The sacrifice of Christ is the only sacrifice that is upon its own account acceptable to God.
The sacrifices that are of God’s appointment are either Christ, the true sacrifice, or the typical sacrifices under the Old Testament.
A sacrifice is something offered to God, which by its suffering and death makes atonement and procures acceptance for them that it is offered for. The sacrifices under the law did not truly do this, but they did it typically. And therefore Christ, according to the language of Scripture, may be called the true sacrifice, in distinction from all other sacrifices; and his altar, the true altar; and the tabernacle he officiated in, the true tabernacle. Hebrews 8:2, “A minister of the sanctuary, and the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man”; and Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true.”
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is in itself and upon its own account acceptable unto God. When it is said, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, a body hast thou not required,” it is as much as to say, “The sacrifices of beasts didst thou not desire, but the sacrifice of my body thou didst desire. In burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast no pleasure, but thou hast pleasure in my coming to do thy will.” That was the will of God, that Christ should come into the world and lay down his life for sinners. And therefore he says, when the time drew nigh, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Matthew 26:39); and Matthew 26:42, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”
- The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was in itself most holy.
The thing offered was most holy, for he made his soul an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). He offered up himself; he gave himself for us. Now the soul of Christ was a most holy thing. Christ was perfectly innocent: he was born perfectly free from any stain of original sin; on the contrary, he had a holy nature. Therefore the angel, when foretelling Mary of her being the mother of Christ, calls him “the holy thing which shall be born of thee” [Luke 1:35]. His soul was the holiest of all creatures. This was that which was offered up in sacrifice to God. [In the] offerings of beasts [there was] no holiness.
- The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was a sacrifice properly propitiatory.
It did indeed make atonement for sin; thereby satisfaction is made for the injury done to God. The Old Testament sacrifices, ten thousand of them, were not sufficient to make atonement for one sin; but there is sufficient in Christ’s sacrifice to make satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.
- It was a meritorious sacrifice.
That is, the sufferings of Christ did not only satisfy justice for our sins, but merited God’s favor. Merely by our sins being done away, we stood entitled to no positive blessing at all: we were only freed from obligation to punishment. But Christ’s sufferings have not only satisfied and appeased God’s anger, but they merited God’s favor and eternal life.
Adapted from Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1997), 443.