Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 11, 2011
“…you yourselves are…to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5b
1 Peter is a message of hope for a chosen people living in a land that is not their own who are suffering persecution for their faith. It tells us not to give up on our faith in Christ and not to give up on our identity as the people of God just because bad things are happening to us.
The first ten verses of chapter 2 remind us that we are a community of God’s chosen people. We have a common identity in Christ. Two weeks ago we saw that we are to be people that depend on Christ the Word. Last week we saw that we are to be people who depend on Christ the Cornerstone. This week we will see that we are to be a people dependent on Christ our High Priest.
As we said last week, we are corporately being built into a spiritual house where God dwells among us. Christ is the cornerstone or foundation of the house, and we are the stones or members that rest on the foundation of Christ.
Today’s passage tells us that in Christ not only are we the building blocks of God’s temple, we are also the priests who minister in God’s temple by offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
This verse tells us three things about the spiritual sacrifices we are to offer God:
- Who should offer spiritual sacrifices
- The nature of spiritual sacrifices
- How spiritual sacrifices should be offered
Who should offer spiritual sacrifices
“…you are…to be a holy priesthood to offer…”
Under the old covenant, in the temple at Jerusalem, the priesthood was an essential component. Priests ministered there by offering sacrifices on behalf of themselves and on behalf of the people. The high priest offered sacrifices once a year on the Day of Atonement for the corporate sin of the people.
It is important, to show here that this is also an essential component in the spiritual temple that God is raising on the foundation of Christ under the new covenant.
Here and elsewhere in the NT, we see that there is no longer a special tribe of Jews who serve as priests under the new covenant, but that “the whole body of Christians” are in fact a priesthood.
Everyone who belongs to Christ is a NT priest engaged in offering acceptable sacrifices to God. We are called here a “holy priesthood.”
Isaiah prophesied this when he wrote:
“But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God…” ( Isa 61:6)
And “”I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD.” (Isa 66:21)
Peter confirms this later in verse 9, quoting Isaiah, when he writes,
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION…”
The apostle John further confirms this in Revelation 1 (verse 6), speaking of Christ when he writes, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father…”
And again in chapter 5, “and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.””” (ESV Rev. 5:10)
And finally in chapter 20, “they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (ESV Rev. 20:6)
The Great High Priest under the new covenant is Christ. We see this clearly in the book of Hebrews. “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe…” (NLT Heb. 4:14)
Hebrews goes on to say that, “Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.” (Heb 7:27 NLT)
We are also to be a HOLY priesthood, cleansed by the blood of Christ, but also intent with the strength the Spirit gives us, to avoid sin in our lives.
In a paper by Rousas John Rushdoony entitled, The Puritan Doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers, he writes
“The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers was of central importance to the Reformers in attacking the validity of Rome’s doctrine of the priesthood. The only earthly priesthood after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension is the priesthood of all believers; the church is led by a ministry, but it is a congregation of royal priests.”
But, he writes, the Westminster Assembly took this one step further:
“ Westminster Confession did not talk about the priesthood of all believers; instead, it set free that priesthood in terms of its charter, the Bible, faithfully interpreted in terms of itself and the Spirit of God. The new priesthood now had its priestly ordination papers in hand, the Bible.”
So under the new covenant, all Christians are priests, guided by the Word of God, serving together with and under Christ in the spiritual temple that God is building among us.
Do you have the sense of being a fellow priest with and under Christ? Do you possess that sense of being called by God, anointed by Christ and clothed with the power of the Spirit to fulfill the tasks that God has put before you?
We’ve looked at Who should offer spiritual sacrifices, Now let’s look at,
The nature of spiritual sacrifices – what kinds of sacrifices we should be offering in the spiritual temple
“you yourselves are…to offer spiritual sacrifices…”
Under the old covenant, the priests offered two basic kinds of sacrifices – atoning sacrifices and non-atoning sacrifices, as you can see on the insert.
The first three – the burnt offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering were atoning sacrifices, offered to cleanse from sin, to pay the penalty for sin against God and to restore the worshiper to fellowship or right standing with God.
The last two – the grain offering and the peace offering were non-atoning sacrifices, offered to honor God with a worshipful gift and to express thanks to God through worship and a meal shared with family and friends.
What they are not: Spiritual sacrifices under the new covenant are
- Not Atoning sacrifices. They are not offerings for sin. There is no longer any need because
- Christ offered himself once for all time for the sin of his chosen people.
