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Bible verses about Old Covenant Sacrifices
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 1:14-17

Notice also the especially wide cost difference between a turtledove and the other animals. This suggests some have more required of them than others, which is confirmed in Luke 12:48: "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."

This distinction is drawn even finer when we understand that with the bullock, sheep, and goat, the offerer slays the animal. However, the priest kills the dove. In fact, the priest does everything regarding the dove except bring it for sacrificing. John 10:11, 15, 17-18 explains this more fully, showing that the priest voluntarily sacrifices Himself. We can understand in the offering of the turtledove that its death is seen as the work of the High Priest and Mediator, thus it emphasizes Christ's intercessory work for those who are weak. The weak require more help and not as much is required of them. God does not expect more of us than we can deliver.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Jeremiah 7:22-23

Jeremiah says that God never commanded offerings and sacrifices when the Old Covenant was made! He is talking about the generation to whom God gave His law and with whom He made the Old Covenant. It is easily understood why no other sacrifices are given in the Old Covenant except for the Passover (see Exodus 23:18). God does not mention them because He did not require them under the terms of the Old Covenant. All He wanted Israel to do was to keep the Ten Commandments, the statutes, and the judgments that He had already given to them with one exception—the Passover, the only sacrifice that He required!

This is one reason why the New Covenant did not perpetuate the other sacrifices, even though the Old Covenant became obsolete: The sacrifices were never a part of it in the first place. In terms of Passover, the symbols changed to bread and wine, but we still keep it.

There are three reasons why true Christians keep Passover even though it is also part of the Old Covenant. First, like the Ten Commandments, they preceded the making of the Old Covenant. Passover was commanded in Exodus 12, enforced, and practiced before Israel ever got to Mt. Sinai. Second, it is commanded in the New Testament and shown by the example of Christ and the apostles. Third, Passover is included within the statutes of God as a corollary of the fourth commandment. It is a festival and therefore to be kept.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 17)


 

Romans 12:1-2

Paul's exhortation is especially interesting in light of what precedes it. Chapter 11 concludes a lengthy dissertation on the doctrinal foundation of Christianity, showing the central importance of faith and grace. Instruction in the practical aspect of Christianity begins with chapter 12. The two sections are linked by the word "therefore." By this, Paul demonstrates that Christian living is inseparably bound to Christian belief. Faith without works is dead, and works without the correct belief system is vanity. Wrong thinking cannot lead to right doing.

If a person drinks in the spirit of Paul's doctrinal teaching in the first eleven chapters, he will present his body a living sacrifice and renew the spirit of his mind. Thus, outwardly and inwardly he will be on his way toward God's ideal for human conduct. All the virtues produced from this change will begin to grow and manifest themselves in his life. Self-surrender and its companion, self-control, are inseparable parts of this command.

Paul uses the metaphor of sacrifice throughout verse 1 to reinforce both similarities with and contrasts between Israel's Old Covenant sacrificial system and the Christian's sacrifice of His life in service to God. "Present" is a technical expression from the sacrificial terminology. Under the Old Covenant, the offerer's gift was presented to God and became His property. Similarly, the gift of our life is set apart for God's use as He determines. When we are bought with a price, we belong to ourselves no longer.

The Old Covenant sacrifices produced a sweet smell that God declares in Leviticus 1:17; 2:2; and 3:5 to be a fragrant aroma in His nostrils. In the same way, the gift of our life is "acceptable to God." Then Paul says that giving our lives in this way is "reasonable," that is, of sound judgment, moderate, sensible, or as many modern translations say, rational or spiritual. The outward acts of a son of God spring logically from what has changed in the inner man. His mind is being renewed, and he is thus controlling himself to live according to God's will rather than in conformity to the insanity of this world.

The last word in verse 1, "service," is as important as any, for within this context it describes the service, not of a domestic slave, but of a priest in complete self-surrender performing his duties before God's altar (I Peter 2:5). It means that we must, first of all, be priests by our inward consecration and then we must lay our outward life on the altar in God's service. This is what our works accomplish.

