (2 Thess. 1:4)." As the Jews pursued Paul in Thessalonica, they also began to persecute the Christians in the city. Believers were living under great pressure but were directing their faith toward God in spite of it. As has already been seen, the Thessalonians did direct their faith for others. They were not watching from the sideline rooting the afflicted on. They were actual participants in the same kind of pressure and persecution. Because of the difficulties they faced, their faith did not weaken. As they learned how to direct faith, it became stronger through practice (2 Thess. 1:3). Paul reminded them that God had accounted them to be worthy of the kingdom of God and therefore they would suffer. The afflicted saints were reminded that the Lord would avenge the unbeliever's activities at the day of future judgment (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Faith in the certainty of judgment of the unsaved persecutors provided relief from the distress of affliction. In the greatest trials, the Thessalonians learned how to direct faith.
Communication and the Sacrifice of Faith. It should go without saying that when the believer communicates with his Heavenly Father, he should be directing his faith toward God. Each of the eight kinds of communication in the New Testament involves some directing of faith. Intercession focuses faith toward God for His providing specific needs for other believers. Supplication directs faith toward God in His provision of help and willingly accepts the results. Praise, thanksgiving and worship all direct faith toward God by believing that He will accept the communication and count it acceptable. Confession believes God will forgive and keep on cleansing from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). Two other forms of communication are tied to faith in the New Testament: asking for oneself and a vow.
"But since it is a fact that any one of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask for himself from God, the one Who is giving to all men bountifully and not censuring, and it will be given to him (Jas. 1:5)." The verb "ask," (aiteo), is primarily found in the middle voice meaning the individual is doing something for himself [i.e. reflexive]. Hence, this type of communication is limited to the believer for himself and is not made for others [intercession and supplication meet that need]. In the dispensation of grace, there is a new procedure for asking, "Up to this point you have asked nothing in My name ... (Jn. 16:24)." Because of the familiarity of the disciples with Christ, they had always asked Him things as His equals, (erotao) (cf. 16:23 Gk.). Now they ask for themselves as lesser ones to a greater One. Grace believers are now able to ask in Jesus' name [i.e. His character and Person] and Christ will do the thing asked (Jn. 14:13, 14). This is in conformity to Christ's desirous will (1 Jn. 5:14, 15). In other words, when a believer asks for himself in Jesus' name, he will know that he will receive the thing asked for before he actually asks. In this communication, there is always a known factor so the communication is made for a specific thing. In James 1:6, it is clear that the asking is built upon the proper direction of faith, "Let him ask by faith, while doubting nothing ..." Before a man can have wisdom, he must have knowledge and understanding. God gives wisdom because of the asking. Only God freely gives it to the one who asks and who already possesses knowledge and understanding that can be put to use by the wisdom given. The sacrifice of faith is directed to the fact that God promised to give wisdom to the spiritual believer who asks for the wisdom. All asking of this sort is built on the offering of the sacrifice of faith.
One of the most rarely used forms of communication available to the grace believer is the vow. In Acts 21:23, (euche) is translated "vow" while in James 5:15, it is translated "prayer" in the Authorized Version. In James five, there are two different men who have two different illnesses in verses 14 and 15. In verse 14, the word "sick" is (astheneo) which means a physical illness that produces a weakness of body. James suggests that the elders of the church be summoned, pray a prayer of worship and administer medication to the ill believer. Olive oil was a very common medication that was used in the biblical era to provide a measure of relief to the one who was suffering. The topical application of the oil was accompanied with worship communication in the name of the Lord. There is no indication that this first man would or would not be healed as a result.
The second man has an entirely different type of illness. It is a mentally induced illness, a psychosomatic illness. As a result of sin, this man made himself sick. He had neglected dealing with the sin and so had not settled the issue with God or man. Evidently, he had wronged another believer. He may have made a public vow that he would make it right but had not kept the vow or he may have needed to make the vow and act upon it in order to be healed. An accurate translation will clarify the meaning of the verse, "And the vow from faith will save the one who has a psychologically induced illness, and the Lord will raise him; and if it should be that he is one who has done sins, it will be forgiven him (Jas. 5:15)." This vow is very different than the vows and oaths that were made under the Law. There was no flexibility permitted under Law. When the oath was made, there was an absolute commitment made to perform the thing promised. A New Testament vow is a commitment with limited conditions. The Holy Spirit leads the believer to make the vow. If the Spirit makes it possible for the believer to perform the promise, then he keeps the promise. Such a vow exhibits a strong desire on the part of the believer to accomplish it, but it is not an absolutely binding commitment. The vow comes from faith. The man may have confessed the sin to God but had not settled the problem with the offended man. Faith motivates him either to make or keep the vow. As he directs faith toward the situation, he is encouraged, as God permits, to have a better mental attitude resulting in his healing. He has faith that he will make things right with the brother against whom he has sinned. At least he would make things right if the opportunity were available. As a result, James encourages the whole group of believers [indicated by the plurals] to settle sins between one another so they would not suffer the same kind of illness. "Therefore confess for your own benefit to one another the sins, and pray a prayer of worship on behalf of one another, so that you may be healed. A very strong supplication of a righteous man is very effective (Jas. 1:16)."
When an individual has sinned against another believer, he can make a vow springing from faith expecting to make it right with the individual. This assumes that he has made it right with God, since he does have faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. That faith can then be directed through the vow. He believes that God will make it possible to rectify the wrong that was committed against the brother. With this offering of the sacrifice of faith, God is Pleased because the results produce unity among the saints and healing for the man who has the psychosomatic illness. As a result of the healing, the man is able to effectively serve God.
Consequences of the Sacrifice of Faith to the Believer. When the Christian offers the sacrifice of faith, it has a direct influence upon his own life. The man in James five received healing for himself through the vow from faith. Faith motivated him to correct the problems that had resulted from his sin. Already several consequences have been considered, but there are several others that need to be considered at this point. The sacrifice of faith should always produce positive results in the life of the believer. By faith, the believer possesses the righteousness of God and patience and performs good works. As a result of faith, there is a potential for Christ to settle down and feel at home in the life of the Christian.
