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An introduction to the Levitical offerings

Those believers who wish to gain an appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, would do well to begin their study in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Hebrews 10:1-25 brings to a close the main body of teaching in the epistle concerning the sacrifice of Christ. The passage may be divided into seven sections as follows:

Section one, verses 1-4, the situation under law as regards the worshippers, and sins are remembered.

Section two, verses 5-10, Christ as the offering, and a quotation from the Psalms, giving Christ’s words.

Section three, verse 11, the situation under law as regards the priests, and sins are not removed.

Section four, verses 12-14, Christ as the offerer.

Section five, verses 15-18, the situation under grace as regards Christ, and sins are removed and not remembered, and a quotation from the prophets giving the Spirit’s witness.

Section six, verses 19-22, the situation under grace as regards the worshippers and their approach to God.

Section seven, verses 24-25, the situation under grace as regards the worshippers and their attitude to their profession and their fellow-believers.

Since the passage begins with the word “for”, it presents to us the answer to an unspoken question which may have been something like the following: “Given that the work of Christ at Calvary is once for all in character, and that when He comes the second time it will be “without sin”, 9:28, or in other words, apart from any thought of having to deal with sin, what if believers sin in between their initial faith and His return?”

The answer is found in these verses, as it sets out for us the fact that God’s will now is to bless men on the established basis of the sacrifice of Christ. That sacrifice has sanctified believers once and for all, verse 10. And those thus sanctified are perfected for ever, verse 14. Moreover, the Spirit of God testifies that this is so in the words, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more”, verse 17. It was one of the characteristics of the Levitical sacrifices that they caused a remembrance of sins, verse 3. Now all is different, for God pledges, not to forget sins, (for things forgotten may be recalled later), but to deliberately and positively remember our sins no more. He remembered them once against Christ at Calvary, and His sacrifice dealt so effectively with them that the matter of sins does not have to be brought up again, as far as believers are concerned.

Given that we owe our all to His sacrifice, we do well to have an intelligent appreciation of it in its varied aspects.

In verses 5-10 of Hebrews 10,the Lord Jesus is represented as speaking in the language of Psalm 40:6-8. Now that psalm is initially about David, for two reasons. First, because the title of the psalm is “To the chief musician, a psalm of David”. “Of David” can signify either one or both of two things. Those two things are that the psalm is written by David, and that it is about David, in the first instance. The second reason is that in verse 12 David admits to having iniquities, so the first reference is clearly to the psalmist. Only in a limited way, and within Divinely indicated boundaries, can the psalm be applied to Christ. To see how that application is made we must first of all see how it relates to David personally.

Clearly, according to verses 1-5, David had experienced a great deliverance, and he is deeply thankful to God. He realises that bringing an offering as thanksgiving is one option open to him under the law. But he is a prophet, with insight into the mind of God, and he knows that to bring an animal sacrifice is not the best way of showing his gratitude; rather, he should surrender himself to God’s will. This will be in line with the teaching of the other prophets. For instance, Samuel asked Saul, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams”, 1 Samuel 15:22. Micah spoke to the same effect, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:6-8. During the ministry of the Lord Jesus, a scribe said, “there is one God; and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices”. The verdict of the Lord Jesus on this remark was that the man had answered discreetly, that is, sensibly and prudently, and that he was not far from the kingdom of God, Mark 12:32,33.

David has grasped this principle, and therefore resolves to present himself as a living sacrifice, vowing to do God’s will, and to delight in the doing of it, Psalm 40:6-8. This will be much better than mere religious observance, which may be carried out by unbelievers. Accordingly, like the Hebrew servant of old, who pledged to do his master’s will for ever, Exodus 21:1-6, David will allow his ear to be digged, or opened, so that it is ready to hear the commands of His God.

So delightful to the heart of God are David’s words, that He uses them to tell us of His Son in Hebrews 10. The Spirit takes up David’s expressions, and gives them a fresh dimension, so that they may more fully express Christ’s resolve. We see this in the following ways:

First, David had come to do God’s will as one whose name was in the book that God keeps of those who live upon the earth, see Exodus 32:32; Psalm 139:16. Christ, too, is real man, but unlike David, He had come into the world from His Father, being “that eternal life, which was with the Father, and as manifested unto us”, 1 John 1:2. When David signified his willingness to do God’s will, he did so as a mature man, whereas Christ came to do God’s will from the very outset.

Second, the stipulation with regard to the Hebrew servant was “if he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself”, Exodus 21:3. But those words may be rendered as the Newberry margin, which reads, “if he come in with his body, he shall go out with his body”. David had expressed his readiness to respond to God’s commands by having his ear opened, but Christ’s words were, “a body hast Thou prepared Me”. It is true that by having his ear opened David was ready to serve with his body, but with Christ there is the more precise and inclusive statement. The use of the word body in Hebrews 10 is all the more pertinent, because we are sanctified by the offering consisting of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, verse 10. (the word ‘offering’ in that verse is a noun, not a form of verb). And His suffering is compared with what happened to the bodies of beasts in Hebrews 13:11,12.

Third, the word David used for “opened” is translated in Psalm 22:16 as “pierced”, in the expression, “they pierced my hands and my feet”. This shows how far the Lord Jesus was prepared to go in service to God, for He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, Philippians 2:8. Sincere as David was, no doubt, he could never match the service of Christ.

Fourth, the word David used for “opened” can not only mean pierced, but also prepared. This meaning the writer to the Hebrews takes up, and applies to Christ. His body was prepared in a way David’s never was, for He was born of a virgin, and consequently, tendency or ability to sin was absent from Him. Such a preparation was vitally important, for He could not be a suitable sacrifice without it.

Fifth, as one born into the world, David’s name was in the book of the living. Christ, however, was not only mentioned in another book, but was the subject of it, for as Peter said, “to Him give all the prophets witness”, Acts 10:43. More particularly, the book of the law, which contains the details of the sacrifices, when read in the light of New Testament revelation, is seen to be written about Him.

Sixth, the only option open to David after he had realised that the better way of showing gratitude was to surrender himself to the will of God, was to offer his body in service. This service, however, despite David’s good intentions, would be marred by sin to some degree or other. With Christ’s service, however, there was perfection, for He loved His God with all His heart, understanding, soul and strength, and He could be typified by sacrifices that were “without blemish”.

Seventh, David knew that God was not deriving pleasure from the sacrifices, and knew they were not what God’s final will was, but he could do nothing about rendering them obsolete and taking them out of the way, and establishing that which did please God fully. That was beyond him. It was not beyond Christ, however, for He had complete insight into His Father’s will, and set about the task of establishing that which would satisfy Him eternally. He does this in such a thorough way that the old sacrifices are rendered obsolete.

We might ask why God was not pleased with the sacrifices, since He instituted them. The answer is found in the comment the writer to the Hebrews makes at the end of verse 8, “which are offered by the law”. Mechanical observance can never please God. He looks for a heartfelt, energetic, purposeful carrying out of His will. And this was what marked Christ- “I come to do Thy will. O God”, are His words. And the force of the expression “to do” is that He will do willingly, intelligently, and from the heart. It is the same expression as is found in Galatians 3:10, “all things that are written in the book of the law to do them”. Not outward observance, such as can be noticed and approved of by one’s fellowmen, (see Matthew 6:2,5,16; Philippians 3:6), but inward resolve, which only God can see. Such is the attitude of Christ as He takes upon Him the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7, putting His body at the disposal of the one to whom He was subject.

The sacrifices of old time were of four sorts, as verses 5 and 6 list them. There were sacrifices proper, a reference to the peace offering. Then offerings, meaning the meal offering. Then the burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. Each of these foreshadows a particular aspect of Christ, as He was in the world for God, and as He went to Calvary in submission to His will. The peace offering tells of one who is in perfect harmony with His God and Father. The meal offering prefigures God’s Ideal Man, whose life was so pleasing to His Father, and presented such a contrast to the lives of those around Him. The burnt offering told of Christ’s utmost devotion, whose commitment to His Father’s interests was total. The sin offering tells of one who, although He knew no sin, nevertheless was made sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

It is important and instructive to notice the order in which the offerings are detailed for us in the early chapters of Leviticus. There is first the offering that was wholly burnt upon the altar, (except the skin of the animal). The burnt offering was reserved by God for Himself. Even the giving of the skin to the priest who officiated supports this, for as he offered up the carcase he was acting as a holy priest, offering up to God, but if he wore the skin when he was not officiating at the altar, then he was acting as if a royal priest, showing forth to men the excellencies of what had been offered in sacrifice, see 1 Peter 2:5,9.

Only when the heart of God has been satisfied by the burnt offering can the sin offering be introduced. This is worthy of notice, for as we come together to remember the Lord, and as we engage privately in worship, we should be careful to observe this Divine order. It is possible for us to be very self-centred in our worship, concentrating on those things which bring benefit to us, and neglecting the way in which the sacrifice of Christ was an act of devotion to His Father, totally apart from the benefits it brings to us.

Of course it is true that the Lord spoke of the cup as being the New Covenant in His blood, which was shed for many for the remission of sins, Matthew 26:28, but that does not mean that this should be our only thought as we come together. After all, His command was to remember Him, calling Him to mind in all the acceptableness of His person, concentrating on Him. If the Spirit should prompt us to combine that with some aspect of His sacrifice for sins, then none dare gainsay that. But to come together with the intention of focussing only on our blessings, is to betray ignorance of the true nature of the gathering, and is to deprive our God of what it is He looks for from us.

It goes without saying that this will demand that our hearts and minds be full of Christ as we come together. We cannot fill those hearts and minds with the things of self and the world during the hours of the week, and then come together and expect to have something to offer. The psalmist spoke of the things which he had made, Psalm 45:1.

This is not to say that we should come together with prepared prayers, nor that we should be content with reciting the same things week after week, but it does mean that we shall have at our disposal thoughts of Christ which, if appropriate to the way the meeting is proceeding, may be suitably offered to God, and to which a hearty “Amen” can be added by all in the company. This will result in a freshness that is the very essence of Spirit-led worship.

We deceive ourselves if, with barren hearts, we come together and fill the time with hymn-singing, and go away thinking we have worshipped at a high level. After all, the hymns we sing are the spiritual exercises of others, which we may adopt in moderation, just as the ministry in the upper room closed with a psalm. We should not rely on them to mask our own lack of exercise.

May the Lord exercise our hearts in this matter, that week by week as we come together, and at our private devotions, we may have that to offer which gratifies His heart, as we remind the Father of the excellencies of His Son. The words of Joseph to his brethren are appropriate in this connection, “Go tell my father of all my glory”, Genesis 35:13.

It might be helpful if we note a series of contrasts between the burnt offering and the sin offering. Both speak of Christ, but we ought to be alert to the different emphasis of each, so that as we engage in worship, whether individually, or collectively in the assembly, we may do so with intelligence. The Lord Jesus made clear that true worshippers not only worship in spirit, but also in truth, John 4:23,24. His statement is full of meaning, and part of that meaning is that true worship is not now concerned with physical sacrifices, (although we should remember that part of Christian worship has to do with the giving of material assistance, Hebrews 13:16), but rather with the spiritual truths they set forth.


In the burnt offering there is a question of acceptance, for the acceptableness of the offering was transferred to the offerer when he laid his hands upon it. How gratifying it must have been to read the words “it shall be accepted for him”, Leviticus 1:4. How much more gratifying for us to know that because of Calvary God has caused believers to be accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6. All that the Father finds delightful about His Son is attributed to His people; we are graced in Him.

The sin offering was different, however, for now the unacceptableness of the offerer is dealt with by being transferred to the offering, so that atonement for sin can be made. The apostle Paul had this side of things in mind when he wrote “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”, 2 Corinthians 5:21. These words are an echo of what is stated in Leviticus 16:9, where the words “offer him for a sin offering” can be literally rendered “make it sin”. Who can tell what it meant to Christ to be made sin; to be reckoned by God as if He were sin itself, and to be treated accordingly?


In the burnt offering the fire is said to make the offering, for it is “an offering made by fire”, Leviticus 1:9. As the flame fed upon the carcase, there was caused to ascend heavenwards that which spoke to God of Christ. As the flame progressed from one part to the other, (for the parts of the animal were laid in order, not at haphazard), the varied excellencies of Christ came before the Father in all their acceptablenes. The head would tell of His intelligent devotion; the legs His patient progress; the inwards His heart-affection, and the fat His energetic determination to please His Father in all things. At Calvary these things that had been so delightful to His Father during His life, were now surrendered in holy sacrifice.

