“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother [in Christ] hath ought [something] against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
sacrifice brings worship published week of may 2, 2021
There is sometimes a misconception that we as Christians can just skim over verses like these. We tell ourselves they are irrelevant to our lives today and do not apply. The faulty reasoning may sound like this, “Since we no longer offer sacrifices on a literal altar, what Jesus is saying here must not apply to us.” Stop right there, we must never dismiss any of God’s Word. We would be wise to take the time to dig a little deeper into the context of these verses and other similar passages in order to understand the principles and truths behind the cultural references.
This passage is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the most well-known sermon in the Bible. Even though we do not offer sacrifices on an altar, what is the context of such sacrifices in Scripture? When we study the Old Testament, we see the Israelites offering many sacrifices - whether it was for sin, thanksgiving, or anything else – it was intended to acknowledge God for who He is, and what He had done for them. For example, the sacrifice may have acknowledged that God was responsible for the blessings they were experiencing or that God hates sin and they needed forgiveness. In one way or another, all sacrifices were an act of obedient worship. The sacrifices were more about their relationship with God than the actual sacrifice.
In the New Testament, the believer's praise is referred to as a sacrifice. We read in Hebrews 13:15, “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.” The analogous truth is simply this: in the Old Testament sacrificial system, the Israelites offered the fruit of the ground and of their flocks, while believers today offer “the fruit of our lips,” which the Bible calls “a sacrifice of praise.”
When we understand this truth of God which has always been a part of man's worship to a holy God, then it becomes clear there is application for us in this passage. The text is telling us that when we approach God in worship, we must make sure, as Jesus said, that we are right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Although this does not mean our lives will be completely free of conflict, or that everyone will like us and be happy with us, but rather it means that as far as it depends on us, we are biblically at peace with others. Why? Because our ability to worship God properly, in the manner He deserves, depends on it.
“Heavenly Father, I want my life to be spiritually clean and right before You in all of my worship. Please call to my attention if there is any person I have wronged or hurt . . . please bring them to mind and help me to do all I can to make things right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”