“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
These are the words of the apostle Paul to Timothy, his son in the faith, as recorded in 2 Timothy 3:14-17. The Scriptures referred to in particular are those of the Old Testament, which the Lord Jesus explained to His disciples on the road to Emmaus- “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:27. Such was the effect of the unfolding of the Scriptures, that with hearts burning with love to Christ, they retraced their steps with a resolve to communicate their new-found knowledge and understanding to those of like mind.
Thus whether it be to make wise unto salvation, to instruct the unlearned, to fully equip the man of God, or to rejoice the heart, the Scriptures are truly profitable. May it be that the Christ of whom they testify, John 5:39, may become increasingly precious to all who may read these words.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 1 TO 3
1:1 And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
1:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
1:3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.
SETTING OF THE CHAPTER
Leviticus chapter 1 is the beginning of a book in which God set out the way in which He desired the nation of Israel to serve Him. In chapters 25-40 of the preceding Book of Exodus, God had given details to Moses as to the construction of a Tabernacle, a holy building in which Israel’s priests were to function before Him. It is from this now-completed tabernacle that the Lord speaks to Moses, who, as the people’s representative and mediator, was responsible to pass on God’s requirements. This he did in the form of the Book of Leviticus.
STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER
This is very simple, for the passage may be divided into three. The first section, verses 1-9, is concerned with the offering of bullocks, the second, verses 10-13, with the offering of sheep and goats, the third, verses 14-17, with the offering of doves and pigeons.
SECTION 1 VERSES 1-9 THE OFFERING FROM THE HERD
1:1 And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
Thus begins this most important and instructive portion of Scripture. The nation of Israel was described as God’s son, Hosea 11:1, and when He was about to call that son out of Egypt, He said to Pharaoh through Moses, “Let My son go, that he may serve Me,” Exodus 4:23. Having been called out of Egypt by blood and by power, the aspiration of Israel was expressed in the words of their song, “He is my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation,” Exodus 15:2. They made good their intention, and the tabernacle was built, and the glory of the Lord filled the place.
It was from such a glory-filled sanctuary that God called Israel again, this time for worship. If they respond to this call, it must be in a way which satisfies God’s glory, for there is no room left in the tabernacle for man’s glory. As the psalmist would say centuries later, “in His temple doth every one speak of His glory”, Psalm 29:9. Only by taking heed to the Divine instructions will Israel offer “an offering in righteousness”, Malachi 3:3.
Christians too, have been “called out.” Not from a particular country, as Israel was, but from the world-system into which they were born, that they might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:5. The epistle to the Hebrews describes Israelites as they came near to the altar with their sacrifices, as worshippers, 10:1,2. Thus there is a very real connection between sacrifices and worship. The Lord Jesus Himself said “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” John 4:23. It ought to be the concern of every true believer therefore to seek to satisfy this desire of His Father’s heart. The Lord still calls; this time from the heavenly sanctuary, that His purged worshippers may bring to Him their appreciation of His Son. Let us remember that solemn word from the Lord: “None shall appear before Me empty,” Exodus 23:15.
1:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
We must acquaint ourselves, when considering this and subsequent verses, with the differing characters of the offerings detailed in Leviticus chapters 1-7. Their order is significant. First of all comes the Burnt Offering, of which no part was eaten, and then follow the Meat or Meal Offering, the Peace Offering and the Sin Offering. Standing at the head of the list, therefore, is the offering that did not build up the offerer, but which was wholly for God. And thus an important lesson is emphasised, for God’s demands must be paramount in all Christian activity, whether worship, walk, or work. He alone has the right to dominate the affairs of the believer, to impose Himself, to accumulate honour, to draw attention to Himself. No saint, however well-known, has the right to do these things, and he attempts to so assert himself at his spiritual peril, for “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” Proverbs 16:18.
