13.2.1 From Old Testament sacrificial service to devoting one's life to God

Sacrifice and sacrificial service played an important role in practically all the religions of ancient civilisations–as also in Israel. Sacrifice was intended to invoke God's grace, avert punishment, and bring about reconciliation. Sacrifices were brought in many forms.

The first sacrifice mentioned in the Bible was brought by the sons of Adam and Eve: Cain offered of the fruit of the ground, Abel killed animals of his flock (Genesis 4: 3-4). God looked upon both those bringing the sacrifices and the sacrifices themselves. While He graciously accepted the sacrifice brought to Him in faith by Abel, He rejected Cain and his sacrifice (Hebrews 11: 4 and Genesis 4: 4-5). It follows that not every sacrifice is pleasing to God. The determining factor in whether He graciously accepts an offering is the attitude of the one bringing gifts to Him.

The Mosaic Law prescribed a multifaceted, strictly ritualised sacrificial service. It included burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings that were presented to God (Leviticus 1-7). Apart from the daily sacrifices for the morning and evening, the priests would, on certain days in the calendar, bring special offerings on behalf of the people. The sins of the people of Israel were thereby covered. Furthermore, there were sacrifices which individual Israelites made for various purposes, for example to atone for unconscious trespasses (Leviticus 4 et seq.) or bodily uncleanness (Leviticus 15: 14 et seq.).

All of the Old Testament sacrificial service, as determined in accordance God's will, lost its significance once and for all through Christ's sacrifice (Hebrews 8 to 10: 18).

In the New Testament, sacrifice takes on a new dimension. Thus Apostle Paul calls upon the Christians to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Romans 12: 1). This means that one should fashion one's life in accordance with the standards of the gospel: Christians surrender themselves to God with everything they have and are.

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