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Sacrifice (New Testament)
See also Sacrifice
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
I. TERMS OF SACRIFICE EPITOMIZED
II. ATTITUDE OF JESUS AND NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS TO THE OLD TESTAMENT SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM
1. Jesus’ Attitude
2. Paul’s Attitude
3. Attitude of the Author of Hebrews
III. THE SACRIFICIAL IDEA IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. Teaching of
3. Teaching of Peter
4. Paul’s Teaching
5. Teaching of Hebrews
6. Johannine Teaching
IV. RELATION OF CHRIST’s SACRIFICE TO MAN’s SALVATION
1. Redemption or Deliverance from Curse of Sin
4. The Cancellation of Guilt
5. Justification or Right Standing with God
6. Cleansing or Sanctification
V. HOW CHRIST’s SACRIFICE PROCURES SALVATION
1. Jesus’ Teaching
2. Paul’s Teaching
3. Teaching of Hebrews
4. Petrine and Johannine Teaching
VI. RATIONALE OF THE EFFICACY OF CHRIST’s SACRIFICE
1. Jesus’ Teaching
2. Paul’s Teaching
3. The Teaching in Hebrews
VII. THE HUMAN CONDITIONS OF APPLICATION
1. Universal in Objective Potentiality
2. Efficacious When Subjectively Applied
VIII. THE CHRISTIAN’s LIFE THE LIFE OF SACRIFICE
1. Consequence of Christ’s Sacrifice
2. Christ’s Death the Appeal for Christian’s Sacrifice
3. Necessary to Fill Out Christ’s Sacrifice
4. Content of the Christian’s Sacrifice
5. The Supper as a Sacrifice
I. Terms of Sacrifice Epitomized.
The word "sacrifice" (thusia in the Septuagint translates 8 different Hebrew words for various kinds of sacrifice, occurring about 350 times) refers to Christ’s death, once in Paul (
(lutron, "ransom," the price paid for redeeming, occurring in Septuagint 19 times, meaning the price paid for redeeming the servant (
(antilutron, "ransom," a word not found in Septuagint, stronger in meaning than the preceding word) occurs only once in the New Testament (
(apolutrosis, "redemption," in
(1) deliverance from sin by Christ’s death, 5 times in Paul (
(2) general deliverance, twice (
(3) the Christian’s final deliverance, physical and spiritual (
The simple word (lutrosis, "redemption," 10 times in Septuagint as the translation of 5 Hebrew words) occurs once for spiritual deliverance (
(exagorazo, "redeem," only once in Septuagint,
(1) to deliver from the curse of the law, twice by Paul (
(2) to use time wisely, twice by Paul (
The simple verb (agorazo, meaning in
(katallassein, "to reconcile," 4 times in Septuagint (3 times in 2 Maccabees)) means to bring men into the state of reconciliation with God, 5 times in Paul (
The words with the propitiatory idea occur as follows: (hilaskomai, "to propitiate," 12 times in the Septuagint, translated "to forgive") occurs twice (
Christ is called "the Lamb," amnos, twice by the Baptist (
Though it is not our province in this article to discuss the origin and history of sacrifice in the ethnic religions, it must be noted that sacrifice has been a chief element in almost every religion (Jainism and Buddhism being the principal exceptions). The bloody sacrifice, where the idea of propitiation is prominent, is well-nigh universal in the ethnic religions, being found among even the most enlightened peoples like the Greeks and Romans (see article "Expiation and Atonement" in ERE). Whether or not the system of animal sacrifices would have ceased not only in Judaism but also in all the ethnic religions, had not Jesus lived and taught and died, is a question of pure speculation. It must be conceded that the sect of the Jews (Essenes) attaining to the highest ethical standard and living the most unselfish lives of brotherhood and benevolence did not believe in animal sacrifices. But they exerted small influence over the Jewish nation as compared with the Pharisees. It is also to be noted that the prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah exalted the ethical far above the ceremonial; even denounced the sacrifice of animals if not accompanied by personal devotion to righteousness (
II. Attitude of Jesus and New Testament Writers to the Old Testament Sacrificial System.
1. Jesus’ Attitude:
2. Paul’s Attitude:
Paul’s estimate of the Jewish sacrifices is easily seen, although he does not often refer to them. Once only (
3. Attitude of the Author of Hebrews:
The author of thediscusses the Old Testament sacrifices more fully than other New Testament writers. He regards the bloody sacrifices as superior to the unbloody and the yearly sacririce on the by the high priest as the climax of the Old Testament system. The high priest under the old covenant was the type of Christ under the new. The sacrifices of the old covenant could not take away sin, or produce moral transformation, because of the frailties of men (10:1-11), shown by the necessity of repeating the offerings (5:2), and because God had appointed another high priest, His Son, to supplant those of the old covenant (5:5; 7:1-28). The heart of this author’s teaching is that animal sacrifices cannot possibly atone for sin or produce moral transformation, since they are divinely-appointed only as a type or shadow of the one great sacrifice by Christ (8:7; 10:1).