In Christ, the believer possesses the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Cor. 1:30). In Philippians 3:9, Paul distinguishes between two types of righteousness: one of the Law and one through faith. "And be found in Him [Christ] not possessing my righteousness, the one that is out of law, but the one through faith in Christ [objective genitive] the righteousness of God founded upon faith." Under Law, there was a righteousness based upon personal merit that was available by the careful keeping of the Law. As a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the believer possesses a quality of the righteousness of God. By directing faith to God, he is able to appropriate the righteousness that is his in Christ. Paul's goal in life was to be so involved with his position in Christ that he would actually exhibit the righteousness of God rather than his own righteousness. Having that righteousness, he wanted to experientially know Christ and to know the inherent power of the resurrection life available in Christ. He desired to be so close to Christ and other believers that he could feel their sufferings living a life in conformity with Christ in His death (Phil. 3:10). Paul's past life as a Jew had produced its own righteousness that had given him a righteous reputation among his fellow Jews. He was a professional Law keeper who had great zeal focused upon demonstrating that righteousness (Phil. 3:4-6). He knew the Law. Because of his salvation, he rejected the righteousness that was established in the Law for the righteousness he had received in Christ. He preferred to direct his faith toward God rather than to continue to attempt to please God by his own personal effort. He had learned the importance of who he was in Christ. He was not tired of keeping the Law, because the religious works of the flesh have an uncanny energy to do things that might please God. He simply saw himself as one who was in Christ Jesus fulfilling the Law. God the Father saw him as righteous, and he desired to make that righteousness his own in his personal life. As a result of his reveling in the righteousness graciously given to him in Christ, he could gain an experiential knowledge of Christ and His sufferings. He could practice his position as one who has been crucified together with Christ. Faith is essential for the believer's enjoyment of his relationship in Christ. God says that the believer is righteous in Christ having given him that righteousness by imputation. Righteousness is a possession of the believer. The believer must direct his faith in the sacrifice of faith and appropriate the provisions of God for himself. As a consequence, one of the results is the potential to utilize the possession of the righteousness that he has in Christ should he happen to direct faith in that direction.
When faith is put to the test and meets the test, it works out a patient endurance (Jas. 1:3). When temptations come into the life of the believer, he has the opportunity to direct his faith in providing a proper defense against the source of the temptation. Faith plays an active role in enduring temptation (Jas. 1:12). When the believer permits lust to become temptation (Jas. 1:14), his faith is put to the test. When he resists the temptation, faith produces a patient endurance. Such patient endurance should ultimately be relying on God so nothing is lacking (Jas. 1:4).
Faith Produces Activity. When faith is directed in many situations, it will produce activity or work. "Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead being measured by itself ["alone" -- A.V] (Jas. 2:17)." In Thessalonica, the believers had learned how to direct three parts of the fruit of the Spirit correctly (1 Thess. 1:3). "Remembering your work from faith, and your labor from love, and your patience from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ before our God and Father." Work found its source in their faith. By faith, they acted confidently in the will of God that was done in the work that was accomplished. Paul was concerned that their work of faith needed to be done in power. "Into which also we are worshipping for ourselves always concerning you, in order that our God may consider you worthy of the calling, and may be filling every good opinion of goodness and work from faith in power (2 Thess. 1:11)." The work that springs from faith must have a measure of inherent Divine power. As a result, the power strengthens the faith that is manifested in the work so that the character of Jesus Christ might be glorified in the believer and in the believer's position in Christ (2 Thess. 1:12). Many times when the sacrifice of faith is offered, it will produce a work in the believer's life.
This same strength is necessary as a contributing factor for Christian growth Eph. 3:16). As the believer matures and learns to direct his faith properly, it is possible that, as a result, Christ will settle down and feel at home ["dwell"] in the life of the believer. "That Christ may settle down and feel at home through the agency of faith in your hearts, in love while being rooted and being founded (Eph. 3:17)." It is true that at the moment of salvation Christ indwells the believer. As the Christian matures, Christ can settle down and feel at home in the heart of the believer. As God's thoughts are revealed in Scripture, they become a part of the believer's thoughts. Christ is more and more at home in the life of the Christian. When a person enters another person's home, he may not feel at ease. He is unfamiliar with his surroundings and uncertain of the homeowners attitude toward his being in the home. After a period of time and many visits, he should feel more at ease. When he kicks off his shoes and sits back to read the newspaper with a cup of coffee, one must conclude that he has made himself at home. Even so Christ should feel at ease in the life of the Christian.
Such a relationship is only possible if the believer matures by learning to direct his faith properly. Without a proper directing of faith, such a relationship is impossible. Hence, the believer must possess faith [i.e. be spiritual] and know how to direct it in order for Christ to feel at home in his heart. This is one of the most important results of offering the sacrifice of faith. A consistent offering of the sacrifice concerning one's position and possessions in Christ provides a basis for the comfortable relationship that Christ can have in the life of the Christian. Because of this, the believer can fully experientially know the love of Christ in his life and be filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). Each of these consequences can be added to the consequences already discussed and form some magnificent benefits from offering the sacrifice of faith.
Since the essential revelation available to the Christian is in the written Word of God, it is only logical that faith should be directed toward the Scriptures. Scripture itself expects faith to be directed in this way. The Christian believes God so he believes His Word. All Scripture was written for the grace believer's faith though only those passages addressed specifically to him are for his faith and practice. A divergence of interpretation and application shakes faith in the true meaning of the Word of God at its roots. Many of the systems of Bible interpretation that are taught rely on human conclusions rather than seeking to determine what the Divine intention of Scripture really is. If a passage of Scripture has a single meaning, it must have only one application. Application has become an excuse for simple allegory - the reading into Scripture of what is not there. With a careful, literal interpretation and with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Christian can have the confidence that as he directs his faith toward the Word of God, he has a reliable object for his faith. When faith is directed toward Scripture, it involves every area of biblical teaching and should not be limited to Christian life material. Paul very clearly identifies several areas of Bible doctrine that are to be objects of the believer's faith. Several of these areas are evident in First Timothy and Titus. Paul expected Timothy's ministry to be built on the Word of God.
