Hebrews 13:15 says “Through Him (Jesus) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name”.
One of the ways you can begin to spice up your Bible study life is to begin to check out the meanings of phrases or words in the original language. I grew up in a Pastor’s home, and it was an Independent, Fundamental Baptist church my dad pastored! So that meant we had Sunday School, Sunday morning church, Sunday night church, Tuesday night Bible Study, Wednesday night church, Thursday night soul-winning, Friday night AWANAS and Saturday night youth group. And I was there for all of it. So… it’s safe to say I heard some Scripture in my young age. And I memorized most of it.
Now as an adult, it’s interesting to come across a Scripture I remember being presented in a certain way as a kid and trying to figure out what it really means. And that used to force you to have to go find a concordance, a Greek-New Testament Study Bible, a Bible Dictionary, a scroll with Jesus’s actual Aramaic scribbles, and a typewriter on which to type your learned thought. (Okay, maybe we didn’t have to do ALL that, but still…). Now-a-days you just have to use google and boom! You can find meanings of words and phrases and it’s incredible.
So – I was reading this Scripture and wanted to know what this meant. What does it mean to offer a Sacrifice of Praise? Well – the word sacrifice here comes from the Greek word thuos which means literally “to kill or slaughter with a purpose”.
So – there’s that.
I like to say “dude, that worship set killed!” or “that new song slaughtered!” How little did I realize how absolutely DEAD ON I was!
But really what it’s talking about here takes us way back to the Old Testament (remember we talked about the office of Worship Leader and how it goes all the way back?) where every year, a couple of times a year, everyone was required to bring their sacrifice as a recompense for their sins. They would bring their best lamb or best goat (and there are stories of people being killed for offering less than their best) and offer it as a sacrifice. The animal would be killed and then burned on an altar as a way to ask forgiveness for whatever bad they had done in the last six months or whatever.
This was the way it was in the “Old Covenant”. Some people might find the word “Covenant” as a trigger word – others are like, “What?” For those of you that is a trigger word: don’t worry guys – I am nowhere close to a Calvinist… but I do believe that there was an Old Covenant and things were done a certain way. And with Christ’s death came the New Covenant in which things are done differently. Don’t get caught up in the semantics… you could call it the Old Way and the New Way if you want. In fact, let’s just call it that.
So – in Old Way, we had to present a Sacrifice to be right with God. In the New Way, Christ’s death was the ultimate sacrifice that made a sacrifice for our sins unneeded or extraneous.
So what the writer of Hebrews (we’re not quite sure who that is – could be Paul, could be Luke, could be some dude no one’s heard of, or maybe it was a woman?) is using language from the Old Way to subtly remind us that we’re doing something different now in the New Way. Now it isn’t a sacrifice FOR our sins. It’s sacrificing our sins in return for praise. It’s about giving up pride and ambition for the sake of glorifying this God who saves us. The first fruits that once went on the altar, now are the fruits of our lips acknowledging God.
And when we put this within the paradigm we’ve been talking about for a few weeks of skill, passion and knowledge, it begins to make even more sense to me. In the Old Way, it was about how good the sacrifice was. It HAD to be the best. In the New Way, the best offering has been given already, so now it’s about giving our best for a different reason….not for recompense but for praise.
If we focus only on the skill of what we do, it becomes problematic quickly because it becomes about what WE can do, when in the New Way it has nothing to do with what we can do. But if we give our best because it is what God deserves; if we brush away pride because it is God being glorified; if we focus simply on what God calls for us in worship, it becomes not about how good our offering is, but how good can the offering be. It isn’t a legalistic “you must bring the best” it becomes a heart posture of, “How can I give my best?”
Within the context of the megachurch world, it is so important that the skill of what we do is there. We do have standards of excellence to meet. But if meeting the standard of excellence is the point, then we have missed it. There is so much to the New Way than skill.
So as you worship in the coming weeks – whether you’re on a camera or running sound or running a camera or playing drums or leading songs – think through how you can give of your best not because you have to… but because you get to!