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I Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice

In both Matthew 9:13 and 12:7, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” This is a common thought and a common theme in the Old Testament. Because Jesus quoted it, it is an important theme in the New Testament as well.


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Hosea 6:6 may well remind you of what the prophet Samuel said to King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).

I want to suggest that God considers a lot of things more important than sacrifice. For example, King David wrote:

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation.
My tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
Lord, open my lips.
My mouth will declare your praise.
For you don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it.
You have no pleasure in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.
O God, you will not despise a broken and contrite heart.
(Ps. 51:14-17)

In the previous Psalm he wrote:

I don’t rebuke you for your sacrifices.
Your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I have no need for a bull from your stall,
nor male goats from your pens.
For every animal of the forest is mine,
and the livestock on a thousand hills. ...
If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Will I eat the meat of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Pay your vows to the Most High. (Ps. 50:8-10, 12-14)

So it is not just obedience and mercy that are better than sacrifice, but a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and fulfilling your vows are all better than sacrifice as well.

Over and over God tells the Israelites that as long as they are living disobedient lives, he will refuse their sacrifices, feasts, and Sabbaths; in fact, he hates and detests them. The first 20 verses of the book of the prophet Isaiah are the longest and strongest words against sacrifices being offered and rituals being practiced by rebellious Israelites (Isaiah 1:1-20). You can read those verses by hovering your mouse over the link I just gave, but let me give you a couple shorter examples before I explain why God desires mercy and not sacrifice.

A lot of us know Micah 6:8 and the short chorus we sing about it, but here's the context of it:

How shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams?
With tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience?
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O man, what is good.
What does the LORD require of you, but to act justly,
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

Here are three from the book of Proverbs:

  • The sacrifice made by the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who follows after righteousness. (Prov. 15:8-9)
  • To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Prov. 21:3)
  • The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination—how much more when he brings it with a wicked mind! (Prov. 21:27)

As you can see there are many things God wants more than sacrifice, not just mercy. He desires the prayer of the upright, righteousness, justice, and walking humbly with him. He does not just desire mercy and not sacrifice, he wants all these things and not sacrifice. Nonetheless, the most negative thing that God said about sacrifices in in Jeremiah 7.

The Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel says: "Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I didn’t speak to your fathers or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them, saying, 'Listen to my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. Walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.'" (Jer. 7:21-23)

This is an astonishing statement. It is not just astonishing because we are used to (wrongly) considering sacrifices important, but also because God did talk about offerings and sacrifices when he brought his people out of Egypt. He talked about them a lot!

Or did he?

Before I address that question, let me make an important point. In Jeremiah 7:21, God says, "Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat." That alone is difficult to understand because most of us don't realize many, if not most, of the sacrifices were not burned, but eaten. Only the hide, organs, and intestines were burned. The rest was given to the priests as "their portion." It was the way the priests ate. Only the burnt offering was completely burned.

And that is God's point. "Just keep your burnt offerings," he is saying. "Eat them with the rest of your sacrifices because I don't care about sacrifices."

I point out that sacrifices were eaten because the Hebrews offered sacrifices before the Law, before Moses, and even before Egypt. A lot of those sacrifices were meals. Covenants were made with sacrifices and both parties ate of the sacrifice. Sacrifices were a way of giving God thanks and, in some sense, allowing God to partake in the meal with us humans.

Thus, the Israelites were sacrificing at first, not because of the Law, but because of their ancient practice of sacrificing and thus giving thanks to God and fellowshipping with him in a meal.

One explanation I have heard for Jeremiah 7:21-23, one which I think makes a lot of sense, is that extensive sacrificial laws of Leviticus were added after Israel made the golden calf. The laws were given so that the Israelites, who were prone to quickly turning to idols, would have something to keep their minds on the LORD their God.

Whether that is the right explanation of Jeremiah 7:21-23 or not, you can see that sacrifices were not a central matter to God. Instead, loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves, the two laws that Jesus said all the Law and prophets could be hung on, that is what was central to God.

But, why?

Why Does God Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice?

The most important aspect of the sacrifices was to typify the sacrifice of Christ. The most important sacrifice, the one that most typified the suffering of Christ, was the Passover. Paul wrote:

For indeed Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed in our place. Therefore let’s keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

This is why John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God" (Jn. 1:29). This is why, in the Book of the Revelation, John turns around and sees "I saw in the middle of the throne ... a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6).

Jesus is not the bull of God, the ram of God, nor the goat of God, but the lamb of God, the lamb which was slain (and eaten, not burned) every year at Passover. In fact, Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover.

