What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The sin offering may be the ultimate in terms of sacrifice and the discomfort and pain of self-denial. Is it also applicable to us? Did Christ perform His mighty works in our behalf to spare us from suffering? We would be wrong to think that was His purpose. Notice I Peter 4:1-2:
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
Christ has given us a reprieve from the death penalty but not from the suffering that results from the sacrifices needed to overcome sin. Resisting the flesh is painful. We are crucified with Christ; the flesh must be put to death, as it were. Paul asserts in Galatians 5:24, "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires," and in Romans 8:13, "But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Doing so makes us a sin offering of the first order with Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)
Clearly, in the sin offering described here, atonement is used in the sense of "a covering," and therefore as a means of forgiving sin. By contrast, in the burnt offering sin is nowhere seen because it is not part of what the burnt offering teaches. In it, God is satisfied because the offerer has met His requirement through his life, by the righteous way he lives his life. Thus, the offering shows the offerer accepted.
However, not all sense of covering is lost in the use of "atonement" in Leviticus 1. Here, the essence of covering arises in the fact that the offering covers—is fitting or appropriate—in the sense of meeting all conditions. The conditions involve a life of sincere, wholehearted, and loyal devotion to God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering
Whenever a sin caused loss to the one sinned against, restitution had to be made to him for his loss according to a valuation made by the priest. An additional one-fifth was added to the evaluation to compensate the plaintiff for any costs involved in recovering his loss. This process contains a valuable, spiritual lesson.
Suppose a person stole something from another worth a hundred dollars. He would then appear before the priest with his offering (a ram without blemish), as well as a hundred dollars. However, an additional twenty more dollars (one-fifth) would go to the victim to cover any mental anguish or attorney's or private detective's fees. This is what would have happened physically. However, we should consider this spiritually because this principle has application to us today. We are similarly under His government.
When we break His law, we are indebted to Him. The penalty of breaking His law is death. If we pay the penalty, we die, ending our indebtedness, but it also ends our potential, stops our growth, and perhaps—God forbid—keeps us from entering God's Kingdom. That would be the total end of everything! However, upon repentance, God permits us to claim the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sin. He allows the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to substitute for us.
However, in doing so, He now has a claim on us He did not have before we made use of Christ's sacrifice (symbolically, the unblemished ram). Before, He had a claim only on our obedience, but now He also has a claim on our life because He has spared us the death penalty. God not only forgives our sin, but He also clears us of guilt and then gives us the wherewithal to keep His law in the future. God adds grace, that is, gifts, as this is generally what "grace" means.
In Romans 5:20, Paul puts it this way: "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." When God forgives our sins at the beginning of our conversion, He does not simply wipe sins away. He also invites us into communion with Him, gives us His Spirit to enable obedience, promises to provide all our needs, and adds everlasting life on top of all this! In other words, God sets the example of going above and beyond what is merely required of Him.
God expects us to follow His example in our relationships with each other. The twenty-percent payment over and above what was literally owed represents the way we are to act toward men in general. In answer to the disciples' request to increase their faith, Jesus clearly instructs them to go above and beyond what was required (Luke 17:5, 9-10).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His ministry espousing this very principle:
You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. And if any man wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. (Matthew 5:38-42)
He crowns his teaching on this principle in verses 43-44: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." He says we must be quick to forgive. He did that very thing hanging on the stake in behalf of the very ones who were killing Him! That is going above and beyond even in the midst of great personal pain and stress when one would most likely have his mind focused on himself. At the very least, we should have a mind to extend grace even before our enemies want it.
In concluding instructions on loving our enemies, Jesus makes an arresting statement on the attitude and conduct by which His disciples are to live:
And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much aback. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:34-38)
Even as God lives by grace, we too are to learn to implement it into our lives. If we want to super-abound, we must learn to give grace. We are to go above and beyond mere requirement because it will support developing the mind of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings
This series of verses follows immediately after the giving of the instructions for the offerings. The priesthood's ordination and installation into their offices of service at the altar and Tabernacle are about to take place. Verses 2-10 are unique because they are instructions for what will be the first offerings given by the Aaronic priesthood.
Does it not seem plausible that they made the offerings in the correct order the first time they performed them, when little time had passed for people to forget God's commands or even deceitfully corrupt their purity? Moses received the instruction from God, he passed them on to Aaron, and the priests carried them out.
They did so in an interesting progression. Obviously, the order of instruction from God in the first few chapters of Leviticus begins with the burnt offering and proceeds through the meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings. Did the priests place the offerings on the altar in exactly the same progression? Does it make any difference? Yes, it makes a difference to us because it made a difference to God.
The Bible provides two different orders. The teaching order is given beginning in Leviticus 1. God, it seems, wants us to learn first about devotion to Him and fellow man portrayed by the burnt and meal offerings, as well as our devotion's fruits—gratitude, peace and fellowship—pictured by the peace offering. Following that, His instruction proceeds on to the sin and trespass offerings. However, when the rituals were actually performed at the altar, the sin offering happened first.
