Freedom in Christ
(Under the law of...)

"We are no longer under the law!" When a group of Christians are asked what is meant by those words, multiple answers are sure to arise. Some will hold that it merely means some of the law; others will go so far as to say that believers have no law. In practice, others create an entirely new law. The true answer, and this article, came from a study of Romans 13:8-11. It is our hope that in studying this for yourself, that you too will come to an understanding of a believer's true freedom in Christ. The focus must be the new law of love which completely replaces the old law for all who are in Christ. Having made this bold statement, read on for the Scriptural proof. [And yes, we do answer the question, "What about the Ten Commandments?"]

    Outline Chart:

    The Old Law:

      What MUST I do to please God?
      Teaches us we can't.
      Works from outside --> inward.
      Do it as necessary [or as written].

    The New Law of Love:

      What CAN I do to please God?
      Teaches us that it was perfectly done for us... and to try
      Works from inside --> outward.
      Do it now!

    Both laws seek the same result... perfection of morality and obedience.
    Only the New Law of Love can attain it.

Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Without revisiting the verses before this one, we will simply restate their goal; pay any debt owed to authorities or any other lawful debt. Don't let these debts be outstanding. But there is one debt that can never be paid off, one that will always require further payment: the debt of love.

John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

Matthew 5:44-45 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (NIV) [Also Luke 6:27-28, Luke 6:35]

1 John 3:11-15 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. (NIV)

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (NIV)

1 John 4:7-12 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (NIV)

2 John 4-6 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (NIV)

Love is the fulfillment of the law. Before understanding the fulfillment we must understand what the law is all about...

What is the law for?

For the unbeliever/ungodly -

1 Timothy 1:8-11 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (NIV)

The law is good; it shows and gives knowledge of sin and the gravity of sin...

Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)

Romans 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." (NIV)

Romans 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more... (NIV)

Romans 4:15 ...because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (NIV)

The Law says 'what must I do to please God?' Then the Law shows us we can't.

How does the law apply to me as a believer?

Set free from the law.

Romans 6:15-18 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (NIV)

In being set free from the law, there is no longer any wrath because there is no longer any transgression.

Romans 4:13-15 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (NIV)

Living by faith, not by the law, means there is never anything to condemn us.

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (NASU)

Romans 13:9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

We have been set free because the law has been fulfilled. [by love]

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (NIV)

Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the requirements of the law on our behalf. For this reason the law does not have any claim on us, no requirement for us to do, nor any requirement for punishment should we fail to do. How much of the law have we been set free from? 100%... all of it!

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (NIV)

Earlier Jesus had said...

Matthew 5:17-19 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

Uphold the law. [out of love]

Romans 3:31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (NIV)

The question comes to this, how do we uphold a law that we are no longer are bound by? In Romans chapter 4, following that verse, Paul clearly speaks of a righteousness that comes solely by faith. Though righteousness is the focus of both (the law and faith), the righteousness found in love (through faith) is quite different than that of the law, not in results but in the means. Since the focus becomes living in love, it's no surprise that Paul's reference to the law being fulfilled in Roman 13:10 is the last time he mentions the law in Romans [after having referenced it more than 70 times before this point].

Love says 'what can I do to please God?' Then Love teaches us to try.

While some will say that not imposing at least some of the law on Christians will lead to lawlessness [perhaps leading to a charge of my teaching antinomianism], our freedom to live and act totally in love comes with this admonition.

Galatians 5:13-14 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (NIV)

1 Peter 2:16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. (NIV)

Living in love, completely free, does not give excuse to sin. Rather because of Whom we love most of all, it compels us to avoid sin. The old law has been replaced with the "perfect law that gives freedom (KJV, 'perfect law of liberty')", the law of love. Love is the perfect fulfillment.

James 1:25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (NIV)

It's should be no surprise that both Paul and James continue their passages by pointing out some specific outworking of loving your neighbor...

James 1:26-27 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (NIV)

Returning to a passage that we examined earlier and the verses which follow; we can see that Paul too saw a new law in effect for the believer. He called it the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"...

