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Is the Lord Jesus the proper recipient of sacrifice (thysia)?

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James Dunn: "...in earliest Christianity, Christ was never understood as the one to whom sacrifice was offered, even when the imagery of sacrifice was used symbolically for Christian service" (Did the First Christians Worship Jesus – The New Testament Evidence, page 56).


 Contrary to the assertion above, I believe the Bible does teach that the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of sacrifice. This is demonstrated in several passages. All the bold, underlined and italics below are mine. Unless otherwise noted all passage citations are from the NASB.


 Romans 12:1

 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship

  1. What is acceptable (euarestos) to God is how we present our living bodies unto Him in holiness.

      Question: Are we to present our living bodies in an acceptable way unto the Lord Jesus in holiness?

      Answer: Yes. 

      2 Corinthians 5:9

      Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

 The same Greek word for acceptable in Romans 12:1 is used for pleasing in 2 Corinthians 5:9 in reference to the Lord Jesus. Notice as well that the context has to do with the body of the believer (2 Corinthians 5:10; cf. v. 6, 8). Since the body of the believer is for the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:13) we ought to live in a holy manner that is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10; cf. Ephesians 3:20). This theme is also found in 1 Corinthians 7 where it speaks of how to please the Lord (v. 32) in presenting a holy body unto Him (v. 34). Paul would also affirmed that if he were to live on in his body it would be for the exaltation of Christ (Philippians 1:20; cf. Romans 14:7-8[*1]; 2 Corinthians 5:15). Thus latreia ("service of worship") is to be rendered unto the Lord Jesus.


2 Corinthians 8:5

and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

The Greek word for "gave" is didōmi. These believers so dedicated their lives in spiritual sacrifice unto the Lord Jesus.

     1. BDAG (3rd Edition): Citing 2 Corinthians 8:5 reads: give oneself up, sacrifice oneself (didōmi, page 242). 

     2. Heinrich Meyer: but themselves they gave, etc. An expression of the highest Christian readiness of sacrifice and liberality, which, by giving up all individual interests, is not only a contribution of money, but a self-surrender, in the first instance, to the Lord, since in fact Christ is thereby served, and also to him who conducts the work of collection, since he is to the giver the organ of Christ. 


     3. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: I give myself up as it were; an hyperbole for disregarding entirely my private interests, I give as much as ever I can: 2 Corinthians 8:5. (didōmi)



Philippians 2:17

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 

     1. The same Greek word for sacrifice (thysia) is used in Romans 12:1.

     2. In dying Paul's life was to be poured out as a sacrifice to Christ in that He would be exalted in Paul's body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20; cf. Luke 14:26). 

     3. Even if Paul were to die he would rejoice in it. Notice elsewhere that he speaks of rejoicing in the Lord (Philippians 3:1; 4;4, 10) which means worshiping the Lord Jesus.[*2]

          a. David Guzik: Paul’s life was going to be a sacrifice for Jesus Christ, either in life or in death. This was a source of gladness and joy for Paul, and he wants the Philippians to adopt the same attitude. Again, we come to the consistent theme of Philippians: joy. But this is joy based not on circumstances (quite the opposite, really), but based in the fact of a life totally committed to Jesus Christ


2 Timothy 4:6   
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 
  Being poured out as a drink offering is from the Greek word spendō (which was also used in Philippians 2:17). Paul would "shed his blood as a sacrifice"[*3] in reference to the Lord Jesus.[*4]
           1. Harry Ironside: He says, “I am now ready to be offered,” literally, poured out. In writing to the Philippians, he says, “Yea, and if I be offered [or, poured out] upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all” (2:17). The reference is to the drink offering. If the burnt offering was a sheep or a lamb, the parts were placed upon the fire on the altar, and the priest took a flagon of wine and poured it out upon that which was to be burnt. This was called the drink offering. It symbolized our blessed Lord Jesus pouring out His soul unto death for our redemption on Calvary. Paul was to drink of the same cup. So he says, “For I am now ready to be offered.” He was ready to yield up his life, for it belonged to Christ; He had saved him and now Paul was glad to die for Him. That is really what he meant. 


Revelation 14:4 (cf. Romans 16:5)

These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. (NKJV) 

 The Greek word for firstfruits is aparchē. The imagery of the firstfruits is drawn from the Old Testament where cultic worship was rendered unto YHWH (Exodus 23:16, 19). Christians then are metaphorically presented as sacrifices to the Father and to the Lord Jesus in worship. 
      1. G. K. Beale: The presentation of saints as "firstfruits" develops further the idea as Christians as sacrifices to the Lord. In the OT the "firstfruits" of the harvest were offered to God at the sanctuary to show that he was the sovereign owner of the whole. The offering of the "firstfruits" also foreshadowed that the rest would soon be gathered in accordance with the Owner's sovereign provision. In this manner the rest of the harvest was consecrated to God so that it could be used by his people for their everyday needs. In the same manner, ἀπαρχή in the LXX refers to a sacrificial offering to God of "firstfruits" at the sanctuary. Indeed, Charles underscores the fact that in the LXX ἀπαρχή often translates various Hebrews words for "offering," though many of these cases have the concept of "firstfruits" in mind in the context (The Book of Revelation, page 741-742). 
      2. A. T.  Robertson: First fruits (απαρχη — aparchē). See for this word 1 Corinthians 16:15; Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5. This seems to mean that the 144,000 represent not the whole, but only a portion of the great harvest to come (Matthew 9:37), not only the first installment, but those marked by high spiritual service to God and the Lamb (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5). 


