Hebrews 13:15-16 (NIV) Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise– the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
A couple of days ago a friend of mine called me at night! I asked how he was and he told me he was well. He was still at his office. He is in a kind of profession where it is very difficult to define working hours. After some chit chat he asked me a question that I was least expecting. He wanted to know what “a sacrifice of praise” means. Now, that’s not the kind of question you normally expect from a friend calling from his office at 9.30 in the night. We had what I thought was a good conversation. I love it when members of my congregation call me to discuss issues like these. But the question also caught me off guard. “Sacrifice of praise” sounds so familiar; we even have a song we sing to that effect. But what does it exactly mean? Later that night we had another conversation with Hellen (my wife) on the same subject.
So, what does it mean to “offer to God a sacrifice of praise”? In the passage above, the immediate context is a comparison of the Old Covenant manner of worship and the changes that happened under the New Covenant. The center of worship in the Old Covenant was the Temple. This involved various rituals performed by the High Priest, like offering burnt sacrifices, sprinkling of blood, burning of incense, etcetera.
Under the New Covenant, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross secured our salvation. He is our High Priest. The penalty for our sins (past, present and future) has all been paid for. Through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father. All those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ are forgiven and restored to the Father. Our sacrifices to God are, therefore, not for the atonement for our sins but in response to what He has done for us in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.
The sacrifice of praise is both confessional and practical in nature. When we speak words of praise to God, thanking Him for the work of salvation, we are offering sacrifice to Him. This can also be expressed through acts of kindness and generosity to others. Unlike worship in the Old Covenant, this is not limited to a particular place or time, but it can be done anywhere at any time.