The Sin Offering

The question has been asked, “How was God glorified by the death of Christ?” This brief study of the sin offerings as typical of the death of Christ in one of its aspects may partly answer the question.

A sin offering was required in Israel in the case of the sin of the priest, of the whole congregation, of a ruler, and of one of the common people (Lev. 4). Four is the number in Scripture which symbolizes completeness, or universality as regards the earth, and in these four cases given we have portrayed for us, first, God’s complete thought for man as created by Him and set in the earth for the carrying out of His will, and the universal failure to answer to this; and then the way in which God has vindicated Himself and recovered more than was lost by the fall. In not one respect did man fulfil God’s purpose. The failure was complete. This will be readily grasped as here given.

The Purpose of God The Failure of Man

(1) The Priest

Man was created to have immediate access to God; to find his whole delight in Him, and to render to Him priestly service. He was to be a well-tuned instrument to give forth sweet praise to God, and so glorify Him, for “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.” This was the highest privilege put within the reach of man. When God came down to walk in Eden Adam hid himself. Sin had separated him from God, and there was no response in his heart to the call of God, and instead of drawing near to God with gladness and worship he shrank away from Him, guilty and afraid. God had lost His creature, and the worship that was due to Him from him.

(2) The Whole Congregation

Man was created to have immediate access to God; to find his whole delight in Him, and to render to Him priestly service. He was to be a well-tuned instrument to give forth sweet praise to God, and so glorify Him, for “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.” This was the highest privilege put within the reach of man. When God came down to walk in Eden Adam hid himself. Sin had separated him from God, and there was no response in his heart to the call of God, and instead of drawing near to God with gladness and worship he shrank away from Him, guilty and afraid. God had lost His creature, and the worship that was due to Him from him.
The purpose of God in bringing man as a race into being was that He might find in him His good pleasure; and in anticipation of this, before ever man was created, the wisdom of God declared, “My delights were with the sons of men” (Prov. 8:31). But this could only have been fulfilled as man found his delight in God. But the whole world had become full of violence in Noah’s day, and instead of God looking down upon men with pleasure, it is written, “And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth, and God said to Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me” (Gen. 6:12-13).

(3) The Ruler

Man was created to have immediate access to God; to find his whole delight in Him, and to render to Him priestly service. He was to be a well-tuned instrument to give forth sweet praise to God, and so glorify Him, for “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.” This was the highest privilege put within the reach of man. When God came down to walk in Eden Adam hid himself. Sin had separated him from God, and there was no response in his heart to the call of God, and instead of drawing near to God with gladness and worship he shrank away from Him, guilty and afraid. God had lost His creature, and the worship that was due to Him from him.
Man was set up in the goodness of God in His own image and after His own likeness (Gen. 2:26), as head of this lower creation. World-wide dominion was placed in his hands that he might represent God in government to all over which he was set. But this could only have been fulfilled as he maintained his fidelity to God. To Noah, after the flood, was given the place of rule, as dominion had been given to Adam in innocence, but he could not even rule himself, for he planted a vineyard and became shamelessly drunk with the fruit of it. And power ever since in the hands of man has been prostituted to his own glory or gratification in defiance of God’s will.

(4) One of the Common People

Man was created to have immediate access to God; to find his whole delight in Him, and to render to Him priestly service. He was to be a well-tuned instrument to give forth sweet praise to God, and so glorify Him, for “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.” This was the highest privilege put within the reach of man. When God came down to walk in Eden Adam hid himself. Sin had separated him from God, and there was no response in his heart to the call of God, and instead of drawing near to God with gladness and worship he shrank away from Him, guilty and afraid. God had lost His creature, and the worship that was due to Him from him.
Each man, as a distinct entity, was to have God as his sole object, and to be entirely subject to His will and altogether dependent upon Him in the fulfilment of the common duties of life, Every gift had to be held and every relationship fulfilled and duty performed in relation to God. But the history of men from the beginning is summed up in the sweeping statement: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). Independence of God, and disobedience and unthankfulness are inherent in the fallen nature of man. And in all he holds and does self is his centre.

It should be easily understood that the complete failure of man to fulfil the purpose of God in his creation was a serious matter to the Creator, and that if no remedy could be found it would remain an everlasting blot upon His name. Indeed, since the fall was accomplished by the subtlety of “that old serpent,” God’s arch enemy, the very supremacy of God was challenged in His universe. The man that God had made for His own pleasure had become the willing slave of the adversary, Satan; he had given ear to the lie, and grasped at the devil’s promise instead of being satisfied with the truth and goodness of God. He was not merely as a splendid instrument of music put out of tune and destroyed, or as a priceless piece of ware, spoiled and broken; he was this, but worse also, for his will had risen up in rebellion against God; he would not be subject to Him; he had become lawless, for sin is lawlessness. By yielding to Satan he had played the traitor to his Maker, by whom he had been entrusted with this lower creation; by treating Satan as his friend he had cast a slur upon God’s character and insulted His majesty. God had lost him, the choicest creature of His hand, made in His own image and likeness.