Romans 8:1-5 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (NASU)

Later Paul again emphasized that he was not under the old law, but under this new law which he called "Christ's law."

1 Corinthians 9:19-21 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. (NIV)

Through this new law, which works from the inside out (versus the old law which dealt with externals), all "the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us." It is the Spirit of God who empowers us to set our minds on spiritual things and subsequently to do these things. We, who are now dead to the law, now live solely by faith. Our righteousness for salvation and life was not (and cannot be) gained through the law.

Galatians 2:19-21 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (NIV)

Hebrews 7:11-12 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come - one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews, quoting from Jeremiah 31:33, testifies that this changed law is inward-out - in harmony with the other New Testament passages we have already examined.

Hebrews 8:10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (NIV)

John simply summarized the new law of freedom in this fashion...

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (NIV)

1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (NIV)

Romans 13:11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Love says 'now,' unlike the law which says 'as necessary'.

Now is the time to reach the lost; now is the time to correct and teach the weak.

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1 As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2 For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (NIV)

Hebrews 3:12-13 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (NIV)

As was stated earlier, our love for God compels us to not only to avoid sin, but to live out this love that He has given us.

2 Corinthians 5:14a, 16-17 For Christ's love compels us... 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (NIV)

While some well meaning individuals try and take believers back to the law, using terms of "Christian duty", scriptures clearly teaches only one duty for the believer: love! The bottom line: love God, live free, and love others.

Galatians 5:6b ... The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (NIV)


Believers are not under the old law, having been set free from it to live by the new law of love, because the old law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This in no way leaves believers without a law to do as they please. Rather through an inward-out working, God enables us to live out the righteousness of Christ.

The old law still serves the purpose of convicting sinners and remains an integral part of presenting the gospel to the lost.

Further, the law as a reflection of the Holiness of God still pertains to the believer, wherein it shows us the moral standard (perfection) of God's holiness. This in no way requires the re-imposition of the ceremonial aspects of the law, or the civil laws used by Israel. In fact it does not re-impose any of the law; it merely restates aspects of the law to give example of how we may live out the new law of love.

How do I love God and my neighbor as myself? Even in the New Testament the Ten Commandments provide perfect examples. While no longer a law to live under or having penalties for failure to keep perfectly, these old laws still show the 'how' of the new law of love. Consider again what Paul said in Romans...

Romans 13:9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (NIV)

From this, we know specifically that not murdering, not stealing, not coveting, and not committing adultery are all ways to live out "love your neighbor as yourself."

The first three of the Ten Commandments provide specifics on what it means to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind."

Exodus 20:3-7
3 "You shall have no other gods before me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them...
7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God... (NIV)

The last six of the Ten Commandments, all pertain to loving your neighbor as yourself. When Paul said that "love does no harm to a neighbor (Romans 13:10)" these commandments all define things that, if broken, would cause harm to a neighbor.

Exodus 20:12-17
12 "Honor your father and your mother...
13 "You shall not murder.
14 "You shall not commit adultery.
15 "You shall not steal.
16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (NIV)

The fourth commandment actually provides example of something that will help you in all aspects of life, in living out your love for God and your neighbors.

Exodus 20:8-11 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (NIV)

In the New Testament, Jesus specifically clarified the purpose of this command.

Mark 2:27-28 Then [Jesus] said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (NIV)

Having a day of rest was to benefit mankind. As a believer this principle still applies. If I have a day of rest I will be better equipped to serve God and love my neighbors (and family too!). Plus taking time to gather together with other believer on that day is clearly expressed elsewhere in scriptures as being beneficial to other believers and to me (Hebrews 10:24-25). Not being bound by the old law (and its' penalty, see Exodus 31:15), this day of rest no longer must be the seventh day, a fact that enabled the early church to move the common day of gathering to the first day of the week in celebration of the resurrection - a day that became known as "the Lord's Day."

Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Teach the law to unbelievers... let it do its' work of convicting of sin. Use the moral aspects of the law as examples for believers. But, believer, don't be enslaved again to the law. Live in freedom, and never use your freedom as a cover-up to sin. Live out the new law of love! The law of love fulfills the old Law and will produce the results that the old Law demanded (but could never produce).

