Sacrifices, Burnt Offerings, and a Major Cash Gift

“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:17-19).

In this passage, Paul tells the Philippians that he was not angling for a gift from them. He, a lawful recipient of their generosity, knows that they would be blessed through that generosity, and that is what he is really after (v. 17). He has everything he needs, and abounds in it (v. 18). He is full because he received from Epaphroditus the gifts which they had sent.

But the way Paul describes that gift is really interesting. He calls it a sweet-smelling odor (v. 18), an acceptable sacrifice (v. 18), and well-pleasing to God (v. 18). He then goes on to add that God will supply all their needs according to His riches, in glory, by Christ Jesus (v. 19).
In the new covenant economy, we don’t sacrifice bulls and goats anymore, obviously, but this does not mean that we are done offering sacrifices. Christ was the once for all sacrifice, to which all the Old Testament sacrifices pointed, but that does not mean that we offer no sacrifices today which point to the same reality. We offer no sacrifices of blood, but the language here about a financial gift is plainly sacrificial language.


For example, sacrifices are called “sweet odours”(Lev. 26:31). The Lord responded favorably to a sweet-smelling sacrifice (Gen. 8:21). Couple this with the fact that Paul explicitly calls the Philippian gift a sacrifice, and it is plain that financial generosity occupies an important place in the life of a sacrificing worshipper in the new covenant era.

And, of course, the heart is key. Sacrifices and burnt offerings, and a major cash gift God did not require, but a humble and contrite heart.

Theology That Bites Back



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