All of our intentions and actions must be governed by the truth expressed by God in the words, “My glory will I not give to another” Isaiah 42:8. He is a jealous God; jealous for His people’s allegiance and their full attention. He has the right to claim all for Himself, and this He did in olden times in the burnt offering. All, that is, except the skin of the animal. And the exception proves the rule. For what is the skin of an animal if it is not the outward display of inner excellence? Did not the gloss, the sheen, the rich texture of the coat of the animal indicate inner well-being, glowing good health, freedom from infirmity? Truly the perfection of the animal found its expression in the skin. So even when a priest took the skin of the burnt offering, as we read he did in Leviticus 7:8, he was not really taking anything for himself; he was, on the contrary, acknowledging his own personal inadequacy, which could only be remedied by an acceptable offering and its death. This reminds us of the Christian’s duty to “show forth the praises (virtues, excellencies) of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light,” 1 Peter 2:9.
But what is the offerer saying when he brings one of the prescribed offerings? In the burnt offering is declared the fact that the offerer is personally unacceptable to God, and therefore must bring an offering for his acceptance. The meal offering declares that the mans life is unsatisfying to God, and hence he must bring flour, the support of life (see Deuteronomy 24:6), as a meal to satisfy God. Man is by nature uneasy in the presence of God, Genesis 3:8, but when that uneasiness has been dealt with, he may bring a peace offering. Man is unrighteous, by nature and by practice, and therefore stands in need of a sin offering. What he is, and what he has done, both call forth the fiery anger of a sin-hating God, but Divine mercy makes provision, so that the fire consumes the sin offering and not the sinner.
Can it really be that God is fully satisfied with the presentation to Him of the bodies of beasts? Is this His final word on the matter? Do not these verses point to a more wonderful offering? Even to the one offered by Him who said as He came into the world, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God,” Hebrews 10:5-7. The animal sacrifices were God’s will for the time then present, but His ultimate and final will is to bless men on the established basis of the offering consisting of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, Hebrews 10:10. So when Christ came into the world He is presented to us by the writers of the four Gospels as the only one fit and qualified to go to the place of sacrifice, and to give God the utmost pleasure in so doing.
John records that purging of the temple which took place near the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, when He expelled the oxen, the sheep and the doves from the temple courts. These being, of course, the same three classes of offering that might be brought as burnt offerings. Thus is seems as though the Lord is saying at the very outset that He will “take away the first, and establish the second,” Hebrews 10:9, knowing full well that in those burnt offerings God had no pleasure.
We must note the significance of the fact that in Leviticus chapter one we have three distinct parts to the ritual, namely (i) the part played by the offerer, (ii) by the offering and (iii) by the priest. Why, we may well ask, are they all needed? In seeking to answer this question we must remember that the Divine ideal was that the whole of the nation of Israel, in covenant relationship with God, should be a kingdom of priests, Exodus 19:6. However, that covenant, like the tables of stone, was broken at the foot of Mount Sinai, and instead of bringing a bullock to God in worship, they bowed down to a golden calf in idolatry. Thus they “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, Amen,” Romans 1:25.
As a consequence, Aaron and his sons were appointed to act as intermediaries, being ordained of God “for everything of the altar, and within the veil,” Numbers 18:7. The Israelite, then, whilst he brings his offering, and does certain things to it near the altar, is not allowed to officiate at the altar.
Does not this plainly indicate to us that the Levitical system was imperfect? Or as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, weak and unprofitable, Hebrews 7:18. The common Israelite can neither attend to the altar, nor enter within the veil. The very fact that he needs a priest to stand between himself and God is a pointer to the shortcomings of the law-system, “for the law made nothing perfect,” Hebrews 7:19.
Summarising, we may say the following:
The offering was suitable, but did not willingly come to the altar, being an unintelligent animal. The offerer was willing to come to the altar, but was unsuitable. The offerer, although willing to come to the altar, is barred from officiating there, and his deficiency in this respect is made up by the mediating priest. Thus the deficiencies that are found in the man, are made up by the offering, and by the priest.
How different is Christ to all this! Unlike the animal offering, He is intelligent with regard to God’s requirements, and willing as well. He needs not to be driven to the place of sacrifice, but “offered Himself without spot to God”, Hebrews 9:14. Those words “without spot” tell so clearly that He is suitable as well. Nor does He need a priest to interpose between Himself and His God, for He presented Himself for sacrifice.