The Passover was not lamb was not sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins. The blood of the Passover lamb caused the Messenger (or Angel) of Death to "pass over" the house of obedient Israelites on his way to killing the firstborn in every house (and stable) in Egypt. The lamb's blood delivered from death and, less directly, free the Israelites from Egypt.

Isaiah 31:3 says:

Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.

Thus when Jesus, our Passover lamb, shed his blood, he delivered us from spiritual death, from living in the flesh, and from the influence of men. His death was not just for the forgiveness of sins, but to produce all those things that God said were better than sacrifice: mercy, obedience, justice, a broken and contrite heart, and walking humbly with our God.

Evangelicals, in my experience, strongly focus on the forgiveness aspect of Jesus' death. In fact, they commonly teach that God cannot forgive sin without sacrifice. Dr. James D. Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion sold millions of copies, was translated into 70 languages, and was used to teach evangelism to me in the 1980s in two Pentecostal churches and one Baptist church. It teaches Christians to tell the lost that "God is merciful and therefore does not want to punish us, but God is just and therefore must punish our sin" (see Evangelism Explosion flashcards at

This is false. No one is forcing God to punish sin when he wants to forgive sin, not even his own just nature. Not a single human being believes it is just to punish every sin. In fact, if a human parent punished every one of his children's sins, he might wind up in jail. If he punished their sins by burning them in a fire, he would definitely go to jail.

It is not righteous to punish every sin without any mercy. And if, as is commonly taught, God used to punish an animal in our place, then punished Jesus in our place, he has never practiced mercy. He has always extracted justice, which is not mercy.

God is merciful. He says so repeatedly. I hesitate to go through all the Old Testament verses that talk about the mercy of God, but I do want you to get the gist, so let me go through some quickly.

The Mercy of God

God walked by Moses, proclaiming his own character as he did so, saying that he forgives "wickedness, iniquity, and sin." At the end, he says he will not clear the guilty (Ex. 34:6-7). In Ezekiel 18:20-30, a passage in which God gives his opinion about a just judgment, he explains what he means by not clearing the guilty. He says:

"If the wicked turns from all his sins that he has committed, and keeps all my statutes, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die. None of his transgressions that he has committed will be remembered against him. In his righteousness that he has done, he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" says the Lord the LORD, "and not rather that he should return from his way and live?
   "But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, should he live? None of his righteous deeds that he has done will be remembered. In his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them he shall die. (Ezek. 18:21-24)

There is nothing in this passage that talks about sacrifice. Instead, as you will see below, God's forgiveness is obtained by simply repenting and turning back to him.

Psalm 136 repeats "His loving kindness endures forever" 26 times. This is repeated by Israelites through the Old Testament so much that it seems like a national motto. Jehoshophat, for example, put singers in front of his army chanting that God's loving kindness endures forever all the way to a battle God had promised to win for him without any fighting (2 Chr. 20:21).

After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah, who was one of his "mighty men" (2 Sam. 23:8, 39), David repented before the Lord, saying:

"For you don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it. You have no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. O God, you will not despise a broken and contrite heart." (Ps. 51:16-17)

At the start of the book of Isaiah, after telling Israel how he detested their sacrifices, feasts, and Sabbaths because of their wickedness. He gave them a way to start over and turn their stained hearts from scarlet to pure white. The way was to "Cease to do evil. Learn to do well" (Isa. 1:16-17). Then, after we repent in such a way, God says:

"Come now, and let’s reason together," says the Lord,
"Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa. 1:18)

God does not call them to renew their sacrifices, but to "reason together." I think we get a picture of what that means from Isaiah 55:7:

Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts.
Let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
to our God, for he will freely pardon.

How I love that word "freely." God will freely pardon. The King James Version has "abundantly" pardon, as does the New American Standard Version. I love "abundantly pardon" even more. Our God wants to show mercy, and it turns out that he does not have the warped sense of justice that Evangelism Explosion teaches and that so many of us have believed about our Father in heaven. Instead, he has the same sense of justice that he instilled in us, so when he wants to forgive sin, which is when a person repents and chooses to return to God and live righteously, he does forgive sin.

God's ultimate act of forgiving sin was the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, which is, well, a sacrifice. How does "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" apply to the atoning death of Jesus Christ, our Lord?

"I Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice" and the Atonement

We think, or we at least imply by the way we teach, that Jesus' death was primarily for the forgiveness of sin. It was not.

