Have you ever noticed that the Bible uses sacrificial language in order to encourage us (believers) on how to live? In Peter’s first epistle, he prompts the reader “…to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) After detailing the mechanics of the Christian faith for 11 chapters, Paul then pleads with the Christian community in Rome… “I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1)
Why would they write this way? What does performing sacrifices have to do with us believers today?
Performing sacrifices is one of the main duties of a priest. It makes sense for both Peter and Paul to each use sacrificial language to encourage believers in how to live, because we believers now have a new role to play. Here’s Peter a few verses later…
1 Peter 2:9-10 (HCSB)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises,
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
An Ongoing Priestly Theme Throughout Scripture
Other Biblical writers have also talked about our new role. When John introduced Christ’s final revelation in the closing book of the Bible, he told the believing reader that Jesus has… “made us [believers] a kingdom, priests, to His God and Father — the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6) Isaiah even brought out this same theme in the Old Testament when writing about the future people of God…
Isaiah 61:6a (HCSB)
But you will be called the LORD’S priests;
they will speak of you as ministers of our God…
Earlier in the Old Testament, God had told Moses to speak in this same way regarding His people, after He had brought Israel into the desert from Egypt…
Exodus 19:5-6 (HCSB)
“‘Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”
So, what does a believer’s sacrifice look like?
Paul gives us a picture a few verses later…
Romans 12:6-8 (HCSB)
According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:
use it according to the standard of one’s faith;
if service, in service;
if teaching, in teaching;
if exhorting, in exhortation;
giving, with generosity;
leading, with diligence;
showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Taking Up Our Cross
When we start to see what our priestly duties are, references such as this suddenly become a lot less cryptic…
Mark 8:34-35 (HCSB)
Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.”
Godspeed, to the brethren!