How different to the Old Testament procedure is the way a believer of this age is able to approach God! A better prospect is placed before him, by which he draws nigh to God, Hebrews 7:19. He does not hover anxiously at the gate of an earthly sanctuary to see if the sacrifice he brings is acceptable, and then approach just a little nearer to the presence of God to stand beside the altar, and then retrace his steps to the outside world again. Rather, he is able to enter with boldness into the very presence of God in virtue of the accepted sacrifice of Christ, and to draw near to God to offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips which confess His Name, Hebrews 10:19; 13:15. How foolish to be satisfied with the altars, priests and sanctuaries, so-called, of earth, when such a prospect is opened up to view, and the exhortation “let us draw near”, comes to us, Hebrews 10:22.
Not only were there the three elements of animal, offerer and priest in the ceremony in Leviticus 1, but there was opportunity given to bring one of five classes of sacrifice. That of oxen occupies a section on its own, then sheep and goats are grouped together, and finally, pigeons and doves.
Looking at the prescriptions in general, we may surely believe that they have something to teach us regarding Christ, for the Saviour on the Emmaus Road began at “Moses and all the prophets, and “expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,” Luke 24:27.
Shall we be content with thinking that the bullock, being presumably a rich man’s offering, was of more value than the poor man’s offering of doves? Does not this view tend to disparage the dove offering as being of little account? How may we apply that sort of idea to the sacrifice of Christ? Who will dare to suggest that there is inferior and superior with Him who doeth all things well? We are warned against this line of thought by the Lord’s estimate of the widow’s two mites, for He said she cast in more than those who cast in much, for He saw how the rich gave, as well as what they gave Mark 12:41-44. She gave in faith, and God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, James 2:5.
Rather than setting one class of offering against another, it is surely better to think that in these different offerings there are presented different aspects of the sacrifice of Christ. So that in the bullock section we find an emphasis on the doing of God the Father’s will. In the sheep section there is emphasis on the will of Christ, and in the dove section, the mind of the Spirit is worked out. So that the words of Christ “I come to do Thy will, O (Triune) God” are anticipated in this chapter. It is suggested, then, that the three persons of the Godhead and their attitude to the sacrifice at Calvary are hinted at in these verses. We shall find that in each of the three sections there are things said which are not repeated in the other two, and these distinctive features will perhaps take on new meaning when considered in the light of the foregoing suggestion.
1:3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
We must notice, first of all, as we begin our consideration of the details in these verses, the different expressions that are used for “offering”. When the word is used by itself, then the idea is that of an approach offering, that which is brought by one who draws near to God. The word is found in verses 2 (twice), 3, 10, and 14, (twice).
When the word offering is linked with the words “made by fire”, as in verses 9,13 and 17, then the thought is of what happened to the sacrifice after it had been brought near. And when the expression “burnt sacrifice” is used, as in verses 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14 and 17, then there is emphasised what happened to the offering after it had been brought near and subjected to the action of the fire, for there ascended to God what is described as a sweet savour, and thus the words “burnt sacrifice” may equally well be translated “ascending offering”.
Perhaps this is a suitable juncture to notice a fundamental difference between the burning of the burnt offering, and the burning of the sin offering, for the words employed in each case are different, and are also instructive. We might summarise the difference between the two by saying that whereas in the case of the burnt offering the fire made the offering, for it is described, as we have seen, as “an offering made by fire”, in the case of the sin offering the fire may be said to unmake, or destroy the offering. In the former, the fires of Divine holiness only served to enhance and draw out the excellence latent in the offering, whereas in the case of the sin offering the fires of Divine anger against sin utterly consumed the sacrifice as it was burnt up without the camp.
In the case of the burnt offering the word means “burn as incense”, emphasising that the odour of the sacrifice as it was subjected to the action of the fire was a sweet savour to God, a smell from which He derived satisfaction, and in which He could rest. The burning of the sin offering on the other hand was a burning designed to dispose of the offending article, in this case sin, which God cannot tolerate in any way.
Praise God! there is One, even His Own Son made flesh, Who, when subjected to the Divine fire at the Calvary, not only yielded to God the incense of utmost moral worth, but who, at the same time, could satisfy the righteous demands of God against sin.
