The principles of Christian giving, in the offerings in the churches, are set before the church of all ages for its instruction and admonition, in the offerings and sacrifices instituted in the church of the old Dispensation. These offerings and sacrifices that God gave to His church through the agency of the prophetic Scriptures and their authors, were visible and tangible representations of the invisible and abstract principles of the true religion of Jehovah God. These principles lay hidden to the eye of the worshipper under the types and shadows of the ceremonies that God instituted for the proper worship of Himself and His thrice holy Name. It was only when the child of God, the believer, by grace, was lifted, in his worship, out of the realm of the sensual and earthly to that of the spiritual, that he worshipped God in spirit and in truth. When the offerings and sacrifices of Jehovah’s worship were seen by the believer to be pictures of the redemptive revelation of God concerning the salvation of His church in Christ, then the religion of Jehovah was revealed to be one of fervent principle and deep spirituality. In order that the child of God may worship the Lord in spiritual benefit to his soul when he presents his gifts and offerings to the church, it will be helpful to earnest worship to determine what are the principles of Christian giving represented in the sacrifices and offerings of the church of the Old Dispensation. 

Of the offerings that God instituted there were three main classifications: Drink, Vegetable (or meat, A.V.), and Animal. The offering could be made public in behalf of the nation, or Israel; or made privately in behalf of the offender himself. 

The important thing to notice about these offerings, whether they were public or private, is that the shedding of blood was a necessary accompaniment, except in cases of extreme poverty. Even then, in connection with the poor, their offerings were made and accepted only in connection with the blood of the altar. (Lev. 5:11-13). Without the blood shed by the sacrificial offering, the sinner had no right of approach to God. This principle was the standard of the acceptance of the offering made by the offender. The lesson taught by the offerings was this: without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sin. (Heb. 9:22). This is the basic principle. 

This same principle of the sacrificial offering was met by the non-animal offerings: namely, the Drink and the Vegetable offering, in the following way: the Drink offering was made only in connection with the meal offering, which accompanied all burnt offerings. (Numbers 15:1-12). 

The Vegetable offering, too, had to conform to the principle of blood-shedding, because this offering, when it was offered in part, or when it was offered whole, was consumed on the altar. When only part of the offering was placed on the altar, then the remainder belonged to the priest, as in private voluntary offerings, and when accepted as a sin offering from the very poor in lieu of an animal sacrifice. (Lev. 5:11-13). When the whole vegetable offering was placed on the altar with the intention of having the whole offering consumed by fire, it corresponded to the burnt offering, which was entirely consumed on the altar of sacrifice. This activity was observed at the consecration of the high priest and at the cleansing of a leper. (Lev. 6:19-23 and Lev. 14:10, 20). 

The animal sacrifices of cattle, sheep, goats of both sexes, and (rarely) doves, easily conformed to the principle of the shedding of blood. The corresponding reality which was symbolized by the bloody sacrifice was the passion and death of Christ, who shed His blood as the true Lamb of God (John 1:29) for the sins of His elect church, His people. 

Now the reason why the sacrificial system of the Old Testament Church was instituted by God as a means of approach to Him, was the sin of Adam and Eve, whereby the whole human race was plunged into sin, corruption, and misery. For in them the race of mankind was organically and legally united. The fall of man was a cause for the institution of the blood sacrifices. The eternal Jehovah’s word and command were transgressed; His covenant was trampled underfoot; the image of God in man was turned into its very opposite; and man became worthy of death, judgment, and hell. The way of fellowship and communion with the eternal God was closed. But the revelation of, God was not frustrated by man’s sin. God is on the throne—even while man sins. God continues His revelation.

