Now we are a royal priesthood




Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His mercy through Christ made us priests. Yes, now we are priests by the grace of God, as it is written: “But ye are …. a royal priesthood ….” (1 Peter 2:9) and again: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

The spiritual sacrifices that we who are priests of God must offer to God were foreshadowed under the Old Testament by the sacrifices that the Levitical priests had to offer according to the law of Moses. For, according to the law, the levitical priests were appointed by God to burn sweet incense on the altar of incense which was in the tabernacle, and to offer sacrifices of peace offerings and burnt offerings upon the altar of burnt offering which was before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. As for the burnt offerings, the priests had to offer with the burnt offerings a grain offering which was made of fine flour mixed with oil, and also a drink offering which was made of a certain quantity of wine (Numbers 15:1-16).

Now, let me explain to you what the spiritual sacrifices we have to offer up are.



Let us offer our life to God


Paul wrote to the saints in Philippi: “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17 – NKJV). Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians and told the saints that if he had to die for the Gospel’s sake he would be glad. He preached the Gospel to the Gentiles and he endured many sufferings and many hardships for the sake of the elect from among the Gentiles, for he said to the Colossians: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you ….” (Colossians 1:24 - NKJV), and to the Ephesians: “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you ….” (Ephesians 3:13), and he was ready to die for the name of Jesus. He had put himself upon the altar to offer himself for the elect, and he compared his death to the pouring out of the drink offering on a sacrifice. Paul was ready and willing to offer himself as a drink offering on the sacrifice of the faith of the Philippians; notice these words written by Paul to the Philippians “on the sacrifice … of your faith”. He called the faith of the saints at Philippi ‘sacrifice’ for their faith worked through love and faith working through love is a sacrifice acceptable to God, who takes pleasure in those who offer it.

Let us consider Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the sacrifice He offered to God for all of us. Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus that Christ has “given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2 – NKJV). Jesus gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. He humbled Himself so that we might be exalted, He set an example for us showing us what it means to offer one’s body as a sacrifice acceptable to God. God was well pleased with His Son, for after Jesus was baptized He spoke from heaven saying: “You are my beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22 - NKJV) and Jesus Himself explained the reason why the Father loved Him: “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again” (John 10:17 – NKJV). Jesus was loved by the Father because He laid down His life for all of us, and God smelt a sweet-smelling aroma when His Son offered Himself for us; likewise, God will smell a sweet-smelling aroma if we give our life for the brethren because we will offer our body as a sacrifice to God, just as Jesus offered His body for us. Is it not written: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16)? Therefore let us lay down our life for the brethren, let us do what Epaphroditus and Priscilla and Aquila, who were fellow workers of Paul, did. Listen to what Paul said about Epaphroditus to the Philippians. “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Philippians 2:30), and now listen to what he said about Aquila and Priscilla to the Romans: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:3-4).

As you know, it is much easier for men to sacrifice themselves for their own interests than to sacrifice themselves for the sake of other people, but you know also that we, as followers of Christ, must not live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for us, so that His name may be glorified through the sacrifice of our life offered to God for the elect.



Good works are sacrifices well pleasing to God


It is written: “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16 – NKJV). Those who do good to their neighbour and share their material things with him offer a sacrifice with which God is well pleased and this is confirmed by the following words that Paul wrote to the Philippians, who had sent him an offering: “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18 – NKJV).

With regard to this I want to tell you that every offering (or donation) – whether it is a money offering or not – we make to the saints, in order to be well pleasing to God, must not be stained with fraud for the law says: “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, …… into the house of the LORD thy God ….” (Deuteronomy 23:18), which means that the wages of a prostitute offered into the temple was an abomination to God, as Solomon said: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:8). Just as under the Old Testament, the sacrifices that had to be offered on the altar to God had to be without defects in order to be well pleasing to God, as the law says: “But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein” (Leviticus 22:20-21), so a donation must be the fruit of an honest job in order to be a sacrifice well pleasing to God.



A broken spirit is a sacrifice well pleasing to God


David, after he committed adultery with Bath-Sheba and had Uriah the Hittite (who was the husband of Bath-Sheba) killed, confessed his sins to God saying: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4) and again: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).

