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Sacrifices and Offerings

This chapter addresses of Temples and Tithes the question"But aren't we supposed to give regular financial sacrifices and offerings to God?". The short answer to that is "No" because:

Jesus was sacrificed on our behalf as the "once for all time" sacrifice.

The New Testament clearly indicates that the Old Testament system of sacrifices and offerings was temporary, ineffective and unsatisfactory.

(Hebrews 10:1-4 NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things,can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. {2} For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. {3} But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. {4}For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Personal Holiness (Romans 12:1 NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Dedication To Ministry (Philippians 2:17 NKJV) Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

A One-Off Gift To Paul (Philippians 4:18 NKJV) Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

Spiritual Sacrifices/Worship (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV) you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We have misunderstood the term sacrifice

In English it has two meanings (a) a holy offering to God, an act of worship (b) a costly act of renunciation. This second meaning now predominates in our language but the first meaning is far closer to what the Bible teaches. A sacrifice was primarily an act of worship just as "bringing a plate" is an act of fellowship at a pot luck supper. It’s the involvement that counts more than the cost. It need not cost a great deal but it must be clean, pure and offered correctly. In the OT the Law was such that sacrifices were kept within the means of the worshipper.The poor were allowed to sacrifice just a couple of pigeons. Many of the sacrifices were quite trivial such as a cup of wine poured out for a libation or some grain. (See any good Bible Dictionary for further detail).

It's not the cost that matters to God but the quality and the purity and the obedience that is involved. The sacrifice of Christ was effective because He was sinless and because of His quality as God's Son. Certainly it was costly and precious but it would have been totally ineffective if Jesus had sinned even once. The purity was the priority. The Lamb must be without spot or blemish. The cost was appreciated but was secondary (in a sense). There have been thousands upon thousands of heart-wrenching human sacrifices in the history of the religions of the world and equally as many victims of crucifixion but only One pleased God - the one that was pure and innocent. This concern with offering it rightly and with a pure heart is behind Jesus' insistence on reconciliation with an offended brother preceding the offering of a sacrifice.

The prophets never complain about "not enough" being offered in the way of sacrifices. The quantity of worship is hardly a concern - but the quality is. Similarly its no use giving a million dollars to the church if you are inwardly at war with everyone there!

(Micah 6:7-8 NKJV) Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? {8} He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

(Mark 12:32-35 NKJV) So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. {33} "And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."{34} Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." But after that no one dared question Him.

An overemphasis on sacrifice often produces bitter and disillusioned Christians.

As a bible college lecturer and missionary I have seen this often. At the start of the year there is testimony time and someone inevitably says something like "I sold my precious Harley-Davidson motorbike to come to college.." with a spiritually smug smile. Then after the first couple of clashes with a lecturer it becomes " I SOLD my" and the smile is gone, eventually, six months later you can feel the bitterness in it. I had a personal experience with this when a Christian worker decided to personally buy carpet for the office he was working in because the organization could not afford it. His means were modest but his zeal was high and despite my advice he went ahead with it. A few months later the "cost of the carpet" was among the factors that led to his resignation. I call this "sacrificing" beyond your emotional means so you feel good before God "putting dynamite on the altar" because when the fire gets lit it always blows up!

Sacrifices, Tithes, Offerings and Christian Giving

The concept of sacrifice is often used to encourage Christians to give generously. Preachers say things like "you have to give until it hurts or its not a sacrifice", or "tithing is just your duty to God, if you want blessing you have to give freewill offerings on top of that".(which is often inconsistent with last week's sermon where tithing did bring blessing). Some of this is misunderstanding and poor theology but a lot is just plain manipulation. The Old Testament sacrificial system is turned around and made to be monetary gifts to the local church and re-imposed on New Testament believers. This is rebuilding what Christ has torn down and is transgression. (Galatians 2:18) We have "died to the Law" (Galatians 2:19, Romans 7:6) with all its commandments and observances including the requirement for Christians to offer sacrifices, tithes or offerings in order to atone for sin or to receive blessing from God.

The OT sacrificial system was quite complex and involved whole burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings. They were offered for a host of reasons such as national sin, giving thanks at harvest time, reconciliation and various acts of personal cleansing and forgiveness. They were nothing like the weekly collection to fund the ongoing ministry of a local church. To turn this national system of offerings into what we have today in most churches is simply a devious exercise in exegetical gymnastics. It cannot and should not be done.

At this point we strike a difficult verse where Paul calls a financial gift from the Philippians "an acceptable sacrifice".

(Philippians 4:18-19 NKJV) Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. {19} And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Paul is using the term to say that the Christians in Philippi were giving not just to Paul but to God and that it was a holy and acceptable offering. Paul was using the spiritual language of his day to recognize the generosity of these Christians. He was definitely not imposing the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law back on Christians in a slightly altered form.

If we are to use the terms "sacrifice" or "offering" in connection with financial giving we must be very careful how we do this in order not to create compulsion and spiritual confusion. Some guidelines, that I think are wise, are that such a sermon:

  1. Should not create the impression that giving was required to please God or atone for sin or to receive blessing.

  2. Should not make out of the "sacrifice or offering" a ritual with spiritual overtones and with some of the connotations of the OT sacrificial system.

  3. Should avoid directly connecting financial giving with the sacrifices the Mosaic Law for instance by preaching from a passage on the "whole burnt offering" or "broken-necked things". This gives the impression to Christians that we still obey "some bits" of the Law and can cause very real confusion when they try to interpret Scripture for themselves.

  4. Should make clear the two meanings of sacrifice that are found in English and the meaning as it is found in the Bible that it is a holy offering (not a severe act of renunciation).

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.