SACRIFICES: In Light of Traditional African
Worship and the Biblical System of Worship

By Adjei-Mensah

Introduction

  1. Sacrifice is a religious act belonging to worship in which offering is made to God of some material object belonging to the offerer.

  2. Is an offering of any sort to a deity, with the idea of procuring favor or avoiding disaster - to please the deity and secure his favor. [Pictorial Bible Dictionary.]

Traditional Sacrifices

We are going to have a comparative study of traditional African sacrifices and Biblical sacrifices under the Mosaic system.

Sacrifice was initiated by an express command of God. Genesis 4.4 states that Abel offered to God an acceptable sacrifice and Hebrews 11.4 also states that Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God because of his faith. Abel's faith was therefore based upon a "specific command of God" because there is only one faith. (Ephesians 4.5.) This one faith "comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10.17.) Without such a divine command, Abel's sacrifice would have been mere superstition.

Sacrifices therefore originated with Abel and was transmitted through the Patriarchs. Likewise, traditional African sacrifices originated with Abel and were transmitted through their ancestors.

Story of Our Ancestors

Our ancestors believed that in time past God who was very near to us was hit with a pestle by a woman who was pounding "fufu", and as a result God moved far away from man. This story indicates that our ancestors knew that sin separates man from God. (Isaiah 59.1-2.)

Sin in the Garden of Eden

God and man had a spiritual and physical relationship in the Garden of Eden, but man's sin brought separation.

God introduced "total burnt offering" through Abel which passed on to their ancestors: Seth, Enosh, Methuselah and Noah. (Genesis 8.20-22.)

Noah's three sons were separated when the Lord scattered the people abroad at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11.1-9), carrying sacrifices along with them. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, offered sacrifice. (Exodus 18.12.) Melchizedek, King of Salem and a priest of the Most High God, knew sacrifice. (Genesis 14.18.)

The Nations (including Africa) knew sacrifice. (Acts 14.16-18.) Verse 18 says, "They could scarcely restrain them from sacrificing to them."

They knew the Almighty God because they had different ways of offering to the Most High God, but instead of direct offering to God, they passed the offering through mediums and gods called "ABOSOM" (idols).

Four Requirements in Sacrifices

  1. Thing offered must be holy (clean), without blemish.
  2. Priest or mediator offering the sacrifice must be holy.
  3. Way or method of offering must be holy (correct).
  4. Place for the offering must be holy.

Why Must One Offer Sacrifice?

The need for purification from sin or the desire of the worshipper to enter into fellowship with deity.

Three Common Types of Offering

  1. Burnt Offering "whole burnt offering." It is worship or self-dedacatory (to mark their dedication to his service). (Leviticus 6.22-23; 8.21.)

  2. Meat Offering and Peace Offering. Meat offering was bloody and symbolized right spiritual relations with deity (God or gods). This included pouring of libation - first by Jacob. (Genesis 35.14; Exodus 29.40,41; Leviticus 3.3,6,9.)

  3. Sin Offering. Expiatory (to prepare access to God). Broken covenant - blood is needed. (Exodus 29.14.) Place of offering must be "without the camp". (Exodus 29.14.)

Rules Governing Mosaic Sacrifices

Only Levites could be priests and only the priests offered sacrifices. This passed from generation to generation according to the Law. Next, the things the priests offered must be holy (clean). Method or way it is offered must be holy (correct method). Place it is offered must be holy. The nations, including Africa, were not under the Mosaic system (Ephesians 2.11.12), but God prepared them also for the coming of a Messiah. They had not law, but understood the things included in law. (Romans 2.14,15.) They knew the need for sin offering and the code of conduct presented in it. "All have sinned", therefore, embraces all nations, including Israel. (Romans 3.23.)

What Went Wrong with Mosaic System of Sacrifice

The Israelites offered unclean sacrifices to God. (Malachi 1.6-8.) Their priests were unclean. (Ezekiel 22.26.) The way or method became unclean. Place it was offered - unclean (they desecrated the temple - polluted it with wrong offering). [Compare Isaiah 1.10-15.)

How This Affected Israel

There are curses always under broken covenants on the part of the one who broke them. (Deuteronomy 27.26.) Since Israel broke the covenant between them and God (Jeremiah 31.32), they were oppressed by the nations and finally Israel went into Assyrian captivity and Judah went into Babylonian captivity.

