THE COMMANDMENT TO SACRIFICE
The Commandments to Sacrifice, Forsake and Witness are three parts of one and the same teaching. Together, they bring us to perfect understanding of our calling and our christian heritage.
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt 16:24). Let us not forget that Jesus calls us to follow Him in the way of the cross by virtue of having first endured the cross Himself. The idea of following Jesus through the heavens into the glorious presence of the Majesty and to be seated with Him on the highest seat appeals to every body just as it did to mother of James and John (Matt 20:20-21). But that, there is a cross to bear and His cup to drink from before that are imperatives most of us are seldom prepared for. Matt 20:22, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
ANALYSE THE COST:
As Jesus instructs us in Lk 14:28, 31, let us first analyse the cost of following Him. But before that, let us also understand that the cost of following Jesus strives to meet three requirements of us as children of God. They are our calling (the Cross), our suffering for Christ (the Cup) and our priestly duties (offering Sacrifices).
I THE CROSS
Reverting to the opening verse once again, “If anyone would come after Me, He must deny Himself, and take up His cross and follow Me.”, we learn that it begins with:
- Denying oneself, and
- Taking up one’s cross
1. Denying oneself:
This is where the commandment to sacrifice begins to take effect. Because denying ourselves is the first sacrifice we are called to make. Such a sacrifice is possible only if we learn to overcome the love for those things that would otherwise blind us to all that the Lord has prepared for us. For eg. Heb 11:24-26, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (More of it in ‘The commandment to Forsake’).
2. Taking up one’s cross:
We can only serve Him if we take up our individual crosses and follow Him. So, what is meant by the cross? The answer is: Cross is one’s individual and divine calling ( 2 Pet 1:10, Lk 9:62).
There are many who have been misled to assume that cross is our life and its struggles. On the contrary, as we read in Matt 11:28-30, we exchange our vain and futile life struggles for the cross – Our Divine Calling.
THE GREAT EXCHANGE: When we deny ourselves, He gives us our cross which is His yoke, in exchange. His yoke, which is easy and His burden which is light (Matt 11:30). In other words, when we deny ourselves, we are exchanging our wearisome and heavy yoke of futile toil come upon us through Adamic curse for His light and easy one (Matt 11:28-30, Gen 3:17(b)-19(a)).
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:29-30. The verse offers perfect clarity. Taking His yoke is taking the mantle of His service. Just as Isa 55:2 says, “…..Why labor on what does not satisfy?”, there is no other labor that is truly satisfying and eternally profitable.
In exchange, just as He promised He will shoulder our yoke and provide for all our needs, material and spiritual included. He will not only provide for us and sustain us in every manner, but also He will keep on adding to our eternal inheritance in heaven according to His rich promises. In other words, all our self-denials are blessed hundred-fold in this world itself and crowned with the added joy of eternal life (Matt 19:29, Mk 10:29-30). “….And you will find rest for your souls.” Matt 11:29(b), Isa 57:2, Isa 55:2(b)-3(a) etc.
JESUS, THE WAGE-MASTER: Matt 20:1-16, the parable of the workers in the vineyard introduces the Lord as the impartial and generous wage-Master. All His promises are the same for all His servants – the ones who have, figuratively, worked all day and ones who have entered the service between the day or even at the last hour. Something that late recruits will find most heartening and the early ones nothing to complain about as they will not be deprived of anything that was promised.
II THE CUP
However, with cross also comes the cup which is partaking of Christ’s suffering in some measure or the other. Partaking of Christ’s suffering is inevitable. The world that gave Him the crown of thorns is not going to treat us any differently.
Matt 20:23(a), “You will indeed drink from My cup….” Lk 22:17, 20, 28-30, 42-44. Jesus’ travails from Gethsamane to Golgotha is a clear depiction of the cup He drank.
Let us not forget, it is God Who awakens us spiritually, uplifts us to our higher calling and enables and equips us to accomplish it. Our willingness and submission is all that He desires from us.
III THE SACRIFICES OR PRIESTLY DUTIES
Sacrifices attribute to our spiritual duties. Even though the exact nature (Heb 2:4) of our duties (the cross) may vary, the undeniable fact is that the cross entails for us a higher office. That is, from a common man’s or laity’s existence we are raised to serve Him as holy and royal priests. Read 1 Pet 2:5, 9, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” and “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
WE ARE CALLED UNTO A HOLY PRIESTHOOD:
The priesthood is gifted to us by none other than the Most High Priest Himself. Read Heb 8:1-2, “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Also, Rev 22:3.
He is the One Who has surpassed all high priests before Him by the Holy and Perfect Sacrifice He offered – by offering Himself, the Holy Lamb of God. Therefore, we see that priesthood kept changing until Jesus came along and offered the perfect, once and for all sacrifice. Now, we have neither the need for another sacrifice nor for another high priest. But, as His priests, we offer our sacrifices through Jesus the eternal High Priest. Refer Heb 4:14 and Heb 7:27.
[PLEASE NOTE: While on the subject, there is a misinterpretation rampant in the christian world that one ought to watch out for: The comparison of Jesus Christ the High Priest with Melchizedek, king of Salem. Ref Heb 7:17, “For it is declared: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek’.” Also, Ps 110:4.
The comparison, as the verse makes it apparent, begins and ends with the order of priesthood. The term ‘forever’ is used only for Jesus Christ the eternal High Priest. While all human priests of God succumbed to their mortality, Jesus the High Priest lives on to sit at the right hand of the Father, His sacrifice ever before Him and His intercession on our behalf continual (Heb 7:25).
Therefore, Jesus Christ, the Son of God is beyond compare with any mortal. Be it Melchizedek, king of Salem, who is renowned for having known and served as priest of God Most High at a time when men had more or less completely estranged themselves from God (Gen 14:18).