With the sin offering, however, the flame consumed the carcase, destroying it so that it was utterly done away. This is what Christ has done by His sacrifice, for “once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26. The expression “put away” meaning to abolish or destroy. Hebrews 13:11,12 interprets the fire for us. It was nothing less than suffering. The bodies of beasts burnt outside the camp find their counterpart in Jesus suffering without the gate. With this difference, however, that the animal was dead when it was burnt, but Christ suffered before He died, and in those hours of darkness upon the cross endured what no tongue can tell. Every faculty was alert and alive to the pain. His senses not at all dulled by sin as with us. He endured unimaginable horrors at the hand of His God because of our sins. The penalty was not one whit lessened because it was The Son who was paying the price. The wrath was not less fierce because of who it was that suffered under it. God said He would spare Israel “as a man spareth his own son that serveth him”, Malachi 3:17. Yet here is the Son beyond all sons, who had served beyond all others, and He is not spared! As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:32, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”


The burnt offering was a voluntary offering, for “of his own voluntary will” is the language of Leviticus 1:3. Christ came willingly to Bethlehem, stooping to take the servant’s form and to be made in the likeness of men. His willingness took Him further still, for He humbled Himself even unto death, and that the death of the cross, Philippians 2:8. His devotion was unmistakeable, for coming into the world He said, “Lo, I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do thy will, O God”, Hebrews 10:7. Christ went willingly to Calvary, for although men “led Him away”, it is also true that He “went forth” to that place to do the Father’s will, John 19:16,17.

The sin offering was compulsory, however, for “let him bring”, is the decisive and immediate requirement of God, Leviticus 4:3. Sin made its demands on Christ, and He would not rest until the obligation laid upon Him to settle the matter to His Father’s glory was accomplished. He could say “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do”, John 14:31. That He has satisfied every Divine requirement regarding sin is seen in the fact that He has sat down on the right hand of the One whose will He had promised to do, Hebrews 10:12. He who is the brightness of Divine glory, and the exact expression of the essence of God, had purged sins in such a glorious way that He could sit Himself down on the right hand of God in all His majesty with the utmost confidence, Hebrews 1:3.


The burnt offering was a sweet savour offering, God’s nostrils being delighted by that which spoke to Him of Christ. When Noah offered his burnt offerings after the flood, it is said that the Lord smelled a sweet savour, Genesis 8:20,21. Literally these words could be rendered, “a savour of rest”, or “a soothing fragrance”. After looking upon all the turmoil and unrest of the pre-flood world, God could at last rest in what spoke to Him of Calvary. After all the distress to His heart, when men’s imagination was only evil continually, how soothing for Him to enjoy the fragrance of Noah’s sacrifice, anticipating as it did the effects of the work of Christ.

The sin offering was not like this, however, for there is no mention of a sweet savour with it. Sin is hateful to God, and gives Him no pleasure. Surely it gave God no pleasure to judge His Son. It is true that Isaiah said “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him”, Isaiah 53:10, but this means that it was God’s good pleasure, His determining will, to do this thing. Much as a convicted criminal may be “detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure”. We may be certain that Queen Elizabeth derives no enjoyment from that situation, but it is her sovereign pleasure nonetheless. Because Christ was made sin, He must needs be treated by God as if He is that detestable thing. From that standpoint there was no pleasure for God in the matter.


The burnt offering was burnt on the altar, which became known because of this as the altar of burnt offering, Exodus 40:29. This was the place where God promised He would meet with His people, Exodus 29:43. The altar becomes the point at which God, sacrifice, and people meet. Such is Calvary, for did not the Lord Jesus say, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me”, John 12:32?

The major part of the sin offering, however, was burnt outside the camp, the place of rejection. So the burnt offering emphasised the nearness of Christ to the Father as He undertook the work of sacrifice, whereas the sin offering highlighted the distance at which Christ was put because of our sin. As the prophet said about Israel, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear”, Isaiah 59:2.


The burnt offering was lifted up onto the altar, the blood was sprinkled round about upon the altar, and a sweet savour ascended up from the altar, so everything was elevated heavenwards. Now the “burnt offering gospel”, is the gospel of John. It is that gospel which emphasises the relationship between the Son and the Father typified so wonderfully by the burnt offering. The gospel, too, which tells of the upward journey of Christ via the place of sacrifice.

He speaks to Nicodemus of ascending to heaven, John 3:13, then speaks of being lifted up on the cross, as the brazen serpent had been lifted up, verse 14. He speaks of giving His flesh for the life of the world, then asks, “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” John 6:51,62. He refuses to allow Mary to touch Him, because He was not yet ascended to the Father, John 20:17. (Her contact with Him must be a spiritual one, forged once He had returned to His Father and sent down the Spirit from thence). Yet His conversation with Mary took place in the garden of the place where He was crucified, John 19:41, thus linking the sacrifice and the ascending together. He speaks of His ascent in the place of His sacrifice. Just as the angel who appeared to Manoah and his wife ascended up in the flame of the burnt offering, Judges 13:20, may we not say that in a grander way, Christ has ascended in the flame of His sacrifice? Yet John does not record the ascension, as if to indicate that the return of Christ to heaven was to him a foregone conclusion.

With the sin offering, however, all was downward. The animal was burnt on the ground, (except the fat which was burnt on the altar), the blood was poured out at the base of the altar, (except what was sprinkled before the vail, or on the altars), and the fire consumed the carcase until all that was left was a heap of ashes on the ground. How low Christ was prepared to go for us! Not content with descending to earth, He humbled Himself still further to the depths of suffering at Calvary. But He who went so low, has been taken up so high, for the same God and Father who required His obedience, has “also”, as well as doing that, highly exalted Him, Philippians 2:9.

Whilst all these things are true, it is also instructive to notice that God was careful to preserve the integrity of the person of Christ even in these Old Testament illustrations. God is a jealous God, jealous of His own glory and that of His Son.

So we find that the sin offering is killed in the same place as the burnt offering, on the north side of the altar, and before the Lord, Leviticus 4:24. The same place witnessed the death of two very different sorts of sacrifice. Calvary, too, witnessed the death of one who combined in His person the burnt offering aspect of things and also the sin offering side.

Again, we find that although the major part of the sin offering was to be burnt up outside the camp in the place of rejection and loneliness, the fat was to be burnt as a sweet savour on the altar of burnt offering, Leviticus 4:8-10.

Yet again, we read that the sin offering was to be burnt where the ashes of the burnt offering were poured out, in a clean place, Leviticus 4:12. The ashes of the burnt offering had been collected with due ceremony and deposited in a clean place outside the camp, Leviticus 6:11, and it is in this selfsame place that the sin offering was burnt, so that when the fire had done its work, a pile of ashes remained that was a mixture of burnt offering ashes and sin offering ashes. Could anything more graphically preserve the integrity of Christ, in that even when dealing with sins in the place of abandonment, He was associated by God with that which spoke of full acceptance? God spared not, but it was His own Son that He spared not. God gave to the horrors of Calvary, but it was His only begotten Son that He gave, John 3:16.

May the Lord help us to have an enhanced appreciation of these things, so that we may offer to our God the intelligent and adoring worship He so much desires from our hearts. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”, 1 Peter 2:5.

There is also a contrast between the sin and trespass offerings. The latter dealt with that which had offended God’s nature, whereas in the trespass offering it was God’s government of the nation which had been contravened.

In the sin offering the value of the offering demanded depended on the degree of responsibility of the sinner. With the trespass offering proper, however, (as opposed to the special case of the trespass offering for a sin offering in 5:1-13), the offering required was the same for all, with the degree of trespass against God or man being reflected in the amount of monetary compensation that had to be paid.

The Burnt Offering: Part 3



This truth of the sinlessness of Christ is of tremendous importance, for the requirement of old was nothing less than perfection, for God said, “it shall be perfect to be accepted” Leviticus 22:20-22.  Anything less than this rendered the animal disqualified.  God does not alter His requirements at all.  Who cannot see that if there were any trace of sin in Christ, whether of heart or hand, thought or word, then He would not be suited to the task of going into death sacrificially?  How can He be a saviour who himself needs to be saved?  Drowning men are not rescued by drowning men, but by those who stand secure upon the rock and throw them a lifeline.

Of course the temptation of the Lord Jesus may present problems to us in this connection, but the answer to those problems is, as ever, to accept the plain statements of Scripture.  We must not tamper with one doctrine to try to make another more easy to understand, nor should we allow what we do not know, to rob us of what we do know.  There are those who wish to teach that the Lord Jesus, whilst not actually sinning under temptation, nevertheless could have done so.  Otherwise, they say, His temptation was not real.

The writer believes that these are wrong notions concerning the person of Christ and come about because of a wrong understanding of the word “tempt”.  The word translated “tempt” means ‘to make an experience of, to pierce or search into, to try with the purpose of discovering what of good or evil was in a person or thing’ (Trench’s New Testament Synonyms).  So the predominant idea is one of testing and assessing. Failing the test is not inevitably involved.

Because believers still have the capacity to sin and because, too often, we do sin when tested, we have come to think of temptation as always, or nearly always, connected with sinning.  When we think of the temptation of Christ, there is absolutely no reason to immediately think of sin as an inevitable consequence.  In fact, when the writer to the Hebrews speaks of the temptation of Christ, he expressly rules out the matter of sin in connection with it, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”  Hebrews 4:15.  The last phrase “yet  without  sin” qualifies and restricts “in  all  points”, and  therefore  is  not to be understood as meaning that the end result of the temptation was that He did not sin, although that is in fact true, but that His temptation came only from without, not from a sinful nature within.  After all, the context is dealing with the ability of Christ our High Priest to sympathise with us in our trials on the earth, He having passed this way before, returning to heaven fully qualified to bear our burdens.  He cannot sympathise with sin, for He does not know what it is to sin.  But He can sympathise with us in our trials, having been tried in all points as we are.

Even in circumstances where the temptation, if succumbed to, would have resulted in sin, such as the temptation by the devil in the wilderness, Christ is seen to be triumphant, for having been led of the Spirit into the wilderness He returns in the power of that same Spirit into Galilee Luke 4:1,14.  Nothing that had taken place in between had resulted in the Spirit being grieved.  There had been no independent action, (such as turning stones into bread without a word from His Father), no deviation from the Father’s will, (such as casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple), no seeking glory and splendour, (such as coveting the kingdoms of the earth), but rather a humble reliance on His Father.

It was precisely because the Lord Jesus was unable to sin, that the pressure of the temptation was felt by Him so keenly.  Imagine a length of sea wall, built with the purpose of keeping back the raging sea.  One section is constructed by a competent engineer, with the very best materials, whilst the adjoining section is of faulty construction, using second-rate materials.  Which section will feel the pressure of the waves the most?  Surely the well-constructed section will, as it resists the force of the waves hurled against it.  The faulty section soon gives way under trial and no longer feels the pressure of the water.  Shall we be so foolish as to say that because the good wall did not give way, then it was not tried?  Shall we also foolishly say that because Christ did not give way under trial and temptation, that He therefore was not really tested?  This would fly in the face of the Scriptures which say that Christ suffered, being tempted, Hebrews 2:18.  To Him, temptation meant suffering, as He resisted that temptation to the utmost.  Too often, with us, temptation means enjoyment, as we give in to the temptation and allow the flesh to gratify itself.

Besides these considerations, we must remember that in the one person, Jesus Christ, there were two natures, manhood and Deity, brought together in union which is complete and indissoluble, so that every act and thought is of One who is both God and man.  He does not do some things as God and some things as man, but His person is one.  For example, He slept during the storm on the lake, for He was God manifest in flesh; and He rebuked the winds and the waves because He who was manifest in flesh is God.

So that those who suggest that Jesus Christ could sin, are suggesting that He who is God manifest in flesh could sin.  Now there are certain things that God cannot do, for they would undermine the very nature of His Being, and one of those things is to sin.  We conclude therefore that Christ was unable to sin.

There is a passage in the Old Testament, in Numbers chapter 4, which illustrates the point we have been trying to make as to the purity of Christ.  This chapter gives instructions for the transporting of the holy vessels of the tabernacle through the wilderness.  Brought out from the sacred confines of either the Court or the Sanctuary, they were carried through the desert with its sandstorms and dusty ways until the next stopping place was reached.  Yet no mention is directly made to the laver, that which held the water for the washing of the feet of the priests before they entered the Holy Place.  Is there not in this the suggestion that Christ, a true “vessel unto honour” who emerged from the Heavenly Courts to tread a path through this wilderness-world, was pure and undefiled, needing not the washing of water by the word as a remedy for defilement, but was ever “the undefiled in the way” who is “blessed,” Psalm 119:1?