To return to the Burnt offering, however, with its progress of thought from the initial approach, then the fire causing a sweet savour, and then that savour ascending to God in heaven. In John’s Gospel there is a three-fold mention of ascending to heaven. Each time it is the Lord Jesus speaking. In John 3:13 He says, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.” In the expression “which is in heaven”, the Lord Jesus indicates that His proper dwelling place is in heaven, and even whilst found here upon the earth as the Son of Man (a title which connects Him with the earth), heaven is His home. Hence He can tell Nicodemus, from direct and present experience, of “heavenly things,” John 3:11,12. See also John 3:31,32; 5:19; 8:38. There may also be an allusion to the words of Daniel 7:13, where the Son of Man is viewed by the prophet as being in heaven, and receiving universal dominion from the Ancient of Days, as He is brought near before Him. Thus the Lord Jesus, whilst speaking to Nicodemus, is conscious of acceptance in God’s presence in heaven, and is confident that, when the time comes, the heavens will receive Him.
The second reference is found in that chapter which contains Christ’s discourse on the Bread of Life, prompted by the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, with its reminders of God’s provision of the manna when Israel were travelling through the wilderness. Just as the Israelites, when they came out of their tents on the first morning the manna came, had said “What is it”? so in John 6:42, when Christ the true Bread had come down from heaven, they said “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know”? thus betraying the fact that they did not really know who He was. In response, the Lord Jesus asks, in John 6:62, “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” And if they had not believed Him when He spoke of having come down from heaven, what would they do if He ascended back to where He came from? They would not believe that either, for these things are spiritually discerned, and man cannot profit from the flesh and its reasonings, John 6:63. During Israel’s wilderness days, a pot of manna was laid up in the presence of God, unseen by the majority of the people of Israel, so the Lord Jesus would be “laid up” in the presence of God, unseen by the majority of men. For only the believing few can say “We see Jesus”, Hebrews 2:9.
The third reference has to do with the then-future, when the Lord Jesus, having risen from the dead, was about to ascend to His Father and God. “Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father,” John 20:17. “Go to my brethren”, said He to Mary, reminding us of the quotation that is found in Hebrews 2:12, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren”. Reminding us also of His declared intention in John 17:26 of making known the Father‘s name to His own, that they might enter into the good of what that name reveals.
What do Christ’s brethren learn about the character of God ? Firstly, the Lord says, “My Father and your Father”, indicating that the loving relationship which the Lord Jesus enjoyed with His Father whilst here upon the earth, may also be known by those who can call Him Father also.
Secondly, “My God and your God,” indicating that the strength and resources which were available to Christ when here below, are guaranteed to those who follow Him in the path of faith and dependence. For did He not say, “I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art my God from my mother’s belly”, Psalm 22:10? Thus from the very first moment of conscious existence as a man, the Lord Jesus is said to be absolutely dependent upon God, with no suspicion of the independence and self-sufficiency which are the hallmarks of Adam and his race.
What a privilege to pass through this world in an attitude of dependence upon God, even as Christ did. The apostle Paul knew something of this when he wrote to the believers of his day, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”, Philippians 4:19. May the Lord grant that His people know increasingly the love of Christ’s Father and the support of Christ’s God.
But why should these things be linked to the ascension of the Lord Jesus? Is not one reason the fact that He ascends to act as advocate with the Father 1 John 2:1, maintaining us in the good of our relationship with our Father; and He ascends, also, to act as High Priest in the presence of God for us Hebrews 9:24, to maintain us as those who confess that they need Divine resources?
This three-fold mention of “ascending” is all the more remarkable when we remember that John does not give to us any historical record of the return of Christ to heaven, but in the place where we might expect to find it, we find the Lord Jesus referring to His return. It is as if His going away was a foregone conclusion. At all times the Lord was suited for the presence of God in heaven, and if He went away, it would be followed by His sure return, that those made fit for heaven by His sacrifice, might be escorted there also. For His “touch Me not”, indicates that His people of this present age are linked to Him, not in any earthly way, but rather are joined to Him as He is in heaven, as expressed in Ephesians 2:5,6- “quickened together”, “raised up together”, “seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. His coming for us guarantees that just as we are in heavenly places in Him now, so we shall be in heavenly places with Him then.
