Question: "What are spiritual sacrifices?"
Answer: First Peter 2:5 says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Peter was writing to Christians to encourage them to remain strong in the faith, even through persecution (1 Peter 1:6). He reminded them that they were highly significant in the sight of God and urged them to live holy lives (verses 15–16).
Under the New Covenant, every believer in Jesus Christ is a holy priest. As priests, they offer spiritual sacrifices “through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Spiritual sacrifices replace the material sacrifices of the Old Covenant (Exodus 29:36). No longer are priests a separate class, and no longer do they offer bulls, goats, and lambs on the altar (Hebrews 10:1–11). Not only do believers constitute the new priesthood, but they are the “living stones” forming the spiritual temple of God (1 Peter 2:5). Our worship today involves the offering of spiritual sacrifices.
Spiritual sacrifices include the believer’s prayers, praises, will, bodies, time, and talents. Such sacrifices are made acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ, the great High Priest.
Prayer is a spiritual sacrifice. Under the law, incense, often associated with prayer, was offered on the altar of incense in the tabernacle and temple. David prayed, “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Psalm 141:2). In his vision of heaven, John saw that the elders around the throne “were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (Revelation 5:8; cf. 8:3). Our prayers offered to God ascend as the smoke of the incense ascended in the sanctuary. The fact that the incense was always burning means that we should always pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Another spiritual sacrifice is praise. God created us to praise Him, and we offer a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) when we turn toward God rather than away from Him in the midst of suffering. Praise is easy when all is right with our world. But when the sky falls in, Satan is ready to suggest, like Job’s wife did, that we “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). When we resist the urge to judge God for our misfortune and offer praises instead, that becomes a spiritual sacrifice.
Another spiritual sacrifice is surrender of the will. Just as Jesus surrendered His will to the Father’s (Luke 22:42), so do we. Surrender of our will is an ongoing battle. The sin nature that resides within each of us battles for supremacy (Romans 7:18–20). Self wants to rule. It is an act of worship when we willingly crucify self and embrace surrender to the will of God. We choose His way rather than our own.
Another way we offer spiritual sacrifices is to present our physical bodies as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1–2). Our bodies are the temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:18–20). Those who are in Christ by virtue of saving faith offer themselves completely to the Lord. The believer’s body is yielded to God as an instrument of righteousness (Romans 6:12–13; 8:11–13). Believers maintain good sexual boundaries (Ephesians 5:3). They refuse to use their bodies for theft (Ephesians 4:28) or for bringing harm to another person (Colossians 3:12–13). They offer their bodies daily to God, asking Him to live His life through them (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:12–14).
Spiritual sacrifices are any words or deeds motivated by a desire to glorify God alone. Jesus promised us rewards for every kind action done in His name (Mark 9:41; Revelation 22:12). But we don’t offer spiritual sacrifices for what we will get out of it. We offer them without strings attached because our hearts long to live in close fellowship with God. Sacrifice is part and parcel of worship. Christians offer sacrifices of the heart.