What Went Wrong with Traditional Sacrifices

Man is the highest object God created to rule over all His creation, and so God made man in His "own image" and after His likeness. (Genesis 1.26.) Man must therefore offer sacrifices direct to God as Abel, Noah and others did and not through mediums and gods made by man's own hands. Because the sacrifices through idols - "abosom" - were wrong, they were not accepted by God. In I Corinthians 10.20, the inspired man said, "But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons." The wrong sacrifices proved both Jews and Gentiles (including Africans) that they are all under sin. (Romans 3.9-12, 23.)

New Covenant Needed

Since the first covenant was broken, a new one was needed. (Jeremiah 31.31-33.) It must be by God's appointment through the "shedding of blood." (Hebrews 9.22.) A covenant breaker deserved death for the sin committed, but the death of the victim was accepted for his death by the ordinance of God's Mercy. (Romans 6.23.)

Better Covenant with Better Sacrifices Needed

The first covenant with its sacrifices was broken. (Hebrews 8.9.) Therefore, a covenant with better sacrifices must be established to replace the first covenant. (Hebrews 8.6.) God had to provide an atonement by the vicarious suffering of an appointed victim as a sacrifice.

God to Provide a Lamb

A perfect lamb is needed for a sacrifice under the new system (New Covenant).

Isaiah prophesied of a perfect lamb to be provided by God to be slaughtered for sins. (Isaiah 53.5-7.)

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1.29,36.) John affirms that Christ is the perfect Lamb to replace the sin offering under the first covenant.

Peter said Christ is a Lamb without blemish and without spot. (I Peter 1.19.) Peter also affirms that Jesus Christ is the perfect Lamb that came to shed His blood for the sins of all - both Jews and Gentiles.

Jesus Christ, a Perfect Fulfillment

Before a sacrifice will be accepted by God, the victim offered must be holy - without blemish or spot. Secondly, it must be offered by a perfect priest (holy). Thirdly, it must be offered in a perfect manner. And fourthly, it must be offered in a perfect place.

Jesus fulfills all the four requirements of an accepted sacrifice to replace the first sacrifices of the first covenant.

  1. Jesus is the Perfect Victim Offered.
    Jesus is a Lamb without spot. (Hebrews 9.14; I Peter 1.18-19.)
    Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4.15.)
    "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us." (II Corinthians 5.21.)
    Jesus "committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth." (I Peter 2.21-22.)
  2. Jesus is a Perfect High Priest.
    Christ came as high priest. (Hebrews 9.11-12; 16-25.)
    Jesus is perfected - called by God as high priest. [Hebrews 5.9-10.)
    Jesus is a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. (Hebrews 4.14.)
    God appointed the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 7.28.)
  3. Jesus Offered Himself in a Perfect Manner.
    Jesus offered Himself once (once because it was properly offered}. (Hebrews 7.16-28.)
    "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10.14.)
  4. Jesus Offered Himself at a Perfect Place.
    "And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull." (John 19.17.) Out of the camp makes it a perfect place.
    Jesus suffered outside the gate. (Hebrews 13.11-12.)
    Sin offering is always outside the camp. (Exodus 29.14; Leviticus 4.12; 16.27.)

These four requirements prove Jesus as the perfect Lamb sacrificed once and for all time to replace all the sacrifices which were under the first covenant and the sacrifices of the nations (including Africa). (Hebrews 10.1-10.)

Conclusion

Jesus is "the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12.24.) This proves Jesus as a perfect sacrifice than all ever done by man and a fulfillment of Jewish and the nations sacrifices. God made "of one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth." (Acts 17.26.)

If all men have one blood and all would be judged by the same God, then all must have one form of worship. There is no justification for people to say that Africans should have their ancestral worship, Americans their ancestral worship, Indians their ancestral worship, etc. No one can be justified before God for returning to the way of worship their ancestors had (whether Jew or Gentile).

Our worship, now, should not be fashioned as if the "Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." (Acts 17.29.) God wants all to repent from this ignorant worship. (Acts 17.30-31.)

God is no more to be "worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing." (Acts 17.22-26.) Man must worship God in truth and in spirit. (John 4.19-26.)

We are pleading with all to forsake vain teachings of men. (Matthew 15.7-9.) We must pass this understanding on to others as we incite them to study the Bible and come to the knowledge of their responsibility to the Divine Creator.