Psalm 50.9 indicates that the bullock is taken out of the house, so it is a domesticated animal, not a wild one. There was nothing permanently suitable in the houses of the men of Israel, so out of the Father’s house in heaven comes One who will satisfy Him infinitely. His words were, “I came forth from the Father” John 16:28. And He pressed ever onward and upward to the Father again, via the place of sacrifice, and by His work at that place made it possible for His own to occupy the “many abiding places” in the Father’s house on high.
Significantly enough, the symbol for the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is an ox, and that for the last letter, a cross; thus the greatness and scope of His work are enshrined in the very letters used in the writing of the Old Testament. Just as the greatness of His person is enshrined in the letters used in the New Testament, for He is the Alpha and the Omega, beginning all, and Himself the Beginning, Colossians 1:18, and consummating all, and Himself the Consummation. Revelation 22.13.
Something of the determination of the Lord Jesus is indicated by the stipulation that the sacrifice must be a male, emphasising energy, and the active side of things. Those who breed animals have a saying that “the ram is half the flock, the bull is half the herd,” for the nature, character and productive capacity of these two animals has far reaching effects on the rest of the flock or herd. Consider then, how great a sacrifice is involved in giving up this animal. Indeed, in verse 5 the word for bullock is literally “son of the herd”, an expression indicating an animal deserving of special notice, one that all the cows in the herd would be proud to own as her son. What an act of devotion on the part of an Israelite to give up this “son”.
But this is but a faint picture of the sacrifice which God the Father made when He “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” Romans 8:32. The sacrifice by Abraham of his only-begotten son Isaac, in the land of Moriah, (the word Moriah means “the vision of the Lord”), gives us vision and insight into what God was minded to do centuries later at Calvary. Well might Abraham call the place “Jehovah Jireh”, a name which can mean either “The Lord will see”, or, “The Lord will provide”. For the Lord could see in Abraham’s act of devotion a rehearsal of what He Himself would later do, when He would provide the required sacrifice. And Moses adds the inspired comment upon all this in Genesis 22:14 when he says “as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen”. He envisages that others would look back to the sacrifice and think of Moriah not as the mount of Abraham, but of the Lord. Just as believers today look back to Calvary to see the Father’s love and the Son’s willingness.
Calvary is remembered not so much for what men and Satan did, although their dread conspiracy is not forgotten, but rather as the place where God was active and where every attribute of God was brought out into its full display, John 12:28; 13:31. May it be that as believers we have an increasingly deeper insight into the meaning of Calvary, that we might be prompted to a life of sacrifice ourselves. For this is the practical lesson the apostle draws from his mention of the mercies of God in Romans 12:1,2. The penning of the parenthetical chapters 9-11 has not caused the apostle to forget the tender mercy of God when He gave up His Son so freely. Nor should we forget our personal responsibility to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God.
But to return to the text of Leviticus chapter one. The male must be “without blemish”, a phrase used of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament in 1 Peter 1:19. And this introduces us to a very important, and indeed vital feature of the person of Christ, namely His absolute sinlessness. He was blamed by men for several things, such as law-breaking, John 5:18; deceiving the people, 7:12; untruthfulness, 8:13; demon-possession, 8:48; blasphemy, 10:33, but, although He was blamed, He was in fact without blemish and the Father could say from heaven on more than one occasion that Christ was the One in whom He was well-pleased. Who will dare to reverse the verdict of heaven?
Isaiah had prophesied beforehand of the attitude of the Lord Jesus in the face of all this, His attitude would be, “He is near that justifieth Me…the Lord God will help Me,” Isaiah 50:8,9. Whilst He was cursed by men, the psalmist spoke beforehand of Christ ascending to the hill of the Lord and receiving God’s blessing, and instead of the unrighteous dealings of men with the Lord Jesus upon the earth, He would be righteously vindicated in heaven, Psalm 24:3,5.