But what about offerings and sacrifices?

While many would be quick to say that sacrifices no longer pertain to the church, the new form is often associated with offerings. While tithing is a related topic, and one that needs to be understood in light of the new law of love; it is a topic that we have chosen to look at separately. In the oft used formula of "tithes and offerings", here we want to consider the offerings. While the tithe is often demanded as necessary giving, offerings are usually held to now be freewill. Yet for emphasis, the appeals for such are quite regularly in the fashion of, "God wants you to give sacrificially!" In other words, the one making the appeal has now tied offerings and sacrifices together. Still others will say that the offerings given should be the first and best, claiming the requirement that they be "first fruits." To be fair, more would make that requirement concerning the tithe, but enough would at least extend it to include the (sacrificial) offerings that I feel it necessary to address it here.

As we have already seen, in their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the entirety of the old law's regulations no longer apply to the believer. This is without exception. The same law that could not save us, can not produce righteousness in us now. Righteousness comes from living by faith and fulfilling the law of love. Every sacrifice, every offering, was offered (past tense) on my behalf by Jesus Christ; fulfilled perfectly for me.

Hebrews 10:5-18 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, 'Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God.'" 8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." 17 Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. (NIV)

Again, we live by the regulations of a new law, the law of love! When we consider sacrifices and offerings based solely on the requirements of this law of Christ, it provides understanding of what is now required for all believers.

Am I saying that there are no sacrifices or offerings under the law of love? By no means! The new law establishes a completely new standard, one that should never be confused by the minutia of the old.

First a quick look at sacrifices and offerings under the Old Law.


The Hebrew expression "to present an offering" is a combination of the verb "to present, bring near, offer" (hiqriyb) and its cognate noun "offering" (qorbaan). The Hebrew word normally translated "sacrifice" (zebach) does not occur in Lev 1-3 until 3:1 in the introduction to the "peace offering" section (see also vv. 3, 6, 9). The term for "offering" continues to be used there (vv. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14). Thus, one can say that the peace offering was a particular kind of "offering" that was also a "sacrifice" - it involved an animal that was killed and then eaten as part of a communal meal. (Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Copyright © 1996 by Baker Books.)

Offerings were particular types of sacrifices, during the Law and even before the Law (first references include Genesis 8:20 and dual references Genesis 31:54 & Genesis 46:1). Peace offerings or fellowship offerings are first spoken of in Exodus 20:24, as part of the sacrifices pertaining to the altar. (Leviticus 1-3 ties burnt, grain, and peace offerings together as a unified whole, separate from sin and guilt offerings which are addressed in the following chapters). Drink offerings are associated with the grain offerings (Numbers 15:1-15). While fellowship offerings did have forms that could be offered as an expression of thanks, as a result of a vow, or as a freewill offering (Leviticus 7:11-16), they were fellowship (or peace) offerings because sacrifices were necessary to come into the presence of God even for joyful reasons.

A person was never to appear before God (at His sanctuary) empty-handed. This was especially in regards to the three mandatory times per year that every male adult was required to be at the temple. While "freewill" in regards to the proportion given, it was still a mandated sacrifice, as all of these "offerings" were (Deuteronomy 16:10).

Deuteronomy 16:16-17 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you. (NIV) [Consider also Exodus 23:14 and Exodus 34:20]

The purpose of every sacrifice in the Old Testament can be summarized as being required for either the forgiveness of sins, or to enable a person to come into the presence of God ( have fellowship with Him).

Once again, the Old Law compelled people to keep these precepts by the letter of what was written... "What must I do to please God?"

Under the new law of love, our high priest (and sacrifice) fulfilled forever the requirements of all the sacrifices of the Old Law. This includes the Old Testament "offerings" that were all tied to sacrifices. We no long HAVE to do anything to please God. The question, under the law of love, always remains "... what can I do to please God?" The motivation is not the letter of the old law, but a compelling zeal that comes solely from love.