Faith Directed to the Dispensation from God. Apparently, the Ephesians had forgotten how to use faith and love. Timothy was acting as interim pastor until the Ephesian church could find a qualified pastor. Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to instruct the Ephesian believers how to direct the fruit of the Spirit. Paul expected Timothy to charge certain individuals in the Ephesian church to stop teaching a different kind of doctrine. These persons were not "to mentally possess for themselves myths and unending genealogies that provide claims [that demand denials] rather than a dispensation from God, the one by faith; but the end of the charge is love from a clean heart and a good [or happy] conscience and a faith that is unhypocritical (1 Tim. 1:4, 5)." There was no reason for the Ephesians to pursue elements of Judaism in their practice, but their doctrine had degenerated to the point that they were tolerant of false doctrine and permitted it to be taught in the church. God wanted them to set aside the teaching Of the old dispensation and accept it only as doctrine to be believed but not practiced. Life in the new dispensation from God is governed by faith. Because the Authorized Version translated "dispensation from God" as "godly edifying," there is a confusion of the true distinctiveness of the passage.
Grace believers should behave like grace believers. By faith, the reality of the unique provisions that accrue to the believer is realized in the believer's life. A grace believer's faith is not based on false doctrine, myths or genealogies or else it becomes a hypocritical faith. Grace provisions for Christian living are not to be counterfeited. Some Christians believe that they can behave as though they really possess faith even though the Spirit of God is not producing His fruit in their lives. They make their own standards that provide the basis for showing that they have faith. The religious works of the flesh have appetites that find satisfaction in standards that they set for themselves or that are established by some other human being. One of the results is that the individuals in the church see a false standard for faith. There is no chapter and verse to prove that their standard is from the Lord. The believer has a false security concerning his faith, thinking that because he meets his own standards he is spiritual. Unfortunately, many Christians have played this game in churches for many years. Some prefer the standards set by contemporary literature instead of the gracious standards for faith in Scripture. One must never suggest that they might be carnal, because they are absolutely confident that they have met the standards for spirituality. Some of these individuals have gone so far as to deny that there is such a thing as a sin nature. Sins become slips or mistakes without any real internal origin. "Faith" ultimately is directed by the human will in a humanly established system at a particular circumstance. Faith, that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, becomes a part of doctrinal trivia in their thinking. Grace principles are replaced by human principles. Such a system of doctrine prevents the believer from offering the sacrifice of faith. God saved the believer by grace through faith. He is sustained by grace and builds on his Christian growth by grace. He is to be directing Spirit-produced faith toward the body of doctrine that provides information for living in the new dispensation. A hypocritical faith can be directed in any direction without having a true basis in hope. The believer's growth is absolutely dependent on his learning to direct this part of the fruit of the Spirit toward doctrine to be believed and practiced.
There are some believers who believe that prophecy is unimportant and is only a secondary object of their faith. Because all of the teaching of the Bible is interdependent, it is clear that no part is more or less important than any other. A proper balance is necessary for all study of Scripture. Paul told Timothy to direct his faith at key areas of biblical prophecy. "This is the charge I am committing to you, child Timothy, according to the prophecies that were preceding [or led before] upon you, in order that you might war by them the obviously good warfare, possessing faith and a good [or happy] conscience, that some cast off concerning the faith have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan in order that they might be child trained not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:18-20)." Because of the teaching of the Word of God concerning certain prophetic subjects, Timothy is encouraged to focus his attitude of faith on what Scripture actually taught as well as that which Paul had taught him. Paul used Hymenaeus and Alexander as examples of what could happen if faith was not directed to the Word of God. It is not clear in First Timothy what problems these two men had with prophecy, but Second Timothy gives adequate information to establish what their prophetic problem was. They believed that the resurrection had already come, and as a result, had completely overturned the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:17, 18). Such a resurrection would have been a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection in their theology. A shovel, a lot of digging and open graves would have disproved their teaching. The bones of departed saints provide an instant refutation that this could be a spiritual resurrection. They evidently believed that a spiritual resurrection had already taken place and that there would be a general physical resurrection in the future. Scripture clearly teaches that there are at least three resurrections in First Corinthians 15:23, 24 alone. As a result of the error in doctrine, the faith of some crashed.
When the fruit of the Spirit is directed toward an improper object, it can produce negative results in the believer's life. Faith directed toward false doctrine brings devastation to the Christian life. As a result, the body of doctrine identified as the faith is ruined for the believer. False doctrine will ultimately prevent the believer from leading a spiritual life. He loses confidence in the literal Word of God and is no longer able to defend himself against his spiritual enemies. Errors in prophecy can bring about total defeat in the spiritual life. Pure and accurate doctrine in every area of Christian belief is the basis for consistent Christian living. If God put a detail of eschatology in His Word, it is significant and important for every believer's consideration. Paul identifies prophetic error as blasphemy by which Hymenaeus and Alexander attempted to commit God to something to which He had not committed Himself. In their case, the testimony of occupied graves subjected their theology to question and proved that their interpretation was not literal. Every Christian's faith should be directed toward the Word of God in the area of prophecy. A normal, literal interpretation of Scripture is essential to see what God intended in His Word.
