Sacrifice and the Old Self
In the Old Testament, forgiveness was obtained through the sacrifice of blood. Guilt offerings were given so that the blood that was required as payment for the transgression was offered up via a substitute. An innocent animal’s blood was given in place of the transgressor’s.
When you look at Old Testament sacrifices, however, you’ll note that in every case (save one that I recall, Gideon), the sacrifice was offered in a relatively public forum. At first, altars were built in open spaces. Elijah and and prophets of Ba’al made their sacrifices (or attempts at sacrifice) in view of thousands of people. The tabernacle and temple grounds were open and viewable to many passers-by. In the act of making a sacrifice, it was known that there had been guilt and that the blood of the animal was offered up to atone for that guilt. There were no private rooms or curtains to hide the reality from others. The altar was available and viewable to all.
In the New Testament, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross continued the openness of sacrifice. Jesus was put to death by being “raised up” for all to see. He was seen by his disciples, the Sanhedrin, his family, friends, followers, revilers, guards, officials, etc. There was no secrecy to this death. It was in clear view of everyone.
In the contemporary era, nothing has changed. That openness is still as valid now as it was then. Yes, sacrifices are finished due to the final offering of Christ on the cross, but we are still called to put to death sinful deeds and the old self. In a fashion, we are called to lay that old self on an altar and put it to death. Such a scene even forms the climax of Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places. But the scene from the book is amiss in one regard. That sacrifice, that death, wherein sin was torn from the body and put to death, was in a hidden crevice. Real sacrifice, real offerings, real putting to death must be done in the open.
The implication is that we cannot put to death our old self in secret. We cannot hide our sins and expect them to die. So long as they are not open to sight, they cannot be put to death. This isn’t to say that we are called to announce to the world all of our secret sins, but neither can we keep them to ourselves and in the dark. James, the brother of Jesus, exhorts us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16). We must put to death our old self in view of others. The altars of our lives must be public.