This revelation is that God is one; His counsel is one as He is one God. Sin does not change the counsel of God, for God willed to reveal in His own way the glory of the life of His covenant in its highest and purest manifestation. This highest and most beautiful revelation, which is the covenant life of God, was not to be reached in Adam; but in Christ. Therefore, the fall of Adam was determined according to God’s counsel and His eternal good pleasure. In the conception of the eternal good pleasure of God, all things revealed in the Scriptures take on their true meaning as they are related to all things. Since the revelation of God is the revelation of His eternal covenant life of living friendship with the persons of the divine trinity, He, in sovereign good pleasure and mercy, is pleased to reveal this life to the creature. Maintaining His covenant by visiting the transgressor with wrath, death, and the curse, He reveals His covenant as life, fellowship, and joy in Christ. The way of approach to Himself He has ordained, and the basis of communion and fellowship is the supreme sacrifice of Christ as a redemptive propitiation for sin and offense. On the basis of Christ’s bloody sacrifice on Calvary’s cross God’s covenant children are again taken into the blessed fellowship as friend servants of the living God. In this relation they experience the forgiveness of sin, a right relation to the most high on the basis of imputed righteousness, and the impartation of a new life in abiding communion with the body of Christ, the Church, forever. Man once again worships God by elective love and grace in true spiritual worship, through the sacrifice of Christ. This sacrifice was pictured in the Levitical offerings brought by the pious to the tabernacle and temple. On the basis of blood which was shed (Lev. 17:11) the covenant children of God performed the sacred rite of sacrificing and offering. In this way they drew near unto God. 

It is interesting to note too that the drawing near unto God by the pious of old was put positively to Israel by way of a prohibition. Never could the faithful appear before God empty-handed. That is, never may Israel approach God without an offering. (Ex. 23:15) This prohibition was repeated in the second giving of God’s law recorded by Moses. (Dem. 16:17) Because the worshipper must always come to God with his offering, the pious, who were the poor of the flock, could approach God’s house with the special provisions that were given in the law for the destitute and needy. No matter how straitened private circumstances were, God must be approached with a gift of the worshipper. The principle of the shedding of blood as a satisfactory propitiation to divine justice was realized in the cross of Christ. To the offender who worshipped with his offering in Tabernacle and Temple it meant that he did not have to die; he is covered by the blood of his offering, as a picture of the forgiveness of his sins by the true Lamb of God, the Christ, who shed His precious blood on Calvary. With his sins covered, the offender, who is engaged in the act of worship, was not cut off from the congregation of Israel. Positively, it signified to him that he had a place in the sanctuary of God and an entrance into the heavenly Canaan. On the basis of blood atonement the covenant children of God have a right to perform the sacred act of sacrificing and offering to Jehovah God. It is on the basis of Christ’s perfect love for His Church, for which He shed His blood as an atonement, that God’s people bring their gifts and offerings, as an expression of their right to worship God in sincerity and truth. 

There were other principles taught by the system of sacrifices and offering in the church of the Old Testament. These principles are very helpful for the worshipper of the New Testament to know, because it indicates to him what is the proper attitude of heart of the worshipper who brings his offering to his church. These offerings in Israel were specifically designed to touch the heart of the elect sinner of all ages, who by grace desires that his own heart is rightly disposed to worship the most high God. The following are the spiritual lessons of the specific offerings. 

The burnt offering, which prescribed a male lamb, bullock, ram, goat—or in the special provisions provided in the law for the poor and the destitute in Israel (Lev. 5:11-13)—was the expression of the complete self-dedication of the offerer to Jehovah. In the complete combustion of the burnt offering, the pious symbolized his utter consecration to Jehovah. 

The sin offering and the trespass (guilt) offering, with the special provisions for the proper observance of these offerings, spoke to the worshipper in terms of deep humility and need. Since no part of these offerings was eaten by the offerer, as in the peace offerings, the worshipper came before the sanctuary as one unworthy of communion with God. These offerings indicated the sacrificer’s need for atonement on account of his sins. Being brought into the knowledge of his need by grace, he is brought into contact with the virtues of Christ’s atonement, as the only satisfaction to God’s offended majesty. In the consciousness of the need which may be satisfied only by Christ, the worshipper approaches God’s house in true humility. 

The peace offerings of which there were three kinds, too, were used of God to teach His children how to approach Him, with their gifts and offerings. First, the thank-offering was given as an expression of thanksgiving for God’s unmerited blessings. Secondly, the votive offering was given to express the believer’s joy that he may make a vow unto the Lord. (Lev. 7:11-21). Thirdly, provision was made to permit God’s people to give vent to their love for the Lord by the offering of any animal authorized for sacrifice, of either sex; but no bird. (Lev. 3 and e.g. Judges 20:26II Sam. 24:25). The offerings, in these instances, were an expression of the love of God presented by the unworthy worshippers, who experienced God’s love which He shed abroad in their hearts. This love finds expression in Israel’s peace offerings. 