Almost from the beginning of the Bible, sacrifice is one of the great keywords of God's way. God clearly alludes to Christ's sacrifice in Genesis 3, and the first sacrifices occur in Genesis 4. The principle of sacrifice is then woven into the fabric of virtually every book until beginning with Christ, the Founder of Christianity, it becomes perhaps the master-word for the outward life of His followers.

Sacrifices are inherently costly to the giver, or there is no real sacrifice in the offering. David explains in II Samuel 24:24, "Then the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.'" Jesus amplifies this principle with a statement of far reaching day-to-day consequences: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). What could be more costly than a person giving his life in service by living a way of the very highest of standards that his mind and body do not by nature and habit want to live? It requires a decision that will from time to time bring intense pressure upon him to control himself against strong drives to go in an entirely different direction. But he must control himself if he is to work in the service of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

2 Corinthians 3:7

When Paul speaks of "the ministry of death," he refers to the administration of the Old Covenant rather than the Ten Commandments. The Levitical priesthood, a carnal priesthood based on physical descent from Levi, administered the Old Covenant. This covenant provided no promise of eternal life and no means for sinners to receive forgiveness because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Therefore, the people lived and died under the condemnation of the law, and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Another reason why Paul refers to the Old Covenant as "the ministry of death" is that God required the Levitical priesthood to execute those who transgressed certain laws. God's law mandates the death penalty for certain sins like murder and dishonoring parents (Exodus 21:12-17), Sabbath-breaking (Exodus 31:14-15) and certain sexual sins (Leviticus 20:10-13). The priests were responsible to enforce the death penalty by actually putting such transgressors to death in the proscribed manner. In this sense, the Old Covenant ministry was indeed a "ministry of death."

However, why did Paul say that the "ministry of death," the administration of the Old Covenant, was "written and engraved on stones"? Was it not the Ten Commandments that God wrote on two stone tablets? Even though the Ten Commandments were not the covenant itself (a covenant is simply an agreement between two parties), they were the terms of the covenant. Because the Ten Commandments constituted the part of the agreement between God and Israel that the Israelites agreed to keep, the Old Covenant became synonymous with the Ten Commandments. In Deuteronomy 4:13 Moses writes, "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tables of stone." To put it another way, "keeping the Old Covenant" was the same as "keeping the Ten Commandments."

A paraphrase of the first eleven words of II Corinthians 3:7 helps to clarify what Paul means: "But if the administration of the Old Covenant, [the terms of which were] written and engraved on stones. . . ." The Ten Commandments undergirded all the laws that God gave to Israel—laws that the Israelites could not keep. The responsibility to teach these laws to Israel and enforce penalties for disobedience, including the death penalty, fell to the priests.

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11)

When Moses went up Mount Sinai the second time to receive the Ten Commandments, he wrote God's statutes and judgments in a book, and God wrote the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone. This, in essence, finalized the "contract" that God made with Israel.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)

Verses 29-35 then describe how Moses face shone when he delivered the Ten Commandments and the book of the law to Israel.

So what is passing away? Hebrews 8:13 provides the answer: "In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." The Old Covenant and the Old Covenant ministry, the Levitical priesthood, are passing away, not the Ten Commandments!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Have the Ten Commandments Passed Away?


 

Hebrews 9:8-10

The subject involves food and drink offerings and various washings imposed until the time of reformation—not the entirety of God's law. In His mind's eye, whenever He gave them these rituals, there was a grandfather clause. A grandfather clause is stipulation attached to a law that causes it to expire either under certain conditions or at a certain time. These rituals were imposed until the time of reformation. This is the grandfather clause. These requirements, legally forced on the Israelites, were to last only for a certain period of time.

Jeremiah 7:22-24 says that when these people made the covenant with God, He did not speak about sacrifices. He only said, "Obey My voice." However, because they transgressed, something was added—imposed on them. It was as though these rituals were a penalty because they transgressed God's voice, yet it was to last only for a certain period of time.