David had committed two serious sins, and according to the law of Moses he could not offer to God any sin offering for his sins because both the adulterers and the murderers had to be put to death for their sin, so David acknowledged his sins before God and called on His name so that He might have mercy on him. David knew that God did not desire sacrifices for sin or burnt offerings for he said to God: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering” (Psalm 51:16), but he knew also that God wanted him to repent sincerely of his sins, as he said to God: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). When the people of Israel forsook God and cast the law of God behind their backs, they continued to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, but God did not delight in them as it is written in the book of Isaiah: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats” (Isaiah 1:11) and in the book of Amos: “ Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts” (Amos 5:22). Why did God reject their sacrifices? Because they committed all kinds of sins and refused to humble themselves before God, that is to say, because they did not want to repent of their sins nor to forsake them nor to confess them to God; that’s why God despised their sacrifices. As for David, if David had offered sacrifices to God (in order to be forgiven) without repenting of his sins, God would have despised his sacrifices; but David knew what sacrifices God required from him and that God would not despise them. God certainly would not reject a broken and contrite heart. So David rent his heart and with his broken heart pleaded with God to cleanse him from his sins, and God forgave him.

We, as priests of God, have to offer to God such sacrifices, that is, a broken and contrite heart; let us humble ourselves before God, knowing that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Beloved, the Lord welcomes those who come to him sincerely confessing their sins, He does not drive them away.



Praise is a sacrifice well pleasing to God


Another spiritual sacrifice that we, as priests of God, must offer to God is the sacrifice of praise, as it is written: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). When we praise God with our mouth, we offer to Him a spiritual sacrifice He delights in. It is written: “Offer unto God thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14) – the IBRV reads “Offri a Dio il sacrificio della lode” that is, ‘Offer to God the sacrifice of praise” – therefore to praise Him is a commandment and we have to put it into practice. Beloved, let us praise God with songs because He is good and His mercy endures forever on those who fear Him. God rescued us from the hand of the enemy and took us in His arms, therefore we have to praise His wonderful name always.

Paul wrote to the Colossians that we must sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16), therefore the sacrifice of praise must be offered to God with our hearts under the impulse of grace so that it might be well pleasing to God.

God says: “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me” (Psalm 50:23 – NKJV), therefore the sacrifice of praise we offer to God is a sweet-smelling aroma which comes up into God’s nostrils and in which God delights. And David knew how much God delighted in the praise of His saints, for he said: “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs” (Psalm 69:30-31). These words were spoken through the Spirit by a man after the heart of God, who offered the burnt offerings and peace offerings (of which the law of Moses speaks) as well as the sacrifice of praise. Keep this in mind always in order to understand how the sacrifice of praise is more important than all the sacrifices commanded by the law.

Now, I want to say to you two other things which I consider useful.

The first thing is this. The fact that a song has a beautiful melody does not mean necessarily that the words of that song are in accord with the truth, and with regard to this I will give you an example that you may understand what I mean. In our hymnals there is a song that many of you sing, which says among other things: ‘Il tempio di Dio voglio essere anch’io …. col sangue del Figliuolo Tuo distruggi Tu la schiavitù che mi separa da Te’, that is, ‘I also want to be the temple of God ….. through the blood of your Son destroy the bondage that separates me from you’. Now, I ask you: ‘Don’t you know that you are already the temple of God?’, ‘Don’t you know that the blood of Jesus Christ has already destroyed the bondage that separated you from God?’ You are already the temple of God and you don’t need to wish to become the temple of God; when you say ‘I also want to be the temple of God’ it is as if you said: ‘Lord, save me because I am dead in my sins’ or ‘I also want to be born again’. You have been already delivered from sin through the blood of Jesus, why do you say then: ‘Through the blood of your Son destroy the bondage that separates me from you’? I must admit that after I was born again I sang this song for a while, but one day I stopped singing it because I came to the conclusion (searching the Scriptures) that it is not lawful for us to sing these words because through them we grieve the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us.

The second thing is this. In the Holy Scriptures there are no songs addressed to the Holy Spirit, yet in our hymnals there are many hymns and strophes of songs which are addressed to the Holy Spirit. Now, provided that “the Lord is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17) and that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead, I ask you: ‘Why should we sing to the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Scripture does not confirm that we should sing to the Holy Spirit? Why should we go beyond what is written? Consider the Psalms. We have one hundred fifty Psalms, yet none of them is addressed to the Holy Spirit.

