Why do we worship the way we do? One way to answer this question is by noticing the texts in the New Testament that urge us to offer our bodies and our praises as sacrifices: We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). When we walk in love toward one another, it’s a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2). When we give offerings and gifts to the work of ministry, it’s a sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18). When we acknowledge God and do good and share with one another, these are sacrifices of praise, pleasing to God (Heb. 13:15-16). We are being built up into a spiritual house together in the church, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).
But once we establish this point that New Covenant worship is to be full of these kinds of spiritual sacrifices of praise, we realize that the Old Covenant sacrifices were our training wheels. They were previews of the final bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, but they were also tutors or teachers, preparing us to offer what God truly always wanted: broken and soft hearts, lips of praise and thanksgiving, joyful fellowship, and wholly consecrated lives.
And that is what we find in the three principle Old Testament sacrifices: a sin offering focused on cleansing from sin, a whole burnt ascension offering – focused on a wholly consecrated life arising to God as sweet smelling aroma, and a peace offering, where the worshipers ate and fellowshipped in the presence of God. And wherever we find those three sacrifices together, they are always offered in that order: sin offering, whole burnt ascension offering, and peace offering.
If you add a Call to Worship to the beginning and a benediction at the end, we find this same basic pattern of Christian worship throughout the history of the Church: we are called into the presence of God, we confess our sins, we hear the Word read and preached, consecrating our entire lives to Him, we sit down for communion in His presence, and then we are sent out with His blessing. Why do we worship this way? Because we are holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.
Toby Sumpter – December 3, 2023