To sum up, the New Testament writers, as well as Jesus, regarded the Old Testament sacrificial system as of divine origin and so obligatory in its day, but imperfect and only a type of Christ’s sacrifice, and so to be supplanted by His perfect sacrifice.
III. The Sacrificial Idea in the New Testament.
The one central idea of New Testament writers is that the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross is the final perfect sacrifice for the atonement of sin and the salvation of men, a sacrifice typified in the various sacrifices of the Old Testament, which are in turn abrogated by the operation of the final sacrifice. Only James and Jude among New Testament writers are silent as to the sacrifice of Christ, and they write for practical purposes only.
1. Teaching of John the Baptist:
The Baptist, it is true, presents Jesus as the coming Judge in the
There are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels two unmistakable references by Jesus to His death as a sacrifice (
3. Teaching of Peter:
Though the head apostle does not in the early chapters of Ac refer to Christ as the sacrifice for sin, he does imply as much in 2:36 (He is Lord and Christ in spite of His crucifixion); 3:18,19 (He fulfilled the prophecies by suffering, and by means of repentance sins are to be blotted out); 4:10-12 (only in His name is salvation) and in 5:30,31 (through whose death Israel received remission of sins). In his First Epistle (
4. Paul’s Teaching:
5. Teaching of Hebrews:
The argument of the author of Hebrews to prove the finality of Christianity is that Christ is superior to the Aaronic high priest, being a royal, eternal high priest, after the order of Melchizedek, and offering Himself as the final sacrifice for sin, and for the moral transformation of men (4:14; 10:18).
6. Johannine Teaching:
In the First Epistle of John (1
To sum up, all the New Testament writers, except James and Jude, refer to Christ’s death as the great sacrifice for sin. Jesus Himself regarded His death as such. In the various types of New Testament teaching Christ’s death is presented
(1) as the covenant sacrifice (
(2) as the sin offering (
(3) as the offering of the paschal lamb (
(4) as the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement (
IV. Relation of Christ’s Sacrifice to Man’s Salvation.
The saving benefits specified in the New Testament as resulting from the sacrificial death of Christ are as follows:
1. Redemption or Deliverance from Curse of Sin:
The author of Hebrews asserts that Christ by the sacrifice of Himself "obtained eternal redemption" for man (9:12). John says that Christ "loosed (luo) us from our sins by his blood" (
The idea of reconciliation involves a personal difference between two parties. There is estrangement between God and man. Reconciliation is the restoration of favor between the two parties. Jesus does not utter any direct message on reconciliation, but implies God’s repugnance at man’s sin and strained relations between God and the unrepentant sinner (see
The author of Hebrews also implies that Christ’s death secures reconciliation when he regards this death as the ratification of the "better covenant" (8:6 ff), and when he plays on the double meaning of the word (diatheke, 9:15 ff), now "covenant" and now "will," "testament." The death of Christ is necessary to secure the ratification of the new covenant which brings God and man into new relations (8:12). In 2:17 the author uses a word implying propitiation as wrought by the death of Christ. So the doctrine of reconciliation is also in the Epistle to the Hebrews. John teaches reconciliation with God through Christ our Advocate, but does not expressly connect it with His death as the procuring cause (1
3. Remission of Sins:
Reconciliation implies that God can forgive; yea, has forgiven. Jesus and the New Testament writers declare the death of Christ to be the basis of God’s forgiveness. Jesus in instituting the memorial supper said, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins" (
4. The Cancellation of Guilt:
True reconciliation and forgiveness include the canceling of the offender’s guilt. Jesus has no direct word on the cancellation of guilt. Paul closes his argument for the universality of human sin by asserting that "all the world may be brought under the judgment of God" (the
5. Justification or Right Standing with God:
Right standing with God is also implied in the preceding idea. Forgiving sin and canceling guilt are the negative, bringing into right standing with God the positive, aspects of the same transaction. "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin (i.e. the sin offering; so Augustine and other Fathers, Ewald, Ritschl; see Meyer, Commentary, in loc., who denies this meaning) on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (
6. Cleansing or Sanctification:
Jesus does not connect our cleansing or sanctification with His death, but with His word (
Divine sonship of the believer is also traced by Paul to the sacrificial death of Christ (
So, we sum up, the whole process of salvation, from reconciliation with God to the adoption of the saved sinner into heaven’s household, is ascribed, to some extent by Jesus, largely by Paul theologian of the New Testament, and, in varying degrees, by other New Testament writers, to the sacrificial death of Christ. Even Holtzmann (Neutest. Theol., II, 111) admits "It is upon the moment of death that the grounding of salvation is exclusively concentrated."