How different are the Lord’s people, who although washed all over at conversion to fit them for their new state of regeneration John 13:10; Titus 3:5, nonetheless need the habitual application of the Word of God with its cleansing power, to deal with defilement contracted during daily life in this polluted world through which they pass, Ephesians 5:26.  The Eastern traveller, although starting out on his journey as one who had bathed, nevertheless needed to wash his dusty feet at the end of the day’s journey John 13:10.

Before passing from the consideration of the four parts which are specially mentioned as being laid upon the altar, we must note some practical lessons which may be learnt at this point.  The apostle Paul beseeches us to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.  It follows therefore that the head, (our mind), the fat, (our energies), the inwards, (our hearts’ affections) and the legs, (our walk) must all be in an holy and acceptable state if we are to truly be something for God.

Hence the apostle exhorts the Philippians to let the same mind which was in Christ be in them, Philippians 2:5; he speaks of glorying in infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest on him, 2 Corinthians 12:9; of the love of Christ constraining him, 2 Corinthians 5:14; and of his ways in Christ, 1 Corinthians 4:17.  Thus the believers’ mind, energy, love and movements, if like Christ’s, will all co-ordinate together and be for the delight of God  Then his mind will be governed by God’s word, so that his energies may be put forth with intelligence; and his love for Christ will ensure that he goes where He leads.

At last the moment has come for which such careful preparation has been made, and the fire can begin its work.  Note that all is to be placed upon the altar, reminding us of the total and unreserved commitment of the Lord Jesus to the work given Him to do.  Nothing of what He was or did was in any way unacceptable to God, for the testimony from heaven was, “well-pleased” and He did always those things which pleased the Father, John 8:29.  The word from heaven in Malachi’s day was that God found no pleasure in His people Malachi 1:10, nor would He accept an offering at their hand.  At last there is One upon the earth who is different and unique and this totally acceptable person willingly presented Himself to God in His entirety, withholding nothing.

Under the action of the fire, the sacrifice was transformed into a cloud of incense (such is the meaning of the word for burn in verse 9), which in God’s estimate was of a sweet savour, or a savour of rest.  How unsavoury this world must be to God; the best of nations was likened to a defiled leper, with putrefying sores neither tended nor dressed, Isaiah 1:6.  What of the rest of men who are described by God as being filthy? Psalm 14:3.

How refreshing therefore it must have been to God to see One whose person, given up in sacrifice, resulted in nothing but a pleasurable aroma, with no admixture of the stench of sin.  The idea involved in this sweet-savour was that of complete complacency.  At last God has reached His long sought-for goal, even pleasure in man.  He had rested after His work of creation, for all had been completed and could be pronounced “very good”, but He could not use those words of man after sin had come in.  On the basis of the person and work of Christ there is joy and refreshment for God in the new creation made possible by His sacrifice and in this new creation all things are of God and in conformity with His desires.  What a tremendous privilege and blessing it is to be part of that new creation in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and to be involved in that which gives God pleasure.  We might well heed the exhortation of the apostle to not receive the grace of God in vain, but rather to act in the light of that grace which has brought us such rich and eternal blessing, and live lives which in practice are taken up with new things and dispense with the old.

Here we come to the end of the first division of the chapter and we have seen in type One who moved on earth and died on the Cross, only for the sake of His Father’s interests  Whose first recorded words are “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2.49 and who could say a few moments before He died “It is finished,” John 19:30.


1:10  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
1:11  And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
1:12  And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
1:13  But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.


1:10  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.

We come now to that section which deals with the sheep or the goat brought for sacrifice.  Since much of what is found in verses 10-13 is identical to the first section, we shall concentrate on the sheep and goats themselves and the statement of verse 11 “he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward”.

The animal which we tend to think of first in relation to sacrifice is the lamb.  The well-known words of Genesis 22:8 could be cited, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” or of Isaiah 53:7, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,” (although the word “slaughter” is not regularly used for sacrifice, yet verse 10 shows Calvary is in view), or of John the Baptist in John 1:29,36 – “Behold the Lamb of God”.  All these passages bring before us the idea of the lamb for sacrifice, and Christ is that lamb.  Note that in each of the passages referred to there is the idea of movement, for it is said of Abraham and Isaac, that “they went both of them together.  And Isaiah speaks of Christ being led, and John refers to Jesus coming, and walking.  With these statements we might contrast a further reference to the lamb, this time in Revelation 5:6, “stood a Lamb”.  Clearly the movement and what was involved in that movement are both over.

In Genesis 22 the father and the son go together to the place of sacrifice, the one to offer, the other to be offered.  How wonderfully this has been repeated in the New Testament, for did not the Lord Jesus say the night before He died, “I am not alone, the Father is with Me”? John 16:32.  This remark is made in the Gospel which does not record those words of the Saviour when upon the Cross, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  The Lord may be forsaken of His God upon the Cross when made sin, but the fact remains that He and His Father are One and nothing can alter that eternal condition.

There is movement further on in Genesis 22:19, where we read of the father and the young men going together to Beer-sheba.  Abraham’s young men, having seen the place of sacrifice afar off, verses 4 and 5; and knowing that on Moriah death and resurrection have, in figure, transpired, Hebrews 11:17-19, are able to go with the father to dwell where he dwelt.  So likewise, believers of this age who look back to Calvary and see the place of sacrifice afar off, now press on in fellowship with the Father to dwell at last in the Father’s house, 1 John 1:3; John 14:2,3.

When we turn to Isaiah’s reference to the lamb, we find that he presents us with a contrast between the erring, wandering nation, like a flock of sheep gone astray, and the Lord Jesus, never straying but always “before Jehovah” Isaiah 53:6,2.  Never did He deviate from the path of righteousness, Psalm 23:3, nor walk in the counsel of the ungodly, Psalm 1:1.  Note how Mark records His progress towards Jerusalem, the place of His crucifixion, for he writes, “they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid,” Mark 10:32.  Well might the disciples be amazed at the sight, for even though He knew the cruel death of the Cross lay before Him, yet not for one moment does He hesitate, but presses forward.  As they followed, they were afraid, for they were beginning to realise the solemn implications of being a true follower of Christ, with the duty of taking up one’s cross and following Him.

If in Genesis 22 we have fellowship in connection with the lamb, and in Isaiah 53 and Mark 10 following the lamb, and not straying, then in John 1 we have the fulfilment of Scripture through the lamb.  “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John” were the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, Matthew 11:13.  So when in the first chapter of John’s Gospel we find that John “seeth Jesus coming unto him” he is simply doing what all other true prophets in Old Testament times had done, as they anticipated and awaited the coming of the Messiah.  When he cries “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, he is gathering together the testimony of the centuries concerning the Person and work of the Saviour.  For as we have already noted, Abraham assured his son that God would provide Himself a lamb and here at last on the banks of the Jordan was the Lamb of God.

The second book of Moses had spoken of the Passover lamb as “the” lamb, Exodus 12:4, and this also finds its echo in the words of John “Behold the Lamb”.  Again the ritual of the Day of Atonement involved a goat which bore away sins and Christ is the fulfiller of that type too, for He is the bearer away of sin, says John.  So much for extracts from the law of Moses, but what of the prophets?  Let the one that the Lord Jesus described as “the” prophet be our guide, even Daniel.  He is engaged in prayer in Daniel 9, because of the condition of his nation and its royal city, now in ruins.  He prays at the time of the evening oblation, but no sacrifice burns on Israel’s altar as he prays, for the Temple is in ruins also.  Who can remedy such a situation?  Only Messiah the Prince, who will make an end of sins, the sins that brought the desolation of City and Temple, and bring in everlasting righteousness.  He alone can purge the earth of its ingrained sin and introduce the reign of right which shall never be over-thrown.  No wonder John announces Him as the One who will take away the sin of the world!

Thus in closing these few remarks on passages relating to the Lamb of God’s providing, we notice that in Genesis 22 it is the father that takes the initiative.  Yet the son, who to all intents and purposes was the lamb, is willingly involved.  In Isaiah 53 wicked men take the initiative and the lamb is prepared to be taken by them to the place of slaughter.  Whilst in John 1 the initiative is Christ’s Himself, as He comes into the world.  So as we think of the lamb and goat section of Leviticus 1, we are assured that the One of whom it speaks went to the place of sacrifice in fellowship with His Father, in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and even if men counsel together to slaughter Him, we know that they only bring to pass the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

What is the difference between a sheep and a goat, considered typically?  The word used for sheep here, namely “keseb”, means a he-lamb.  Not a “taleh,” a sucking lamb, nor yet a stout he-lamb, a “kar”; and certainly not a “kabsah,” a she-lamb.  Yet the word is not the same as is used in Genesis 22:7,8, a “seh” a young lamb of either the sheep or the goats.  Thus the emphasis seems to be upon the fact that it is a male.  As for the word for goat, “ez”, it has for its meaning a goat or she-goat.  In fact the word is translated “she-goat” 5 times.  Yet we know that the goat of Leviticus 1 must be a male.  Thus again the emphasis seems to be upon the maleness of the animal, for even though the usage of the word allows the idea of a she-goat, the regulations expressly exclude anything but a male.

It was not enough for the would-be offerer to bring the first animal he chanced upon as he entered his flock.  Apart from the vital necessity of freedom from blemish, the animal must of necessity be a male, neither ewe or she-goat would be acceptable.  The idea lying behind the male in Scripture is that of activity, not passivity, as with the female.  This is not to say, of course, that females either amongst the animal kingdom or the race of mankind are inactive.  But they are active in a different sort of way.

There is presented to us in the male sheep an illustration of the active, deliberate and resolute subjection of Christ to the Father’s will.  He is not simply the meeting-point of influences outside of Himself, such as the enmity of Satan and the world, but one who deliberately sets out to actively do the will of His Father.  His words in Gethsemane will serve to bring out the contrast between active submission and passive submission. They are as follows, as found in the Synoptic Gospels:

Matthew 26.39 “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt”.
Mark 14.36 “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt”.
Luke 22.42 “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done”.

How the reality of the manhood of Christ shines out here!  Sincerely and definitely seeking that the awful cup of Divine wrath which was being extended to Him, might in some way be allowed to pass.  Yet only if it be the will of His Father so to intervene.  Mark’s account makes clear that “the cup” to which the Saviour refers, is the same as the “hour” of His sufferings upon the Cross.  Compare Mark 14:35 with verse 36.  Such were the horrors of that time that the holy soul of Christ shrank from the enduring of its agonies.  Yet, for all that, He expresses His passive submission to the will of His Father.

By contrast, in John’s Gospel that submission is active, the male offering is in view there.  Again the scene is Gethsemane, but this time there is no falling to the ground in agony by Christ, overwhelmed by the prospect of the bitter experiences so soon to be His portion.  In fact, it is the band of men that have come to arrest Him that fall to the ground, though not in prayer, but in fear.  Nor is there any mention of the cup being allowed to pass from Him undrained, but on the contrary there is a rebuke for Peter who by his sword seeks to prevent Him from drinking it.  Note the decisive and majestic words, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it”? John 18:11.  This is active submission, deliberately setting out to be subject to the will of the Father and it is this aspect of things which is emphasised throughout John’s Gospel.

But if the sheep was to be a male, so was the goat, so wherein lays their difference?  The goat is a more rugged animal than the sheep, the better able to survive under adverse circumstances.  It is said that the ancestors of the wild goats that may be found on some of the mountains in Wales were let loose there by the Welsh shepherds.  For the goats were able to penetrate into places which would be dangerous to a sheep, and would crop the grass so that the sheep would not be tempted to venture there and then be unable to return.  In the Scripture, the goat is associated with adverse circumstances Leviticus 16:22, and adverse decisions, Matthew 25:32,33,41.

We suggest therefore, that the male goat presents to us the idea of active subjection which takes the initiative despite adverse circumstances, whereas the male sheep gives the idea of active subjection which accepts circumstances as they develop, knowing them to be the will of God.

See how this unfolds in John’s Gospel.  In chapter 18.4 Jesus went forth to meet the hostile band with their swords and staves and lanterns.  This is the ‘goat’ aspect, facing hardship and opposition with determination and resolve.  But then we see the ‘sheep’ aspect of His active subjection in verses 12 and 13 as the band took Jesus, bound Him, and led Him away.  Thus beginning the fulfilment of the words of Isaiah as quoted in Acts 8:32, “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter”.  At one moment He is seen actively taking the initiative, going forth to meet the foe, the next He is allowing Himself to be bound.

