Leviticus 4, Leviticus 5, Leviticus 6:1-7, 24-30; Leviticus 7:1-7.
It would take too long to read all the passages that speak of the sin offering, so we will just read portions here and there. First, then, Leviticus 4.
The sin offering and the trespass offering, though differing in detail, were exactly the same in character and principle. Some persons, I am aware, have thought that the sin offering deals more with the sin in our nature and the trespass offering with acts of sin — sins committed by us. But I can hardly see how that could be, for this reason, that in the case of all the sin offerings, with the exception of the priest's, we find this expression: "And it shall be forgiven him."
Now, most of us know that the sin in our nature is never, in Scripture, said to be forgiven. It is judged, or condemned (Rom. 8:3). Sins are forgiven; sin is judged, or condemned. I will just read, in chapter 5, what is said as to one or two of the trespass offerings, in order to get the idea more clearly.
"Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty. Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these. And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: and he shall bring his trespass offering" (vv. 3-6).
You see that a trespass and a sin are very much the same: "When he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: and he shall bring his trespass offering." The two, sin and trespass, are put together. He has sinned, and he is to bring, not a sin offering, but a trespass offering. Then, again, "For his sin which he hath sinned. . . a lamb, or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering." That shows that a trespass is a sin, just as much as when it is called a sin. And in this verse 6 the expressions "sin offering" and "trespass offering" are applied to the same animal. So the two are very much alike.
We will read verses 14-19 and the law of the sin offering in Leviticus 6:24-30.
I might have mentioned, before reading these passages, that it is a great help to the understanding of all these offerings and sacrifices to notice that when we have the expression, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying," it is always the introduction of a new subject. Now, the first three chapters — which speak of the burnt offering, the meat offering, and the peace offering — are all, in a manner, one, because they are all "sweet savor" offerings, which the sin offering in itself is not. And you will not find that expression anywhere in those chapters after chapter 1:1. But when the subject of the sin offering is spoken of, in chapter 4, there you find the expression again, because it is a different character of offering — an offering for sin, instead of an offering made by fire for a sweet savor. We shall notice the difference by and by. You do not find a third occurrence of it till you come to chapter 5:14. The trespass offering, properly so-called, begins with this verse. The first thirteen verses of chapter 5 seem to connect the sin offering and the trespass offering together, as we have seen. I believe I am right in saying that, throughout this Book of Leviticus, at the beginning of every new subject this expression occurs.
It is important to see that the sacrifices are divided into two great classes — the sweet savor offerings, or offerings "made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord," and the sin offerings. In the sweet savor offerings, when the worshipper laid his hand upon the head of the offering, it signified that all the acceptability of the sacrifice was his; he was identified with all the sweet savor of the sacrifice. But in the sin offering it was just the other way. Instead of the offerer being identified with the sweet savor of the sacrifice, the animal — the offering — was identified with the man's sin; his sin was transferred to the head of the animal. Now, there are these two sides to the work of the Lord Jesus: The first is that the Lord Jesus was charged with our sins — He "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world." The Holy Spirit has put into our mouths those words in Revelation 1: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
The Lord Jesus, at the last supper, in the night in which He was betrayed, when He took the cup, said, "This is My blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28).
That is our side, so to speak, and we shall never forget it throughout all eternity — that He gave Himself for our sins. In one sense it is even more wonderful than the other side, namely, our acceptance in Him. We think it is wonderful to have His place of acceptance before God, but I think it is even more wonderful that that holy, spotless One — the One who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, the One who was in glory with the Father before the world was — that that glorious Person should become a man in order that He might charge Himself with the sins that we had committed against God — that He might bear them in His own body on the tree. That is what the sin offering typifies, and when the offerer laid his hand upon the head of the animal, it implied that the sin of the offerer was transferred to the victim.
The other side was represented by the burnt offering. In that case also the offerer laid his hand upon the head of the offering, but that signified that all the acceptability of the sacrifice was transferred to the one who brought it.
So there are the two sides of the work of Christ. He gave Himself for our sins, in order to put them all away, never to be remembered anymore before God.
