On Good Friday, we may think of Jesus offering Himself as a sacrifice for us. Ephesians 5:2 says, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor.” Some people think this means that Christ took upon Himself the punishment for our sins, to satisfy God’s “justice.” But the Bible does not teach that Christ’s sacrifice was a punishment.
Sacrifice is actually a symbol of holiness, not punishment. “Sacri-fice” means to “make holy.” When we sin, we are not reconciled to God by being punished, but by repenting from our sin and leading a better life. Here are some beautiful teachings about sacrifice:
The sacrifices of God are a broken [that is, humble] spirit. (Psalm 51:16)
I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 12:7)
To love the Lord… and to love the neighbor… is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:33)
Though you offer Me burnt offerings… I will not accept them… But let judgment roll down like waters, and justice like a flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
Sacrifice means having “His law written on our hearts” and “doing God’s will” (Hebrews 8; 10:7, 9, 16). As Christians, we make sacrifices to God when we avoid sin and keep a clean conscience (Hebrews 9:9, 14; 10:22, 26; John 1:29). Sacrifice means serving God (Romans 12:1), loving others (Ephes. 5:2), and supplying the needs of others (Philippians 4:18). Paul said, “Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
Each day we have little opportunities to “lay down our lives for our friends” (John 15:13), by giving up something we might crave for the sake of sharing with others and doing them no harm. By these sacrifices, we allow the Lord to make our lives more holy and less selfish. We are following the example of Christ’s sacrifice for us. By willingly sacrificing His natural life and then rising in Divine glory, He set us free from bondage to our natural cravings and lifted our hearts to eternal life. Let us “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us,” making the necessary sacrifices to truly love one another. Then the purpose of His supreme sacrifice will be fulfilled.