"Possess a pattern of healthy words that you heard alongside me in faith and love in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:13)." Paul encouraged Timothy to possess certain words that he had communicated to him. Paul was concerned about healthy words and doctrine when he wrote to both Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had encouraged Timothy concerning a healthy doctrine to be believed, but not practiced (1 Tim. 1:10). Healthy words included the words of Jesus Christ and doctrine to be believed but not practiced (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 4:3). Paul expected a balance in healthy doctrine when he used the two words for doctrine in Titus 1:9. "While strongly possessing the faithful Word according to doctrine to be believed and practiced (didache), in order that he may be strong both to exhibit by healthy doctrine to be believed but not practiced (didaskalia), and to convince the ones opposing themselves (Tit. 1:9)." Most English translations completely ignore the first word for doctrine, (didache), and consider the two terms for doctrine synonyms. No parallelism of definition was intended. Instead, two distinct areas are emphasized in different ways. Healthy words deal with much more than doctrine for Christian living, but also include doctrine that cannot be practiced by the Christian. Healthy words also include the faith (Tit. 1:13) that tells the believer how to defeat his spiritual enemies and how to live victorious in his present tense salvation. As all the healthy words were assembled in Timothy's mind, a pattern that could be followed would result. Careful discernment was necessary when the Word was studied so that there would be no confusion. Paul understood the importance of knowing how to direct his faith toward healthy words. He was absolutely confident that his God would keep him and what he had deposited until that day (2 Tim. 1:12). He knew the value of dogmatic persuasion concerning the specific truth of the Word of God. He encouraged Timothy to have a healthy doctrine to be believed but not practiced along with the doctrine to be practiced. He could direct his faith to the whole Word of God unswervingly. As he studied and as he remembered the Word of God, he was offering the sacrifice of faith as he directed faith toward the Word. Since Scripture is the basis for all the believer's hope, it is inherently designed to be the object of the believer's attitude of faith. It almost seems automatic for the believer to read his Bible by faith. But only as he appropriates what is there for him by faith does it become an acceptable sacrifice to God. Scripture gives some general principles for directing faith.
There are some clear principles that relate to the directing of faith. When the believer thinks of faith, he should be thinking in terms of these principles that govern the way faith is handled. If the man, who says, "I will never have more faith than I do now," would understand the principles of Scripture, he would change his statement. Some believers challenge God with their faith. They say, "God, look at my great faith and give me my desires." Some missionaries advertise their faith in meetings saying, "God rewarded our faith by saving hundreds of souls." Others silently believe God and accept His provision from His gracious hand. When the unbeliever sees a Christian's faith, he refuses to acknowledge its validity. As a result, he ridicules the believer for his faith while living his own life built on his personal faith in himself and the world system. When the believer offers the sacrifice of faith, others may see it as the results come to the believer, but generally true faith is not advertised.
Keep It to Yourself. When a believer has faith, he is not to make a public spectacle of it. Scripture says that he is to keep it to himself. "The faith that you have, have it by yourself before God. Blessed [or happy] is the one not judging himself in what he is approving; but the one that is doubting if he eats, he stands condemned, because he eats not out of faith: all that is not out of faith is sin (Rom. 14:22, 23)." The believer and his God share faith. He may be directing his faith for other believers, but there is no need to tell them that is what he is doing. Much of the faith that is advertised is simply presumption. In the context, there are questions concerning what a believer eats and whether he will stumble a weaker brother. One who has faith can eat anything that is not harmful to his body. He will not falter whether it is flesh or wine (14:21). If a brother might be stumbled, he should direct love toward him (14:15) and forgo the eating and drinking. Faith tells him that it is all right to eat pork and when he eats, he is satisfied and enjoys the meal. A brother who doubts, not having faith, eats and because of his doubting, sins in his eating. The objective of the believer should be to bear the weakness of the ones who are not strong rather than to please themselves (Rom. 15:1). When the believer directs his faith, he should consider it to be a normal part of his Christian life as he is maturing. A child will announce his accomplishment when he first rides a bicycle. After he has learned, it becomes a normal part of his life. The same is true for the Christian. The first few times he learns to direct the fruit, he wants to share it with other believers. After a number of sacrifices are given, he keeps it to himself and enjoys it with his Heavenly Father. Giving the sacrifice never gets old; it simply becomes more personal and precious as the believer learns to relate to his God.
The Believer Should Be Walking by Faith. in every aspect of life, the believer should be walking by faith. Every detail of his life should be ordered by faith. "For we are ordering every detail of life [or walking] through faith, not through sight (2 Cor. 5:7)." With faith as the agent, the believer should be organizing and planning his life in the will of God. In adversity or in prosperity, the life of the believer should be governed by faith. Whether there are great decisions or small decisions to be made, faith should be incorporated in every aspect of the process. There is a special kind of confidence that results. If God should choose to leave the believer on this earth, he is away from his heavenly home (5:6). If God should choose to take him home, he is present with the Lord with faith dictating every aspect (5:7). Every believer should have the basic ambition of seeking to please the Lord in any existing circumstance.
God sought faith as a basis for His pleasure from the very beginning of mankind. "But without faith, it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6)." If a grace believer desires to please God, he should be walking by faith. He is clothed in the righteousness of Christ and has been declared righteous by his saving faith. "The just [or righteous] will live out of faith (Rom. 1:17)." Martin Luther built his concept of justification by faith on this verse interpreting it as a reference to saving faith. Justification by faith is clearly taught in Romans 3:26-32; 4:5 and 5:1, but the individual in Romans 1:17 is already saved -- he is identified as a justified, just or righteous one. Every believer should be living out of, (ek), faith. Paul used the preposition ek [out of] to describe the mode of living. Faith must exist in the believer in order for him to live out that faith. He cannot have faith unless the fruit of the Spirit is produced in his life. In other words, it is impossible for a believer who is not spiritual to have a faith life. He does not possess the attitude of faith that God provides in the fruit. When the believer possesses the fruit of the Spirit, the parts of the fruit can work together to produce a result that brings God the most glory.
Faith Is Energized by Love. As has already been mentioned, faith and love are directed together more than any of the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit. In nearly twenty passages, they are seen working together (cf. Eph. 6:23; Col. 1:4; 1 Thess. 5:8; Philemon 5; 1 Pe. 1:5-8; Rev. 2:19). Just how the two work together is unclear until one carefully studies Galatians 5:5, 6. "For we by the Spirit eagerly await by faith the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision, but faith being energized through love." When love is directed toward God [whether for oneself or other human beings], it energizes faith. A believer sees a brother suffering a painful disease and directs love toward the brother concerning his need for relief and healing. His faith will produce a confidence that God will do what is best for the person loved. Faith stabilizes the love that might otherwise turn to pity or despair. Love sees the needs of another person and works in the mind of the believer to believe that God will meet the need. When a Christian has a need in his own life, his love for God or for other believers can trigger his faith so that he is trusting God for his own needs.