Many of the Psalms were written by David (Israel’s beloved singer), who spoke by the Holy Spirit, as it is written (the following words were spoken by Jesus Christ): “For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool” (Mark 12:36 - NKJV) and again (the following words were spoken by the apostle Peter before the day of Pentecost): “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick [or office] let another take” (Acts 1:16-20). The words of David quoted by Jesus are written in the Psalm number 110, while the words of David quoted by the apostle Peter are written in the Psalms number 69 and 109. I would like to point out to you that in these two Psalms (69 and 109) the Holy Spirit through David spoke these other words as well: “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30 - NKJV), “I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yes, I will praise Him among the multitude” (Psalm 109:30 - NKJV). Furthermore, in Psalm 95 we read: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:8 - NIV), and according to the author of the epistle to the Hebrews these words also were spoken by the Holy Spirit, as it is written: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8 – NIV), but in the same Psalm we read these words also: “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! …. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with Psalms” (Psalm 95:1,2 - NKJV). I have quoted all these Bible passages in order to show you that those who wrote the Psalms, spoke those words by the Holy Spirit, and the songs and the hymns they sang were addressed to God through the Holy Spirit. They never sang by the Spirit to the Holy Spirit, even though they believed in the Deity of the Spirit and they accepted the manifestation of the Spirit.

The book of Psalms is an hymnal free of error of any kind and I am convinced that if among one hundred and fifty psalms written by men who prayed and sang to God by the Holy Spirit not one of them is addressed to the Spirit, no one has the right to write songs which are addressed to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, He preached by the Holy Spirit, He taught by the Holy Spirit, He cast out demons by the Holy Spirit, He healed the sick by the Holy Spirit, He raised the dead by the Holy Spirit, yet He did not praise the Holy Spirit but His Father, as it is written: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matthew 11:25-26). The Son of God who came down from heaven, left us an example in everything, let us imitate Him.

After the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church at Pentecost, neither the apostles nor the disciples sang to the Holy Spirit, yet they were full of the Holy Spirit and knew the Spirit. It is written: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God …. “ (Acts 2:46-47), that’s what happened after the day of Pentecost in the early Church!

Now, let us see if in heaven there is somebody who sings to the Holy Spirit. One day, the apostle John was in the Spirit and was caught up to heaven where he saw the throne of God, and the angels of God, the twenty four elders, and the four living creatures around the throne of God. He saw also those who had been victorious over the beast and his image. Here is what he says: “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:2-11), and again: “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5:8-12 - NIV), and again: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Revelation 15:2-4). All these Scriptures show us that John did not see nor hear anybody singing to the Holy Spirit, and let it be known to you that when we are in heaven we will not sing to the Holy Spirit, because in heaven we will praise God and the Lamb of God. Brothers, answer this question of mine: ‘If someone asks you: ‘Could you show me from the Scriptures that the early disciples also did sing to the Holy Spirit?’ what passage of the Scripture do you quote to show him that by singing to the Holy Spirit you do not go beyond what is written?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not take pride in one man over against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6 – NIV). Therefore, we all must learn not to practice beyond what is written, and we can learn this only by following the example left by the apostles, and since they knew the will of God in Christ Jesus for the saints, and in their epistles (as well as in the Acts of the apostles) we don’t read that they sang to the Holy Spirit, I believe that it is not lawful for us to do something they themselves did not do and they did not exhort us to do. As for me, I stopped singing to the Holy Spirit for the sake of the brethren, so that they may learn in me not to go beyond what is written. What is the use of going beyond what is written? Notice that Paul said: “Now brothers, I have applied these things (the things he had just written to the saints) to myself and Apollos for your benefit”, which means that Paul applied those things to him and Apollos for the sake of the saints so that the saints, seeing their example, might learn to practice only what was written and they might not be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. When we say to those who sing to the Holy Spirit that what they are doing is not written in the Scripture and that neither Jesus nor the apostles sang to the Holy Spirit, many of them begin to say bad words because their pride prevents them from recognizing that what they are doing is not scriptural. They speak against us saying: ‘You don’t believe in the Holy Spirit!’. But I want to say to these brothers: ‘Pay attention to what I am going to say. Those who don’t believe in the Holy Spirit are not those who don’t sing to the Holy Spirit, but those believers who reject the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.’ Many believers are carnal and don’t know what happened on the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, and besides this they reject the manifestation of the Holy Spirit because they don’t believe what the Holy Spirit says and reveals through visions today, they reject the gifts of the Holy Spirit, yet they say to us who don’t sing to the Holy Spirit: ‘You do not know the Spirit’, or ‘You are not spiritual’ and many other untrue things.