Eternal justice demanded that God should rise up and execute the full penalty upon guilty man, and the integrity of God’s throne had to be maintained in the sight of the innumerable and mighty principalities that own His rule. He who had cast down angels because of rebellion against His authority could not wink at the sin of man, and Satan knew this, and doubtless his intention was to force God into the place of the Judge, so that He should be known only in that character to men. Now if the full penalty did fall upon the culprit and mankind was swept away in righteous wrath, God’s purposes would be frustrated, His love’s deep desires would be for ever unsatisfied, and what a triumph that would be for Satan. From every point of view disaster seemed to have overtaken God’s activity in regard to men.

But God is the “Only wise,” and in that hour of solemn crisis when all heaven waited to know how He would meet and answer that tremendous challenge to His glory, and Satan’s guilty dupes feared and shrank from His presence in the garden, He announced His resource, and declared what He held in reserve — the woman’s Seed should bruise the serpent’s head. But not only had the ascendancy that Satan had gained over man to be broken, and his temporary triumph be turned to his everlasting defeat, but man’s sin had to be dealt with in righteous judgment, and yet the sinner himself be recovered for God; and God’s way of doing this was first indicated in the clothing of the guilty pair in coats of skins, and the sin offerings illustrate and typify this in greater detail.

An Offering without Blemish

Our space will limit us to the consideration of the principal features of the sin offerings which were types of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not speculation to say that they were types of Him, for the New Testament shows them to be this. In John 1 we are told to “Behold the Lamb of God.” And He is no less a person than “the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.” The fact is that He alone was great enough to take up the question of sin and find a solution of it. He has done this by becoming the sin offering Himself, and in the doing of it He has brought into full revelation the boundless love of the heart of God. He has exposed the slanderous lies of the devil with regard to God which had found such deep root in the nature of mankind, for He has shown that no sacrifice was too great for God to make in order to recover man for Himself, and He has vindicated for ever the absolute justice of God by Himself bearing the penalty of sin.

Now the first feature of the sin offerings was that the victim had had no part in the sin for which it was offered — and it was without blemish. Herein is set forth the sinlessness of Jesus. He became a man that He might stand in the place of men, but He was different from all other men in that He had no part in the universal sin of man that had brought death upon all. As to His nature, as born of the Virgin, He was holy; “that Holy Thing” that was born of her was called the Son of God. This was absolutely essential, apart from it God’s plan must have wholly failed, for only One not chargeable with the offence could bear the judgment due to it. Thank God we know that Jesus “knew no sin,” but was made sin for us.

He came to restore to God all that had been lost through man’s failure, but He had first to show that where all else had broken down He stood fast; to show that in Him not only was sin absent, but that there was present every feature of good that God looked for in man. And this was seen in the fourfold way of which the type speaks.

(1) As “A Priest”

He drew near to God, finding in Him alone His full delight and offering to Him at all times the praise that glorifies Him, and bringing to Him that worship that He looked for from man (Luke 4:8). The Psalms in many places present the Lord to us in this way. Though He did not occupy the place of priest officially on earth.

(2) As “The Whole Congregation”

All that God had looked for in the way of pleasure in the whole family of men He has found in His beloved Son as man, for twice over from the heavens He declared His full delight in Him.

(3) As “A Ruler”

He sat upon no throne when He was here on earth, for all His rights were refused by men, but He showed that He was the one fitted for universal dominion by being absolutely subject to the will of God — by loving righteousness and hating iniquity in a life of obedience He showed that He was rightful Lord of all.

And yet in another sense He did rule; there were those who perceived who He was, and they called Him “Master and Lord,” and He said, “Ye say well, for so I am.” They were held under His control by the love He bore them and the attractive power of His person to all who were born of God. And He could say of them when speaking to His Father, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name; those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, save the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). He instructed, controlled, and kept that company of men for the Father.

(4) As “One of the Common People”

He set the Lord always before Him in every relationship of life. As a boy of twelve His relation to His reputed parents was regulated by His Father’s business.

He overcame each temptation of Satan in the wilderness by maintaining the position that man ought to occupy in regard to God as He found it written in the Scriptures. And as the perfect Man, throughout His life below we find Him ever dependent upon God. In Luke’s Gospel, which presents Him in this character, it is recorded that He prayed seven times. The number seven symbolizing perfection in Scripture.

It is not our intention to enlarge upon the life of our Lord here on earth, we merely indicate these things to show how entirely free He was from the terrible taint that had brought every other man under death as the judgment of God — He was without blemish. He in whom all these holy excellencies dwelt offered Himself to be a sacrifice for sin. The inward devotion of His life to God that made Him altogether pleasurable to God in life carried Him into death for the accomplishment of the will of God. He offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God.