As the believer learns to direct love toward God the Father, his faith is energized because he comprehends the true character of his God and so has a complete faith in Him. Religious ritualism will never produce faith, but builds presumption. In Christ, religious ritual is of no consequence. Faith is of central importance in Christ. The relationship a believer shares in Christ involves other believers and Christ. The most natural way to direct the fruit of the Spirit is to direct love toward other believers and Christ as Head. In the early church, they had a love reputation before they had a faith reputation. Love is the first part of the fruit of the Spirit that a new believer learns to direct. When love is directed, it works [or produces] faith. Two examples will help illustrate how this works. A young woman comes to Christ through the witness of a fellow employee in the office. As she grows in the Lord, she directs her love toward the other believer who shared the Gospel with her. The other Christian lady is inconsistent in her Christian life and permits pressures of the office to make her angry or to fill her with despair. In love, the new believer tries to encourage her but she persists in her anger and despair. Nothing the new believer can do will help. As a result, she directs her faith toward God for the lady trusting Him to meet the need either by giving her wisdom or by bringing another believer along to encourage the angry saint. Love has energized faith. When a Christian has unsaved relatives, love often energizes his faith. Before he was saved, he had a family affection and human love for the members of his family. After salvation, he desires that his family have the same salvation he has. He directs the fruit of the Spirit toward them with love seeking the very best for them. When he shares his new found faith in Christ with them, they reject the Gospel of Christ and ridicule his "getting religion." Love is other-centered and seeks the best for its object, but the object has refused what is offered in love. Instead of being discouraged, love energizes the believer's faith that in turn believes that his family members could be saved by God just as the new Christian himself has been saved. These are simple illustrations relating to new believers. As the believer matures, he will find faith and love accompany one another in many of the circumstances of life. When the grace believer offers the sacrifice of faith, it will normally have love as its energizer. With an attitude of faith directed toward God, the Christian should have an absolute confidence that God will accomplish the very best thing in the circumstance.
Faith Should Stand in the Power of God. Saving faith has as its foundation the power of God. The attitude of faith also has its basis in God's omnipotence. Believers often trust God's ability to perform certain tasks that need to be accomplished. "In order that your faith may not happen to be in the wisdom of men but in the inherent power of God (1 Cor. 2:5)." Someone has said that faith is only as good as its object. If the wisdom of man is the object of faith, it will always fail. Many believers have lost fortunes because they have had faith in the wisdom of men. Even spiritual believers have misdirected their faith with harmful results. If the believer is misdirecting the fruit of the Spirit in the realm of love toward the world system and things in it, he could easily have his faith energized by that love and direct that faith toward it believing that he would receive the thing he loves. For example, if he loves the latest model sports car with his agape love as a spiritual believer he might misdirect faith believing that he will see it parked in his own driveway. When John tells the believer to stop loving the world system (1 Jn. 2:15), he might add in some cases that it is necessary to stop directing faith toward the world system. Because God has the attribute of omnipotence, the believer has confidence in the right object for directing his faith. Christians should never be reluctant to see their God as He is and to direct their faith toward Him because of their love for Him. Without the sufficiency of God's character, faith has no ground on which to stand. The hope that is the very basis for faith has no basis and is invalid without the character of God.
Faith Can Grow. If the Holy Spirit produces faith, how can it grow? Scripture teaches that faith can grow. "We are obligated to be giving thanks to God always concerning you, brothers, as it is suitable, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of each one of you all toward one another (2 Thess. 1:3)." Paul places emphasis on the unusual growth of the faith of the Thessalonian believers. The verb has the idea of a growth or increase over and above that which could be considered normal. Paul had not expected their faith to grow to this extent. It appears that the more difficult their circumstance was the greater their faith was. The Holy Spirit produces the same faith, but as the believer learns to direct it, a greater measure of the same faith is made available for directing. It grows in strength as well as amount as the saint learns to direct it. This strength is only seen in the believer's ability to direct it properly. Faith should be growing and should be a vital aspect of the fruit of the Spirit as it is directed. The Spirit provides a measure of faith so the Christian can effectively use his spiritual gift. That faith must be properly directed for the gift to be functioning at its best. The sacrifice of faith will have an improved quality as the believer's faith grows. Faith accurately directed at a proper object is a sacrifice that brings pleasure to God.
Faith Is Not to Be Hypocritical. First Timothy 1:4, 5 tells the believer that his faith is not to be hypocritical. In early Greece, stage actors were identified as hypocrites. They put on an appearance of something that, in reality, they were not. They played a role that was not reflective of the reality in their lives. Even so faith should not be misrepresented in the life of the Christian. He can say that he has faith when in reality he does not have faith. He can say, "I offered the sacrifice of faith for this need in my life." In reality no sacrifice was offered at all. He either acted in presumption or was simply saying that he had done something in order to impress other believers.
Faith Is Evidenced in Works. Scripture is very clear in its teaching that works make absolutely no contribution to salvation. Salvation is by grace and grace alone. Immediately some, who are working for salvation, say, "Doesn't Scripture say, 'Faith without works is dead'." Human nature naturally believes that it can please God by its works. "Christianity" includes many groups who are working for their salvation in some way. Some believe that one must work to obtain salvation and continue to work to retain it. They are uncertain as to whether they have done enough to please God and wait until the future for certainty of salvation. Others are working to receive their future salvation and its benefits because of their works. There are yet others who believe that they were saved by grace and are working to keep this salvation fearing that they might lose it by some unrighteous activity.
Any person who is truly saved is saved by God by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9). Faith is not a work. "But to the one who is working the reward [or wage] is not counted [or reckoned] according to grace but according to debt; but the one who is not working, but is believing [i.e. exercising faith] upon the one who is justifying the ungodly man his faith is counted [or reckoned] for righteousness (Rom. 4:4, 5)." Where work replaces faith, faith is invalidated. Faith will produce works as a proof of its own validity. The central theme of James two is not "Faith without works is dead," but "I will show you my faith by my works (Jas. 2:18b)." Faith will produce works. James understood that if works preceded faith, there was no salvation. When faith precedes works, it should produce works. Any human being can do works in an attempt to please God, but God rejects those works. When the believer has the attitude of faith, it will naturally produce works. "I will show you my faith by my works." A man may say that he has faith, but in reality he does not really possess the faith he professes to have. "What is the profit, my brothers, if anyone says he has faith but does not happen to have works? Does not the previously mentioned faith have the ability to save him (Jas. 2:14)?" Faith should automatically produce works or it is totally separated from the faith that God graciously gives. "So even if the faith does not happen to have works, it is dead by itself (Jas. 2:17)."