V. How Christ’s Sacrifice Procures Salvation.
It must be conceded that the New Testament writers, much less Jesus, did not discuss this subject from the philosophical point of view. Jesus never philosophizes except incidentally. Paul, the author of He, and John had a philosophy underlying their theology, the first and second dealing most with the sacrificial work of Christ, the last with His person. But Paul and the author of Heb did not write their letters to produce a philosophical system explaining how Christ’s sacrificial death can and does procure man’s salvation.
1. Jesus’ Teaching:
By some it is claimed that the word "ransom" (
Nor does Jesus’ saying at the
2. Paul’s Teaching:
Ritschl and many modern scholars are disposed to reject all philosophy in religion. They say, "Back to Christ." Paul was only a human interpreter of Jesus. But he was a divinely-guided interpreter, and we need his first-hand interpretations of Jesus. What has he to say as to how Christ’s death saves men?
(1) The Words Expressing the Idea of Redemption.
See above on the terms of sacrifice. The classical passage containing the idea of redemption is
(a) Law here means "law legalistically understood."
(b) The "curse" was the verdict of the law of pure legalism, "a disclosure to man of his actual status before God on a basis of merit."
(c) The redemption meant is that Christ "brought to an end the regime of law .... rather than deliverance of individuals through release from penalty."
He bases this argument largely on the use of hemas, "us," meaning Jews in antithesis with ethne, the Gentiles (
(a) Man under law (whether the revealed law of the Old Testament or the moral law) is under a "curse," that is, liable to the penalty which the broken law demands.
(b) Christ by His death on the cross became a "curse for us."
(c) By means of Christ thus becoming a "curse for us" He delivered us, "not the Jews as a nation, but all of us, Jews and Gentiles, who believed," from the curse incurred by the breaking of the law.
Professor Burton admits that the participle genomenos, "becoming," may be a "participle of means" (the article cited above, 643), and so we have "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." The passage at least suggests, if it does not declare, that Christ saves us by vicariously enduring the penalty to which we were exposed.
(2) The Idea of Reconciliation.
Paul uses the phrase "wrath of God" (
See also RECONCILIATION; RETRIBUTION.
(3) The Idea of Propitiation.
Only once (
See Epistle to the Romans, 9, (3).
(4) The Prepositions Huper, and Anti.
Summing up Paul’s teaching as to how Christ’s sacrifice saves:
(a) The propitiatory sacrifice does not "soften God, or assuage the anger of God" (as Bushnell claims the advocates of the satisfaction theories assert, Vicarious Sacrifice, 486). God is already willing to save men, His love makes the propitiatory sacrifice (
(b) But man by breaking God’s law had come under the curse, the penalty of the broken law (
(c) Christ by His sacrificial death made it possible for God to show His righteousness and love at the same time; i.e. that He did punish sin, but did love the sinner and wish to save him (
(d) Christ, who was sinless, suffered vicariously for sinful men. His death was not due to His sins but those of men (
(e) His death, followed by His resurrection which marked Him off as the sinless
So, we may say, Paul explained the relation of Christ’s death to the sinner’s spiritual life by thinking of a transfer of the sinner’s "curse" to Christ, which He bore on the cross, and of God’s righteousness through Christ (
3. Teaching of Hebrews:
The author of Hebrews adds nothing to Paul’s teaching respecting the method whereby Christ’s sacrifice operates in saving men. His purpose to produce an apology showing forth the superior efficacy of Christ’s high-priestly sacrifice over that of the Aaronic priesthood fixes his first thought on the efficacy of the sacrifice rather than on its mode of operation. He does use the words "redemption" (9:12; compare 9:15), "propitiate" (2:17), and emphasizes the opening up of the heavenly holy of holies by the high-priestly sacrifice of Christ (the way of access to the very presence of God by Christ’s death, 10:19,20), which gives us data for forming a system based on a real propitiation for sin and reconciliation of God similar to the Pauline teaching formulated above.