As we saw above, God has always forgiven sins, even under the Old Testament. The problem Jesus actually died to correct is described in Jeremiah 17:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things and it is exceedingly corrupt.

Deceitful and corrupt humans do not obtain the forgiveness of God, the repentant do.

Some people teach that God will send a person to eternal punishment for a single sin unless that sin is paid for with a sacrifice. That sounds bizarre ... because it is. We have seen that this is not God's way. He "forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin" (Ex. 34:7) ... if we repent. But we don't. Instead, the apostle Paul quotes Psalm 14:

Romans 3:10-18

Most Bibles will give you references from all over the Old Testament for this passage, but it is actually quoted in its entirety, word for word, from the Septuagint of Psalm 14, which is numbered Psalm 13 in the Septuagint and in Jewish Bibles. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament made during the couple centuries before Jesus was born. I'll write more about it below.

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.
Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,
The poison of asps is under their lips;
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
(Rom. 3:10-18)

Paul is not describing people who commit one sin here. He is describing horrific behavior, and he is attributing it to humanity in general. In fact, in verse 19, he points out that this Psalm was written to the Jews. The point he is making is that the Jews cannot claim to be better than the Gentiles. No, their own Scriptures condemn the lot of them as wicked.

This is why Jesus died. God does not forgive the guilty, meaning those who are wicked and do not repent. He forgives the righteous, the ones who practice good works consistently (cf. Rom. 2:7). As he said in Exodus 34:6-7 and Ezekiel 18:20-30, he does not forgive the guilty.

What God wants, however, is to forgive everyone. Peter said he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), echoing his teaching in Ezekiel 18:20-30. The only thing required for God's forgiveness is repentance and a life given to doing good, but Romans 3 tells us we are not equipped to do good.

So what can God do about the situation? Should he change his very nature and forego justice, forgiving the wicked and the righteous alike? A lot of people think that is why Jesus died, so that God could be just and still forgive the wicked.

That is what "a lot of people" teach, but that is not what Scripture teaches. Instead, Scripture teaches that Jesus died to change us, not change God.

  • For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works. Say these things and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one despise you. (Tit. 2:11-15)
  • For to this end Christ died, rose, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (Rom. 14:9)
  • For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again. (2 Cor. 5:14-15)
  • Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. Some of you were such, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
  • This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts. They, having become callous, gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you didn’t learn Christ that way, if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus. (Eph. 4:17-21)

What God did about our situation was change us.

There is a beautiful and revelatory line in a very ancient Christian letter:

As long then as the [Old Covenant] endured, he allowed us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. ... [God] sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it apparent that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. (Anonymous, Epistle to Diognetus, ch. 9, c. AD 80-200)

Once you know that Jesus died to obtain a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14), this quote drives home to us what a great thing that is.

In Romans 2:6-7, Paul tells us that the route to eternal life is patiently continuing to do good. In Romans 3, he tells us that we do not do good. Not only that, but God has consigned us (judged us) as all sinners, falling short of the glory of God. Then he sent Jesus, who in his death did the very opposite of what Adam did. Adam made us sinners (disobeyers) with one act of disobedience, but Jesus made us righteous (obeyers) with one act of obedience (Rom. 5:19).

Sometimes people argue that "righteous" in Romans only means that we are righteous in God's eyes, not necessarily righteous in our behavior. John tells us that is deception:

Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (1 Jn. 3:7)

Let's go on an excursion and discuss grace, which may better explain how "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" applies to the Atonement.

Grace and Mercy

I was careful to choose Titus 2:11-15 for the first quote in the list of verses above. It addresses grace as well as the atonement. Grace is very much misunderstood today. More often than not, the average evangelical equates grace and mercy.

Sometimes, if I admonish a fellow Christian, others say things like, "Show that person some grace," or "We're saved by grace, man!" What the person really means is that I should show more mercy.

When I admonish someone, I am trying to show that person grace. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Tit. 2:11-12). If I am trying to help a person free themselves of ungodliness or desires for worldly things, then I am showing grace. If I am doing that too harshly or without love, then I should be told to show mercy or be more loving, not give the person grace.

The word grace means "favor." When you are favored by God, you get all kinds of great benefits. If God himself favors you, he will provide you with everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). He will bless you with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). If you are in God's favor, sin will not have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).

That's grace. It is interesting that Christians are given the right to come "with boldness" to the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16). When you do, God will give you mercy and grace to help in time of need. Mercy is forgiveness. You do get that at the throne of grace. What you've done will be forgiven you and you will also receive grace. Grace is not mercy. Being in God's favor allows you to get help in time of need.