What irony lays in the probable fact that the route taken by the soldiers with their prisoner was via the ascent by which Solomon went up to the House of the Lord to offer his ascending offering 1 Kings 10:5, which was one of the sights which caused such wonderment in the heart of the Queen of Sheba.  Are not our hearts likewise filled with amazement when we see the ascent by which Christ went up to the place of sacrifice?

Thus He was led to the palace, John 18:12-15; led to the Praetorium, (judgment hall), 18:28; and finally led to ‘the place’, which in fact was Golgotha, “the place of a skull” 19:16, 17.  But notice that He goes forth before He is led away in chapter 18, and then in 19:17 He goes forth after He is led away.  He shows Himself to be the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last; always in command of the situation, confident in the execution of His Father’s will, despite the tremendous cost.  Truly He is the he-goat that goeth well and is comely in going, Proverbs 30:29,31.

1:11  And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.

Only of the sheep and the goat is this said, although surely we may assume that it pertained to the other sacrifices also, the bullock and the dove.  We have seen already in this chapter the way in which contrasting and yet complementary things are put side by side, and such is the case here.  For “the side of the altar northward” suggests one thing, whilst “before the Lord” suggests another.  But one that not only harmonises with the first, but enhances it.

All of the points of the compass have certain associations.  For instance, the east suggests expectation, for it is the place of the sun’s rise, with all the hopes of the light of day.  The west would suggest expansion and enlargement, for it was the furthest extent of the sun’s course and was also the predominant direction in which the Gospel travelled from Jerusalem, in large part amongst the sons of Japheth, whose name means ‘enlargement’ Genesis 10.1-4.

But the north seems to be the place of exposure to danger.  It was from the north that danger threatened Israel so often.  As Jeremiah said “out of the north an evil shall break forth” 1:14.  Then Proverbs 25:23 says “the north wind driveth away rain”.  We might think this to be a good thing, but the rest of  the verse says “so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”  Again Job 37:22 says “fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.  Again, Psalm 75:6,7 says “promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another”.

The underlying thought behind these references to the north is of fore-boding, of terribleness, of exposure to danger, of judgement.  Couple with this the fact that the north side of the altar would necessarily be in the shadows, and we have a picture built up of a place of ominous portent.  It was this sort of experience that the Lord knew when He was found on the north side of Jerusalem on a cross.  Did the enemy come and destroy the Temple in olden times?  Then Christ prophesies that the temple of His Body will be destroyed at the cross, John 2:19.  Was the ensign lifted up by the tribe of Dan, camped on the north side of the Tabernacle, a serpent?  Then Christ would be lifted up in the same way, in accordance with the type of another uplifted serpent, that of Numbers 21.  See John 3:14-16.

Whilst the foregoing was true, that the enemy would come, that He would be lifted up, yet there was in the heart of the Son of God the consciousness that He was ever in personal favour with the Father.  For in John 2 there is a clear contrast made between Herod’s Temple, defiled and profaned, and the temple of His Body, pure and holy.  So whilst the Temple of Old Testament times was destroyed because of the failure of the people, Christ’s Body was brought into the dissolution of death for several reasons, but certainly not for failure on His part.

Whilst it is true that He was lifted up as both the brazen serpent, and the serpent-ensign had been, yet He was never personally anything less than holy.  Truly made sin, yet never made to become a sinner or sinful.  Always “before the Lord”, even during the three hours of darkness which veiled His deepest anguish; ever the delight of the Father’s heart.  A possible hint of this is found in Psalm 22:20.  The psalm is in character a sin-offering psalm, beginning as it does with Christ’s experience of being forsaken of God because of sin.  But then in verse 20 Christ is heard to say “Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog”.  To what is He referring here?  Is it to His own soul, previously mentioned in the verse?  Or is it that the Son is speaking of Himself in the language that He knows the Father uses of Him?  For the word translated “darling” is elsewhere in the OT translated as “only son”.  Its first use is in Genesis 22:2,16 of Isaac, Abraham’s only son, his only-begotten, as Hebrews 11:17 describes Him.  Its last use is in Zechariah 12:10, a prophecy of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.  Thus sensing deeply His relationship with the Father, He speaks as He knows the Father would speak.  Just as the fat of the sin offering was not burnt with the rest of the animal upon the ground, but rather was burnt as incense upon the altar of burnt offering, so the fragrance of the devotion and faithfulness of Christ in dealing with sin was associated with His work in gaining acceptance for His people.  Thus there is suggested by the thought of the north, and also “before the Lord”, not only the perseverance of Christ under the most severe testing, but also the fact that during all the time of that testing, He was personally delightful to the Father in heaven.

1:12  And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
1:13  But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

One further point of difference, although perhaps a slight one, might be mentioned, as we bring these remarks on the sheep and goat section to a close.  In the case of the bullock, “the priest shall burn all”, but in the case of the sheep or goat, “the priest shall bring it all”.  Of course, all the sheep was burnt and all the bullock was brought, but special mention is made of burning on the one hand and bringing on the other.  Thus the expressions used fit in with the particular emphasis in each section.  The bullock tells of One wholly given up to God’s interests, therefore it is “burn all”.  Whereas the sheep and the goat tell of One who pressed towards the place of sacrifice, and would not be turned back, hence, “bring all”.  It is well with the Lord’s people when they are wholly given up to their Father’s interests and walk in ways that give Him pleasure.  See 1 Thessalonians 4:1.


DOCTRINES OF SCRIPTURE: Resurrection of Christ


 The resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is a fundamental part of the Christian gospel, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. That He really died is seen in that He was buried, that He really rose is seen in the fact that He appeared (not simply was seen, but deliberately confronted people). His resurrection had been prophesied in the Old Testament, hence the apostle says He was raised according to the (O.T.) Scriptures. See Psalm 16; Psalm 21:2-6; Psalm 22:21-31; Psalm 40:1-3; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 52:13, 53:10,11. It was also prophesied by the Lord Jesus Himself, although His disciple did not grasp the fact. Only Mary, who sat at His feet and heard His word, saw that He was going to die, and so anointed Him for His burial whilst He could appreciate it. She must also have seen that He would rise, for she did not go to the sepulchre to seek to preserve His dead body, as the other women did. So the Old Testament views Christ’s resurrection prophetically, the Gospels view it historically, whereas the epistles view it doctrinally.

1.    Romans 1:4: ‘”And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from (of) the dead”. Note the change of verb from verse 3, where Christ is made of the seed of David by incarnation. Here it is not something He was made in time, but what He is eternally is declared by resurrection.  He is ever the Son of God, for “to be the son of” means “to share the nature of”. Since the Father’s nature is eternal, so must the Son’s be, therefore He is the eternal Son of God. This is declared by resurrection. Note that it is not the resurrection from the dead, but rather the resurrection of dead persons, for the word dead is plural. Every time the Lord Jesus raised a person from the dead; every time a sinner is raised from death in trespasses and sins; when saint’s bodies are raised at His coming; when sinner’s bodies are raised  just before the Great White Throne judgement, then on each occasion there is a declaration of His Deity. This is in line with His words in John 5:19-29, where the right of the Lord Jesus to grant life and to raise from the dead, is vested in His equality with the Father.

And then of course there was the declaration of His Sonship when He Himself was raised from the dead. He had said “when (after) ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I am He”, John 8:28. They should have known He was Son of God by the supernatural events at His crucifixion, for the centurion came to this conclusion, Matthew 27:54. They should have known by His rising again, for Saul of Tarsus was convinced, Acts 9:20.

2.    Romans 4:15: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”.  The apostle has been deriving principles from the experience of Abraham and Sarah, who as far as having children were concerned, were dead. Yet they believed God, and as a result He intervened and brought Isaac out of the sphere of death. Whereas Abraham believed God was able to do this in the immediate future, we look back to the distant past and believe that the true “Isaac” has been brought out of the sphere of death to guarantee the promises of God. Paul in effedct asks two questions: “Why was Christ found in death anyway?” and “Why was He raised from the dead?” The answer to the first is our offences, whilst the answer to the second is because of our justification, which means that He was raised again because God was satisfied that His work upon the cross was enough to justify believing sinners.

3.    Romans 5:10: ‘”For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”. Verse one speaks of peace with God, so that those once enemies of God because of sin, are now reconciled to Him. Now if the work which forms the basis of that reconciliation was done for us whilst we were still God’s enemies, what blessings will He not bestow now that we are friends? And more than this, if Christ’s work of reconciling enemies took place when were in sin, surely we shall be saved from every sort of penalty at the judgement day, for the one who saved us from sin is still our saviour, preserving us eternally from the judgement of God. Because Christ lives eternally in resurrection, the believer is eternally secure. If the suffering and agony of the cross did not put Him off from taking up our case, surely the glory He has now will not prevent Him living to preserve those who believe in Him.

4.    Romans 6:4: “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. Paul is showing why it is not in order for believers to continue in sin, i.e. continue to respond to the sin-principle within. The reason here given is that we are buried, and therefore cannot continue in sin. The burial took place when we were baptized, and we were identified with Christ in His (state of) death. But our baptism has a positive purpose, it is not just a negative putting out of sight, but association also with Christ in His resurrection. Christ was raised from the dead because the glory of the Father demanded that such a person should be raised, and not left in the grave. It was not so with us personally, however, so our emergence from the watery grave of baptism is solely because of association with Christ. Having been raised, we have a responsibility to walk in a different sort of way, which is compatible with the new place we have with Christ risen.

5.    Romans 7:1-6: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God”. The apostle is showing that the believer is not under the Law of Moses, nor will trying to keep that Law result in a victorious Christian life. He uses two illustrations to prove his point. First, that when a person is dead, the dominion of the law, any law, is gone from him. Second, that when a woman’s husband dies, she is free from the law of the husband. He then applies these two principles, namely one’s own death delivering from law, and another’s death delivering from law. Christ has died, and we have died in association with Him, so on both counts we are dead to the Law of Moses. The body of Christ was hung upon a cross, and there He bore the curse of a broken law for us. But His body was also placed in a tomb, and subsequently rose from the dead. By association with Him in these things we are delivered from the law by association with what happened to Christ in His body.

6.    Romans 8:11:”But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you”. The Spirit of God is here described as the Spirit of the God of resurrection. Not only does the Spirit of God empower us so that we are able to live proper Christian lives now, but He is the guarantee that we shall share in the resurrection of the body hereafter. The epistle to the Romans emphasises truth which enables us to live upon the earth, hence we are looked at in this verse as being alive on the earth when Christ comes. When dead saints are raised, then those alive on the earth will share in the same sort of change, even though they have not died. The certainty of this is found in the presence within of the Spirit of God.

7.    Romans 8:34: “Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us”. The only one who could possibly condemn God’s people is Christ, for all judgement has been committed to Him. But far from condemning, He is the very one who defends and supports them. He does this in a four-fold way, because of the four events mentioned here. He died to deal with our sins that would have meant our condemnation. He was raised again  to demonstrate to all who would accuse us that the work of the cross dealt effectively with sins. He is ascended to the right hand of God, the most influential place in the whole of the universe where He wields all power. And He intercedes for us to defend us from the charges the adversary, Satan, would level against us, Revelation 12:10.

ROMANS 5:12-21-an overview


This passage is critical to a true understand of the chapters that follow it.  It is, however, a complicated section, and these remarks are offered with a view to unfolding its meaning.

It is well-known that the first eight chapters of the epistle to the Romans may be divided into two parts.  The first, 1:1-5:11, deals with sins, the practices of men.  The second, 5:12-8:39, deals with sin, the principle in men.  By sin in this context is not meant one particular sin, but sin as a working principle in men, the force that enables them to commit individual sins.  Sin dwells within men, 7:17, and works in men, 7:13.  So the first section emphasises crimes, whereas the second section the criminal himself. 

It is important that both of these matters be dealt with, for after a person has believed the gospel, 3:26, been justified, 4:5, and had his sins forgiven, 4:7, it may come as a shock to him to find that he is still able to sin.  Indeed, the fact that Christians, sadly, sin, is often cited by unbelievers as reason to not believe, “because Christianity doesn’t work”, or “I wouldn’t be able to keep it up”.  In connection with those objections we should always remember that in the final analysis it is Christ who represents Christianity, for “Christ is all”, Colossians 3:11, but that does not absolve us from the solemn responsibility of being “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men”, 2 Corinthians 3:3. 

At the point where the epistle divides, the apostle sums up his foregoing argument in 5:8,9, where he writes of actions, whether it be of God commending His love, or Christ both dying for us, and also saving us from wrath, or our actions as sinners.  He also anticipates his future argument in 5:10 by emphasis on what state we were in, namely enmity, or what state we have been brought to, reconciliation, and also what state Christ was brought to by our folly, even that of being in death.

