Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Why Obedience Is Sacrifice

In a previous post I gave Niels Hemmingsen’s account of the royal and priestly work of the Christian believer. In an ellipsis in that translation, I omitted his account of the reasons for which God deigns to call our obedience that is in accordance with his will “sacrifice.” He finds there to be four of these. And yet there is a crucial (if you will forgive the pun) difference between our sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ: the latter is propitiatory, whereas the former is a testimony of gratitude that points away from itself toward the crucified, risen, ascended, forgiving Christ who makes propitiation. Our sacrifices are pleasing, they are required, they serve as a distinguishing mark and as a testimony; but they do not turn away wrath or atone for sin.

Text and Translation

Primum, ut sciamus nostram obedientiam Deo placere.

Deinde, ut sciamus Deum eam serio requirere.

Tertio, ut hisce notis piis ab impijs discernantur.

Quarto, ut extet testimonium nostrae erga Deum gratitudinis, unde sacrificium Christianorum εὐχαριστικόν dicitur: qua appelatione distinguitur a sacrificio, quod ἱλαστκόν vocatur….  (Enchiridion theologicum, pp. 194–95)

First, in order that we may know that our obedience is pleasing to God.

Next, in order that we may know that God earnestly requires it.

Third, in order that the pious may be distinguished from the impious by these marks.

Fourth, in order that there may be a testimony of our gratitude toward God; from this, the sacrifice of Christians is called “eucharistic” [thankful, i.e., done from gratitude]. By this name it is distinguished from the sacrifice [of Christ] that is called “propitiatory.”1

  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.