Christian Sacrifices: Chapter 17

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When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrew believers, manifold sacrifices had been offered to God for over 4,000 years-from the time of Abel down to his day. A change had then come in and Paul was instructing them that the time for types and shadows was over, and that now they had been brought into the "better" thing. They were now to worship God by the Spirit and in the presence of God-"within the veil." The fat of rams and the blood of goats, or any of the varied offerings ordained under the Mosaic economy were not intelligent offerings for Christians.
The question might very conceivably arise in their minds, "But have we nothing to offer? is there nothing for us to present to God?" The Apostle answers that they had been brought to that better place where they had an altar, "whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." Heb. 13:1010We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. (Hebrews 13:10). Those who still offered the sacrifices that only pointed on to Christ had no right to participation in that which was suitable to and characteristic of Christianity. Here all that is offered to God is the fruit of His own grace, and is but the outflow of a living connection with Christ. For faith, the old things had truly passed away.
Then the Apostle goes on to name some things that are suitable Christian sacrifices. Yes, they were permitted to offer something, even though they were to leave the temple and all its ritual. It was their privilege to offer "the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." No temple was needed in which to offer this sacrifice, nor was it limited to certain set feast days-it was "to God," and it was "continually." Obviously only those who were children of God and indwelt by the Spirit were capable of presenting such sacrifices.
This is in keeping with a verse in Eph. 5 "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." v. 19. (See also Col. 3:1616Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16).) We see something of the character of present sacrifices of praise in the healed leper of Luke 17; he was sent to the temple and its priests where he might offer his gifts, but on being healed he got a glimpse of the glories of the Person who healed him, and he promptly turned his back on all the earthly system of worship to return to the Lord Jesus where he "fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks." He found in Him one who was "greater than the temple," but it was only discerned by faith. The natural man turns instinctively to outward forms and ceremonies for his pattern of worship.
It is therefore important that in the midst of God's blessings in giving a man and his wife a home down here where our Lord had none, there should be the spirit of praise found therein. The epistle of James reminds us that if we are afflicted we are to pray, but if we are happy then we are to sing psalms; in other words, we are to take all from God, and all to God. In this way the blessings do not displace the Blesser in our thoughts, for we acknowledge Him and render thanks to Him.
A Christian home where the Lord and His things are enjoyed will often resound with songs of praise. May this be more characteristic of our homes, for these "spiritual sacrifices" are "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:55Ye 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). Was not the praise and thanksgiving of the healed leper precious and acceptable to the Lord Jesus? Surely it was! And now we are assured by the Word that our words and songs of praise are acceptable to Him. What a privilege is ours! and how vastly superior to that of the Jews of old.
The Apostle Paul continued, "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Heb. 13:1616But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16). Here are two more forms of sacrifices a Christian may and should offer to God. He is to do good. This covers a great field, for in many ways he may do good. He is to "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Gal. 6:1010As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10). It may be in helping a sick one who needs assistance-either one of the Lord's, or perhaps an unsaved one where we may have opportunity to witness for Christ. We shall not enlarge on the great possibilities which this acceptable form of sacrifice offers. May the writer and reader have an ear attuned to hear Him direct us in ways and places to thus serve Him. Perhaps no one will know about it besides the one helped and the Lord, but that is all the better, for then our treacherous hearts shall not have opportunity to glory in it.
Then next in order is the word, "and to communicate forget not"; that is, to distribute of our money or of our goods to others, for this also is well pleasing to the Lord. We know that Israel of old were required to tithe; that is, to give a tenth of their increase to the Lord. Now there is no such word for Christians. Why? simply because we are not now under the law and commanded to do something; we are under grace and lordship. What we render to God of our temporal things should be done as the overflow of a full heart—a heart that is enjoying all that grace has wrought for us. In the matter of lordship, we are to remember that we are no longer our own; we and all we have belong to another. The Lord has purchased us and we are His. A poet has expressed it thus:
"Naught that I have my own
I call, I hold it for the Giver;
My heart, my strength, my life, my all,
Are His, and His forever.”
A very important matter to consider in the establishing of a new home is the matter of Christian giving. Perhaps the husband and wife each had a way of doing this before they were married, but now they should be of one mind in this very important part of Christian sacrifices. We know there is a tendency to avoid the mention of this subject and to refrain from anything that might look like putting the saints of God back under the law where they were obliged to give whether they wished or not. To all this we agree, but is there to be no response to God who has done so much for us? Are we to take all of His blessings—salvation, eternal life, and all—and offer Him no return? Or should we accept all the bountiful blessings in temporal things and consume them on ourselves and our homes? To answer "Yes" to these questions would be to place the Christian on a lower scale than the Jew of old. If the Jew had to give, surely the Christian should desire to do so.