Coming to our passage, it may help to set out the main content as follows:

Verse 12 Initial doctrinal statement.
Verses 13,14 Proof that death is the result of the sin-principle within.
Verse 15 Contrast and comparison- offence or gift.
Verse 16 Contrast and comparison- condemnation or justification.
Verse 17  Death reigning or believers reigning in life.
Verse 18 The penalty upon all, and the opportunity for all.
Verse 19 The state of many as sinners, and the state of many as righteous.
Verse 20  The law cannot deal with the sin-principle.
Verse 21  Final doctrinal summary.

Verse 12    Initial doctrinal statement.

5:12  Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The apostle immediately traces the origin of the sin principle right back to Adam, and then shows that “Him that was to come”, verse 14, is God’s answer.  The Last Adam alone is able to deal with that which the first man Adam brought in.  When he fell, Adam became a sinner by nature and practice, and when he begat a son it was in his image and likeness, to represent him as a sinner, Genesis 5:3.  Thus sin entered into the world.  Like a poison being put into the spring that gives rise to a river, so the river of humanity has been poisoned at source.  Hence the apostle’s use of the words “all men”, and “world”.  Not that sin originated with Adam, for Lucifer was the first to sin, Ezekiel 28:15, but he used Adam as the door through which sin might enter into the human race.

The consequence of the sin of Adam was that its penalty, death, passed on all.  If any question whether this is the case, then the apostle has the answer.  All have sinned, and thus is proved the fact that all have a sin principle within inciting them to sin.  But since that sin principle inevitably results in death, then both sin and death have indeed passed upon all men.

Verses 13,14        Proof that death is the result of the sin-principle within.

5:13  (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

5:14  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

It is important for the apostle to confirm that death is the result of sin within, and not, in general, as a result of particular sins committed.  He does this by referring to the period of time before the law was given at Sinai through Moses.  Before the law-age the principle of sin rested in the hearts of the descendants of Adam the sinner.  But when they sinned, that sin was not put to their account as demanding an immediate penalty.  They did not physically die the moment they sinned.  (The word “reckoned” is not the same as is used in previous passages such as 4:3,4, where it means that God takes account of a person in a certain way.  Here, it means to put a sin to someone’s account for immediate payment by death.  This does not mean that sins committed during the pre-law period are ignored by God, for “God shall bring every secret work into judgement”, Ecclesiastes xxx).  Nevertheless, men still died in the period between Adam and the giving of the law at Sinai, which proves that they did so because of the sin-principle within them, and not because they had transgressed against a known law. 

The consequence of this is very far-reaching, for it shows that even if an unbeliever managed to never sin, (a hypothetical situation, of course), he would still be liable to death because of what he is by nature.  So the gospel is not just about having one’s sins forgiven, but is also about being a new creation, so that there is no obligation to sin. 

Verse 15    Contrast and comparison- offence or gift.                 

5:15  But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

By describing Christ as “Him that was to come”, (immediately following Adam’s sin, God announced the coming deliverer), the apostle has prepared the way to revert back to his consideration of Adam’s fall, after the parenthesis of verses 13 and 14.  He does this by presenting both a contrast, “not as”, and a comparison, “so also”.  The comparison is seen in the fact that both Adam and Christ, each being head over those linked to them, affect deeply their respective companies. 

The contrast is between Adam’s offence, and the grace of God.  Further, that offence resulted in the “gift” of death to the many who have died one by one throughout the history of men, whereas the grace of God results in many being given a different sort of gift.  What that gift is we are not yet told.  We are told that what God does through Christ has a “much more” character to it, which is seen in that the gift has abounded.  The seemingly insurmountable problem of Adam’s sin has been overcome by God in Christ.  He has not solved the problem by introducing a stronger judgement than that meted out to Adam, but by acting in grace.  The condemnation of sinners is a righteous necessity with God, but He is under no obligation to bless them, but chooses to do so because of His grace.

Note that in verses 13-17, and also in verse 19, we read of “many”, indicating the greatness of the problem to be addressed, and also the far reaching consequences of the actions of the two men who are in view in the passage.  In verses 12 and 18, (which are linked together), we read of “all”, for there the universality of the problem Adam introduced, and the universality of the provision God has made in response is brought out. 

Verse 16    Contrast and comparison- condemnation or justification.

5:16  And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

This verse continues the idea of contrast, (“not as”), and comparison, (“so is”), but whereas verse 15 concentrated on the one offence of Adam, his act of taking a false step, and the fact that God’s act of giving in grace is through one man, Jesus Christ, here the emphasis is on the many offences which result from Adam’s fall, and the way each man relates to those offences.  This is the comparison, for each man has been the means of affecting either adversely (judgement), or for good, (the gift), those involved in each case. 

There is also a contrast, for Adam brought in judgement and condemnation, but Christ brings in justification.  That judgement took the form of condemnation.  God’s verdict, (judgement), went against Adam when he sinned, and he was pronounced guilty, with the implication that there was a sentencing process to follow.  We read of that process in Genesis 3:17-19.  Christ, however, brings in justification, and this despite the many offences committed during the history of men, and the many offences individual sinners commit during their lifetime. 

The condemnation brought in by Adam resulted in men being subject to death, whereas the justification Christ brings in for those who believe not only clears their record, (this is the “Romans 3” side of justification), but also delivers them from obligation to sin in the present, and liability to death in the future.  So it is that the apostle can write in 6:7 that “he that is dead is freed from sin”.  That is, those who by faith are associated with Christ crucified, are no longer under any obligation to sin.  They are not liable to die physically either, for Christ risen has secured their position in resurrection.  Those who are alive when Christ comes will be proof of this, for they shall know resurrection without dying. 

Verse 17    Death reigning or believers reigning in life.

5:17  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

In verse 16 the emphasis is on sins, but in this verse, on death.  Going right back to the beginning again, the apostle repeats what he wrote in verse 12, that the offence of one man resulted in death.  Now he enlarges on this and declares that death has not only passed upon all men, but has set up its throne in their hearts, and like a wicked tyrant rules their lives.  The abundant grace of God, however, ensures that those who receive the gift of righteousness not only are delivered from the tyranny of death, and receive life, but reign in life.  It is they who are in control.  This is only possible, however, by the agency and strength of Jesus Christ- they have no strength of their own. 

Verse 18    The penalty upon all, and the opportunity for all.

5:18  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

The apostle is now able to take his argument forward from verse 12, having built up a body of background information in verses 13-17 which will enable his readers to follow his line of thought.  He first of all reiterates the truth of verse 12, and reminds us that the offence of Adam has resulted in the condemnation of death upon all men.  He then contrasts the offence of Adam with the righteousness of another man, Jesus Christ.  By righteousness here is meant the act of righteousness carried out by Christ in death, when He set out to reverse the consequences of Adam’s sin, and also bring in rich benefits besides.  Just as the penalty through Adam’s unrighteous act of sinning brought results towards all men, so the blessing through Christ’s righteous act of dying for sin brings results to all men as well.  The word “upon” has the meaning of “towards”, for the penalty came towards all, and so does the gift. 
Not only is the one who believes justified in the sense of “reckoned righteous”, but the legal obligation to death is removed, so justification is “justification of life”.  The ground of resurrection is taken up, so that the believer is clear of the consequences of Adam’s fall.

Verse 19    The state of many as sinners, and the state of many as righteous.

5:19  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Not only is the condition of man dealt with by Christ, but the nature as well.  By Adam’s disobedience to the plain command of God, man was made or constituted a sinner.  It is not, of course, that God made men to sin, but that by their link with Adam they have become, sinners by nature.  On the other hand, Christ obeyed His Father, even to the extent of death, and those who believe in Him are reckoned righteous by God- that is how He sees them now. 

Verse 20    The law cannot deal with the sin-principle.

5:20  Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

The apostle now deals with a possible objection from Jewish readers.  Can the law not remedy this situation?  The answer is that it cannot, for when the law came in, it resulted in the situation becoming worse, not better, for it showed up sins as never before, and offered no remedy for the nature that produced those sins.  It dealt with the symptoms but not the disease.

The only answer to man’s nature as a sinner is the grace of God in the gospel, which alone has the power to overcome the obstacles represented by sin, death, and the law, and set up its rule in the hearts of men on a righteous basis.  That righteous basis being the death of Christ at Calvary, not the supposed good works of men.

Verse 21    Final doctrinal summary.

5:21  That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. 

So it is that the sad truth of verse 12, expressed here as “sin hath reigned unto death”, can be exchanged for “even so might grace reign”.  Grace so dominates the scene that it sweeps sin off its throne in the heart, and robs death of its power over those who believe.  And all this happens on a righteous basis, even the death of Christ, and leaves the way clear for the possession and enjoyment of eternal life in all its fulness.  The apostle is careful at the close of the passage to attribute all this to Jesus Christ, who has shown Himself to be worthy of the title Lord.  He has overcome every dominating principle, and shows Himself superior to them by His death and resurrection.



Redemption is illustrated for us in Exodus 12, where the blood of an innocent lamb was shed and sprinkled, and as a result Israel were delivered from bondage to Pharoah. The apostle Peter takes this up, and speaks of the precious blood of Christ, “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”, 1 Peter 1:19.

Since the blood represents the life of a person, His blood is precious because He Himself is precious to God. Things may be precious in three ways. They may be precious because they are special. An object may have little monetary value, yet be extremely precious because of what it represents. The blood of Christ is precious because He is without blemish and without spot. He is pure without as to character, and within as to nature, and as such is special to God, and to those who believe in Him.

Things can be also be precious because they are, in fact valuable. Christ is God’s only begotten Son, John 3:16, and His dear Son, Colossians 1:13. God the Father values Him highly, yet freely delivered Him up for us all. We see how valuable His blood was by how much it has and will achieve.

They can also be precious because they are memorable, commemorating some great event. There was no greater event than the death of the Lord Jesus at Calvary. What could surpass the death of the Son of God? Throughout all eternity the redeemed shall sing a new song, and that song is prompted by the fact that the Lamb was slain, and has redeemed to God by His blood, Revelation 5:9.


A ransom was the price paid so that a slave could be bought out of the market-place. On payment of this ransom-price, the slave became the property of the one purchasing his freedom. The ransom price that was necessary to buy sinners out of the slave-market of sin, is nothing less than the blood of Christ. His own words were, “For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”, Mark 10:45. Wonderful as His earthly ministry was, it was surpassed by what He did at Calvary, where He gave Himself, in all the glory of His person, to God. 1 Timothy 2:6 is to the same effect, where the apostle writes that He “gave Himself as ransom for all, to be testified in due time”. This is offered by the apostle as support for what he wrote previously in verse 4, where he stated that God’s desire is that all men should be saved. The genuineness of that desire is seen in that He has appointed His Son as the ransom for all.


When a person believes on the Lord Jesus, having acknowledged slavery to sin, and the complete inability to deliver himself from bondage, certain things happen. We may think of them in connection with the eight scriptures quoted at the outset.

1. “He that committeth sin is the servant (slave) of sin”, John 8:34.

The Lord Jesus went on to say that “if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”, verse 36. The word “indeed” means “to the very core of your being”. In other words, absolutely free. Not free provisionally, or temporarily, but free absolutely and permanently. Such is the thoroughness with which the Lord Jesus frees those who believe in Him.

How does this work out in practice? He also said in John 8, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”, verse 32. The truth of the scriptures when believed, make free in principle. The truth of the scriptures, when applied to the heart and life, make free in practice.

For instance, the truth of the believer’s association with Christ in His burial and resurrection is the truth which frees us as we act upon it. Romans 6:11 says, “Likewise reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. This is the way of practical deliverance, reckoning to be true in practice what is true in principle; making sure that the truth of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ affects our thinking and our acting. The apostle goes on in that same chapter to write, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness”, Romans 6:17,18. To be free from sin does not mean that believers never sin, or even that they have no ability to sin, but it does mean that the sin-principle within has no right to hold them in bondage any more.

2. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers…” 1 Peter 1:18.



 The vain conversation Peter refers to here is that empty way of life that dominates unsaved people. They have no power to break free from the course this world takes them, for the prince of this world ensures that there is plenty to occupy their minds and hearts. Redeemed persons are free of that, however, and their lives can now be taken up with that which is of God.

3. “that through death… He might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”, Hebrews 2:15.