 Additionally, Psalm 51:17 reads:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. 

 A classic and often unnoticed example of this sacrificial worship of the Lord Jesus with all of one's heart is the woman simply known as a "sinner" (Luke 7:37). She came to the Lord Jesus and "standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume" (7:38). Her tears[*5] fell like rain on the feet of the Lord Jesus. Although at times people have kissed the feet of another we are later told that since she came in she unceasingly kissed the feet of Jesus (7:45). She worshiped the Lord Jesus with all of her heart and since He (being God) was able to read her heart (and the heart of the Pharisee) like an open book[*6] the forgiveness of all of her sins was pronounced (7:47-48). Notice also the woman did not audibly express her need for forgiveness. So too Luke remained silent in employing any specific word for worship that she rendered unto the Lord Jesus. Her actions as he described them speak for themselves. 
Daniel Akin's sermon is a good analysis of what transpired in the worship offered to the Lord Jesus. 
http://www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/old/Resource_244/SHOWING LOVE - sermon.pdf
 The TDNT reads: grasping the feet of the risen Lord and the obeisance of Mt. 28:9 are obviously meant to denote divine veneration. All this is brought out most impressively in the story of the woman who sinned much, Lk. 7:36-50. It is not just that all the gestures of devotion with reference to the feet are found together in this story: washing and drying the feet, anointing, and kissing. Nor is it merely that a peculiar mode is used, tears being substituted for water, hair for a linen towel, oil for precious ointment, a kiss on the feet for a kiss on the head (v. 45 f.). When one also compares the relation of the host to Jesus - the Pharisee treats Him as a scribe, calling Him didaskale v. 40 - with the relation between the woman and Jesus, the significance of washing, anointing and kissing the feet becomes clear. Understood as the One who according to His divine character forgives sins, Jesus in the totality of His person is already far above sinful man. As in theophanies, only His feet still stretch into the sinful world, and therefore it is to His feet that honour and worship must be paid and a sacrificial offering made (6:630, pous, Konrad Weiss). 


[*1] On Romans 14:7-8

     1. Murray Harris: Nowhere in the New Testament is the absoluteness of the Lord's ownership of his douloi depicted more clearly than in Romans 14:7-8 (Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, page 112).

     2. Charles Hodge: It is very obvious, especially from the following verse, which speaks of death and resurrection, that Christ is intended in the word Lord, in this verse. It is for Christ, and in subjection to his will, that every Christian endeavors to regulate his heart, his conscience, and his life. This is the profoundest homage the creature can render to his Creator; and as it is the service which the Scriptures require us to render to the Redeemer, it of necessity supposes that Christ is God. 

     3. Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset and David Brown: Nothing but the most vapid explanation of these remarkable words could make them endurable to any Christian ear, if Christ were a mere creature. For Christ is here-in the most emphatic terms, and yet in the most unimpassioned tone-held up as the supreme Object of the Christian's life, and of his death too (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged). 


[*2] To rejoice greatly in the Lord (YHWH) as seen in Isaiah 61:10 corresponds with Paul greatly rejoicing in the Lord in reference to the Lord Jesus as seen in Philippians 4:10.

     a. F. F. Bruce: I rejoice greatly in the Lord, meaning "I gave joyful thanks to the Lord" (when I received your gift) (Philippians, New International Biblical Commentary, page 148). 

     b. David Guzik (3:1): Rejoice in the Lord: “The entire phrase may be the Christian equivalent of the Old Testament exclamation, Hallelujah.” (Martin) 


[*3] See the BDAG (3rd Edition) on page 937.


[*4] Jesus is "the Lord, the Righteous Judge" to whom Paul knew would award him at His appearing (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1).

     a. Kenneth S. Wuest: To those who have considered precious His appearing and therefore have loved it and as a result at the present time are still holding that attitude in their hearts, to those the Lord Jesus will also give the victor's garland of righteousness (Word Studies from the Greek Testament, 3:34, Chapter 2, Paul's Last Words to Timothy).


[*5] Just as the woman worshiped the Lord Jesus with her tears (Luke 7:38, 44), so too did Paul (Acts 20:19). 


[*6] https://www.christforums.com/forums/topic/5196-kardiognōstēs-does-it-mean-omniscient/


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