Abraham proved his faith by his works. It was obvious that Abraham was a believer when he offered Isaac. God had counted his faith as righteousness, but no other person knew that Abraham was justified before God until he produced a work that proved his relationship to God. The sacrifice of Isaac proved that the faith of Abraham was true faith to anyone who observed. He proved his faith to men by his work. God already knew the reality of his faith toward God. It is only natural that faith should produce works (Jas. 2:21-24).
When the sacrifice of faith is offered, the only way any human can see it is by the works that the faith produces. Since God expects the believer to keep his faith to himself, his works proclaim the fact that he is offering the sacrifice. When the Philippians offered the sacrifice of faith for Paul, they also offered the sacrifice of giving. They gave to meet Paul's needs because of their love and faith. Love had produced a concern that had led them to believe God and to move to assist in meeting Paul's needs. As they directed the appropriate parts of the fruit of the Spirit, they were in tune with their own personal involvement with God's provisions. They were only able to assist him by sendinq things though they were unable to meet other needs personally. When the sacrifice is given, the believer may be motivated to assist in a portion of the provision or he may not have the opportunity to do so. He is confident that God will use other believers or meet the need directly. As a result of the believer's directing his faith in the sacrifice, he will have a greater sensitivity to the will of God in his life. As he is relying on God for himself and others, he will have a growing and vital faith.
The believer directs the sacrifice of faith toward God for himself or for others. It involves the directing of the attitude of faith that is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in specific instances. Love energizes the faith so that it can expect God's provision. The sacrifice does not need to be limited to major aspects of life but can be given for the little things of life. Every facet of the Christian life provides opportunities for directing faith. Christians need to recognize the importance of being spiritual and learning how to direct various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in a proper way. Without this knowledge, it is impossible for the Christian to offer the sacrifice of faith for himself or anyone else. One can only imagine the blessings that a local church would be sharing if a majority of its members were spiritual and consistently offering the sacrifice of faith for themselves and one another.
What a privilege it is for sinners saved by grace to be given the privilege of offering sacrifices as believer-priests. Each of the six sacrifices identified in Scripture has a consequential role in each Christian's life. The only requirement in addition to salvation is that the believer is to be spiritual. The church today has generally been ignorant concerning the sacrifices. Carnality dominates the church to such a degree that sacrifices by grace believers are rare rather than being the normal thing to do. Some Christians react to the teaching of the priesthood of the believer negatively because they fear the accountability and responsibility that will result from the knowledge they gain. They are lazy and do not want to be moved from their complacency. They are much too civilized to offer sacrifices. All of the sacrifices are of a spiritual nature and are not barbaric in any sense.
In some churches, people expect the pastor to offer spiritual sacrifices while they consider themselves incapable of personal involvement. What a shame it is for Christians to expect their pastor to be the only spiritual person in the congregation. A church that truly glorifies God has many of its members giving sacrifices consistently. It is true that many pastors must be blamed for the absence of sacrifices by God's people. They have neither preached nor taught the local church concerning the privilege of sacrifices. They tell the people "how to" do all kinds of extrabiblical, psychological activities so they can have a happy personal or family life and disregard the New Testament "how to" for offering sacrifices as believer-priests. Every Christian needs to know all the details of the sacrifices, so that he can at least have the potential for offering sacrifices as a spiritual believer. If front row seats or the first base line for the World Series were provided for a person, he could not use them unless he knew that they had been provided for him. He would need to know how to use the tickets in order to enjoy the game from its first pitch to the last out. If the seats were provided for him and because of his ignorance sat vacant, it would be of no value to him. The same is true of the believer who is ignorant of the privilege of sacrifice and does not know how to offer the sacrifices. He misses the blessing that God has provided for him. There are too many vacant seats for the sacrifices in churches today. When the potential is available to offer sacrifices that are far more acceptable than the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament and believers are not practicing God's provision, it is a shameful state of affairs. "Let us offer the sacrifice of faith."
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The sacrifices of the believer-priest have great value to God. Inherent in each of the sacrifices is a special value to the recipient of the sacrifice and its giver. The believer himself is satisfied and filled with appreciation for he has enjoyed a privilege that God has graciously given him. As he learns of the limitations that were placed on believers in the past, he appreciates his privilege far more, Even though the sacrifice is offered to God, other human beings may benefit. When the believer offers the sacrifice of doing good, someone else benefits. When he shares in fellowship with other saints, they benefit together. As the Christian offers the sacrifice of giving, the church benefits and shares with other believers. When a believer directs his faith for another believer, they both benefit. The sacrifice is offered to God and must be of some value to Him for it to be worthwhile and valid. The value of the sacrifice is seen in the way God responds to the sacrifices, Scripture uses several terms to describe how a proper sacrifice will affect God. The sacrifices are acceptable to God, an odor of sweet smell, a priestly service that is logical and well pleasing. All of these terms describe God's involvement in accepting and appreciating the sacrifice of the believer-priest. Sacrifices have a definite value to God and so provide incentive for the believer to be offering them.
A compound form of dektos, (euprosdektos) is used to describe the great and expansive acceptability of the sacrifices. The word directs attention to the feeling with which God receives them by adding the eu prefix meaning "good." When the preposition pros is added, it focuses attention on the direction of the pleasure in accepting the sacrifice since it basically means "toward." Hence, it has the idea of favorable good feeling that is directed toward the sacrifice that is given, making it acceptable. Peter uses this one word to describe the value of all of the sacrifices offered by the believer-priest. They are "acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pe. 2:5)." God the Father directs attention toward the sacrifice that is freely given and feels good about accepting it. It is acceptable because of the high priestly ministry of Christ. God the Father sees the believer in Christ and looks on the sacrifice just as though Christ Himself was offering the sacrifice. He counts the sacrifice to have been given by the believer from His Own right hand rather than from earth. For many believers, it is very difficult to imagine or to understand imputation of any sort. This imputation concerning the sacrifices of the believer-priest is easier to understand than some of the other aspects of imputation. When a believer offers a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ, God the Father counts it to be a sacrifice. Even though God the Father has His residency in the third heaven, He counts the sacrifice to be worthy of His acceptance. He sees the offerer in Christ and reckons the spiritual sacrifice to have true value. He responds with pleasure in acceptance. it is implicit in the use of the term that God looks on the sacrifices with favor as He accepts the offering. Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was acceptable to God in the same way (Rom. 15:16).
