“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”
Historically, sacrifice has taken a central role in the doctrines, philosophies, and practices of most of the world religions. The Bible explains why. At the dawn of human history, God warned original man, Adam, that disobedience to His commands would lead to death (Genesis 2:16-17). Tragically, Adam deliberately and intentionally rebelled, leading the whole human race into a state of estrangement from God. Now sinners by nature, man is destined to experience physical death. “By one man sin entered into the world,” wrote Paul, “and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Though Adam became mortal and eventually died, the man lived a total of 930 years! (Genesis 5:5) How shocked he must have been when God, so far from killing him on the spot, killed an innocent animal instead. The man and his wife stood passively as the LORD clothed them in tunics made from the slain animal’s skin (Genesis 3:21). The guilty pair learned about substitution and sacrifice that day, and the central role they played in God’s religious, redemptive program for man. This awareness they communicated to their sons, Cain and Abel, who were taught to bring their offerings to the LORD as a necessary expression of legitimate and acceptable worship (Genesis 4:3-4). This awareness stayed with humanity through the Genesis flood, coming to expression in the sacrifices of grateful Noah (Genesis 8:20). Of course, sacrifice featured very prominently in the Mosaic Law, with five main offerings central to the entire system (Leviticus 1-5). In the light of New Testament revelation, we understand that all of these sacrifices pointed ahead to Jesus Christ and His ultimate substitutionary sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 7-10). Jesus died, “the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18), becoming sin and a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sacrifice is of necessity costly. David understood this well. “Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing,” declared the great king (2 Samuel 24:24). Christ’s sacrifice for us was very costly; our redemption came at a very high price. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders they were to care for the church, which God “hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). As New Covenant priests (1 Peter 2:5,9), we are called to offer costly sacrifices as well. “Present your bodies,” wrote Paul, “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). May the Lord help us to discharge our priestly duties faithfully today, for His glory and the good of those He loves.