But in the same place where He bore our sins, He was a "sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." The fire of God's judgment consumed our sin, and now, instead of there being judgment for us, the judgment is all past, and there is nothing left but the sweet savor of that sacrifice in which we are accepted. Compare Ephesians 5:2: Christ loved us and gave Himself for us — our side; "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" — what that work was to God.
The sin offering, therefore, as the name implies, typifies the Lord Jesus bearing our sins. It is remarkable that the sin offering or trespass offering is inseparable, in almost every instance, from the burnt offering. The sin offering was to be killed in the place of the burnt offering, and in one instance you find the expression "sweet savor" connected with it (ch. 4:31). In every case all the fat of the sin offering was to be taken away. As it says, "As the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings" (v. 31).
When the fat was taken off the sacrifice of peace offerings, it went up to God for a sweet savor and was God's food of the offering made by fire, and we, as God's priests, are called to enter into communion with God and with the Lord Jesus to see all the results of the work that He has accomplished. Then the sin offering was the other side. There we learn how the Lord Jesus identified Himself with our sins, but it was in the same place where He bore our sins that nothing but a sweet savor rose up to God. It is most blessed to remember that. When the Lord took our sins upon Him, it was in perfect obedience to God.
Therefore, never was He personally more the object of the Father's delight. Although God being holy, we know He had to hide His face from that blessed One, which caused Him to cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" You cannot separate the two — the sin offering from the burnt offering. They are, as it were, offered at the same time. In the antitype it was all one blessed act.
There is another thing that we must be clear about in looking at this sin offering. I remember it was rather puzzling to me once. I wondered why it was these people of Israel had to offer sin offerings, seeing that they were a people already in relationship with God. The blood sprinkled on the great day of atonement (Lev. 16) had laid a righteous ground upon which God could be in relationship with them and could dwell in their midst. Then, we may ask, What need was there for any further offerings? If the blood within the veil, on the great day of atonement, settled the question of God's righteousness, and all the sins of Israel were put on the head of the scapegoat, what need for any other offerings? Well, I suppose these sin offerings were not really to bring the people into relationship with God, but to restore to communion those who already were in relationship with Him. And therefore, if the high priest sinned or the congregation sinned, the communion of the whole of the people was interrupted, because the high priest represented the people. Accordingly, the blood of the sin offering for the high priest or for the congregation was taken inside the tabernacle and sprinkled before the veil, some of the blood being put upon the altar of incense, where the high priest, who represented the whole people, approached (Ex. 30:8).
When an individual of the common people sinned, it did not interrupt the communion of the whole company, but merely that of the particular individual, so the blood of his sin offering was sprinkled only on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, where the people approached God. We must remember this. In Hebrews 10 it says, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things" (v. 1).
Have you ever considered that expression — "not the very image of the things"? It was an image, but not the very image; that is, it was not a perfect image; it was only a shadow. Why was not the law a perfect image of Christianity? For two reasons at least. One reason is that under the law there was no entrance for the people into the holy of holies. None dare go into that most holy place. The veil was there, and, as it has often been said, God was shut in, and nobody dare go in; the sinner was shut out, and God never came out; that is, He never manifested what He was in grace. Therefore, the law was not a perfect image of Christianity. God has now come out; that is, all that God is has been perfectly revealed in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. On the other hand, there has been a Man who entered the holy place not made with hands, into heaven itself. What man is that? The Man Christ Jesus. He has gone in. As it has been very beautifully expressed by another, "He came down in grace, and He went up in righteousness." I remember someone asking once, "What is the difference between the gospel of the grace of God and the gospel of the glory of God?" The answer was, "The gospel of the grace of God is God come down in grace, manifested here in the Person of Christ, and the gospel of the glory is man gone up in righteousness to God."
