Your Mortality for Christ’s Immortality
Jan 19, 2015 1456
By Milton Hook
….he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).
The ritual of a pagan Greek sacrifice was quite different to a Jewish sacrifice. The Greeks would start by taking a bundle of sticks and lighting them from the fire on the altar then dipping the burning torch in a bowl of water to symbolically purify it. The purified water was then sprinkled on the worshippers and the animal sacrifice to purify them in turn.
The second step in the sacrificial service was a time of silence when the worshippers prayed to their god.
The final step was in two parts. The first was to sprinkle barley grains on the sacrifice and the ground around it. The technical term for this part of the ritual was enarxamenos. Finally, the animal was sacrificed to bring the ritual to a conclusion. The technical term for the completion was epitelesei.
Paul adopts the picture of the final parts of this ritual and likens it to the manner in which Christ prepares us for martyrdom or the second coming. He writes, “….he who began (enarxamenos) a good work in you will carry it on to completion (epitelesei) until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). It is strange that Paul employs an analogy of a pagan sacrifice, but quite obviously a deliberate one that his Greek readers would understand perfectly. He seems to be suggesting to his Philippian friends that their lives could possibly be sacrificed just as his was about to be sacrificed.
The sobering picture is similar to Paul’s admonition to the Romans, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom.12:1). In view of Christ’s sacrifice to guarantee our immortality it is not unreasonable to sacrifice our mortality.
– Milton Hook