The true believer does not fear death itself, even though he might fear the process of dying. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that all things were theirs, even death, 1 Corinthians 3:22. It is but a servant who ushers them into the presence of their Lord. Because the redemption which is in Christ Jesus includes the forgiveness of all trespasses, Colossians 2:13, there is no need to have anxious fears such as an Israelite of old had, for the one who tormented men with the fear of death has been defeated, and his power broken.

4. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”, Galatians 3:13.

There was a curse pronounced on those who were hung upon a tree or gallows in Old Testament times. Such an one was marked out as being cursed of God because of his crimes. Christ went further, however, for He was not only hung upon a tree or cross and numbered with the transgressors, but He was made a curse. He accepted responsibility for the law-breaking of men, and the judgement it involved. Because He is risen from the dead, we may be assured that no curse will come upon the true believer, since He dealt with the curse instead. It is blessing that comes to the believer, not the opposite, Galatians 3:14.

5. “when ye knew not God, ye did (bond)service unto them which by nature are no gods”, Galatians 4:8.

Many of the Galatian believers had been idol-worshippers before they were saved. Their idols held them in superstitious fear. This was slavery indeed, with no prospect of release until the message of deliverance through Christ came to them through the apostle. Paul could preach that Christ has spoiled the evil angels that held men in their grip, making a show over them openly at the cross, Colossians 2:15.

When God delivered Israel from Egypt, He also executed judgement on their gods, Exodus 12:12, for they worshipped demons under the form of natural things like the river Nile, and frogs and lice. These were the things that God used to plagued Egypt before the Exodus, thus showing their folly in worshipping them, and also showing His power over them.

6. “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body”. Romans 8:23.

This is the part of redemption that is still in the future, yet is certain to take place. At the Lord’s coming the believer will enter into sonship, (here referred to as adoption), in the fullest possible way, being conformed to the image of God’s Son, Romans 8:22. This involves the change of the body, so that it is set free from the bondage that corruption and decay has brought it into because of Adam’s sin. Then, with bodies freed from every limitation, we shall serve God as we ought.

7. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him…that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption”, Psalm 49:7-9.

Whilst it is true that believers still die, nevertheless the Lord Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death”, John 8:51. Such is the power of the everlasting life that believers possess, that even death is a non-entity as far as they are concerned. Every person who has believed has already passed out of death into life, John 5:24, so that death is simply the necessary process on the way to the gaining of the resurrection body. The “resurrection chapter”, 1 Corinthians 15, states, using the illustration of the sowing of a seed, “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die”, verse 36.

8. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death”, Hosea 13:14.

When he was setting out what shall happen at the resurrection of the saints, the apostle quoted from the second half of Hosea 13:14, which reads, “O death, I will be thy plagues, O grave, I will be thy destruction:” The plague of death shall itself be plagued when Christ comes. The grave itself shall be destroyed, and robbed of its power. In Revelation 1:18 the Lord Jesus announces to John, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell (Hades) and of death”. He holds the keys of Hades so that no believer of this age shall go there, as Old Testament saints did, but shall go to Paradise. He holds the keys of death so that every saint shall rise from the grave.


How should the believer react to this redemption? To answer this we could ask how a slave who had a cruel master should respond when he is freed. Will he not be greatly relieved to be delivered from his former slave-master? Will he not do his best to please the one who has ransomed him? So the believer, delivered from the forms of cruel bondage we have listed, should indeed be grateful to his new Master. Especially as that Master has paid an extremely high price to set him free. Then there should be devotedness to the one who has set us free at such a cost to Himself. There is no danger of falling into the hands of a cruel slave-master again, since redemption, once known, can never be withdrawn.

But there is a feature about deliverance from slavery by Christ that is very unusual. The one-time slaves are elevated to being sons! This is the language of scripture, “but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ”, Galatians 4:4-7.


It is God’s desire to fill heaven with those who are like His Son, and he does it by redeeming those who are slaves to sin, and positioning them as His sons. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren”, Romans 8:29.


Redemption may be defined as “the setting free of a slave by the payment of a price”. That price being called a ransom. The carrying out of redemption is presented to us in the Old Testament in two ways. There were those redeemed from slavery, such as the nation of Israel, who were in Egypt in bondage to Pharoah the ruler. And there were those who were redeemed from bankruptcy, such as Ruth, in the book of Ruth. In either case the principle was the same- a state of enslavement; one who was willing and able to pay the price for their release; the ransom price; the consequent setting free, and gratitude to the redeemer; the service to the new owner. We shall think of this subject under the following headings: The reality; the redeemer; the ransom; the result; the response.

The writers of the New Testament, and indeed the Lord Jesus Himself used these Old Testament situations to illustrate the reality of the slavery that man finds himself in because of sin.


The following are scriptures that set out the reality of the fact that man is a slave, and as such is in need of a redeemer:

1. “He that committeth sin is the servant (slave) of sin“, John 8:34.

The words of Christ are based on the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah. Hagar was a slave-girl, and Abraham, sadly, had a child by her, Ishmael. He then had a child by Sarah, named Isaac. When the time of Isaac’s weaning came, Abraham made a great feast, and introduced his son Isaac to the community as his heir. Ishmael, a boy of 13 at the time, mocked, and for this reason was cast out of Abraham’s house. So when, in John 8:35, the Lord Jesus speaks of the son remaining in the house, and the slave not doing so, He is referring to this story. The Jews claimed to be Abraham’s seed, but the Lord is confronting them with the truth that Ishmael was this too. Only those who are free because He has made them free are like Isaac, and remain in the house in fellowship with the father. Those who are slaves, like Ishmael, have no right to be in the house, but are cast out. The Jews, descended from Abraham physically through Isaac, were nonetheless morally like Ishmael, and as such were not in fellowship with God.

2. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers…” 1 Peter 1:18.

Peter is referring to the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, as recorded in Exodus chapters 12-15. The only silver and gold the Israelites had at that time was the money the Egyptians gave them to ensure they really went away. The Israelites were slaves- they had no silver and gold to purchase their own freedom. What did purchase that freedom was the blood of the lamb on Passover night.

3. “that through death… He might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”, Hebrews 2:15.

Every night, as an Israelite went to sleep, he feared dying with sin on his record. He may have offered a sin-offering during the day, but he also may have sinned on the way home. Christ came to deliver from that fear, and He does so by dealing completely and finally with the question of sins, as far as those who believe are concerned.

4. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”, Galatians 3:13.

The nation of Israel had been given the law at Sinai as a conditional covenant. The blessing of that covenant depended on their obedience. Because they had no ability to fully obey, they were under a curse, not a blessing. The only way to be set free from that curse was for someone who had not transgressed God’s law to take that curse upon Himself, and thus set free those who would believe in Him. This the Lord Jesus did when on the cross He accepted the consequences that the law-breaking of men had brought in, and bore those consequences instead.

5. “when ye knew not God, ye did (bond)service unto them which by nature are no gods”, Galatians 4:8.

The Galatians had been idol-worshippers before they were saved, and as such were in superstitious fear of the demon-influence behind their idols. The work of Christ at Calvary had set them free from that fear, since by His death He destroyed the power of the prince of this world, Satan himself, who holds men in slavery to superstition.

6. “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body“. Romans 8:23.

When Adam sinned and fell, he brought the creation of which he was head down with him. As a result, men’s bodies are in a state of corruption. This is true even of the body of a believer in Christ, for that body is the last link with the world of Adam. When Christ comes for His people, He shall change their bodies, so that they are like His glorious body, Philippians 3:21. In this way the bondage to a corrupt body will be forever gone.

7. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him…that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption“, Psalm 49:7-9.

Psalm 49 is used by Jews as a funeral psalm, for it laments the fact that no-one can redeem another from going into death and the grave. This indicates that the prospect of dying and corrupting is a form of bondage to men, from which no ordinary man can redeem his fellow-man. Only the Lord Jesus can do this. God is recorded as saying in Job 33:24, “Deliver him from going down to the pit: ‘I have found a ransom'”. That ransom is found in Christ.

8. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death“, Hosea 13:14.

Here God promises to deliver from the hold that the grave has on the bodies of believers. As we shall see, the apostle Paul quotes from this passage when he is dealing with the resurrection of the saints. Their bodies shall be rescued from the grave by Christ when He comes for His own.


As we have said, one who undertakes to redeem must first be willing, and then be wealthy. The only one who is both willing to pay the price, and wealthy enough to do so, is the Lord Jesus. The price He was prepared to pay was nothing less that Himself, yielded up to God in death. The root cause of man’s slavery in all its forms is the sin that has brought death into the world. Because He was sinless, and not in any sort of slavery, the Lord Jesus was free to deal with our bondage.

When He preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, the Lord Jesus announced that He was the one of whom Isaiah prophesied in chapter 61 of his book. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor…to preach deliverance to the captives”, Luke 4:18. Yet He did not deliver John the Baptist from prison! His deliverance therefore must be of the spiritual kind, the kind of which the eight scriptures quoted above speak.


We should never underestimate the importance of that aspect of the work of the Lord Jesus at Calvary which is known as propitiation.  This is because the honour of God, the blessing of men, the introduction of Christ’s millenial kingdom, and the new heaven and the new earth, all depend upon it. When thinking of this vital matter, we need to be clear as to what propitiation actually is.  It may be defined as follows: “Propitiation is the covering of sins to God’s satisfaction”.
There are seven references to this subject in the New Testament, and they are as follows-  Luke 18:13, (“merciful”);  Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17, (translated “reconciliation”); Hebrews 8:12, (“merciful” means propitious); Hebrews 9:5, (“mercy-seat” means place of propitiation); 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10

As we consider this subject in the light of the Scriptures, we could ask ourselves three main questions-

1. Why was propitiation necessary?
2. How was propitiation achieved?
3. What are the results of propitiation?

Because sins offend God.  As God is the Absolute Standard of righteousness and holiness, all deviations from this standard are highly offensive to Him.  Such is the intensity of His holiness that the simple mention of it is enough to make the posts of the doors of the temple in heaven move, Isaiah 6:4.  His reaction to sin and iniquity is to turn from it, for He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who cannot look upon sin, Habakkuk 1:13.  The very presence of sin in the universe is a grief to God. 

Because as Moral Governor of the universe, He must be seen to deal with sins.  God has enemies, both devilish and human, and He must be clear of any charge which they may level against Him that  suggests He has ignored sins, or at least, ignored some sins.  Eternity must not be allowed to run its course without this matter being settled.  God deals with some sins instantly, but the majority seem to have gone unpunished.  Sentence against an evil work has not been executed speedily, Ecclesiastes 8:11, since God is longsuffering, and waits to be gracious.  This situation might give rise to the charge of indifference to sins, and so God must act to defend His honour.

Because God must have a just basis for continuing to have dealings with sinful men.  One of the main purposes of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement in Israel was that God might continue to dwell amongst them despite their uncleanness, Leviticus 16:16.  So also when Christ was down here.  It was only because God was not imputing trespasses so as to instantly judge them, but rather was working to reconcile unto Himself, that He was prepared to have dealings with men in the person of His Son.  See 2 Corinthians 5:19.

Because if men are to be shown mercy, have their sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God, there must be a solid basis upon which these things can happen.  God declares Himself to be a Saviour God- He cannot be fully satisfied solely by judging men .  The fact that “God is light” demands that this be done, but “God is love” too, and delights to manifest Himself in grace.

Because the cycle of sin must be broken.  In other words, if there is not to be an eternal succession of creations, falls, remedies for fall, and new creations, then there must be that established which is once for all, giving the complete answer to the question of sin.  Unless this complete answer is given, the new heaven and earth will not be safe from disturbance.

We may now ask our second question:
The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus chapter 16 will help us here.  We need to be very careful in our interpretation of them, however.  We should remember two things. First, that the Old Testament teaches by way of comparison as well as by contrast.  Second, that Christ’s ministry is in connection with a sanctuary which is “not of this building”, Hebrews 9:11.  That means it is not part of the creation of Genesis chapter one. So even whilst acting on earth, He was operating in relation to a sphere that is not subject to the limitations of time, space, or matter.

For instance, the writer to the Hebrews indicates that the going forth of the Lord Jesus outside the camp, was the counterpart of the carrying of the carcase of the sin offering from the altar, where it had been slain, to a place of burning outside the camp.  But this particular ritual took place almost at the  end of the Day of Atonement proceedings, whereas the Lord Jesus went outside the camp before He died.  We may say then that in one sense time is irrelevant as far as the work of Christ was concerned.
Again, what took place at the altar in the court of the tabernacle; before the ark in the Holiest of All; outside the camp at the place of burning, and in the wilderness where the scapegoat was taken and let go, all typified some aspect of the work of Christ.  Place is irrelevant, too.
And so is matter irrelevant.  Christ needed no visible ark to enable Him to convince His Father that His blood had been shed.  When the repentant man of Luke 18 appealed to God to be merciful to him, (or, to be gracious towards him on the ground of propitiation made), he went down to his house justified, despite the fact that there was no ark in the temple. 
With these cautionary remarks in mind, we look now at Leviticus 16, and note those major parts of the ceremonies of that day which contribute towards making propitiation, the great end for which they were carried out.