When mention is made of the specific offerings—the Vegetable, Burnt, Trespass, and Peace offerings—it must be remembered that the form of these offerings in the church is now gone. No longer does the church have the form of the Levitical sacrificial system. It has given way to the coming of the true sacrifice, Christ. He is both priest and victim in the New Testament Church. But the essence of the offerings remain. The spiritual principles whereby the pious assemble and worship in God’s church are inviolable. They are the principles of utter self-consecration, deepest humility, personal need of divine mercy, and irrepressible love. By means of the sacrificial system of the Old Dispensation God taught His church these beautiful spiritual principles in order that the church—even today—may worship Him in spirit and in truth. 

To worship God in spirit and in truth by their gifts and offerings is the desire of God’s people. This desire is the longing of their hearts. But how do they really do this? The answer is not far afield. 

True worship of the Lord, in the believer’s giving to the Church, is the fruit of the priesthood of the gospel. This priesthood is manifest in God’s house, His Church, together with the prophetic and the kingly offices. These offices together, manifest the presence and fullness of Christ in His Church, through these offices which He has instituted. In the midst of the church, constituted of those in the office of all believers, with their spiritual seed, the offices of prophet, priest, and king function. The priestly office of Christ in His Church functions through the office of the ruling and teaching eldership. The teaching elder, who is also the servant of the Lord, serving as the preacher, through the office of Prophet, shouts forth the power of God unto salvation through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. The servant, as the preacher, proclaims the piercing sword of the Lord to the organism, the Church. This sword of the gospel slays the people of God. It goes forth as the Word of Christ, as a sharp two-edged sword, quick and powerful, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and as discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The sword of the gospel going forth from the prophetic office accomplishes its twofold effect: a savor of death unto death, and of life unto life. (Heb. 4:12 and II Cor. 2:16

It is life unto life in the believers, because the gospel by grace wounds and pierces the innermost recesses, until, by the power of grace, the soul is broken in spirit. With the proud rebellious heart slain by the sword of the Spirit and under deep conviction of sin, the believer cries out in confession of his sins: “Lord, be merciful unto me, a sinner.” With heartfelt contrition and humbled in dust and ashes, he receives the assurance by the same sword of the gospel, “I am thy God, and I cleanse thee in the blood of my sacrifice, Christ, from all thy sins and miseries and I grant thee, by my grace, eternal life and glory.” 

Being broken in spirit, and receiving the assurance of sin forgiven, God’s people return unto God, being renewed by the Spirit, dedicating themselves to God, with all that they have, and devoting themselves to God’s cause in the world, with all their earthly talents and belongings. This is the sacrifice that Paul refers to in Romans 12:1 as the believer’s reasonable service. Slain and renewed, they offer themselves to the Lord. Their gifts and offerings are now presented out of the love of God in their hearts. To do God’s will becomes their meat and drink, and they offer up Spiritual sacrifices unto God, in unreserved obedience and with pure joy. Then the saying, “It is more blessed to give,” becomes a reality in the heart of the elect sinner. 

Lest the meaning of complete self-consecration, with all the talents and properties that God divides severally as He will amongst His children, be misunderstood, it may be well to point out the meaning of the offering of Abraham’s son Isaac, and in this connection the offering of Jephtah’s daughter. In both instances it was the attitude of heart that characterized these two servants who would not withhold—in each case—an only child. It was not necessary to actually sacrifice. The disposition of heart bespoke complete self-consecration. Thus, for God’s servants; they consecrate themselves with all things unto the Lord. It was this principle that the Lord commends in the poor widow who cast in her two mites. (Mark 12:42). 

God’s people receive comfort in the knowledge of the fact that the offerings and gifts of the household of faith support the church as institute. Through this institute the poor are fed the living bread from Sabbath to Sabbath, and others come in. The public worship supported by the slain is maintained with a view to others who have not heard the weary and heavy laden. Usually God builds up His church in the generations of the believers. Sometimes He adds others, from outside, through means that He ordains. All the monies expended in the maintenance of the Institution have not been spent in vain. Through the gifts and offerings to the church institute, the needy of heart are reached, who are the truly meek and humble, by elective grace, whom God has redeemed out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. 

It is these blessed principles of Christian giving that we may apply to our offerings in the churches, and it is these principles that regulate the maintenance of God’s house, the temple of His truth.

J. McCollam