4. Petrine and Johannine Teaching:
Peter asserts that Christ suffered vicariously (
To sum up the New Testament teachings on the mode or operation: Jesus asserts His vicarious suffering (
VI. Rationale of the Efficacy of Christ’s Sacrifice.
1. Jesus’ Teaching:
Jesus emphasizes His voluntary spirit in making the sacrifice. "The Son of man also came .... to give his life a ransom." The sacrifice was voluntary, not compulsory. God did not force Him to lay down His life; He chose to do so (compare
2. Paul’s Teaching:
3. The Teaching in Hebrews:
The author of Hebrews, most of all New Testament writers, elaborates the grounds of efficacy in Christ’s sacrifice.
(1) It was a personal not an animal sacrifice (9:12-14; 9:26, "sacrifice of himself"; 10:4).
(2) It was the sacrifice of the Son of God (3:5).
(3) It was a royal person who made the sacrifice (6:20b; 7:1, "after the order of Melchizedek .... king of Salem").
(4) It was a sinless person (7:26,27; 9:14; 10:10,12). Westcott, Commentary on Hebrews, 298, well says, "It becomes necessary, therefore, in order to gain a complete view of the Sacrifice of Christ, to combine with the crowning act upon the Cross His fulfillment of the will of God from first to last, the Sacrifice of Life with the Sacrifice of Death."
(5) It was an eternal person (6:20, "for ever"; 7:16, "after the power of an endless (margin "indissoluble") life").
The author of Hebrews reaches the climax of his argument for the superior efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice when he represents Him as entering the holy of holies in the very presence of God to complete the offering for man’s sin (8:1,2; 9:11,12,24).
Peter and John do not discuss the ground of efficacy, and so add nothing to our conclusions above. The efficacy of the sacrifice is suggested by describing the glory of the person (
To sum up our conclusion as to the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice: Jesus and the leading New Testament writers intimate that the efficacy of His sacrifice centers in His personality. Jesus, Peter and John do not discuss the subject directly. Paul, though discussing it more extensively, does not do so fully, but the author of Heb centers and culminates his argument for the finality of Christianity, in the superior efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice, which is grounded in His personality, divine, royal, sinless, eternal (see Menegoz, Theol. de l’Ep. aux Hebreux). It is easy to see, from the position taken by the author of He, how Anselm in Cur Deus Homo developed his theory of satisfaction, according to which the Divinity in Christ gave His atoning sacrifice its priceless worth in God’s eyes.
VII. The Human Conditions of Application.
1. Universal in Objective Potentiality:
The sacrificial death of Christ is universal in its objective potentiality, according to Jesus (
2. Efficacious When Subjectively Applied:
But the objective redemption to be efficacious must be subjectively applied. The blood of Christ is the universally efficacious remedy for the sin-sick souls of men, but each man must make the subjective application. How is the application made? And the threefold answer is, by repentance, by faith, and by obedience.
(1) By Repentance.
The Baptist and Jesus emphasized repentance (change of mind first of all, then change of relation and of life) as the condition of entrance into the kingdom and of enjoyment of the Messianic salvation (
(2) By Faith.
(3) By Obedience in Sacrificial Service.
