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Are You Making Spiritual Sacrifices?

Every Monday night several folks gather around our dinner table for an hour or so of Bible study. We’ve been through the gospel of John, 1 John, and now we are working through 1 Peter. Tonight we focused on a passage in chapter two. It includes those verses where Peter describes the work of the Holy Spirit in believers (and in the church as a whole) as a result of Christ being the cornerstone of their existence. In verse five (5) Peter writes,

1 Peter 2:5 (ESV) 5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The phrase that catches my attention here is the one that points out the goal of God’s work in building us into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, i.e., “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God . . . .” Now, understand, those spiritual sacrifices, whatever they are, are offered through Jesus. These are not sacrifices made in our own strength and ability or to our own spiritual credit. Whatever these sacrifices are, they are as all creation is, “in Him and through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

But what are these spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God that God the Holy Spirit is working in us through Jesus? And am I (and is the church) making these sacrifices?

Here are some of the insights I found throughout the New Testament that help to identify what are the spiritual sacrifices the Holy Spirit enacts in believers:

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) 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. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Here Paul means we give our physical bodies, all their function and all their potential, over to God for His use. Because they are “living sacrifices” we know that Paul means we are to give over to God, for His glory, the activities and behaviors and conduct we carry out in the body. That includes where our feet take us, what our eyes see, what our hands do, what our heart loves, what our brains think, and what our mouths take in (as well as what comes out of the lips). These all belong to God and His use should be our first (and we probably ought to say, only) consideration.

Ephesians 5:2 (ESV) 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Christ loved us. Christ gave himself up for us. The “as” that connects “walk in love” to the life Christ lived makes loving as Christ loved a spiritual sacrifice for us as well. Someone might ask, “How is walking in love a sacrifice?” I think of it this way: genuine love, the love with which God loves, is a decision to seek what is best for someone else despite the cost to yourself. Thus, God in love sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross on our behalf. So, if we are to love like that, then we are to set others perpetually before ourselves. In order to do that, we’re going to have to sacrifice ego, selfishness, and pride. I feel fairly safe in suggesting that will be a sacrifice for most of us.

Philippians 4:18 (ESV) 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. The Philippian Christians sent a financial gift in support of Paul. They ministered to his need for economic sustainability. Their concrete, monetary support Paul recognizes as a “sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” What if we began to see regular giving not as “the church asking for more money” as so many falsely interpret that moment in our worship services, and began to see the support we provide for pastors and missionaries and ministries as a spiritual sacrifice for which God has prepared us in Christ and which, when enacted in us by the Holy Spirit, is “acceptable and pleasing to God”?

Hebrews 13:15-16 (ESV) 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God Here two spiritual sacrifices are identified for us: the sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of sharing the resources God has entrusted to us with others. Interestingly, the sacrifice of praise is described as the “fruit of lips,” suggesting that this is verbalized praise and not just “thought about” praise. Also, sharing is synonymous with “doing good.” Sometimes people say, “I really want to do something good with my life.” Share it. Share what you have. It’s a great place to start making the spiritual sacrifices you are made for in Christ.

Philippians 2:17 (ESV) 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. Faith is a spiritual sacrifice for which God is preparing and building His people, individually and corporately.

Hebrews 12:28 (ESV) 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe . . . . Worship that focuses on God, exalts God, proclaims God is another spiritual sacrifice we make. Sometimes worship can be self-exalting, especially when it is bound and tied to what I “prefer” rather than being intentionally focused on what pleases God (which we can know from His word.)

So, there are some spiritual sacrifices identified in the Bible, in the New Testament that we ought to make. What spiritual sacrifices do we actually make? Are the sacrifices we make acceptable and pleasing to God? Are they the sacrifices He calls us to or are they self-determined? (Read the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4 if you need an example of the difference.)

As Peter wraps up his thoughts in this passage he reminds us of God’s working goal for His people, that “you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9b). Our role in the world is to proclaim the excellencies, the perfections, the glory of God. This is consistent with God’s self-revealed mission statement, “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). So, ask yourself these questions as well: How are the spiritual sacrifices I am making (if I am in fact making spiritual sacrifices) proclaiming the glory of God? How might they fail to proclaim His glory? What can I do to make changes?


  • Justin

    Reply December 25, 2020 9:26 am

    Very Good article

    • Larry

      January 3, 2022 9:45 pm

      Great article but I was wondering how our “free will” works to the glory of God if we give our will over to God as a spiritual sacrifice? Bendiciones de Dios

  • Aaron

    Reply January 14, 2022 11:04 am

    I came across this article in efforts to understand spiritual sacrifices. I have been battling comparisons between myself and others, instead of giving my full attention and sacrifices as my first obligation. There are a couple more references to Spiritual Sacrifices in the (ESV) Fire Bible Notes. Thank you for going into detail with a few of these!

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