by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)
Our text instructs us that we, as a corporate church and as individuals, are designed for the purpose of offering up acceptable sacrifices to God. These are not animal sacrifices as before, but “spiritual” sacrifices, made “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” What kinds of spiritual sacrifices are acceptable?
Prayer: An amazing scene is recorded for us in heaven, for an angel is seen at the altar offering up to God incense mingled with “the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 8:4, see also 5:8). Our prayers are precious to Him.
Giving: The use of our financial resources for the furtherance of His kingdom becomes “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
Praise: In some way, not fully comprehended by us, we can “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Good work and sharing: “But to do good and to communicate |share| forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). Remember, we are saved entirely by God’s grace, but also created specifically unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Ourselves: We have a distinct privilege in that we may “present |our| bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is |our| reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
God is a magnificent God! He can be trusted with our prayers, our resources, our praise, our works, and our lives. His perfect sacrifice has made it possible for our sacrifices to be meaningful.
Since the first book of the Bible, man has recorded sacrifices made to God. The first sacrifice we know of, (although I doubt it was the first one given, as there had to be a precedent set for the two boys to know what to do), was that of Cain and Abel. The purpose of these sacrifices is not made entirely clear, but sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, atonement, and other celebration are recorded until the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. However, Paul reminds us more than once of something Jesus had already said when He spoke to His disciples, and that was that life as a follower of Jesus Christ would require personal sacrifice. It may not be the same for all of us, and it may be more difficult for some than others, but be that as it may, we are also promised that He does not tempt us, and that we will not be tempted beyond what we can endure. “12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord as promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, ” I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
James 1:12-13 (NASB)
The first recorded sacrifices in the Bible were those of Cain and Abel, although it is this author’s belief that they had made them before. This is based on the fact that no instructions are noted in the text of Genesis. Note what it says in Genesis 4:3-5: 3 “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. ” Scripture does not tell us why the sacrifices were given, nor does it tell why God favored Abel’s over Cain’s, although there has been discussion and debate over that. Nonetheless, it lead to the first murder, and there were sacrifices of thanksgiving, atonement, praise, supplication, and other ceremonial reasons leading up to the birth of Christ. However, with His sacrifice, as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, as the final Passover Lamb, a new era of “Living Sacrifice” would emerge more clearly than ever before. He had even warned His disciples of it. Let us remember it even today.