Hmm. This article is already long, but this explanation of grace/favor seems necessary.

Grace in Greek and Roman Society

Note: All of the following can be found in this PDF from the Ashland Theological Journal, written by David A. deSilva. I verified this information in Paul in the Greco-Roman World (J. Paul Sampley, 2016, Bloomsbury Publishing), which I ordered through my local library. I have looked at internet sources as well, but they all reference daSilva's article. The point is, the following is trustworthy.

The word grace, charis in Greek, was in use in the Roman Empire before the time of Jesus and the apostles. It was used in Greece even before that.

Today we have insurance companies. In ancient Greece and Rome (and pretty much every society) businessmen and farmers relied on a system we call "patronage." There were wealthy patrons who took on "clients," who depended on the patron for the health of their business, whether it be a trade or farming. During drought a patron might provide food for their client farms. For those in a trade, the patron might help find buyers for his/her client's goods or services.

In return, the clients promised to be loyal to the patron, supporting the patron in his or her endeavors. Often, a patron was simply looking to increase their prestige in society, which allowed them to connect to other wealthy or wealthier patrons. Sometimes a patron sought an office in local or national government, and the patron's clients would support them in whatever way they could.

Two famous Christians were the benefactors of this system. Origen was an early example. Origen was an elder in the church of Caesarea in the first half of the third century. He wrote and taught prodigiously, and a wealthy woman supported him while he did so. In return, he was a teacher to her household, and she, being a Christian, was supporting the work of the Church. William Tyndale had a similar arrangement in 1500s England with Thomas Poyntz as he translated the New Testament into English.

The point of all this is that in Greek-speaking Rome, the patron showed grace, charis, to his/her clients, and the clients responded with pistis, faith or loyalty, to the patron.

Paul, who grew up in the Roman city of Tarsus, knew all this. When he co-opted the words grace and faith to apply them to God's relationship with Christians, he did this understanding what the words would mean to his readers.

The Septuagint, Jubilee, and Aphesis

Hebrews 9:22 says that there is no "remission" without the shedding of blood. At first glance, this verse seems to contradict everything I have written up to this point. It does not. Instead, "remission" in Hebrews 9:22 opens up a beautiful picture of Jesus' atonement that is missed because we cannot read Greek.

I normally try to avoid basing my teachings on Greek words because I am not a Greek scholar. I am a second-year Greek student at best. "Remisssion," though, is a critically important New Testament word, and its Greek equivalent, aphesis, is packed with history and rich with meaning; so I am going to tackle it with the help of several Lexicons, other verses in the New Testament, and the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.


When I want to see an accurate English definition of a Greek word, I go to There I click on "Greek Interlinear," and when I get to the interlinear, I type in the verse I am looking for. The verse shows up with the Greek on top and an English translation below. The Greek words have the Strong's numbers above them, and if you click on that number, you get an immense amount of information about the Greek word.

I did this for Hebrews 9:22 and the word aphesis.

  • A Greek Lexicon by Liddell and Scott, arguably the most respected Greek lexicon there is, gives "a letting go, dismissal" as the first definition.
  • The Dodson Greek-English Lexicon has "deliverance, pardon, complete forgiveness, a sending away, a letting go, a release" as the first definition.
  • Strong's Concordance gives "freedom; (figuratively) pardon."
  • The Tyndale Brief Lexicon of Extended Strong's for Greek gives "dismissal; release" and a reference to Luke 4:18 as a first definition. (Hover with your mouse over the Scripture reference to read it.)
  • Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives "release from bondage or imprisonment" as the first definition.

Read the full definitions at

As you can see, not a single lexicon lists "forgiveness" as the primary translation of aphesis except the Dodson Greek-English Lexicon, which includes "forgiveness" among six possibilities in its first definition.

Seeing these definitions and having already shown you that God's only requirement for forgiveness is repentance followed by obedience, I feel free to question the idea that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.

There is even stronger evidence that Hebrews 9:22 concerns something much larger than forgiveness. ("Forgiveness" is what most Christians understand "remission" to mean.)

Aphesis in the Septuagint

The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament translated in the third and second centuries B.C., uses the word aphesis to translate the Hebrew words for both Jubilee (Lev. 25) and the 7-year release from debt and slavery (Deut. 15). This is no surprise, because the primary definition of aphesis is "release."

An internet search will show that there is some disagreement about exactly how much Paul and other apostles quoted the Septuagint, but there is no disagreement that it was a lot. Scholars also agree that the Septuagint was the Old Testament of all the churches of the Roman Empire, outside Jerusalem, throughout the first and second centuries.