Another thing characterized the Old Testament types and the law, which showed they were not a perfect image, namely, the constant repetition of the sacrifices. Every time a sin was committed, they ought to have brought a fresh offering. Blood was constantly flowing; therefore, it was not the very image of the heavenly things; it was not a perfect image, and I think that helps us in considering these types. The Jew under the law, in order for his communion to be restored when he had sinned, although he was in outward relationship with God, had to offer a fresh sacrifice. It is not so when Christians sin. Christ has not to die again, neither has the blood of Christ to be applied to us again, as many think and say. For us it is, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). But the means by which the Israelites were restored to communion (that is, by the sin offering) is just a type or picture of how we once for all have been perfected forever by the one offering of Christ. "For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). I think that makes it clear that these sin offerings are types of that one offering of the Lord Jesus by which He perfected us forever when we came first as lost sinners to God. It is in contrast to the many sin offerings under the law, as we find it brought out in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The mass of the Lord's people in the present day think that every time they sin they must be resprinkled with the blood of Christ. If you say it is not so, they actually imagine that you are undervaluing the precious blood. Now, it is just the contrary, as we shall see, I trust. The simplest way will be to take the case of the sin offering for the common people in chapter 4.
"If any one of the common people sin through ignorance" (v. 27).
I might say here that it was only for sins of ignorance that a sacrifice could be offered. There was no sacrifice provided under the law for willful, presumptuous sins. The Holy Spirit, in Hebrews 10:26, no doubt refers to this. "If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" — no more sin offering. Some here might like to know the meaning of that scripture. To explain it, however, would occupy too much time now, but I may just say that sinning willfully is not spoken of in reference to a true child of God getting away from the Lord and falling into sin. It refers to one who gave up Christianity altogether, to an apostate from the faith, one who denies the value of the precious blood; it does not refer to a backsliding Christian at all.
"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."
"And be guilty" As in Romans 3, "That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (v. 19). Every sinner, whether he knows it or not, whether he has been awakened to a sense of it or not, this is his condition — "guilty before God." That is the first thing.
"Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge" (v. 28).
The next thing is that he becomes aware of his guilt. So with us. We were all guilty before God. The next thing was that the sin came to our knowledge. God in His grace showed us what we were.
"Then he shall bring his offering."
He is guilty; the sin comes to his knowledge. And then God meets him at once with the offering. The moment he confesses, takes his place before God as a guilty one, there is the offering to meet him. There is a beautiful picture of that in Matthew 3, where the Lord Jesus takes His place with the remnant of Israel who were confessing their sins, owning their true condition as sinners, taking their first right step before God. Jesus is found with them; not bearing their sins yet — that was on the cross afterward — but He was found with them. Is not that a beautiful picture? The moment a person owns his guilt before God, the moment he takes his true place as a repentant, hell-deserving sinner, with whom does he find himself in company? The Saviour Himself. The sinner comes to God, owning his guilt, and God sets forth the Saviour at once; the repentant one finds himself in company with the Lord Jesus. So here; the moment the individual acknowledges his guilt, "He shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering" (vv. 28-29).
We have already seen that when the offerer laid his hand upon the head of the offering, it meant that the sin of the man was transferred to the offering. Wonderful, blessed truth! When we come as lost sinners before God, when we come trusting the Lord Jesus for our souls' salvation, then we know that not merely one sin, as here, but all our sins, all we have ever committed, were laid upon God's beloved Son by God Himself, many centuries ago. And here it is typified. By the man's laying his hand upon the head of the offering, the sin is transferred to it. And then he shall "slay the sin offering." The moment the sin is upon the sacrifice, he shall "slay the sin offering," because "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." Death must come in. Where was the sin offering slain? In the place of the burnt offering. You cannot separate the two. In the very place where the blessed Lord took all our sins upon Him, there also the sweet savor of His sacrifice rose up before God in all its perfection. Further, "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" (v. 30).
"The blood is the life" — all the life of the animal was poured out, given up to God. What is atonement? It is, as has been expressed by another, life given and accepted in sacrifice for a life that has been forfeited. The man had forfeited his life by his sins; "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." Instead of the man dying, his sin was transferred to the kid, and the kid died instead of him. How simple! When we, as guilty sinners, deserved death — "once to die" was our portion; "after this the judgment"; then the lake of fire, the second death — God said, as it were, "I will accept the death of another instead of your death," and that is the death of His own beloved Son, whom He gave in the love and grace of His heart, and who bore the judgment due to our sins, laying down His life in atonement for us. So all the blood was poured out at the bottom of the altar; the life was given up to God. In the Gospel of Matthew, in which Gospel we find the Lord's death more in the aspect of the sin offering, we read (ch. 26), "He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the new testament [or covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (vv. 27-28).
