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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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properly so called, is the solemn infliction of death on a living creature, generally by the effusion of its blood, in a way of religious worship; and the presenting of this act to God, as a supplication for the pardon of sin, and a supposed means of compensation for the insult and injury thereby offered to his majesty and government. Sacrifices have, in all ages, and by almost every nation, been regarded as necessary to placate the divine anger, and render the Deity propitious. Though the Gentiles had lost the knowledge of the true God, they still retained such a dread of him, that they sometimes sacrificed their own offspring for the purpose of averting his anger. Unhappy and bewildered mortals, seeking relief from their guilty fears, hoped to atone for past crimes by committing others still more awful; they gave their first-born for their transgression, the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul. The Scriptures sufficiently indicate that sacrifices were instituted by divine appointment, immediately after the entrance of sin, to prefigure the sacrifice of Christ. Accordingly, we find Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job, and others, offering sacrifices in the faith of the Messiah; and the divine acceptance of their sacrifices is particularly recorded. But, in religious institutions, the Most High has ever been jealous of his prerogative. He alone prescribes his own worship; and he regards as vain and presumptuous ever pretence of honouring him which he has not commanded. The sacrifice of blood and death could not have been offered to him without impiety, nor would he have accepted it, had not his high authority pointed the way by an explicit prescription.

Under the law, sacrifices of various kinds were appointed for the children of Israel; the paschal lamb, Exodus 12:3; the holocaust, or whole burnt- offering, Leviticus 7:8; the sin-offering, or sacrifice of expiation, Leviticus 4:3-4; and the peace-offering, or sacrifice of thanksgiving, Leviticus 7:11-12; all of which emblematically set forth the sacrifice of Christ, being the instituted types and shadows of it, Hebrews 9:9-15; Hebrews 10:1 . Accordingly, Christ abolished the whole of them when he offered his own sacrifice. "Above, when he said, Sacrifice, and offering, and burnt- offerings, and offering for sin, thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein, which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all," Hebrews 10:8-10; 1 Corinthians 5:7 . In illustrating this fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, sets forth the excellency of the sacrifice of our great High Priest above those of the law in various particulars. The legal sacrifices were only brute animals, such as bullocks, heifers, goats, lambs, &c; but the sacrifice of Christ was himself, a person of infinite dignity and worth, Hebrews 9:12-13; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:10 . The former, though they cleansed from ceremonial uncleanness, could not possibly expiate sin, or purify the conscience from the guilt of it; and so it is said that God was not well pleased in them, Hebrews 10:4-5; Hebrews 10:8; Hebrews 10:11 . But Christ, by the sacrifice of himself, hath effectually, and for ever, put away sin, having made an adequate atonement unto God for it, and by means of faith in it he also purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God, Hebrews 9:10-26; Ephesians 5:2 . The legal sacrifices were statedly offered, year after year, by which their insufficiency was indicated, and an intimation given that God was still calling sins to his remembrance, Hebrews 10:3; but the last required no repetition, because it fully and at once answered all the ends of sacrifice, on which account God hath declared that he will remember the sins and iniquities of his people no more.

The term sacrifice is often used in a secondary or metaphorical sense, and applied to the good works of believers, and to the duties of prayer and praise, as in the following passages: "But to do good, and to communicate, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased," Hebrews 13:16 . "Having received of Epaphroditus the things which ye sent, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God,"

Php_4:18 . "Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ," 1 Peter 2:5 . "By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name,"

Hebrews 13:15 . "I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service," Romans 12:1 . "There is a peculiar reason," says Dr. Owen, "for assigning this appellation to moral duties; for in every sacrifice there was a presentation of something unto God. The worshipper was not to offer that which cost him nothing; part of his substance was to be transferred from himself unto God. So it is in these duties; they cannot be properly observed without the alienation of something that was our own,—our time, ease, property, &c, and a dedication of it to the Lord. Hence they have the general nature of sacrifices." The ceremonies used in offering the Jewish sacrifices require to be noticed as illustrative of many texts of Scripture, and some points of important doctrine. See ATONEMENT , See OFFERINGS , See EXPIATION , See PROPITIATION , See RECONCILIATION , and See REDEMPTION .

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Sacrifice'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​s/sacrifice.html. 1831-2.
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