Under the Old Covenant people had to offer a number of sacrifices with Divinely appointed conditions. Among these requirements the animal had to be without blemish and was put to death. In addition, they had both national and personal offerings which could only be done by priests.
It is impossible to get an exact number of animal sacrifices offered each year. However, by examining the national observances and adding up the number and kind of animals sacrificed in each, we know the count was around 1260 animals annually. And while we cannot determine the number of personal sacrifices each year, by looking at the Biblical evidence it had to be in the millions. This was both an expensive and daunting task.
Even with all of this shedding of blood no one could be made free from sin. As the Hebrew writer said, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb. 10:4) These offerings were intended by God as a “shadow of good things to come.”
What were the “good things to come?” Heb. 10:11-12 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… Jesus offered His life for our sins, a one time offering capable of saving all people for all time. What the animal sacrifices could not do, our Lord’s one perfect life in death accomplished!
His was a willing decision, made before creation, to pay for our transgressions. (Acts 2:22-23) Christ wanted to give us a meaningful way to serve God, a way that our sins are forgiven by obeying Him. Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
We no longer take animals to the priestly tribe for sacrifice, knowing their offering will not remove the guilt of sin. All Christians are God’s priests and can offer their service directly to Him through Christ, our High Priest. This offering is a spiritual service through obedience to Christ. (1 Peter 1:22 & 2:5)
Paul says to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom.12:1) Notice that not just any “body” will do. It is a body given in living service dedicated to holiness and pleasing God. Such a life will focus on things that matter, things above and not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:1-4) As God’s priesthood we will not be controlled by earthly appetites and emotions.
Notice the complete metamorphosis of one who presents himself as a “living sacrifice”. In fact Paul uses this very description in Rom. 12:2 when he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” “Transformed” comes from a Greek word which means “metamorphose”. Our minds must be changed to prioritize God in our lives. It is this mindset that will test or prove what is right against the Bible’s standard. Jesus presented His body a literal sacrifice for death so we may present our bodies a living sacrifice for life.