Human beings can receive things this way. Romans 15:31, 32 provides a good example of how good acceptability should affect both the giver and the recipient. "In order that I may be delivered from the ones who are disobeying in Judea and that my service unto Jerusalem may become well acceptable to the saints, in order that while coming to you with joy, I may rest together with you through the desirous will of God." As Paul anticipated his ministry to the saints in Jerusalem, he expected a favorable response to his ministry. Undoubtedly, he knew that the things he would be bringing would be acceptable, or he wanted his service to be acceptable as well. He knew that there would be resistance to his coming from outside of the church. While the Jews despised Christians in general, a former Jewish leader who had defected to Christianity [even though it had happened some years before] was the focus of their hatred and active resistance. Paul expected persecution from the Jews. He was also an outsider to the church in Jerusalem. He spent his time moving about the whole Mediterranean region while headquartering in Antioch. Would the believers accept the charity that Paul had brought with him? Would the church accept his service to them? Each saint in Jerusalem had to make the decision as to whether Paul's ministry was acceptable or not. Paul's desire was that his service among the saints in Jerusalem would be just as effective as it had been in all the other churches. As a result of his being protected from the unbelieving Jews and the acceptance of his ministry, he could direct his joy to the Lord through the will of God. The Romans who communicated to the Father on Paul's behalf would also receive a benefit in that they would be refreshed with Paul because God answered their prayer. Generally, Christians were thrilled at the privilege of having Paul visit their churches and to have him minister to them. They accepted him and the various aspects of his service with open arms and without reluctance. In a similar way, God accepts the sacrifices of the believer-priest, if the sacrifices are offered in a proper way.
One of the most difficult things for the believer to grasp concerning the Old Testament sacrifices is the fact that God could consider the burning of flesh and blood to be a sweet smelling Savor. How could anyone find pleasure in the pungent, abhorrent odor produced from the burning of flesh? Frequently, in the Old Testament, the sweet odor or savor was the result of the burning of an animal or a meal sacrifice on an altar (Ex. 29:18, 25, 41; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9; 3:5, 16; 4:31; 6:15, 21; 8:28; Num. 15:3; etc.). Such offerings were burnt and pleasing to God. He was satisfied with the odor. In the Old Testament, the burnt offerings were not the only sweet savor offerings that were presented to God. The oblation of firstfruits was offered, but not burnt, and was accepted by God as an odor of sweet smell (Lev. 2:12). The very act of the sprinkling of blood along with the burning of flesh produced a sweet odor to God (Lev. 17:6). With the rebellion of Israel, Jehovah rejected their offerings. In the time of restoration, He will again accept their offerings as a sweet odor (Ezek. 20:41). The Old Testament concept of satisfaction with the sacrifices is carried across to the New Testament (cf. Ex. 29:18; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; Gen. 8:21).
The sacrifice of Christ produced an odor of sweet smell to God the Father. "And be ordering every detail of your life [walking] in love, as also Christ loved us [T.P.], and freely gave Himself on our behalf an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweet smell (Eph. 5:2)." Christ's death was a sacrifice and an offering. There was no fire involved. Simply, His death was a sweet aroma in both of its aspects. The sacrifices of the believer-priest produce the same kind of result as did the sacrifice and offering of Christ toward God the Father by producing a fragrant odor. A Christian can be a sweet savor to God the Father producing a fragrance of Christ. "Because we are a sweet odor of Christ to God in the ones who are being saved and in the ones who are perishing, to the one an odor of death unto death, to the other an odor of life unto life ... (2 Cor. 2:15, 16a)." Believers may produce a pleasant odor to God in their present tense salvation. Their aroma matches up with the living aroma of other believers while it is contrasted with the repulsive odor of death that exudes from the unbeliever toward God.
When the Christian offers the sacrifice of giving, it clearly is a fragrance of a sweet smell. God the Father accepts it and finds satisfaction with it, as He would enjoy the sweet fragrance of the finest of all perfumes. There are three ways that the sacrifices are sweet odors to God. First, it is sweet. As a result, it is pleasurable to God; He feels good. It is a fragrance especially designed to please His finest senses. It is a custom-made perfume that will never cease to bring pleasant responses to God. Secondly, it provides God satisfaction. God is absolutely satisfied with the sacrifice. The quality of the odor brings satisfaction to God. Third, it is sufficient. There is nothing a believer can do to make the sacrifices more or less pleasing. It cannot be improved. If it is truly a sacrifice, it will always have the same quality even though the quantity may vary. Some believers are spiritual more of the time than other believers so they have the opportunity to offer a greater number of sacrifices than the believer who is rarely spiritual. If a believer only offers one sacrifice in a year because he is carnal most of the time, his sacrifice produces the same sweet fragrance as the multiplied sacrifices of the maturing believer. Every sacrifice is a sweet odor. Could it be that each sacrifice has its own peculiar sweet fragrance to God? Scripture is silent as to whether there is any distinctive acceptability, but simply says that all sacrifices are acceptable to God. Every Christian should desire to be a perfume producer through his sacrifices.