Many children of God refute through the Scripture the wrong teachings and behaviours of the sects, and this is a right thing in the sight of God because by so doing they defend the Gospel. However, when they have to refute an unscriptural teaching or behaviour which is gaining ground among them, then they don’t show the same zeal for the Word of God that they show when they have to refute the teachings of the Roman Catholics, of the Mormons, of the Jehovah Witnesses (who are false witnesses of God), and of many other sects, and the reason is because they refuse to learn not to go beyond what is written. Some of them say to us: ‘Those who wrote the songs addressed to the Holy Spirit were children of God, and some of them did preach the Word!’. Listen, I am not saying that those who wrote these songs were not children of God, but I think that we have the right and the duty to search the Scriptures to find out whether the things which are said and done by the ministers of the Gospel are scriptural or not. And if the Scriptures show us that some of the things which are taught and done by them are not right, we must abstain from these things, lest we learn to go beyond what is written. Should I sing: ‘Rough cross which is still bleeding …..’ or ‘Jesus Christ is still bleeding’ because he who wrote the words of this song was a brother? Or because the melody of this song is beautiful? Should I sing a lie in order to please men? Or just because many Christians sing it? The Scripture teaches us that it was Jesus and not the cross who bled, and furthermore it teaches us that Jesus does not bleed any longer, for it is written: “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34 - NKJV). His blood came out of His body once for all, why then should we sing that His blood is still coming out of His body?

Brothers, test all things, even the words of the songs, test them carefully through the Scriptures.



Thanksgivings are sacrifices well pleasing to God


Under the Old Testament, the priest offered some sacrifices which were called ‘sacrifices of thanksgivings’, that’s how they are called in the IBRV while in the KJV and in the NKJV they are called ‘sacrifices of peace offerings’, and in the NIV ‘fellowship offerings’ (read Leviticus chapter three).

We also have to offer to God sacrifices of thanksgivings, but these sacrifices are spiritual, for Paul says: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 – NKJV). Therefore we must continually thank God for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17).



Prayer is a sweet-smelling aroma


God commanded to build an altar of incense and to burn on it sweet incense. According to the Scripture the incense had to be made of some particular substances, as it is written: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy” (Exodus 30:34-36).

The prayer of the saints is a sweet-smelling aroma which ascends before God, for this is what David says: “Let my prayer be set before You as incense” (Psalm 141:2 – NKJV). The apostle John confirms this by saying: “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8 – NKJV). Furthermore, just as the incense under the law had to be pure in order to be well pleasing to God, so our prayer is to be pure in order to be heard by God. Job, who was a righteous and upright man, said: “My prayer is pure” (Job 16:17 – NKJV), and thus he could say that he “called on God, and He answered him” (Job 12:4 – NKJV) because he prayed to God with a pure heart. But if we pray with a sinful heart, our prayer will not be heard, for it is written: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

The Scripture says that God answers the prayer of those who are pure of heart, as it is written: “The prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8), but also that God rejects the impure and saltless prayers, that is, those prayers offered to Him with a heart full of hypocrisy and iniquity, as it is written: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). That’s why God said to those Israelites who refused to obey Him but continued to pray to Him and to offer incense upon the altar: “When ye make many prayers, I will not hear …. Incense is an abomination unto me” (Isaiah 1:15,13). Therefore, brothers, let us keep the commandments of God, or else God will reject our prayers also.

We pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ because Jesus said: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23). The Son of God is at the right hand of the Father and makes intercession for us, therefore let us come boldly to the throne of God with full confidence, and God will help us at His appointed time through His powerful deliverances.



The lifting up of our hands is a sacrifice


We can pray God lifting up our hands, as it is written: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8 - NKJV), and the lifting up of our hands also is something that pleases God, for David said: “[Let] the lifting up of my hands [be set before You] as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2 - NKJV).

Ezra, who was a priest of God and a scribe, after he returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, when he heard that the Israelites who had returned from captivity had taken some of the pagan women as wives for themselves and their sons, he tore his garment and his robe, and plucked out some of the hair of his head and beard and sat down astonished. Then, at the evening sacrifice, said Ezra, “I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God. And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens …..” (Ezra 9:5-6). Ezra, therefore, prayed on his knees and with his hands spread out to the Lord, confessing the sins of the people of the Lord.

Solomon also prayed to God before the people of Israel with his hands spread out toward heaven, as it is written: “And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart ….. “ (1 Kings 8:22-23).

However, with regard to the lifting up of hands, it must be said that God does not delight in the lifting up of those hands which are full of blood and acts of violence, for God said through the prophet Isaiah to those who committed sins and then spread out their hands toward God: “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you …. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity” (Isaiah 1:15; 59:3 - NKJV).




Our spiritual worship


Paul said to the saints of Rome: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 – NIV).