Jesus said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (
VIII. The Christian’s Life the Life of Sacrifice.
This discussion of the faith that "obeys" leads to the consideration of that climactic thought of New Testament writers, namely, that the Christian’s life is sacrificial living based on Christ’s sacrifice for him. We note in outline the following:
The Christian’s life of sacrifice is the logical consequence of Christ’s sacrificial death. The Christ who sacrificed Himself for the believer is now continuing the sacrifice in the believer’s life (
1. Consequence of Christ’s Sacrifice:
Paul was crucified when Christ was crucified (in a bold mystic figure), and the life of Christ which sacrificed itself on the cross and perpetuates itself in resurrection power now operates as a mighty dynamic for the apostle’s moral and spiritual transformation (
2. Christ’s Death the Appeal for a Christian’s Sacrifice:
3. Necessary to Fill Out Christ’s Sacrifice:
The Christian’s sacrifice is necessary to fill out Christ’s sacrifice. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church" (
4. Content of the Christian’s Sacrifice:
(1) The Christian is to present his personality (
(2) Christians must present their "bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (
(3) Christians must offer their money or earthly possessions to God. Paul speaks of the gift from the church at Philippi as "a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God" (
(4) The general exercise of all our gifts and graces is viewed by Peter as sacrificial living (
But how do these sacrifices of the Christian affect him and God? The New Testament writers never hint that our sacrifices propitiate God, or so win His favor that He will or can on account of our sacrifices forgive our sins. They are "well-pleasing" to Him a "sweet odor"; that is, they win His approval of our lives thus lived according to the standard which Christ gives us. Their influence on us is the increase of our spiritual efficiency and power and finally a greater capacity for enjoying spiritual blessings in heaven (
5. The Supper as a Sacrifice:
Some scholars (Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, etc.) regard the memorial supper as a kind of sacrifice which the Christian offers in worship. Neither Jesus, Paul, the author of Hebrews, Peter, or John, ever hints that in eating the bread and drinking the wine the Christian offers a sacrifice to God in Christ. Paul teaches that in partaking of the Supper we "proclaim the Lord’s death till he come" (
To sum up our conclusions on sacrifice in the New Testament:
(1) Jesus and New Testament writers regard the Old Testament sacrificial system as from God, but imperfect, the various sacrifices serving only as types of the one great sacrifice which Christ made.
(2) All the writers, except James and Jude, with Jesus, emphasize the sacrificial idea, Jesus less, giving only two hints of His sacrificial death (in the Synoptic Gospels), the author of Heb putting the climactic emphasis on Christ’s sacrifice as the sacrifice of atonement.
(3) As to the relation of Christ’s sacrifice to man’s salvation, the latter is the achievement of the former, so expressed only twice by Jesus, but emphatically so declared by Paul, the author of Heb, Peter, and John (Paul and Heb laying most emphasis on this point).
(4) As to how Christ’s sacrifice saves men, Jesus, the author of He, Peter and John suggest the idea of propitiation, while Paul emphatically teaches that man is under a curse, exposed to the displeasure of God, and that Christ’s sacrifice secured the reconciliation of God by vindicating His righteousness in punishing sin and His love in saving sinners. Jesus and the leading New Testament writers agree that Christ saves men through His vicarious suffering.
(5) As to the rational basis of efficacy in Christ’s sacrifice, there is no direct discussion in the New Testament except by the author of Hebrews who grounds its final, eternal efficacy in Christ’s personality, divine, royal, sinless and eternal.
(6) As to the conditions of applying Christ’s sacrifice, repentance and faith, which lives and fruits in obedience and sacrificial living, are recognized by Jesus and all the leading New Testament writers as the means of appropriating the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice.
(7) By Jesus, Paul, the author of He, Peter and John the Christian life is viewed as the life of sacrifice. Christ’s death is at once the cause, motive, measure, and the dynamic of the Christian’s sacrificial life.
In addition to the great comms.--ICC, Allen on "Mt," Gould on "Mk," Sanday-Headlam on "Rom"; Westcott on the Gospel and, and on the Hebrews; Davidson, Delitzsch and Meyer on Hebrews; Meyer on 2 Corinthians; Lightfoot and Abbott on Colossians; and the standard authors of the Biblical Theology of the New Testament, Weiss, Beyschlag, Bovon, Stevens, Sheldon--see the following special works: Cave, Scriptural Doctrine of Sacrifice, Edinburgh, 1890; Simon, Redemption of Man, 1886; G. Milligan, The Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Edinburgh, 1899; Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord, London, 1908; W.P. Du Bose, High-Priesthood and Sacrifice; Everett, The Gospel of Paul, Boston, 1893; Burton, Smith, and Smith, Biblical Ideas of Atonement, Chicago, 1909; Denney, The : Its Place and Interpretation in the New Testament, London, 1902; Denney, The Atonement and the Modern Mind, London, 1903; Ritschl, Rechtfertigung und Versohnung (Justification and Reconciliation), Bonn, 1895-1902, English translations of the Bible, 1900; Menegoz, Theol. del’Ep. aux Hebreux; article "Blood," Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, by H. Wheeler Robinson; article "Communion with Deity," ibid., by Nathan Soderblom; article "Communion with Deity" (Christian), ibid., by Darwell Stone and D. C. Simpson; article "Expiation and Atonement," ibid., by W. A. Brown (Christian viewpoint), S. R. Driver (Hebrew), H. Loewe (Jewish); article "Redemption from the Curse of the Law," in AJT, October, 1907, by Professor E. D. Burton; article "Some Thoughts as to the Effects of the Death of Christ," in Revelation and The Expositor, October, 1909.
C. B. Williams