The phrase “without blemish” signifies to be perfect (everything being present) and complete, (nothing being absent). And how fully the New Testament bears out this feature of the Lord’s person. Since He Himself is perfect and complete, all He does is perfect and complete also. Indeed, unless this were so, His sacrificial work is invalid, for Leviticus 22:21 gives the Divine Law, “it shall be perfect to be accepted”. How important then is this matter of the sinlessness of the Lord Jesus, for apart from anything else, it affects the work which He did in sacrifice. If that work is in any way defective, the results are likewise defective, and there is no possibility of a standing in the presence of God for man.
True it is that the word “perfect” is used of men in the Old Testament such as Noah, Genesis 6:9, and David, but they had been made perfect by the grace of God, as David himself said, “It is God that…maketh my way perfect”, Psalm 18:32. God’s Son, on the other hand, is essentially perfect. Certainly He is described as being made perfect in Hebrews 2:10; 5:9, but these references have not to do with His personal character. The life and sufferings of the Lord Jesus have perfected or fully-equipped Him to serve His people still.
When the apostle Peter writes to servants, exhorting them to bear suffering patiently, 1 Peter 2:18-25, he reminds them of the example of Christ, Jehovah’s suffering servant, and he does so by using words taken from one of the Songs of the Servant in Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah had written concerning Christ, “He had done no violence”, Isaiah 53:9; but borne along by the Spirit of God, Peter extends the scope of this statement and says “Who did no sin” whether violent or otherwise. As such, it was fitting that He should not be given a grave at the foot of the cross, where doubtless the transgressors who were crucified with Him, (who had done violence), were unceremoniously flung, but rather in a clean and new tomb, amidst the fragrance of spices lovingly prepared.
Peter then, emphasises the sinless activity of the Son of God, the one-time fisherman being a man of action himself, (even if sometimes his actions were violent, as when he wielded a sword in Gethsemane!). Paul, however, the man of intellect, dwells on the working of Christ’s mind, and writes “He knew no sin”, 2 Corinthians 5:21. The Lord Jesus had no experimental or practical knowledge of what it was to sin. He knew what sin was in others, and exposed that sin, as the Gospel records abundantly show, but He was totally separate from it. The apostle John was the man of deep insight, and He probes the mystery of the person of Christ, and concludes by the Spirit, that “in Him is no sin” 1 John 3:5 and “He is righteous” 3:7, and again “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all”, 1:5. Note John uses the word “is”, for he is writing of the being and the essence of the person of the Son of God. He does not say, “in Him was no sin”, for then we would be led to limit our thinking to a particular time. But when he writes “is” we are taken beyond a particular period to think of His person.
John wrote in a day when there were those who suggested that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh, but only seemed to be a real man. They also taught that matter was evil, and a holy God could not have any dealings with material things on that account. John refutes this double error, for he speaks of “handling” the Lord Jesus, and labels those who deny Jesus Christ come in the flesh as anti-Christian, 1 John 1:1; 4:3. He asserts that despite His real manhood in flesh and blood, the Lord has no taint of evil, for in Him is no sin. And since He is God, John 1:1, and in God there is no darkness at all, then there is in Christ no darkness at all either.
Thus these three inspired writers urge upon us the important truth that God’s Son had no sin at all in His record, His mind, or His being, but in all things and in all ways pleased the Father well. The prince of this world came, as Christ said he would, John 14:30, and derived no satisfaction at all from Him, for Satan delights only in evil. The Father, on the other hand, who delights only in good, found everything He sought for in His Son, for He is righteous, 1 John 3:7; pure, 1 John 3:3; and holy, Acts 2:27.
Exodus 29:42,43 describes the place of the burnt offering as marked by four things. Firstly, Divine scrutiny, for it was “before the Lord”; secondly, Divine contact, for God said “meet you”; thirdly, Divine communion, for God undertook to “speak with thee”; and fourthly, Divine glory, for God said the tabernacle would be “sanctified by My glory”. What noble ideas surround the place of the altar; ideas only fully realised at Calvary. There, Christ the supreme sacrifice was subjected to the penetrating scrutiny of a God who demands perfection. Having passed this test, He offered Himself in sacrifice to enable contact to be made between the repentant sinner and God, contact that would be followed by communion. For let none think that God can be contacted or communed with on any other basis than that of sacrifice. And there, too, God’s glory was brought out in fullest display, that His nature might be openly apparent.