The spiritual sacrifices to God are virtuous deeds that are distinguished by a spirit of love and loyalty to Him in contrast with the animal sacrifices of the ceremonial system that had come to be regarded as little more than a mere surface observance.
The mission of the Old Testament prophets was to teach the people that external religious practices could not substitute for internal character and obedience or spiritual sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 51:16, 17; Isaiah 1:11–17; Hosea 6:6; Jeremiah 6:20; 7:3–7; John 4:23, 24). For God’s children seemed to have forgotten that outward observances are vain without sincere heart godliness. God desired not the people’s offerings but their hearts, not their mere dry ceremonies but their will.
Because it is often easier to give outward service than to transform the wicked heart, men have ever been more ready to offer external worship than to grow the graces of God. This was the case with the Pharisees whom Jesus reproved. They paid great attention to tithing herbs but neglected the “weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23).
Only those who worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24) can offer the spiritual sacrifices that are “acceptable to God.” Thus, the true worshipers are those who honor God in their lives, rather than offer empty rituals carried out at the place of worship. The genuine believer will worship applying the principles in his life which are shown in the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5:3, 48; 7:21–27; Mark 7:6–9).
Obtaining the Righteousness of Christ
The supreme blessing of the Christian life is to obtain the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is both imputed and imparted:
Imputed righteousness grants instant justification of the sinner for all past sins. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is a free gift, without money or price (Isaiah 55:1; John 4:14; 2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 John 5:11). And the sinner by faith accepts God’s gift of forgiveness. Faith is simply the channel (Romans 4:3). Thus, salvation is not effected by human effort (Ephesians 2:9).
Imparted righteousness is when the justified believer grows continually in grace by the daily study of God’s Word, prayer and witnessing. Good works are not a cause but an effect of salvation (Romans 3:31). It is through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that the Christian offers obedience to the requirements of the moral law (Exodus 20: 3-17) as set forth by Jesus’ own example (John 15:10b). Accordingly, imparted righteousness is a life-long process of growth in the Lord.
It was imparted righteousness that Christ had in mind when He encouraged us in the Sermon on the Mount to be “perfect” as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Paul taught that the perfect life of Jesus has to be reflected in us that “the just requirement of the law” to “be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
The goal of the plan of salvation is to restore in man the image of God, which is love (1 John 4:8). And the objective of true religion is character development and offering spiritual sacrifices. Outward ceremony is valuable only if it promotes such development.
The prophet Micah writes about the practical genuine true worship that God requires, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:7, 8).
Other spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to the Lord are praise (Hebrews 13:15), doing merciful acts and sharing with others (verse 16). Also, we may share material gifts with the needy and God’s workers which is “an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18 also Acts 10:4).
In His service,