This is similar in concept to what we have today when a convicted person is required to check in with a parole officer for a given number of years, sentenced to perform a certain number of hours of community service, or ordered to attend certain classes and to refrain from engaging in particular privileges for a stipulated period.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

Hebrews 10:1

Scripture clearly teaches that the Old Covenant ceremonies are symbolic of essential, New Covenant, spiritual truths. Further, the author reinforces this by saying they are "a shadow of good things to come." The verb "having" in Hebrews 10:1 is a present active participle, expressing continuous or repeated action. This means that the Old Covenant ordinances of divine service and the sanctuary are still valid and effective teaching vehicles.

Where there is a shadow, there must also be a reality. In this instance, the reality is the life of Christ—the reality we are to strive to emulate as closely as we can, "as dear children," as Paul puts it, to be "a sweet-smelling aroma" to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

In Luke 24:27, Jesus buttresses this concept while instructing the two men on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection: "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Jesus draws teaching from the books of Moses to show parallels with His own life.

Be careful not to make the careless mistake of thinking of the offerings as childish, insignificant, primitive, or barbaric. Undoubtedly, they are different from what we are culturally familiar. However, these quoted scriptures make it clear that God intended all along to use them as teaching vehicles. To those under the Old Covenant, the offerings looked forward to what would occur. We look back on what occurred and accept the spiritual intent of the teaching as applicable to us under the New Covenant.

The sacrifices of Leviticus stood at the heart of the worship of God under the Old Covenant. The overall image we may retain from them may indeed be of an endless number of bulls, sheep, goats, and birds slaughtered and burned with profound solemnity on a smoking altar. However, there is absolutely no doubt that they prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in His death by crucifixion. Less understood is that they also foreshadowed the depth of His consecrated devotion to God and man in His life. Even less understood is how they demonstrate the life we also are to exemplify as living sacrifices.

Is not being living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, and not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds into the image of Christ our Redeemer, to be at the center of our lives once we are redeemed (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:13)?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction


 

Hebrews 10:1-4

Hebrews 10:1 reflects upon the place the Old Testament offerings have in giving understanding of Jesus Christ. The sacrificial laws only portrayed reality; they were enacted to depict something greater to come. What Leviticus 1-5 describes is the shadow of the good things; Christ is the reality.

Why could they not make a person perfect who believed in them and offered them? Why did One so great have to die so that we might live? An illustration from a dollars-and-cents perspective may help us understand. Can something of lesser value, an animal, equal the cost of something of greater value, a man? Is a bull, lamb, goat, or turtledove worth as much as a human being?

What if a person went into a store to purchase - redeem, compensate for, propitiate, expiate - an item costing a hundred dollars, but he offered to pay only fifty dollars? What would the owner say? Would he not say, "You don't have enough here to pay for this, so you cannot have it." So, he leaves and returns with a twenty-dollar bill. The owner says, "That still is not enough." Leaving again, he returns with a ten-dollar bill. It is still not enough. In the analogy, he must repeat this process continually, always attempting to use something of lesser value to receive something of greater value.

Consider, however, what God did. We are the item being purchased, and our redemption price - our cost to Him - is the expiation of our sins. God laid down a multi-trillion dollar note to redeem us: Christ. God gave the life of the Creator to pay the penalty for sin. He did not offer a lesser being for us - an animal is not sufficient to redeem even one human. God came through with a payment that is not merely adequate to meet the cost of one person's redemption, but is so great it satisfies the cost for all the sins of the whole of mankind for all time! God met the total indebtedness of all mankind with one payment.

The last phrase of Hebrews 10:1 says that the animal sacrifices did not make those who followed them perfect. In verse 2, the writer follows this with the question, "For then would they not have ceased to be offered?" He is providing evidence that no animal, no matter how unblemished, can pay the price of a man's sins because a human is worth too much. In verse 3, he proclaims that the sacrifices only reminded the people of how sinful they were and that their sins had yet to be paid for. In verse 4, he concludes that it is just not possible for any animal to pay for the sins of any man.

God simply will not accept the blood of an animal for the life of a man. The sacrificial law was a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24), intended by God to instruct by putting people through the exercise of making the sacrifice. How much those making the actual offerings learned is unknown, but they are very effective teachers for those of us under the New Covenant, if we incline our minds to them and seek God's help in understanding. Above all, they teach us the value of Christ's sacrifice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

 




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