We know that the writer of Hebrews knew about and used the Septuagint. As just one example he quotes Deuteronomy 32:43 from the Septuagint, "Let all the angels of God worship him," in Hebrews 1:6. You will not find this sentence in your Bible because modern English translations are all made from Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews, however, was using the Greek Septuagint, which does have that sentence.

The point of this is that the writer of Hebrews knew that when he wrote "aphesis," his readers would not merely think of forgiveness. His readers would also think of a release from slavery and from all debts, as well as Jubilee, when all land in Israel reverted to the original families who received the land from Joshua when Israel conquered the Promised Land.

Yes, aphesis includes forgiveness, but it is so much more! It is restoration to our original land, the elimination of debt, and release from slavery. In the case of a Christian, this represents a return to fellowship with God (all the way back to Eden rather than just back to Joshua's division of the Promised Land), the elimination of guilt (the debt of sin), and release from slavery to sin. Our former slavery to sin, from which grace frees us, is described in Ephesians 2:1-3:

... you were dead in transgressions and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience. We also all once lived among them in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

This slavery to sin, rather than only the forgiveness of sin, is what required blood. Jesus' blood is what restored us to fellowship with God, putting us back in God's favor. Paul goes on to describe our deliverance from this slavery by writing:

But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (Eph. 2:4-5)

We needed much more than forgiveness, we needed resurrection from the dead! If forgiveness were all that we needed, God could simply have forgiven us. God does not need blood to forgive sin! He desires mercy and obedience, not sacrifice. He did not merely want to forgive us, however; he wanted to rescue us from sin's power over us. Jesus' blood was required for such a great deliverance The bondage we entered when Adam sinned was erased in Christ (cf. Rom. 5:19). By his resurrection, he resurrected those who believe in him to new life (Rom. 6:1-11).

All that is what aphesis—Jubilee and the 7-year release—means for us in Christ. This is the "remission," the release and restoration, that Jesus provided us in Christ.

Jesus described his mission to earth, and he used aphesis twice in doing so:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim aphesis to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to send the crushed an aphesis, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

Aphesis is at the very heart of what Jesus came for. Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 say so much more than we normally think they say. Both use aphesis in saying:

... in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the aphesis of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Let's look at "redemption" the same way we looked at "remission." "Redemption" is apolutrosis, which the several lexicons provided by define as simply "a ransom" or "release effected by payment of ransom." In other words, the aphesis we have received was obtained for us by ransom. Jesus ransomed us out of slavery to sin and made us servants of God (Rom. 6:17-19).

Without blood, there is forgiveness, but freedom required blood because we had to be ransomed into aphesis, obtaining not only release from debt and slavery but also the freedom of Jubilee, restoration to our ancestral rights as children of God.

I Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice

Jesus ransomed us into release so we could give God the obedience he has always desired. God has always been merciful to the righteous, not only forgiving their sins, but promising, "Blessed is the one to whom the Lord does not impute sin, in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Ps. 32:2).

The one set free by Jesus (John 8:32) receives freedom from the slavery to sin described in Ephesians 2:1-3. We are set free for freedom, as Jesus says (Jn. 8:32), and that freedom is the freedom to walk with God as freely as Adam did before the fall. Sacrifice in the Old Testament had a similar, but different, purpose. In the Old Testament, the sacrificial rituals were to draw the eyes of Israel toward the temple and, through the temple, to the God who had freed them from Egypt. He did not want those sacrifices from those who were living wickedly. He especially did not want them from those who were trying to justify their wickedness by sacrifice.

Instead, God wanted sacrifices from people practicing justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:6-8) and who presented those sacrifices to honor God, give him thanks, vow their obedience, and fellowship with him. That was Old Testament sacrifice, and the sacrifices of those who did not practice mercy were rejected. That should ring a bell because Jesus said more than once:

If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15)

Even the sacrifice of Jesus will not bring you forgiveness if you do not show mercy to others. This is because Jesus shed his blood to ransom you from sin, not to allow you to live in sin. I do want to add that even people freed from the power of sin (Rom. 6:7 & 14) are not necessarily perfect. God makes provision for our sins (1 Jn. 1:7-2:2). Redemption is not about sinless perfection, but it is about a habit of righteous living, godliness, and good works (cf. Rom. 2:7). If we withhold mercy, our Father in heaven will also withhold mercy.

All of the above is why Jesus could say, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice."

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