The word "shed" might be rendered "poured out," and if you read it in that way, how it fits in with this sin offering! "This is My blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed [poured out] for many for the remission of sins." His precious blood was poured out, just as all the blood of the sin offering was poured out at the bottom of the altar; the life was given up to God, taken in exchange for the life of the man who had forfeited his life by his sins. Some of the blood was sprinkled upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and the fat (v. 31) was taken away, "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 savor unto the Lord." There the sweet savor of the sacrifice is connected with the sin offering, although the sin offering was not a sweet savor sacrifice in itself.
"And the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him" (v. 31).
Is there anybody here who at all doubts whether he has forgiveness of all his sins? It is an immensely important question to get settled. The Holy Spirit Himself says, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Rom. 4:7). It is no light thing to be able to say, "My sins are all forgiven." Have you ever, dear friend, seen that the Lord Jesus in His grace took your place on the cross and there died for you? Have you by faith seen God, the holy God, who knows every sin that you have ever committed in thought, word and deed, taking them and laying them upon the head of that spotless Victim, the Lord Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, on the cross? Have you seen Him there bearing the judgment due to your sins? Now, in the type, the word of the Lord as to the Israelite was, "And it shall be forgiven him."
How, do you think, did that Israelite know that his sin was forgiven? Suppose you had met him coming back with a light heart and glad countenance from offering his sacrifice and had asked him, "What makes you look so happy now? I saw you a little time ago looking sad and downcast."
He might have said, "I now know my sin is forgiven."
"Indeed; how do you know that?"
"I have done what Jehovah required; I have taken a kid of the goats to the priest and have killed it. I saw all the blood poured out and the fat burned for a sweet savor to Jehovah."
"But how do you know your sin is forgiven?"
"Because of the word of Jehovah. I have got His word for it, that, if I bring my sin offering and the blood is shed, my sin shall be forgiven me." He could rely upon the word of Jehovah, and thus he would know he was forgiven.
So with us. Have we not to go back to it again and again and again? Ah! indeed we have; everyone will agree to it. Has there not been many an established father in Christ who, till his death, has had to go back to the value of the precious blood of Christ and the written Word of God, over and over again? Ah! yes, and there is nothing else to rest upon for salvation, nothing else certain, nothing else sure, nothing but the value of the precious blood of Christ and the written Word of God — these two things. What word have Christians got? We have many, thank God.
There is that simple one in Acts 10:
"To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (v. 43).
What a blessed message to proclaim! Dare you doubt that word of God Himself? If you have been waiting to feel forgiven, oh, wait no longer! If you have been waiting for certain experiences to assure yourself that you are forgiven, I say, Wait no longer. Just take God at His word:
"Whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus] shall receive remission of sins."
Does not that answer to the words as to the type here, "And it shall be forgiven him"?
There is another important point. I said, just now, that the law was not a true image of Christianity, for there was constant repetition of the sacrifices. A Jew, when he sinned, had to bring his offering; then, if he sinned again, he had to bring another offering; if he sinned a third time, he would have to bring a third offering. But if it were the same as that in Christianity, Christ would have often to suffer. Every time you and I committed a sin, Christ would have to leave the glory and come down and die for us. That could not be. The contrast is beautifully drawn in Hebrews 10.
"Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (v. 11).
The priest, under the law, stood and offered oftentimes. Now notice the contrast.
"But this man [that is, the Lord Jesus Christ], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins [or, one sin offering, in contrast with many], forever, sat down [in contrast to standing] on the right hand of God. . . . For by one offering [one sin offering] He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (vv. 12, 14).