Burnt outside the Camp

The sin offering was burnt outside the camp, typical of the fact that Jesus “suffered without the gate” and was forsaken of God when He was made “to be sin for us.” Here we reach that which passes all human comprehension. The thick darkness that veiled the Holy Sufferer from the eyes of men brought into conspicuity the fact that none but God could understand the full meaning of that great transaction — the only man in whom the All-seeing eye of God beheld nothing but absolute perfection; the One whose every inward motion, as well as outward word and work, evidenced His full delight in God’s will, not only bore sins but was made sin that in His own person He might bear sin’s full penalty, vindicate God’s holy judgment, and clear the way for God to recover man for Himself in perfect righteousness, and bring him into everlasting favour.

The Blood of the Offerings

The blood of the offerings for the priests and the whole congregation was carried into the holiest and sprinkled there seven times before the Lord and put upon the golden altar that stood before Him. The victim consumed without the camp spoke of God’s unsparing judgment upon the sin, the blood brought into the tabernacle to the Lord spoke of the value of that offering as meeting the claims of His holiness there, and as re-establishing those for whom the offering was made in His presence according to His thought.

We have pointed out that the great feature in THE PRIEST was that He should draw near to God with the sacrifice of praise, which is the outcome of delight in Him; and that the great feature of THE WHOLE CONGREGATION was that God should draw near to men and find His delight in them. This twofold place of privilege represents the highest thought of God for man, and in the failure of man in regard to it the fall is seen from its most deplorable side, for we here see what God lost when man turned his back upon Him; and terrible as the consequences of the fall have been to man, God’s side must ever be the greater. But the blood — the precious blood of Jesus — has met God’s glory in this matter, and because of it man can now draw near to God as a worshipper and God can delight in him.

Man Recovered for God

But now we must go beyond the type. The sin offering was consumed without the camp until nothing remained of it but the ashes, it could not rise up from the spot where the judgment put it. In contrast to it Christ has come out of death, out of the place of judgment, having “by Himself purged our sins,” and has “sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Those ancient sacrifices could never take away sin. “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). And “by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (v. 14). The question of their sins is eternally settled for God, so that He says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (v. 17). And all these have a title now to be in God’s presence, in perfect peace, and for His delight. As the truth unfolds for us we learn that His presence has become their home, that man has been established in the very presence of God, but we must add “in Christ.” But this is not according to the old earthly order, in which everything depended upon man’s faithfulness to his obligations, but it is in a new and living way, and according to the good pleasure of God’s will. We who believe are there in all the value of the blood of Christ, all the judgment that lay upon us having been borne by Him, but we are there also in all His acceptability who died and lives again.

In the case of the sin of A RULER, or of ONE OF THE COMMON PEOPLE, the blood was not carried into the presence of the Lord, instead an atonement was made for them by it at the brazen altar. Their sins, as we have seen, set forth man’s failure as set in the world as God’s representative and as dependent upon Him — failure that every intelligent creature could take account of. The brazen altar speaks of God’s righteous claims against the sinner who had departed from God’s way for him, and the blood poured at the bottom of that altar that fronted the four points of the compass announced the fact that GOD IS JUST. It was the witness to all that His judgment had been executed and that as a consequence He could forgive the sinner. It brings us to Romans 3, where we read of being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth, a propitiation through faith in His blood to DECLARE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS . . . that He might be just and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus” (vv. 24-26).

The challenge can now go forth to the universe, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is ever at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-34).

But here again we pass out of the range of the type. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sacrifice for sin, and so condemned sin in the flesh; but He has also raised Him from the dead, and all who are in Him are beyond the reach of condemnation; and not only so, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus now operates in them, releasing them from the law of sin and death, so that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in them, who walk not after the flesh but the Spirit. So that in the very place where man’s breakdown was complete, God has those who are no longer children of disobedience, but who, walking in the Spirit, show forth His praises.

So that now God has secured man for Himself in Christ, and though we still wait for the consummation of His thoughts and purposes, we can in the power of the Holy Spirit be agreeable to Him, as the following well-known scriptures prove.

A Priest The Whole Congregation A Ruler One of the Common People
Our approach to God God’s delight in us As God’s representatives on earth In the common duties of life
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15) “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 Pet. 2:5) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will: to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:3-7) The time for the believer to reign has not yet come, nevertheless he is called to be an administrator of God’s grace and goodness to others. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” (Phil. 2:15-16) “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4) “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. 3:17)

During the Millennial reign of Christ over the earth Israel will answer to God’s thought and show forth His praise in this fourfold way to the nations, as the Old Testament prophecies abundantly prove. Then, when at last all rule and authority shall have become subject to Christ, and when He shall have given up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; and former things shall have passed away; and the new heaven and the new earth in which God shall be all in all shall have come into being, two things shall abide: men shall be brought near to God and shall render to Him priestly service for ever, and He shall dwell with men and find His eternal pleasure in them. This Revelation 21:3 declares: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and He shall be their God.” But whether in the assembly now, or in Israel in the millennium, or with men in the eternal state, everything for God is founded upon, and springs out of, the one offering of the Lamb of God upon the cross. But not until that eternal state of blessing which shall never be invaded by sin is introduced, will it be fully known how great is the glory that has been brought to God by the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.