We must remember that the word “offer” that is used in Leviticus 16:6 means to bring near.  A sacrifice must be offered before it can be laid on the altar.  The blood that purges the conscience of God’s people is the blood of One who “offered Himself without spot to God”, Hebrews 9:10.  That is, He presented Himself for sacrifice in all the spotlessness of His person, confident that He met the approval of His God.   We are reminded of the words of the psalmist when he said, “Search me O God, and try my heart”, Psalm 139:23.  The Lord Jesus is the only one who could utter such words in the confidence that nothing contrary to God would be found in Him.  In this He is so different to Aaron, or as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, He is “separate from sinners”, for Aaron could not present himself to God, he must present a substitute, Hebrews 7:27.  Nor could that substitute bring itself, having no consciousness of God’s demands.  Christ has no such limitations, however, for He offered Himself, as Aaron could not do, and as an animal would not do.

In Leviticus 16:9 a different word for offer is used, one which simply means to make.  So the animal, having had the sins of Aaron and his household figuratively transferred to it, is by that act made to represent those sins.  Whatever happens to the animal subsequently happens to the sin.  The apostle Paul takes up this thought in 2 Corinthians 5:21 when he declares that “God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”.  It is exceedingly solemn to think that whatever God’s reaction to our sin was, became His reaction to Christ as the sinner’s substitute.  So we may learn in the fullest sense what God’s reaction to sin is by looking to the cross where He forsook His Son and poured out His wrath upon Him.  Such is the intensity of God’s hatred of sin, and such is his determination to deal with it, that “He spared not His own Son”, not shielding Him at all from the fury of His anger; not lessening the penalty, nor relieving the pain.  Who can tell the agony of Christ’s soul when He was dealt with by God as if He were sin!  Of course, He remained personally what He always had been, pure and holy, just as the sin-offering is said to be most holy, Leviticus 6:17, but He was made sin as our representative.

THE OFFERING WAS SLAIN AND ITS BLOOD SHED                                                    “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul”, Leviticus 17:11.  Such are the words of God to His people, teaching us that the shedding of blood is vitally important, for “Without shedding of blood is no remission”, Hebrews 9:22.  Accordingly, that sins might be dealt with, Christ “poured out His soul unto death”, Isaiah 53:12.  He willingly laid down His life in accordance with His Father’s commandment, John 10:18.

Having been presented to God as a living animal at the altar, and having been slain and its blood retained, the animal’s corpse must be taken to the outside place, that it may be subjected to the fires of Divine holiness until nothing is left.  How significant the contrast to Christ.  For He was subjected to the Divine Fires whilst still alive, on the cross.  How He must have suffered!  Can we begin to take it in?  Will not all eternity be needed to set forth what He was prepared to endure in love for our souls?  But endure He did, and exhausted the fire of God’s wrath against our sins.

We come now to the central action on the Day of Atonement, the sprinkling of the blood both of the bullock for Aaron and his house, and the goat for the nation of Israel, on the mercy-seat, or “the place for the covering of sin”.  If God covers sins, then they are put completely out of His sight.  We ought not to think of this covering as a temporary thing, or else we shall have difficulty understanding why God declared that Israel was cleansed from all their sins that day, Leviticus 16:30.  It is true that the Scripture says that “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”, Hebrews 10:, but what that blood symbolises, even the blood of Christ, can.  And that not only after Calvary, but before as well.

Now when the writer to the Hebrews referred to this mercy-seat, he used the Greek word which means propitiatory, the place where God is propitiated in regard to sins, and where those sins are atoned for. This makes clear that he did not see a distinction between covering and propitiating.  There was a two-fold significance to this, however, as indicated by the two-fold sprinkling of each kind of blood, that of the bullock and of the goat.  The blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat was to satisfy the demands of God, so that instead of anger because of sins, He could be merciful in dealing with them. This was because the blood was a reminder to God that a suitable sin-offering had been slain, and burnt in the fire.  The blood sprinkled before the mercy-seat was to meet the needs of the Israelites, for it established a footing for them in the presence of God based upon the shedding of blood.
So with the work of Christ.  He has fully met every demand that God could make about sins.  As one of the Persons of the Godhead, He has Divine insight into God’s requirements, and He has fully met those requirements.  We are assured of this because He has set Himself down with confidence at the right hand of the Majesty on high- He purged sins in harmony with the Majesty of God.  But He has also established a sure footing in the presence of God for those who believe, so that the apostle Paul; can speak of the grace wherein we stand, Romans 5:1.  So dominant is the idea of grace with regard to that position, that the apostle uses the word grace to describe it.  Only those who have “received the atonement”, Romans 5:11, are in that secure place before God.

The sin-offering for the people consisted of two goats, one for the Lord’s interests, and one for theirs.  One, as we have seen, was slain so that blood could be sprinkled on the mercy-seat.  The other was called the scape-goat, or goat that was dismissed and went away.  There was no double sin-offering for Aaron and his house, for he had seen the blood on the mercy-seat, and since he had not died, he knew it had been accepted, and his sins were gone.  The rest of Israel did not have that experience, however, and so to reassure them, they were able to see Aaron lay his hands on their goat, confess over it their sins, and then watch the goat, which carried its dreadful load of their sins, disappear into the wilderness, guided by a man whose fitness lay in his ability to take the animal to a place from which it could not return.  The writer to the Hebrews takes up these things in Hebrews 9:25-28, where he speaks of Christ appearing to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”- this is the counterpart of the blood on the mercy-seat.  Then he speaks of Christ “bearing the sins of many”, and now he is thinking of the scapegoat.  When the Lord Jesus was forsaken of His God upon the Cross, He was in a moral position equal to that of the scapegoat, which was accepted as an offering, but rejected because of the load it bore.

Just as there are two goats for the people, so there are two men acting on their behalf.  There was Aaron, who went into the sanctuary with the blood of the slain goat, and there was the fit man, going into the wilderness with the live goat.  The return of Aaron from the presence of God signified that sins were dealt with satisfactorily Godward, for he had not died.  The return of the fit man, without the goat, signified that the burden of sin was removed from the people.  An alternative rendering of the expression “fit man” is “a man standing ready”. So before John the Baptist announced the Lord Jesus to be the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, he described Him as “one standing among you”- He was standing ready to do the work of Calvary at the time of His Father’s appointment. 


To satisfy God as the Moral Governor of the universe, an adequate and final answer must be found to the question of sin.  The demands of His holiness and righteousness are such that every sin must be responded to.  Only Christ is adequate for this situation.  He it is who has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, Hebrews 9:26.  To put away in that verse means to abolish.  As far as God is concerned, and in this context, sin is not.  No charge can henceforth be made against God that He has ignored the presence of sin.  On the contrary, He has taken account of each and every sin through his Son’s work at Calvary.  John wrote, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:2.  Of course “the sins of” is in italics in that verse.  But the words must be supplied because they are implied in the “ours” of the previous statement.  If John had written “not for us only”, then he could have continued “but also for the whole world”.  Since, however, he uses the possessive pronoun “ours”, then “the sins of” must be inserted.  Now the apostle will write later that “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”, 1 John 5:19.  He sees mankind divided into two clearly defined sections, believers, and the whole world.  The same whole world whose sins God took account of at Calvary. 

In Old Testament times God blessed men by reckoning them righteous when they believed in Him.  Romans 3:24,25 indicates that the propitiatory work of Christ vindicates God for so acting.  In can be seen now that God was blessing anticipatively, crediting believers with the results of Christ’s work before they had been achieved.  He also remitted, or passed over, their sins in forbearance, holding back from judging those sins in virtue of what His Son would do at Calvary. 

There is no attribute of God which has not been fully expressed at Calvary.  This is why the apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, Romans 5:11.  Atonement in this verse means reconciliation, one of the effects of propitiation.  By His sacrificial work at Calvary Christ has brought the character of God out into full and glorious display.  Those who are brought by faith into the good of that work are enabled to behold that display, and rejoice in it.  Would we know Divine holiness, or righteousness, or love, or wrath, or any other aspect of the Person of God?  Then we must look to the cross for the sight of it.  We shall not be disappointed.

The repentant sinner who called upon God to be merciful to him, is the first person in the New Testament to use the word propitious- “God be merciful to me on the basis of propitiation”.  He went down to his house justified, Luke 18:13,14. Under the terms of the New Covenant, God promises that “I will be merciful (propitious) to their unrighteousness, Hebrews 8:12. The mercy-seat was the same width and breadth as the ark, telling us that the ark (the person of Christ) and the mercy-seat, (the work of Christ), were perfectly matched. But we are not told the thickness or depth of the gold of the mercy-seat, for there is an infinite supply of mercy for those who believe, enough to keep them secure for all eternity.

In Hebrews 10:5-8 we have the Spirit of Christ in the psalmist telling of His work of sacrifice. Then we have the Spirit’s testimony telling us of the results of that work, Hebrews 10:15-17.  God promises emphatically that He will not remember the sins and iniquities of His people any more, since He brought those sins into remembrance at Calvary, and Christ dealt with them effectively there. “No more” means in no way, nor at any time.  Note that God pledges to positively not remember, not negatively to forget. We may forget, and then remember again, whereas God promises never to remember for ever.

The Lord Jesus spoke in the Upper Room of His brethren, then indicated that He was about to “ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God”, John 20:17.  Thus He would still be the link between his people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God.

The basis of His advocacy is two-fold.  His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2.  The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning.  The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers.  But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work.  He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins.  Not was, but is.  In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.

He is also our High priest.  The language of Hebrews 2:17,18- “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted”.  These verses form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness.  Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18-too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost.  The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted.  When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause.  Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help.  The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”.  He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.

But what if we fall, and sin?  In that case He comes to our aid in another way.  We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20.  The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary.  But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this.  Moses said, “God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17.  One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God.  As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17.  We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people.  He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation.  This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.

When Adam the head of the first creation fell, all creation had to be subjected to vanity, or else a fallen man would have been head over an unfallen creation.  Now that He has obtained rights over the earth by His death, the Lord Jesus is able to bring in new conditions for God.  He can now righteously deliver the present creation from the bondage of corruption that the fall of man brought it into, Romans 8:19-23.  Colossians 1:20 assures us that on the basis of the blood of His cross, all things, whether in earth or in heaven, can be reconciled to God, for that alienation between God and His creation which took place at the Fall, can be remedied.

GOD’S INTENTION TO CREATE A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH CAN BE REALISED                                                                                            Unless the sin which has marred the first creation is dealt with, God cannot righteously introduce an eternal earth and heavens, for it would not have been evident that He was able to deal with the fall of the first creation.  Having dealt with it through Christ, He is able to bring in new things that will never be spoiled.  Daniel was told that Messiah the Prince would bring in “everlasting righteousness”, Daniel 9:24, and this He will do, on the basis of His death.  It only remains for God to announce “Behold, I make all things new”, Revelation 21:5, and a “New heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”, will be established, 2 Peter 3:13.  At last there will be a settled and congenial place for righteous to dwell in, after all the turmoil brought in by Adam’s sin.  At last those profound words spoken by John the Baptist will be fully brought to pass- “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.


We come now to a very solemn passage of Scripture in which the matter of sin comes to the fore.  If we use the idea of the Lord speaking unto Moses as that which divides up chapters 1-7 of Leviticus, we shall see that the first mention of this is in 1:1, and the second is in the passage before us.  Subsequently, we find the expression in 5:14; 6:1; 6:8; 6:19; 6:24; 7:22, and 7:28.  When we consider later passages we shall discover that the division is not a simple one, for sometimes a particular aspect of an offering is signalled by the use of the phrase, highlighting its importance.
We see from this that the sin offering is presented to us in 4:1-5:13, and that section includes a form of trespass offering.  Then comes the trespass offering proper in connection with the holy things of the Lord, in 5:14.  Finally, in 6:1-7 there is the trespass offering for a sin against one’s neighbour.  There follows the law of the offerings.


4:1  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

4:2  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:

4:3  If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering.

4:4  And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the Lord.

4:5  And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock’s blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation:

4:6  And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the veil of the sanctuary.

