By Lewis Willis
Sacrifice (thusia) denotes the act of offering, as well as that which is offered (Vine, 313). Christians are not only told that offering is a requirement in their lives, they are even told what to offer. This aspect of the Christian Life will be explored in this article.
The Bible describes religion throughout the ages. A prominent theme in the religion of each dispensation is sacrifice, as we read in the Scriptures of altars, a priesthood, and sacrifices. In the Garden of Eden we are introduced to sacrifice in the sad story of Cain and Abel. The writer of Hebrews, speaking of that time, said: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4). This tragic incident is one of the first to which children are exposed in their spiritual education. Certainly we all recognize that God had required this sacrifice, otherwise it could not have been offered “by faith.” Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17). Abel was obedient to the word of God spoken to him, and he offered an accept- able sacrifice.
Ten generations later, we read of Noah’s exit from the ark following the flood. The Bible tells us: “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Gen. 8:20). Noah’s gratitude for the deliverance of his family from the deadly flood was expressed in the form of sacrifices.
Altars of the Mosaic age were stained with the blood of thousands of animals. The temple was dedicated with a host of sacrifices: “And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God” (2 Chron. 7:5). This was the sacrifice for a single occasion! Sacrifices were made throughout the Mosaic dispensation.
We of the Christian age are not surprised, therefore, to learn that we must also offer sacrifice unto God. Paul commanded: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sac- rifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). In the Book of Hebrews we read: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15). Peter adds, “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 Pet. 2:5).
The Sacrifice of the Body
The sacrifice of the Christian Life exceeds the sacrifices of other ages. We are to offer our bodies in sacrifice. One might ask, however, how or why would God require such a sacrifice? Paul answers that question in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Through the price of our redemption, God laid a preeminent claim to our bodies and spirits. We belong to him; we must do as he requires; and he said to present your bodies as living sacrifices to him (Rom. 12:1). To the Christian, this is all the explanation needed to bring forth the sacrifice of the body and spirit unto God.
The sacrifices of the Christian are both spiritual and reasonable (as translated in the KJV). God’s sacrifice in our redemption was his only begotten Son (Rom. 5:8). We do not offer ourselves on a cross or an altar, as physical, bodily sacrifices. Our sacrifices are spiritual in nature. Nothing could be more reasonable for one who has been redeemed at the high cost of the very blood of God’s Son! Hence, there is no argument offered; no hesitancy present; and no resentment over the requirement to offer our bodies as living sacrifices unto God who has been so gracious to us!
Many people are willing to offer their dead or nearly dead bodies unto the Lord. In old age, nearing the end of life, they are ready to turn to the Lord. But not while they are young! They want to “sow their wild oats” in their youth. There is no time to serve God as these individuals get established in a career, build their dream homes, and travel at their leisure. But when age begins to creep up on them, when irritating and debilitating diseases begin to announce the end of youth and even life itself, their hearts begin to turn to God. We are thankful to God that they came home to him. However, God wants the sacrifice of youth! He wants the strength and vigor of our early years, as well as the pain and confinement of age. We must offer our bodies — our lives — to him whom we serve. The great apostle said, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:13, 16).
Christian, have you given yourself in sacrifice to God? Have you turned your life over to him? Do you serve him first, or must his service be fitted in after you have done everything else you want to do? We must, and we can, make a choice to yield to God. Sin does not control us unless we allow it; unless we give ourselves over to it. God said his people are not to sin (1 John 2:1)! Our sacrifice is to be so complete that we walk away from sin and into a righteous, reasonable service and worship to God who loved us so much that he gave Jesus to die for us! And this says nothing at all about what God continues to do for us daily in giving us “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).
Sacrifice is an attitude, a spirit of abject and total surrender to the will of God. When the attitude is present, the service required will be freely rendered. Another article will address the service of the Christian Life. However, absent the sacrifices of our bodies to God, we will never find the time to render the service God requires. Let every child of God examine himself for the presence of a life of sacrifice!