Modern Christians sometimes wonder why sacrifice is important to God. This is not surprising. Modern people have an understanding of Christianity which has been shaped by Protestants, and Protestant Christianity tends to lower moral and religious standards all around.
Protestants also tend to reject any practice that they happen to dislike, such as sacrifice. When they do, they often justify their rejection by picking a couple of bible verses which they feel are useful for that purpose.
Then they say,
“The bible says (insert self-serving verse here). Therefore, I don’t have to do (insert thing they dislike here).”
It is for this reason that the act and meaning of sacrifice have been lost to modern Christians.
Sacrifice is important because it is the external display of one’s faith. It is necessary because it strengthens one’s commitment to God by integrating faith into one’s outward acts. A person who sacrifices to God will bear a greater affection for Him than the one who does not.
Sacrifice is a practice which enhances one’s devotion to God by integrating their inner being into their outward behaviors. So it is little surprise that the fair-weather Christians of the modern age also happen to have forgotten the value of sacrifice.
In the sections below, we’ll explore the views of a Church Father on this topic. Interestingly, he thinks about sacrifice especially with regard to how angels and demons perceive it. Near the end of the saint’s thoughts, he provides us with some signs which me can use to discern when a person behaves with foul intentions.
City of God – St. Augustine – Book 10, Chapter 19
In the tenth book of St. Augustine’s masterpiece, he addresses some of the specific topics concerning angels and Christian cosmology. In this chapter, he addresses the attitude that an angel will possess when worship is directed toward themselves and not toward God. We may use the insight he provides us to recognize those humans around us who possess angelic or demonic natures.
Visible Sacrifice Is the Sign of the Invisible
As to those who think that these visible sacrifices are suitably offered to other gods, but that invisible sacrifices, the graces of purity of mind and holiness of will, should be offered, as greater and better, to the invisible God, Himself greater and better than all others, they must be oblivious that these visible sacrifices are signs of the invisible, as the words we utter are the signs of things.
Here Augustine tells us that visible practices reveal invisible views. This thinking is the source of the Catholic view that works are proof of faith.
Protestants tend to reject this by pretending that the position asserts that a person may obtain salvation by their works. The reason why they misinterpret the Catholic position is to absolve themselves of the responsibility of acting as though they believe what they profess.
Protestant: “I’m Christian.”
Catholic: “You don’t act like it.”
Protestant: “That’s salvation by works! You can’t be saved that way!”
Sacrifice Must Reflect the Heart’s Intent
And therefore, as in prayer or praise we direct intelligible words to Him to whom in our heart we offer the very feelings we are expressing, so we are to understand that in sacrifice we offer visible sacrifice only to Him to whom in our heart we ought to present ourselves an invisible sacrifice.
If a person sacrifices something in the name of the Lord, and if they do not do so with the aim to glorify Him, then the sacrifice is meaningless. A person’s outward behaviors must reflect their inward desires.
Angels Look Favorably Upon Us
It is then that the angels, and all those superior powers who are mighty by their goodness and piety, regard us with pleasure, and rejoice with us and assist us to the utmost of their power.
The angels who did not reject God are completely obedient to Him. They look upon humans and know a certain affection for them on that account. This is because humans are made in God’s image, and the angels possess the ability to see it within us. It is for that reason that the quality of a person who may rightly be described as having an angelic demeanor is the ability to recognize the hidden goodness which resides within the heart of his fellow man.
Angels Reject Worship of Themselves
But if we offer such worship to them, they decline it; and when on any mission to men they become visible to the senses, they positively forbid it.
Angels do nto require that they themselves should be worshipped. This is a valuable lesson to remember in the material age. Many media personalities, self-help gurus, and politicians have chosen to portray themselves as angelic people who have come to assist us without troubles.
Yet their aid always comes with a price attached.
“Watch my new movie.”
“Buy my new course.”
“Vote for me.”
These people cannot be angels. They make demands, and an angel should do so, but the demand is always in their self-interest, and it is not in God’s.
The Fidelity of Angels to God
Examples of this occur in holy writ.
Some fancied they should, by adoration or sacrifice, pay the same honor to angels as is due to God, and were prevented from doing so by the angels themselves, and ordered to render it to Him to whom alone they know it to be due.
And the holy angels have in this been imitated by holy men of God.
The First Commandment is the greatest order which God has given to those beings within His creation. It asserts that they are to hold Him , and no other, up as the greatest good. It is for this reason that anyone who aspires to be good must hold up God as a good greater than themselves. The angels who did not rebel against The Lord understood this, and the holiest of humans know this truth as well.
Holy Men Reject Sacrifices Made to Them
For Paul and Barnabas, when they had wrought a miracle of healing in Lycaonia, were thought to be gods, and the Lycaonians desired to sacrifice to them, and they humbly and piously declined this honor, and announced to them the God in whom they should believe. And those deceitful and proud spirits, who exact worship, do so simply because they know it to be due to the true God.
For that which they take pleasure in is not, as Porphyry says and some fancy, the smell of the victims, but divine honors.
They have, in fact, plenty odors on all hands, and if they wished more, they could provide them for themselves.
More than a few evangelists with massive ministries have hosted events in which they demonstrated supposedly miraculous healing powers before a large and gullible audience. The people being healed are, of course, paid actors, i.e., liars.
Now, these evangelists use their faked miracles to dupe hordes of gullible and desperate people into wasting money on their products and services.
These same people, of course, insist that to give to them is somehow a holy and righteous act which is pleasing before the lord. They have a variety of poor arguments to defend this lie as well
Demons and Sacrifice
But the spirits who arrogate to themselves divinity are delighted not with the smoke of carcasses but with the suppliant spirit which they deceive and hold in subjection, and hinder from drawing near to God, preventing him from offering himself in sacrifice to God by inducing him to sacrifice to others.
A demon who receives sacrifices obtains two things: the object of sacrifice and the attention of the one who handed it up. The latter of the two is far more valuable to an evil being. This is because the ultimate goal of any demon is to draw people away from God. So when a person delivers a thing up to the demon, it knows that its work has been accomplished, and it cares little for the thing which has been given.
We may practice this discernment in our own activities. Many people go through life trying to extract things from those around them. Yet if those same people receive what they pretend to want, then they are still unhappy.
Their persistent misery proves that they did not want the thing which they demanded. So what they truly wanted must have been for someone to commit to giving that thing in the first place. This would allow the demonic human to enjoy having drawn someone away from God, but this enjoyment disappears shortly afterward because the demon force someone who has already fallen to continue falling. It is at this point that the demon goes looking for new victims to extract subservience from.