Automatically this means that any sacrifice or offering in the New Testament, while accomplishing perhaps some of the same things, will be totally different in motivation and administration. Since all offerings in the Old Testament were part of sacrifices (...truly a legal system based on sacrifices), a good place to start in examining the New is with sacrifices as well.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)

Did you follow that? Our spiritual act of worship, under the new law of love, is the continually, unceasing, presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice. Our entire life should be seeking to use this body to do good in every aspect of our lives (secret, private, and public). This does not pertain solely to money or giving things to others; it focuses even more so on how I live in everything I do. When we stop and consider that the law of love teaches us to seek to please God, there is no better way to please God than to be imitators of Him...

Ephesians 5:1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)

Jesus' sacrifice and offering was not just on the cross of Calvary, it was also that He lived the perfect life of service and obedience on our behalf. In the details, this included providing for the care of His mother at His death (John 19:26-27). Based on this it should be no surprise that the example Paul gives, of living out this law of love, would include instruction for us to do the same in providing for our own families (1 Timothy 5:8). If Jesus' entire life was a sacrifice and offering, imitating Him in this area is equally considered our sacrifice and offering - though it can never accomplish what Jesus has already accomplished for us, nor is there any need for it to. [As an aside, I would like to ask why do so many people look at dropping money in an offering plate as a true sacrifice, or at least a 'better' sacrifice than providing for their family, giving to the poor, or giving of their time?]

The only one who can impress God is God. Under the law of love we do not use our actions as an attempted means of impressing God, or to earn favor or blessing. They are nothing more or less than an act of worship showing our eternal gratitude for what Jesus has already done for us (Romans 12:1).

Unlike the Old Law, under this new Law of Love, our sacrifices/offerings are not on occasion, they are continual. Everything we do, at every hour of the day, every day of the year should be a continuous sacrifice. Even the believing prisoner confined in chains can still offer this sacrifice...

Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. (NIV)

The very next verse gives even more example of how this continual sacrifice can be lived out. Notice that none of this requires you to be in any manmade sanctuary or designated location.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (NIV)

Paul provides another specific example of how people were doing good and sharing... in reference to himself. Even as Hebrews 13:16 calls this a sacrifice; Paul, in the passage to follow, calls it both an offering and sacrifice. Using the descriptive term "fragrant" to describe this act could be an illusion to the way the Old Law required a continual offering of fragrant incense (Exodus 30:7-8) but I believe it was looking more to the fulfillment of this in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2). This would be in keeping with the end-times scene revealed to us from heaven which speaks of the prayers of the saints being bowls full of incense (Revelation 5:8). A life of service is as much a life of prayer as are spoken words.

Philippians 4:15-18 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (NIV)

While giving and providing for those in missions, and in preaching and teaching the gospel, may be distributed through the church (or those designated by the church), the responsibility of the New Law of Love rests solely with the individual. We give out of what we have, not to create hardship for ourselves and our families, but to help those in need; motivated (or compelled) totally out of love.

2 Corinthians 8:8-20 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15 as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." 16 I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. NIV

Paul compares the way of this new living sacrifice to the symbolism of a specific Old Testament sacrifice, the drink offering. The drink offering was in use before the giving of the law (Genesis 35:14) and during the time of the law (Numbers 28:7). During the time of God's judgment on Israel for their disobedience, one of the specific sins referenced was the pouring out of drink offerings to other gods (Jeremiah 32:29).

With Jesus using wine as symbolic for blood (Mark 14:23-25) and the law stating that life is in the blood (Deuteronomy 12:23-24), the picture of wine being poured out is that of a life being poured out. This is the symbolism that Paul employed concerning his own life in service to Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. NIV

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. NIV

So too our lives should be poured out in service, in doing good and sharing, fulfilling this new law of love. Every believer is in fulltime service to Jesus Christ regardless of their occupation! It's through the ministry of all believers, in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, that (by the grace of God) many more become offerings to God. The goal of Paul's ministry was to see more of these living sacrifices...

Romans 15:16b that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)


Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2004.
Duplication permitted as long as the source is cited.