The order of priesthood Melchizedek conveyed is described in Gen 14:18. As priest of God Most High, he was sent to bless Abraham. He performs his priestly duties beginning with the offering of ‘bread and wine’. This is the superior order of priesthood Melchizedek received, the prophetic symbolizing of Christ’s body and blood. The order that was never repeated throughout the Old Testament until it was reinstated by Jesus Christ, before He offered Himself to be sacrificed. Just as He did with all God’s commandments that got distorted or corrupted along the way due to the hardening of hearts of His people.
Yes, this is the eternal and surpassing order of priesthood, the first and the last order of priesthood, revealed through His servant king Melchizedek and fulfilled in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Therefore the order which makes Jesus Christ the eternal and surpassing High Priest – “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Refer Matt 26:29, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Yes, even as we obey Him (Refer Lk 22:19, “……..do this in remembrance of Me.” and 1 Cor 11:25-26, “……’…..do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” At the end of the age, when His faithfuls shall enter His kingdom they will partake of His table just as He has promised (Matt 26:29), refer Lk 12:37, “It will be good for those servants whose Master finds them watching when He comes, I tell you the truth, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” Let us joyfully recall how He went about reinstating the eternal order of priesthood as He served at the renowned Last Supper.
Reverting to the main topic, how or why is the priesthood gifted? As Num 18:7 says, “I am giving you the service of priesthood as a gift.” Ex 32:25-28 explains how the Levites came to receive this gift, and likewise (Ex 32:29), if we are not found zealous for the honor of God, we would not be worthy of the holy priesthood at all! As apostle Peter exhorts, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure…” 2 Pet 1:10 (a).
Why the priesthood? As 1 Pet 2:5 alludes, ” …….to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” It means we have priestly duties and sacrifices to perform. They are:
- Offering sacrifices and gifts
- Interceding or offering intercessory prayers
- Offering ourselves or being zealous for the honor of God, completely devoted to the cause of the Gospel.
A. OFFERING SACRIFICES AND GIFTS:
The sacrifices we are called to make is classified into four for quick and easy understanding:
1. Spiritual sacrifices:
- Of worship, in truth and in Spirit (Jn 4:24) which is the splendor of His Holiness (Ps 29:2).
- Of thanks offering – the fruit of our lips, Heb 13:15-16, Ps 40:3, Ps 50:14, Ps 22:22, Ps 34:1-3, Ps 116:12-19, Isa 61:3. Put on the garment of praise.
2. Memorial sacrifices:
- Of the breaking of bread Acts 2:42, Lk 22:19-20, “……….do this in remembrance of Me….”
- Lifting the Cup of salvation and calling on the Name of the Lord, Ps 116:12-13.
3. Material sacrifices:
- Offering our gifts, Lk 21:1-4 (More about it coming up in ‘The commandment to Give’).
4. Living sacrifices:
Offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). Holy and acceptable, Be holy as He is holy, 1 Thess 4:7, 1 Pet 1:15-16. How? Eph 4:22-24, “To be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”:
- His holiness working through our mind which is our soul. Wholly subjected to His will; not conforming to the pattern of this world but transformed by the renewing of minds and by setting our hearts on things above. (Matt 6:10(b), Rom 12:2, Col 3:1-3, Eph 4:23-24, Rom 8:5-8, Phil 4:8).
- His holiness working through our body. Honoring God with our bodies as ‘ Temples of the Living God’. (1 Cor 6:19-20, Col 3:5-6, Rom 6:13, Matt 18:8-9, 1 Cor 9:27, Rom 8:9-11,13-14).
- His holiness working through our speech which reflects the state of our hearts. Let our speech be seasoned with grace, not given to lying; and not made unclean out of the overflow of unclean hearts! (Col 4:6, Luke 4:22, Ps 45:2, Mk 7:20, Matt 12:34(b), Col 3:8-10, Ps 34:13).
B. OFFERING INTERCESSORY PRAYERS:
- Pray continually and in the Spirit. Eph 6:18
- Stand in the gap and intercede. Eze 22:30
- Prayer, a weapon for spiritual warfare. 2 Cor 10:4-5
- Faithful in prayer. Rom 12:12(b)
- Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 1 Pet 4:7
- The Spirit will intercede in accordance with God’s will. Rom 8:26-27
- Prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16
- Devoted in prayer. Col 4:2
- Wrestling in prayer. Col 4:12, Gen 32:25-26.
- Prayer accompanied by fasting (kjv). Mk 9:29
C. OFFERING OURSELVES OR BEING ZEALOUS FOR THE HONOR AND THE WORD OF GOD:
Refer Nu 25:13, Mk 8:38, Ps 69:7-9, Lk 2:49 and 1 Cor 3:18-20. Besides, the ones that are quoted here below and speak for themselves:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Phil 1:21
“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mk 8:38
“My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.” Ps 119:139.
“But if I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name,’ His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jer 20:9.
“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord…” Rom 14:8
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes….” Rom 1:16
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ…” Phil 1:27
[More on the same in ‘The commandment to Witness’.]
Sacrificing is in effect heeding Jesus’ call to serve God. It is subjecting oneself completely to His will – both to sacrifice and offer as sacrifice. The former is serving God in one’s individual capacity enabled and equipped by the specific gift(s) of the Holy Spirit, the latter is the general fulfillment of all priestly obligations as described above through Jesus Christ, the High Priest. Therefore, let us consecrate ourselves to offer as a sacrifice of fragrant offering or a drink offering according to His perfect and pleasing will.
A FRAGRANT OFFERING! “And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph 5:2).
A DRINK OFFERING! “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” (Phil 2:17).
May God bless you!
To be contd….NEXT: The commandment to Forsake.