- “Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day…But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. (NLT 7:27)
- Not Offerings of material things only
- They are not necessarily material or physical offerings of animal, birds, grain, bread or flour.
- The Westminster Confession, chapter 20.1 says, “…under the new testament, the liberty of Christians has been enlarged to include freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected.”
- For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies– physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. (NLT 9:10)
- Those offerings prefigured Christ’s physical or material body and blood which he offered as a sacrifice to secure our redemption.
- “With his own blood– not the blood of goats and calves– he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. (NLT 9:12)
What they are:
- Generally speaking, an offering yourselves totally to God for his service, in accordance with His will and His Wor
- Paul gives us an example of this:
- “… give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice…” (NLT 12:1)
- Christ did this when he went to the cross in accordance with God’s will. He did not wish it to be so, but he said, “Yet not my will, but Your will be done.”
- Paul gives us an example of this:
- Specifically, includes offering praise and thanks to God and offering acts of loving service to his people and those who will become his people.
- Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God …do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. (NLT 13:15-16)
- But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God…(NLT 2:17)
- I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me… They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. (NLT 4:18)
- What can we bring to the LORD? What kind of offerings should we give him?… to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT 6:6-8)
- Christ did these as well. Think of the many times he praised his heavenly Father and gave Him thanks, faithfully served the twelve by washing their feet and preparing them for the time when he would no longer be with them, administered justice to the woman who was caught in adultery, gave food to the hungry, sight to the blind, and granted mercy to the thief on the cross.
- Have you offered yourself unreservedly to God for his service? Have you said, “I’ll do whatever you ask? Or are you more like Jonah, who when told to go to Ninevah, fled in the opposite direction?
- When you have the opportunity to perform an act of loving service to someone as the Good Samaritan did, do you seize the opportunity or do pass by on the other side like the Pharisee or the Levite?
- Do you readily give thanks and praise to God for the small things he is doing in your life?
- These are all examples of spiritual sacrifices that as new testament priests we should be offering to God.
We’ve looked at who should offer spiritual sacrifices and the nature of spiritual sacrifices, now let’s look at
How spiritual sacrifices should be offered
they should be “…acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…”
Offerings God does not accept
- Offerings that are substitutes for obedience. Saul – a negative example, when he offered a sacrifice instead of killing all the Amalakites as he had been told to do
- “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (NIV 1 Sam. 15:20-22)
- Offerings that attempt to placate or manipulate God. Israel – another negative example. Micah pronounced judgment on Israel for their corruption and oppression of the poor after they had either attempted or were tempted to manipulate or placate God with an on offering of a sacrifice.
- With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV 6:6-8)
- Offerings that cost us nothing. David – a positive example, after he was confronted with his sin of adultery and murder. As an offering to have the Lord remove the plague from Israel.
- David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.” Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.” But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (NIV 1 Chr. 21:22-24)
Offerings God accepts
- Those that are in agreement with his will and Word – things explicitly or implicitly called “pleasing” to God or “acceptable” to God in Scripture.
- Explicit examples:
- …offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God… (NIV 12:1)
- …let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise… do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (NIV 13:15-16)
- … proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God… (NIV 15:16)
- because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Rom 14:18 (NIV)
- …I have received…the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Phil 4:18 NIV)
- But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. (1 Timothy 5:4 (NIV)
- Implicit examples – revealed as God’s will in Scripture
- He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV 6:7-8)
- Parable of the two sons: “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ “And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” (NAU 21:28-32)
- Christ himself, said, “Not my will but your will be done.” Then went to the cross.
- Those that are made acceptable through Jesus Christ
- Christ earned or merited God’s favor on our behalf by his great sacrifice on the cross. “Our prayers and praises are in themselves so imperfect, and proceed from such polluted lips and hearts, that they can be acceptable only through him as our intercessor before the throne of God.”
- For Christ has appear[ed] now before God on our behalf. (NLT 9:24)
- And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (NLT 10:19-22)
Who should offer spiritual sacrifices – the priesthood of all believers serving with and under Christ our high priest
The nature of spiritual sacrifices – offering ourselves in thanks and praise to God and in loving service to others as Christ’s ambassadors
How spiritual sacrifices should be offered – in ways that are in accord with God’s word, dependent on Christ’s merit through his death and his intercession as our high priest to make them acceptable to God
Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.