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What is a Living Sacrifice?

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

We continue our journey today in that unique letter Paul sent to his dear friends and supporters in Philippi. Today’s reading is from:

Philippians 2:17 and 18

(17) Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (18) Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

So, what’s going on here? Sacrificial offering, drink offering, the Apostle Paul is painting a picture, or rather borrowing a picture here from the Old Testament. Priests offered animal sacrifices to God as burnt offerings, and some of these sacrifices were accompanied by a drink offering, wine poured on the side of the altar to God.

So, who’s the priest here? Paul. What is the sacrifice? Paul says the sacrifice is you, Philippians or you, the gentiles, who were without God. Because of Paul’s ministry, you obeyed the faith and became God’s very own, a sacrifice dedicated to God. Paul, the priest, is standing before God, joyfully offering Him the faith of the nations as a sacrifice.

OK… Something is missing though, the drink offering. What is it? It’s him. It’s Paul himself. He says if that drink offering needs to be me I rejoice. If what it takes to complete this sacrifice offering of your faith is my shed blood; I’ll go for it. The priest becomes a jar of wine and pours himself on the burnt offering.

Paul, as you know from chapter 1, had that shadow of his forthcoming death as he writes the letter, as a Roman citizen. Paul had the right to the more honorable, less painful death –by beheading, which produced a lot of poured blood; sorry for the graphic true story. That is the drink offering, his own blood. Paul says to his friends that it’s well worth it, and for me it’s a reason to rejoice, and it should be a reason to rejoice for you as well.

What a life! Laser focused on the goal, laser focused on what’s important, what is eternally significant.

Reading this, I thought to myself… how is my altar? How is my sacrifice?

Sacrifice language is not foreign to Paul’s writing, Here is Paul in

Rom 12:1 " I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

I want to comment on several words and phrases in this verse.

So, let’s start with the word “Holy” … We think of Holy as pure, as opposed to impure or defiled, whereas it’s almost always used in the Bible to mean dedicated to God. A holy person (like the priest) is a person dedicated to serving God; he didn’t have another job, it’s the one and only thing he does. Utensils of the altar used for temple service were holy meaning dedicated to God, cannot be used for any other purpose. So, when Paul says a living sacrifice holy, it means that we’re dedicated to God; we live for Him exclusively. It’s the one and only thing we do.

Acceptable to God, the word originates from the OT, when the priests presented animal sacrifices as burnt. The Bible says it’s a pleasing aroma to the LORD. it is not that God likes to smell BBQ, God likes what it the aroma represents; love, faith, worship, obedience, dedication of His people.

There is an aroma that comes out of you and me as living sacrifices. And the question is (and please don’t get me wrong) how do you smell?... God doesn’t particularly like BBQ smell, we established that. God loves us, and He loves it when we love him back; God loves it when the aroma of my life; the way I conduct my life, the way I handle my relationships, the way I manage my time, the way I handle my finances. When that aroma smells like love; when it communicates; God I love you, you’re the most important person in my life, my life is yours.

As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit everyday living a holy life to God, as we marinate in God’s presence, we become more like Jesus. God smells Jesus in us, and he loves it.

The question remains; How is my altar? How is my sacrifice? What is God smelling out of my life?

In a time of apostacy and backsliding, and before he offered a sacrifice to God, Elijah the prophet had to repair the altar 1Kgs 18:30 “Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down.” The alter of the LORD was abandoned for a long time and in a bad shape. My prayer is that our personal altars, our personal prayer life, and our collective altar is not thrown down. And if it is, I pray that today would be the day to repair it, and have fresh fire and a sacrifice on it. present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

What is worship according to Paul in this verse? Obviously it is not 1 hour on Sunday morning. It is the whole thing, my whole life presented to God 24/7 as a living, breathing walking sacrifice. It is everything I think, say, and do. "This is," Paul says, "your spiritual worship."

Paul paints a beautiful picture in two short verses. He’s willing, actually it gives him joy, to be the drink offering that completes the sacrifice offering of the Philippians. Paul, by his death, and them by being a living sacrifice acceptable to God, release the sweet aroma of love, worship, dedication and obedience, through their daily life and interaction with each other and the world around them.

We desire that what comes out of our life is an aroma to God and light to the world.

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