We, who are priests of God under the New Covenant, must offer our bodies in sacrifice to God, and we can do this by abstaining from the fleshly lusts which war against our soul and by presenting ourselves to God as being alive from the dead and our members (which are the members of Christ) as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13). To offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God does not mean that we have to cut ourselves with knives as the prophets of Baal did in the days of Elijah, nor that we have to climb so called holy stairs on our knees grazing our knees and causing them to bleed. In this world there are many false prophets who command their followers to torture their bodies; let it be known to you that these things are an abomination to the Lord, these people don’t glorify God in their body but they hurt themselves because they are led to do such things by the devil. Wisdom says: “The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh” (Proverbs 11:17 – NKJV). We as children of God must not destroy our body because it is the temple of God. It is written: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you” (Leviticus 19:28 – NKJV), therefore making cuttings in one’s flesh to bleed as well as tattooing one’s body (as many pagans do) are practices which are contrary to the sound doctrine.

We have to take care of our body, but we must not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, as it is written: “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14 – NKJV). You may ask: ‘Can we really abstain from the lusts of the flesh?’ ‘Of course, we can, for it is written: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 – NKJV). But – you may also ask me – ‘how can we deny the lusts of the flesh?’ Here is the answer, which we find in the epistle to the Galatians: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 – NKJV). To walk in the Spirit means to fulfill the desires of the Spirit, yes, because the Spirit has good, right and holy desires, as it is written: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5 – NIV), which “is life and peace” (Romans 8:6 - NIV). But our flesh lusts against the Spirit, as it is written: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires” (Romans 8:5 - NIV), which is death (Romans 8:6). Therefore, since we still walk in the flesh and we feel the sinful spurs of the flesh, we must watch and be sober lest we obey the fleshly lusts again and (as a result of this) we die spiritually, as it is written: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13 - NKJV). However, the Scripture says also: “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13 – NKJV). What are the deeds of the body? They are sinful and unclean acts the flesh desires to do, as it is written: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5 – NKJV). Therefore, we know the things we must put to death and we can manage to put them to death only by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and not by our own strength for the Lord says: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6 - NKJV).

The Lord set us free from sin, therefore our way of life must be holy and right, as it is written: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15 – NKJV). Now, you know that we were sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and “by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 – NKJV), but you know also that “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7 – NIV), which means that whereas on the one hand Christ was made to us “sanctification” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and thus we have the right and the privilege to be called “the saints who are on the earth” (Psalm 16:3 – NKJV), on the other hand we must pursue holiness. Paul was sanctified in Christ and pursued holiness and he exhorted the saints to do the same, for he wrote to the Corinthians: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 - NKJV).

Brothers, we must perfect holiness by abstaining from every form of evil and in so doing we strive against sin. Do not think that our life on earth is a sort of vacation, do not deceive yourselves, for we are at war, in that we fight against sin. The Scripture says: “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4 – NKJV), which means that we as believers must resist sin, for the Word speaks of a struggle against sin. Therefore, brothers, bear in mind that you also should spend the rest of your earthly life serving righteousness and not serving fleshly lusts any longer. Sin is an enemy, whose destructive power should not be underestimated; anyone who underestimates it deceives himself. Sin is a work of the devil and it kills those who serve it (Romans 6:23); sin is a killer like the devil (as it is written: “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44 – NKJV), therefore, take heed to yourselves.

We know that we can’t say that we are without sin or that we have not sinned, and if anyone says: ‘I am without sin’ or ‘I have never sinned since I was converted’, we know that he lies against the truth because the apostle John says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 - NKJV), and again: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10 - NKJV). However, we can say that we strive against sin, we resist it and hate it; we fight the good fight, that’s why God takes pleasure in us.


Brothers, it is true that we all stumble in many things, that we have not yet been made perfect, that we have to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, and that we are bound to say to God: “Our Father in heaven forgive us our debts’; but I exhort you not to be indifferent to the works of the devil; have no fellowship with the works of the devil but rather expose them; do not let darkness blind your eyes and do not be deceived by those who put darkness for light and bitter for sweet, and who live a kind of life that shows clearly that they are dead while they live, because they give themselves over to the pleasures of sin. These people walk according to the flesh and then when they go to the place of worship on Sunday they sing: ‘I want to spend my best years for you, for You my Lord who died for me’ (note of the translator: some words of a Christian song we sing here in Italy), yet they spend their time serving sin and not righteousness. Some pastors and teachers have told them: ‘You were sanctified, you came to the knowledge of the truth, and you will never lose your salvation, for it is impossible for you to lose salvation!’ But that’s not true because Jesus said: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). Jesus Christ is the vine and we who have believed on Him are the branches, but some of these branches have withered because they have decided not to remain in the Lord any longer, they have ceased to keep the commandments of God because they spend their time serving their own belly. They have deceived themselves: they thought they could serve sin again without receiving in themselves the due penalty for their sins and thus they died. We have no fellowship with such people because they have set their minds on earthly things; if they don’t repent they will reap torments, to them God says: “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings” (Jeremiah 3:22 - NKJV).