|Vol. 15 No. 12 December 2013||
What Kinds of Sacrifices Please God?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The very first sacrificial offering recorded in the Bible with which God was pleased was offered by Abel (Genesis 4:4). He lived under Patriarchy, and like under Judaism, specified animal sacrifices pleased the Lord. In those cases, the animal sacrifices and other acts of obedience were manifestations of a sacrificial disposition of the mind. However, then as well as presently under Christianity, it is possible for one to go through the motions of sacrifice and other acts of obedience without those activities genuinely reflecting a person’s true heart; a hypocritical person can feign devotion to God (Acts 5:1-9). Yet, it is certain that when people disobey God that He is displeased with them (Luke 6:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 1 Peter 4:17).
In order for God to be pleased with people today, they must obey divine instruction from the heart, which manifests itself in righteous conduct. The apostle Paul commended first century Christians in Macedonia for sacrificing from their hearts, which made it much easier and likely that they would demonstrate that sacrificial spirit outwardly.
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NKJV emphasis added)
The kind of sacrifice that pleases God today appears in Romans 12:1-2, which reads, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). As opposed to Patriarchy and Judaism, under Christianity especially the child of God must give his or her whole being to God in Christian service in order to be pleasing to Him. Like the Macedonians whom Paul praised, when we dedicate ourselves to the Lord, then it is not difficult to offer to God our money, other possessions and our time. Whenever Christians are reluctant to or fail to sacrifice to God, it indicates that they have not given themselves to God either.
There are numerous kinds of sacrifices that please God today. They are all outgrowths of first offering ourselves to God. One kind of acceptable sacrifice today is giving to God some of our material possessions or money. “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). Consider also that sacrifices today include heartfelt expressions and good works. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16). No, our sacrifices to God under Christianity do not involve animal sacrifices, but instead many of the sacrifices with which God is pleased today are “spiritual sacrifices.” “[Y]ou also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The churches do not take communion each week as the Bible states. I would like to take communion at home to obey my Lord and Savior Jesus. Can I take communion at home by myself? Sincerely, Marlene Hope
Weekly communion or observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7) is one of the identifying characteristics of the Lord’s church about which one can read upon the pages of the New Testament. If a local church is not taking the communion weekly, there is a strong probability that there are other characteristics and teachings (doctrine) of the one true church of the Bible that it is not practicing, too. Recognizing that one, then, must partake of the Lord’s Supper weekly apart from this group ought to prod one also to distance himself or herself from such a church relative to other departures from New Testament teaching (e.g., biblical names for the church and its members, not adding instrumental music to worship, orderly assemblies, male leadership, etc.). The “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:17) endeavor to practice first century Christianity in the 21st century; visit one in your community, today.
“Communion” by the very nature of what the word means, “partnership,” implies that the communion (1 Corinthians 10:16) or Lord’s Supper cannot be taken alone in the absolute sense. Even if only a single Christian observes the communion, which he or she could well do, communion involves Jesus Christ, too. “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25 NKJV; Matthew 26:29). This indicates that our Lord is a participant with those who take the communion or observe the Lord’s Supper. A lone Christian may be the only person locally participating in the Lord’s Supper or Communion, but Jesus participates as well.
Whenever possible, it would be better and more of what God intended if a Christian would assemble (Hebrews 10:25; Acts 20:7) with a congregation of the Lord’s people to “worship God in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Yet, if there are no other Christians with whom one can assemble for worship, a single individual is capable of communing with his or her Lord in observance of the Lord’s Supper or communion.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Sir, have there been any valid prophets between 100 A.D. and 1900 A.D.? Sincerely, Glenn Jedlicka
No, there have been no divinely inspired prophets on earth since the close of the first century and the end of Bible miracles. The purpose of miracles was to confirm new revelation from God, according to Mark 16:20. The various manifestations of miracles listed in New Testament passages (Mark 16:17; Acts 8:6-7; 9:33-42; 19:8-20) confirmed the prophets as being from God, including confirmation of Jesus Christ (John 20:30-31).
Once the miracles had served their primary purpose in confirming new revelation—what we call the New Testament, they were no longer needed. The New Testament was complete around the close of the first century, about the same time the last of the apostles died. Miracles either ended when the last apostle died or when the last one upon whom an apostle laid hands to transfer miraculous power died; only the apostles themselves were able to transfer miraculous power to others.
Since the New Testament is the complete, final inspired revelation from God, no additional miracles have occurred, and there have been no inspired prophets since approximately A.D. 100. Miracles were always scheduled by God to end once the New Testament was complete (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Ephesians 4:11-14). Mankind already now has all of the divine instruction that God intends for us to have (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3). The Gospel that we already have is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16 NKJV).
Not only do we already have the completed Word of God, but we are forbidden to make any alterations of it (Revelation 20:18-19). That, though, hasn’t thwarted the myriad of false prophets who ever arise to draw away souls after them (Matthew 7:15; 24:24; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Peter 2:21). Jesus said, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). There are no modern prophets in the same sense of those about whom we have been speaking; there have been none of this type of prophets since around the close of the first century A.D. Even in the first century, Christians were to test those who claimed to be prophets. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We have even more reason now to dismiss someone who claims to be a prophet of God.