There are principles in the New Testament about the manner of giving. They were to give according to the way God had prospered them. If God gives us much, then we should have much reason to give to His own that are in need, and to give for the furtherance of the work of Christ in this world. God does not compel us to give, but He likes to see a liberal soul; it is the liberal soul that shall be made fat (Prov. 11:2525The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. (Proverbs 11:25)). When the Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthians about giving, he remarked, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." 2 Cor. 9:1515Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15). Can any giving compare with His? Never! "It is more blessed to give than to receive," and God surely kept the "more blessed" part for Himself.
God does not want us to give beyond our ability. We should be wise in this, but nevertheless He commended the widow that cast in her "two mites"—it was so divided that she might have kept one, and then have given 50 per cent. We do not believe she suffered any lack as a result of her self-denial. Oh, that when Christians give of their substance, they would do it as to the Lord! then man would not get an undue place, nor expect to regulate what is done with what he gives to the Lord.
Another point in giving, or rather in preparation to giving, is to set it aside "upon the first day of the week." 1 Cor. 16:22Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:2). This intends some regularity in setting aside from our earnings for the Lord. We believe that regularity of setting aside a portion of our income for the Lord is what is intended in this verse-not a law that it must be done on the first day of the week. Perhaps it should be done at whatever time we receive our income. People rightly have a horror of speaking of systematic giving, but yet if there is no definite plan or procedure in the home for setting aside of our earnings for the Lord, we are very apt to use them all for ourselves. A brother once told us that when he took that verse literally and began setting aside a regular portion of his earnings for the Lord, the Lord got much more than when he used to think that a certain portion of what he had in the bank was for the Lord. If there is the practical following out of this word in laying by in store at home (as the better translation of 1 Cor. 16:22Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:2) is), there would more often be something on hand to give when the occasion presented itself.
What we have to say here has a direct bearing on our previous chapter. In setting up homes on a standard of living proportionate with the income, the Lord's portion should not be neglected. No Christian is compelled to give, nor to give liberally, but it is a blessed privilege; "Them that honor Me I will honor." "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase." Prov. 3:99Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: (Proverbs 3:9). This verse seems to link giving to the Lord in the Old Testament with that in the New Testament. God rightly claims the firstfruits of our increase. It all came from Him; it was all His gift, even though we worked for it, for who gave us the strength and ability to work? Should we then delay to acknowledge His goodness by returning to Him the firstfruits? And when we really give to the Lord we shall not suffer thereby, for He is too rich to be any man's debtor. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." Prov. 11:2424There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24).
If a new home is set up beyond the income of the breadwinner, then the Lord will not get His portion. And we would add that we should be righteous before we are liberal. If a Christian owes a sum of money, then he should pay that before he gives to the Lord. It is not fitting to take what belongs to another and give it to the Lord; but then this question arises, How does it happen that I owe another? Some Christians buy beyond their ability to pay, borrow on the future, and are always in debt. Plainly they are living beyond their means. These have nothing to give to the work of the Lord, nor to help the poor. Why? Because the Word of God has not been followed and their house is in disorder.
The question is sometimes asked, Should all we give be put into the collection on Lord's day? That surely is one way, and a good one, of giving to the Lord, either for needy saints or for the work of the Lord, but there are some cases of need that arise which may not come within the scope of an assembly's responsibility. If there is a regular laying aside at home of money from our income for the Lord, then as the Lord may lead us we would be able to render a helping hand to such as have need. The Lord may also lay it on our hearts to have special fellowship with a certain part of His work. We should be "rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1 Tim. 6:1818That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; (1 Timothy 6:18)) as there may be occasion, and as the Lord may direct.
When the Apostle wrote to the Philippians, he said he did not mention their giving so that he might receive a gift, but he did desire fruit that would abound to their account. May the constrainings of love prompt the people of God to more diligence in this sacrifice that will please God and abound to their account.
Another sacrifice that Christians may present to God is mentioned in Rom. 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1). Our bodies can be a living sacrifice, and we are exhorted to render them as such; and on what ground? the law? No, on the basis of "the mercies of God." The great grace that God has bestowed upon us is used by the Apostle as a basis—a compelling one—for an exhortation to hold our bodies as a living sacrifice; and that too is "acceptable unto God." This calls for self-denial, for self-abnegation. It may cause us to go out and serve the saints as to the Lord, or to do any one of a thousand things, instead of the self-indulgence of ease or pleasure. But here again, this is to be regulated according to our ability. The Lord does not expect more of us than we are physically able to give.