In Romans 12:1, the sacrifice is described as a "reasonable service." Each of the sacrifices has its basis in sensible thought processes. Many of the activities that are sacrifices for the spiritual believer are simply a part of established religious ritual. The activity is simply the right and proper thing to do in order to be living up to a religious standard for remaining in good standing with a particular religious group or church. Others perform the activity from an emotional stimulation. If it produces a feeling that is good, one should perform the activity. There is nothing wrong with emotion in its proper place. Emotion, as a stimulus for activity, is unreliable. It does not consider the circumstances with any objectivity. Emotion should find its basis in the rationale. Reason should provide the stimulus for one's emotions. As has already been developed, this offering of sacrifice is a priestly service (latreia) that was often associated with temple service. It is the most logical thing a believer can do. When the believer carefully thinks through his relationship to God through his study of Scripture, he can only conclude that the offering of sacrifice is the logical thing to do. That is the reason a careful study of the sacrifices is so important. It makes sense to offer the sacrifices.
The word most often used to describe the sacrifices of the believer-priest is "well pleasing," (eurestos) (Heb. 13:16; Rom. 12:1; Phil. 4:18). It is a compound word that combines "good" (eu) and "pleasing" (arestos) to communicate the idea. The adjective is found ten times in the New Testament and is used of the sacrifices in Romans 12:1 and Philippians 4:18. It is found in the verbal form three times with Hebrews 13:16 referring to the sacrifice. An odor of sweet fragrance provides a kind of pleasure to God because the sacrifice is intrinsically considered sweet smelling. "Well-pleasing" extends this concept even further in that it not only provides satisfaction but indicates a very clear response in personal pleasure. This pleasure is one that makes the individual happy. There is a Divine exuberance when God receives the sacrifices of the believer. It is of little wonder that God is called a happy God. God's pleasure brings Him contentment. When the believer recognizes that his sacrifice meets up to God's standard for His own pleasure, he should not be reluctant to offer up the sacrifices. The sacrifices are not being offered to appease an angry God who should be feared. The only fear a grace believer should have is a fear that springs from love. He should be "scared to death" that he might be displeasing to the Lord. An Old Testament fear was a response to the prospect of suffering the penalties of the Mosaic Law. Because Scripture teaches that the sacrifices of the believer-priest please God, there is no reason for the believer not to be giving them if he really loves His God. Because he loves, he seeks to please.
Volumes have been written on how to please God. Scripture paints a compact picture filled with details showing how one can please God by establishing God's view of what will please Him. The sacrifice of the physical body is acceptable to God in that it is well pleasing ["acceptable"] to the desirous will of God. In the single sacrifice, the believer becomes involved with that which brings God personal pleasure. When the believer is not conformed to the legal age, but is transformed by the renewedness of his mind (Rom. 12:2), he is doing the well pleasing will of God. What better source than the Bible to describe what pleases God? When a believer abstains from eating certain foods for fear that he will destroy a brother, he is serving as a slave for the advantage of the Christ [Christ and the Body]. That is well pleasing to God and meets the test of men as well (Rom. 14:18). Every grace believer should have an ambition to be well pleasing to God whether in this life or in the next (Rom. 14:18). Believers are to be walking in the light as children of light putting to test what is well pleasing to God (Eph. 5:8-10). Christian children are well pleasing to the Lord when they obey their parents (Col. 3:20). In the Old Testament, Enoch was well pleasing to God and bore that testimony in his life until God bore him over [or "translated") death (Heb. 11:5). He possessed faith. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)." There are many other ways for a believer to please God in his spiritual life, but the sacrifices seem to dominate the things that actually bring pleasure to God. The following list of things that bring good pleasure to God illustrates the importance of the sacrifices.
1. Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice - Romans 12:1
2. Not to Be Conformed to the Legal Age - Romans 12:2
3. Be Transformed by the Renewedness of Your Mind - Romans 12:2
4. Be Careful of What You Eat So a Brother Will Not Stumble - Romans 14:18
5. Be Walking in the Light - Ephesians 5:8-10
6. Be Offering the Sacrifice of Giving - Philippians 4:18
7. Christian Children to Obey Their Parents - Colossians 3:20
8. Be Offering the Sacrifices of Praise, Doing Good and Fellowship - Hebrews 13:15, 16
9. Be Doing the Desirous Will of God - Hebrews 13:21
More than a third of the passages that describe how God is well pleased relate to the believer-priests sacrifices. Since grace believers are a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6), they are given the responsibility of serving as citizens of that kingdom in a priestly capacity. "Wherefore receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be having grace, through which we may be serving [as priests] God well pleasingly, with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28)." Every believer should desire to be pleasing God in priestly service. Without the manifestation of the grace of God in the believer's life, it is impossible for him to be pleasing to God. The believer lives as a member and a citizen of a kingdom of priests, but he can only function in that capacity if the grace of God is manifested in his life as a spiritual believer. That grace is the instrument through which an acceptable service is rendered to God. When the Christian offers any sacrifice, it is only possible by the grace of God that is manifested every day. That grace must be appropriated to be effective. This is only possible for the spiritual believer. One is well pleasing to God by the grace of God to the glory of God in his priestly sacrifices.
Hence, the sacrifices have a very positive value to God when they are offered. He counts the activity of a spiritual believer to be a sacrifice and responds in a very positive way to each sacrifice as it is offered. The value is established by God's own standards that are not determined or influenced in any way by external pressures. Human standards for what is pleasing to God will never be acceptable to God. Within the heart of man, there is an inherent confidence that he can establish for himself patterns of behavior that will be of value to God. The religious works of the sin nature [flesh] are easily directed toward a form of righteous behavior and are satisfied with human righteousness. They do not rely on the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. The so-called "vacuum that can only be filled by God" is often filled with religious works of the flesh that do bring a form of satisfaction. Service to a god, that is merely the figment of the imagination, is normal in the world system with its multitude of religions. There is a kind of satisfaction in world religion or there would be very few adherents. Only the true believer in Christ knows what true satisfaction is, but he must never say that there is not some form of satisfaction in world religions. Religion brings satisfaction for men but it is of no value to the God of the Bible. Christians, who set similar standards, are no more pleasing to God than the aboriginal animist or the refined Buddhist. It is sad to say that many churches have established standards that are thought to be pleasing to God that have no relationship to the revelation from Scripture, even though they use Scripture to prove their human standards by reading their standards back into Scripture. It is possible for the spiritual Christian to be pleasing to God as he gives the logical and acceptable sacrifices of the New Testament believer-priest.
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