You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5) (LSB)
What is the function of our priesthood? Now that we know who we are as priests, a holy priesthood, what do we do? “Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Now, the function of a priest in the Old Testament was primarily to offer God sacrifices. They functioned in the temple as those who brought the animals before God to be offered as sacrifices. When the Lord Jesus Christ came, all animal sacrifices ceased. And the only sacrifices remaining, Peter says, are spiritual sacrifices. And the priesthood is not anymore the priesthood from the tribe of Levi through the loins of Aaron, but it is a spiritual priesthood made up of redeemed members of the church of Jesus Christ.
When the priests of the Old Covenant offered up sacrifices, they had to be acceptable to God. The animal they offered had to be the best, without blemish. And the sacrifice had to be offered in such a way that it violated none of God’s commands.
We then, as priests, have a great privilege, but we also have a corresponding responsibility. We are to offer sacrifices that are acceptable to God. And these must come through Jesus Christ. He alone is the mediator. He is the one who gives us access to God. He gives us the right of entry, and only when we come in His name, consistent with His will, does it please God.
You say, “How can I know whether my spiritual sacrifices really honor God?” The qualifier is: Are they those things that are set forth on the pages of the Word of God? God has outlined for us the spiritual sacrifices we are to offer. And I want to give you a list.
Therefore I exhort you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—living, holy, and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)
You are involved in spiritual service. And it begins with the presentation of your body as a living and holy sacrifice.
What does he mean by body? All of your human faculties. He wants all your faculties: your feet, your hands, your mind, your eyes, your mouth, your ears. God wants it all for His glory.
Priesthood begins when you offer everything you are, everything you have, everything you hope to be, all your dreams, all your hopes, all your aspirations, all your faculties, and you say, “Lord, it’s all yours.” That’s the kind of commitment that a priest is called on to offer.
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess His name. (Hebrews 13:15)
He not only wants all your faculties but He wants your praise. But what does it mean to praise the Lord?
Number one, it means to recite His attributes. For example, there is much of this in Psalms. Reciting God’s attributes with a heart that exalts God — reverencing Him for who He is — is praise. Secondly, praise involves reciting His works. As we recite the great redemptive work of God, that is praise. Thirdly, praise is giving thanks for both of the above.
And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
This means doing good things, the opposite of sinning. It is doing what is righteous. It is spiritual conduct that honors God.
When you do any righteous thing — reproving or restoring a brother, loving or helping someone, studying the Word of God, sitting under the preaching of the precious truth — it is a spiritual sacrifice in the name of Christ that glorifies God.
For me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:16)
You know what Paul is saying here? He says, “I’m a priest, and you know what I’m offering God? I’m offering the souls of those I have been privileged to lead to Christ.”
Have you given God that kind of an offering? Have you had the privilege of lifting up a friend, a neighbor, a classmate, a relative and saying, “Lord Jesus, this is my sacrifice, this one who came to Christ because I was faithful to be available to be the instrument You could use”?
And walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)
Christ’s love, which resulted in His sacrifice, was a sacrifice acceptable to God. So your love, demonstrated in your selfless humility, is a sacrifice well pleasing to God. Sacrificial love for one another is well pleasing to God.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. (Revelation 8:3)
Our last element is prayer. That is a spiritual sacrifice to God. That too is a sweet aroma in the nostrils of God.
We are a priesthood, and as a priesthood we have the privilege of offering up spiritual sacrifices. Let me say this to you: The only reason the local church exists is to stimulate your priestly function. The church is not the end in itself. If all you do is come and go, that’s not it. Unless you go out to offer up spiritual sacrifices, the church has failed, and you have failed to respond.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1989, titled “The Believer’s Privileges, Part 3: Access Part 2.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
The Master’s University and Seminary admit students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
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Santa Clarita, CA 91321
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