It has been often said that if the whole question of our sins was not settled at the cross, it never can be settled throughout the countless ages of eternity, for Christ is not coming to die again. He offered one sin offering on the cross. How many of your sins were there? Were they all there? Thank God, they were, if you are a true believer. Were only the sins you can remember borne there? No; all were laid upon Him. As we read, "Though he wist it not, yet is he guilty" (ch. 5:17). That is an important point, for some Christians have thought that every time they sin they have to pray for forgiveness, and that if they do not pray they will not be forgiven. And very often they are troubled as to whether any sins they may have committed have been left unconfessed.
One Christian asked another once, "Suppose, now, that you were killed in a railway accident, and you had not confessed your sins for the day, what would become of you?" The answer was, "Well, I am sure I do not know. I am not at all sure what would become of me." And many think that they do not get forgiveness of their sins unless they ask God to forgive them, and then the asking becomes a formal thing very often. At night or when they say "grace," as it is called, they just make a general confession of sins, saying, "Forgive us all our sins for Christ's sake." That is not confession to God; that is not at all what God means by confession. "Though he wist it not, yet is he guilty," because a sin is a sin in God's sight, whether you are aware of it or not, and sin is judged according to the standard of His holiness and not according to our thoughts about it. "The thought of foolishness is sin," and every independent act of our will is sin.
How many sins have we committed today? God only knows. What, then, is to become of us if we leave any unconfessed? No doubt we have committed some that we are not aware of. The more we grow in grace, the more we see what sin is, but God saw it was sin before you found it out. It is a blessed thing to think of. God Himself, in His holiness, knows every single sin that we have ever committed; He knows them all. He does not leave one out, just as He will not leave one out for the unconverted at the judgment day. Not one will be forgotten in that day, so God did not leave out one of the sins of those who believe when He laid them on the head of His beloved Son, who bore them all. That is why it needed a divine person to do the work, one who could view sin as God views it, and who but a divine person could do that? It was the Lord Jesus who knew what sin is in the sight of God, who knew our sins, who took them all, every one, and bore them in His own body on the tree. I do not say past, present or future sins, because Scripture never speaks in that way. We ought not to think of future sins at all. It is a monstrous thing to say, "I am going to commit sins tomorrow." We can speak only of past sins; future sins are not to be thought of. The simple question is, How many sins had you and I committed when Christ died? They were all future then. He answered to God for every one, blessed be His name. What did we read in Hebrews 10?
"This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (v. 12).
In some Bibles this passage is better punctuated than in others. We should read it in this way: "This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins [here should be the comma], forever sat down." That expression "forever" is not the same as that used for "eternity." It means "going on uninterruptedly throughout eternity." That is, the value of that sacrifice abides throughout eternity. If you read verse 14 first, it is made simple, I think.
"By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified."
And because He has perfected us forever by one offering, because He has nothing more to do for you and me, dear believer in Christ, as regards putting away our sins for all eternity, He has "forever sat down" in contrast to the priest under the law, who was always standing. How blessed to look up into heaven by faith and there see that blessed One who has "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Why? Because He has perfected us forever by His one offering. He is not going to rise up again to do anything more in regard to putting away our sins. He is going to rise up to take us to Himself. That is quite another thing.
May the Lord, in His grace, give us to know the reality and the blessedness of the Lord Jesus bearing our sins and of the grace that brought Him down thoroughly to identify Himself with us in our sins — to die for us. Perhaps some are apt to think too lightly of this, to regard the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and the Lord's dying for our sins as an inferior aspect of truth. I think that is a great mistake. I ask one question. What was one of the greatest proofs of God's love toward us? In the First Epistle of John we read, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (ch. 4:10).
There is the proof of His love. He gave His Son to die for our sins, those very sins that we should have thought would turn His love away from us. Our sinning against Him only brought out the love all the stronger, for He gave His beloved Son to put them all away. Shall we ever forget such love? Never.
May the Lord give us to know more of His grace, more of the love that led Him to come down in grace to take up our case and perfect us forever by one offering in order that we might share His joy in the Father's house throughout all the ages of eternity, for His name's sake.