Leviticus 9:8 clearly states that the calf of the sin offering was killed first. Aaron then placed the blood from that calf upon the horns of the altar and poured the remainder of its blood at the base of the altar. Following that, its fat, kidneys, and liver lobe were burned on the altar (verse 10), but its flesh and hide were burned outside the camp (verse 11). Not until those ceremonies were fulfilled was the ram of the burnt offering killed, its blood caught, and all its parts burned atop the altar along with its meal offering (verses 12-14).
Investigating why the instruction order was given one way and the practical application order another should prove both logical and helpful. It helps to remember that Christ is the object of all the offerings. The burnt offering pictures His perfect devotion and obedience to God in keeping the first four commandments. The meal offering depicts an equally perfect devotion and obedience in keeping the remaining six commandments, which apply to relationships with other men. The peace offering shows the perfect communion produced. This sequence portrays His sinless performance in living 33½ years, enabling Him to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
This describes what made Him the perfect sin offering. We cannot approach God as a whole burnt offering because we have not devoted ourselves to God and man in perfect sinlessness. Our devotion is flawed. We are not qualified to be a sin offering because we have sinned. We are imperfect, to say the least.
The only way we can approach God is to have the way cleared before us by a perfect sin offering made in our behalf, which in turn prepares the way for us to become acceptable burnt and meal offerings. The perfect sin offering must precede us so we can be accepted before God. We cannot come to God through our own works because they are badly tarnished. We may come to Him only through the work of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Once God accepts us into His presence, the love of God begins to be shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This works to change our heart, preparing us to yield and keep His commandments faithfully in both letter and spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering
Do we grasp a serious ramification of this statement? It was never possible for animal blood to remove sins! If it was not possible in Paul's day, it was not possible in Old Testament times either. No one, including the Old Testament heroes, was ever forgiven through an animal sacrifice, nor was anyone saved by works of the law. Forgiveness and salvation by grace were not new to the New Testament.
The offerings were continuously repeated and detailed portrayals of what sin does - it kills - and what Christ's sacrifice would accomplish - reconciliation with God. Hebrews 10:3 says they served as reminders of sin. They were and remain as teaching vehicles since their spiritual purposes are shown elsewhere in God's Word. Hebrews 10:5-10 adds:
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come - to do Your will, O God.'" Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
How can a person truly live by every word of God if he casts these things aside as useless to daily life? How do they apply to us today? They apply in the spirit, which is their true intent. Jesus Christ is the object of each of the offerings, that is, they portray His activities as a man. However, three of them, the burnt, grain (or meal), and peace offerings, do not deal with sin. Only the trespass and sin offerings depict Christ's death for our sins.
Very briefly, the whole burnt offering pictures Jesus Christ's total devotion to God. His life was completely consumed as an offering to God every minute He lived. It pictures His fulfilling the first of the two great commandments of the law (Matthew 22:37): Jesus loved God with all His heart, soul, and mind.
Along with the burnt offering, the meal offering represents Christ's dedicated service, but this time to man, fulfilling the second of the two great commandments (verse 39): He loved His neighbor as Himself. Sharing His consuming love for God showed His consummate love for man.
The peace offering represents the fruit of all of Jesus' sacrificial labors on behalf of God and mankind, including those symbolized by the sin and trespass offerings. The peace offering shows God, the High Priest, and man fellowshipping together, sharing a common meal in peace and thanksgiving.
Before leaving Jesus' example, we need to consider whether we are ever tempted to think that Jesus dream-walked through life like an actor on a stage. Do we ever feel that He must have had it easy because He was also God, and so could easily overcome any temptation that crossed His path? While it is true that, even as a man, He never stopped being God, He was also a man and thus encumbered with human feelings, and that nature within Him opened the door to sore temptations. Hebrews 2:16-18 reflects this, as does Hebrews 4:15-16.
It is important on several fronts to allow this reality's impact to affect us. Why? Because Jesus is our example, and we are to follow in His footsteps. Even though He was the Son of God, His Father did not lay out an easy course for Him. For instance, He rarely escaped almost continuous confrontations by angry people. By itself, this was a great burden. The pressure from this trial culminated in His crucifixion and all it entailed.
Jesus had to work at succeeding in His responsibilities. Each day was a sacrificial offering for Him on behalf of God and men. Thus, He is our example in this too. He gave of Himself, laying down His life for His friends, not only as an offering for sin, but also in daily service as a servant.
It will become clear that He did not engage in this labor so we could escape the responsibilities of our assignments. If we are to walk the same path behind our Example, does it not follow that we will face the same basic difficulties He did? God promises that our responsibilities will be in measure to our gifts (I Corinthians 10:13; Romans 12:6-8), but He did not do it all for us.
Do we not have work to do to follow Him? Once a person is converted, can anybody keep the commandments for him? Can a person be a proxy for another before God? Can anyone live any part of life for another? People can do things on another's behalf, but they cannot live life for anybody else.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required to Do Works? (Part One)
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