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Restoring the Altar and Temple Foundation

(Ezra 3:1-3, 6, 10-12)

Lesson 2 -- third quarter 2003
June 8, 2003

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2003, Christian Light Publications

A place for sacrifice?

As part of the divine plan for gaining and maintaining right standing with God, the Israelites offered many sacrifices to the Lord. Some sacrifices were for the forgiveness and atonement of sin. Many were the animals killed to receive the remission of sin. Other sacrifices and offerings were part of the worship the people expressed to God.

Is there still a proper place for sacrifice in the lives of God's people?

Thank the Lord, He has made it unnecessary for us to continue with that particular sacrificial system. He offered up Himself once for our redemption in a sacrifice so effective that it doesn't need repeating. And His sacrifice is so complete that neither does it need supplementing. Forgiveness, cleansing, and salvation in our age require no further sacrifice than that which Jesus made.

Even so, God still requires sacrifices from His people. Of course these sacrifices are not to lead us to salvation. Rather, the sacrifices of God's people today are to express our salvation. If our faith does not produce sacrificial living, then our faith and salvation experience are themselves in question. You see, a workless faith is worthless faith, being dead: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20). It is vain (arrogant, empty, pointless) to be satisfied with a lifeless pseudo-faith that produces no works.

So, is there a place for sacrifice in the Christian faith? Absolutely! That place is not found at the edges of faith but at its very core: "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26).

Christian sacrifice

In the Old Covenant, God's people presented dead sacrifices. In the New Covenant, we present our own bodies in ongoing, living sacrifice that means service to God and others. We employ our lives and bodies for the pleasure of God and the blessing of others. "I 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).

What I own I can give to others in need. Money, food, clothing, tools, books, all kinds of stuff -- when they are given to others willingly, joyfully, and selflessly, they are a sweet, acceptable, pleasing sacrifice to God. "But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18).

Every day, through the day, we should experience and express thanksgiving to God. Praise ought to be an integral part of the Christian's life. As a healthy mango tree bears delicious mangoes, so our lips should produce praise and thanksgiving. "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" (Hebrews 13:15).

Notice this sequel to the previous verse: "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). Don't be satisfied with spoken (or shouted or sung) sacrifices. Remember also to do and to share!

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