4:7  And the priest shall put[some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

4:8  And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,

4:9  And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,

4:10  As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering.

4:11  And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung,

4:12  Even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt.

4:13  And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;

4:14  When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.

4:15  And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord: and the bullock shall be killed before the Lord.

4:16  And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock’s blood to the tabernacle of the congregation:

4:17  And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord, even before the veil.

4:18  And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the Lord, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

4:19  And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar.

4:20  And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.

4:21  And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it  is a sin offering for the congregation.

4:22  When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;

4:23  Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish:

4:24  And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering.

4:25  And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering.

4:26  And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.

4:27  And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;

4:28  Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned.

4:29  And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.

4:30  And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar.

4:31  And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the Lord; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.

4:32  And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.

4:33  And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.

4:34  And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar:

4:35  And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him. 

Coming to Leviticus chapter 4 in more detail, we note the four categories of sinner: 
In verses 1-12, the priest brings a young bullock, and the blood is sprinkled before the vail and upon the horns of the altar of incense.
In verses 13-21, the whole congregation provides a young bullock, and the blood is sprinkled before the vail and upon the horns of the altar of incense.
In verses 22-26, a ruler brings a male kid of the goats, and the blood is sprinkled upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering.
In verses 27-35, one of the common people brings either a female kid of the goats or a female lamb, and the blood is sprinkled on the horns of the altar of burnt offering. 
After the sprinkling of blood, the remainder is poured out at the base of the altar in every case.

A fundamental truth we must notice at the outset is that there is the closest of connections between sin, and the death of the sinner or a suitable substitute.  Ezekiel 18:20 makes it clear that “the soul that sinneth it shall die”.  The emphasis is on “soul” and “it”, or in other words the soul or person that sins is the one who dies, and not another.  See also Deuteronomy 24:16.  God had declared that it was part of His glory that He would “by no means clear the guilty”, Exodus 34:7.  By this statement He signified that it was only in a substitute that a man could be cleared from his sin; his guilt must be borne by another.

The fact that a sin offering is here demanded of an individual, shows that the Day of Atonement was a national provision so that God could continue amongst the people.  Individual sins must still be dealt with, and this chapter tells how.  Note that the sin offering was for sins of ignorance against the law of God, reminding us of the words of the apostle John that “sin is the transgression of the law”, or lawlessness, and as such is rebellious in character, 1 John 3:4. 

(We cannot help noticing that when the apostle John says “if any man sin”, 1 John 2:1, he does not go on to say, “let him bring a sin offering”, but rather, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”.  In other words, there is one in heaven who pleads our cause, who was Himself the means of dealing with sin at Calvary, and this has powerful appeal with God.  There is no suggestion that another sacrifice of any sort should be made.  In fact, Hebrews 10:18 informs us that there remains no more offering for sin. 
Not that John implies that we may sin carelessly, for he writes to believers that they sin not.  The law was given so that Israelites sin not, Exodus 20:20, but whereas the law frightened men into not sinning, grace frees men to not sin, Romans 6:14,18.)

The first class of persons noticed is the priesthood, and the seriousness of this matter is shown by the mention of two things.  First, he is anointed, which means he is not only specially selected and approved of by God, but also that he has been brought into great privileges.  Second, that he sins according to the sin of the people.  The people were “ignorant”, and “out of the way”, Hebrews 5:2, but “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and the people should learn the law at his mouth”, Malachi 2:7.  How serious, then, for such a privileged person to sin. 
We see this illustrated in John 19:11, where Christ declares that the one who delivered Him to Pilate had greater sin than Pilate.  That one being Caiaphas the high priest, who should have known how to distinguish between righteousness and unrighteousness, and hence should have released Christ, not deliver Him to the governor to be executed.

All believers are priests by virtue of their new birth, and even those who are little children in the family of God are said to “know all things”, 1 John 2:20. Not in the sense that they know every fact there is to know, but that they are able to discern between that which is of God and that which is not.  Even newly saved ones therefore have a great responsibility with regard to sin.  They have an instinctive distaste for it, for they have been made partakers of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, and therefore should hate sin as God hates sin.

Once he has realised he has sinned, the priest must deal with the matter.  Instead of being in a position to minister to both God and man by the exercise of his priestly office, he is defiled, and must have recourse to the provision God has made for him.  He cannot make amends himself, even though he is a priest, but must come the way the ordinary Israelite comes, and deal with the matter before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.  How humbling this would be!  No longer may he enter the tabernacle to function before God, but another has to do enter in for him as we see from verse 5.

He must bring an offering which is without blemish, or in other words, as nearly like the character of Christ as it is possible to be.  The animal has no moral sense, and so cannot be said to have sinned.  It is vitally important that the sacrifice be free of all trace of fault if it is to be a fit illustration of Christ.  When John tells us that Christ was manifest to take away our sins, he is quick to add, “And in Him is no sin”, 1 John 3:5.  When Peter tells us “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree”, 1 Peter 2:24, it is not before he has written, “who did no sin”, 1 Peter 2:22.  When Paul writes that “He hath made Him to be sin for us”, 2 Corinthians 5:21, he is careful to say, “who knew no sin”.  So whether it be John the man of insight telling us what He did not have, or Peter the man of intention telling us what He did not do, or Paul the man of intelligence telling us what He did not know, the lesson is clear, there is no fault in Christ, and this fits Him for the work of dealing with sin.

In full public view, and before God, the priest must lay his hand upon his offering and personally own up to what he has done.  But as he does this, the sin that he has committed is transferred to the animal, and from that point on the offering is held responsible for the sin, and not the offerer.

Since this is so, and because the consequence of breaking any of God’s commandments was death, the animal is killed.  But it is killed by the man who has sinned, so that the seriousness of his sin may come home to him- he realises that it should have been he that lay lifeless on the ground beside the altar.  The priest’s death becomes the animal’s death by direct substitution.  The apostle Paul assures us in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and Leviticus chapter 4 would be one of the scriptures he would have in mind.  “Christ died” informs of an event; “Christ died for our sins” instructs with an explanation; but “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” invites an exposition.

Liability to death has been passed on to us through what Adam did in disobedience when he transgressed a known commandment, Romans 5:12,14.  That death has been passed on to us is seen in the fact that we all have sinned- the nature we inherit from Adam has worked itself out in practice.  By man came death, and that because we have inherited a sinful nature, but by man, (even the Lord Jesus), comes the resurrection of the dead.  Since the consequences of Adam’s sin have been taken on by Christ, the believer is brought clear of sin and its consequences by association with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.  The fact that He is risen shows that His work on the cross to deal with sins has been successful, as Romans 4:25 makes clear.

We can easily see then that Christ has brought in far more than animal sacrifices ever could, for a mere animal could not emerge in resurrection and bring those who relied on it to the far side of death, and into a state of righteousness.  Believers, however, are “made the righteousness of God in Him”, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Attention is now drawn to the blood which, because it is the soul or life of the animal, (Leviticus 17:14), is tremendously important.  A bowl of blood is the sign that a death has taken place; the death, moreover, of a suitable substitute.  But notice it is not the quantity of blood that is important, but the quality, for the priest who acts for his fellow-priest only needs to dip his finger in the blood.  Nonetheless he must do this seven times, for the Hebrew word for seven means “to be full, or satisfied”.  Thus there is a full and satisfactory answer found to the question of sin.

The sprinkling on behalf of the priest is done before the vail.  So the animal is killed before the first vail of the tabernacle, and then its blood is sprinkled before the second vail, as Hebrews 9:3 calls it.  Both spheres in which he normally operated have been affected by his sin, so both spheres must be affected by the blood.  Sin on a Christian priest affects his ministry both Godward and manward, and must be dealt with at the earliest possible moment.  Until that happens, priestly ministry is hampered and ineffective.  The believer of this present age is able to enter the very Holiest of all, the immediate presence of God- how careful we should be therefore to only enter with “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience”, Hebrews 10:22.

Note the expression “before the Lord”, denoting not only that the one sinning must have direct dealings with the God who is sinned against, but also that sin must be dealt with in a manner which bears Divine scrutiny.  Only so can a priest be restored to usefulness.

A prominent part of the priestly ministry was to offer incense, so the altar of incense is to be sprinkled too.  The apostle Paul was insistent that prayer to God on behalf of men must be done only by those who lift up holy hands, 1 Timothy 2:8.  Hands stained with sin are in no fit state to be lifted up in the presence of God.

The blood has done its work, and is now poured out at the base of the altar.  This will ensure three things at least.  First, that it is not used for another sin, for each sinner must be personally identified with his own sin offering.  Second, that all realise that the foundation of everything is the shed blood, so the blood is poured out at the foundation of the altar.  Third, that the blood is not drunk, for that was very definitely prohibited by God, Leviticus 17:14.  Life is very precious to God, and He always retains ultimate control over it.  He signifies this by banning the drinking of blood.

Now instructions are given regarding the fat of the animal, which is removed from the animal in the same way as it is from the sacrifice of peace offerings, and burnt on the altar as a sweet savour.  The inwards of the animal represent feelings and emotions of the heart, for the Hebrews believed that a man’s emotions were centred in the lower part of the body.  We are reminded by this that the heart-feelings of Christ were deeply affected by His work in dealing with sin.  Immediately before the cross He could say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”, Matthew 26:38.  So deep and strong were His sorrows as He anticipated the cross that He was brought nearly to death by them.  How much more agonising must the actual bearing of sin be, if just the prospect of it caused Him such distress!  Yet there is another side to this.  The burning of the fat as a sweet savour meant that the personal integrity of Christ was maintained, for His dealing with sin did not alter His acceptableness to the Father.  Furthermore, the fat assisted the burning of the sweet savour offerings, and so this thought is reinforced still further.

This arrangement means that the fat is burnt at the same time as the carcase, so two sorts of fire are burning at once.  Which is what happened at Calvary, for the fire which fed upon Christ as God’s well-beloved, and found all that was satisfying, was also the fire that burned in wrath against sin, and consumed it out of the way.
We are left in no doubt as to the meaning of the burning of the carcase of the sin offering, for the words of Hebrews 13:11,12, are as follows, “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.  Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate”.  Fire outside of the camp denotes suffering for Christ.  The apostle Peter speaks of this, too, when he writes, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God”, 1 Peter 3:18.

This burning is done outside the camp in a clean place, where the ashes are poured out.  Once again, the personal integrity of Christ is preserved, not only by the sin offering being burnt in a clean place, but also by being burnt in association with the ashes of sweet savour offerings.

We may notice briefly the other categories of offering, although much of what is said is a repetition of the regulations for the priest’s offering.  The whole congregation when it sins as a company must bring the same offering as a priest, and the blood is to be sprinkled in the same way as the blood for a priest.

The horns of the altar of incense must be sprinkled with the blood of the priest’s offering, not only to restore the vessel after association with a priest that had sinned, but also to restore to him his power of intercession, for in scripture horns speak of power.

They must be sprinkled with the blood of the offering for the congregation, to ensure that their prayers and intercessions are able to freely rise to God again.
With the ruler and the individual it is the horns of the brazen altar that are sprinkled.  However prominent a position a man may have in Israel, or, on the other hand, however lowly he may be, it matters not.  The altar of burnt offering is the place where all in Israel are equal before God, for that is their common meeting-place.  Instead of the sinner needing to flee to the altar, and lay hold of it and ask for mercy, (as later happened in Israel, 1 Kings 50,51; 2:28), the blood takes his place there, and ensures mercy and forgiveness.

The apostle Peter was forthright on the Day of Pentecost when he charged the men of Israel with having crucified and slain their Messiah, Acts 2:22.  And later he again accused them of killing the Prince of Life, yet he goes on to say, “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers, Acts 3:15,17.  Then again he addressed the rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, and others, and accused them of crucifying their Messiah, but he goes on to preach salvation to them, “for there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved”, Acts 4:10,12.  So priests, the whole congregation, and rulers, are all charged with the sin of crucifying Christ, and yet also have preached to them the possibility of forgiveness through what He did at Calvary.  In Acts chapter 8 it is Saul of Tarsus, one of the rulers of the people, being a member of the Sanhedrim, who is addressed by Christ Himself, and asked why he was persecuting Him, Acts 9:4.  He later testified that he had obtained mercy, because he had done it ignorantly in unbelief, 1 Timothy 1:13.
So whether it be priests, the nation, rulers, or individuals, all may find forgiveness through the blood of Christ shed for sin.  And so it is today, in the goodness and longsuffering of God.  “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses”, Acts 13:38,39.