Hebrews 126 May 15, 2008
NKJ Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Now one of the purposes of that little exercise we did is to help us understand that when you take children and you put them in school and they're exposed to a secular-Marxist-Darwinian education that sets their minds to look at reality a certain way, then it becomes very difficult later in life to knock that perspective out of their thinking because it gets set. Of course that's not impossible with God or the Holy Spirit or the Word of God, but that's the only thing that often can do that.
We're continuing our study in Hebrews 9. We're actually taking a side trip through Leviticus tonight because we're studying the backdrop (the background) to Hebrews 9 which is the Tabernacle and the various features of the Tabernacle (the furniture in the Tabernacle and what went on in the Tabernacle in terms of day-to-day rituals, monthly rituals, various things that are described in the book of Leviticus.)
One of the things that I have wanted to do for many, many years and have never had the opportunity is to teach the book of Hebrews in conjunction with Leviticus. If you don't really understand about half of Exodus and most of Leviticus, then you get lost in Hebrews and you don't understand what the writer of Hebrews is talking about. There are some tremendous and very interesting things going on. So we'll be going back and forth between Hebrews and Leviticus.
Now last time we started off with the Tabernacle and we explained how it was laid out, that you have an outer court that is surrounded by these outer hangings. The dimension of the outer walls was 100 cubits by 50 cubits and it is approximately 150 feet by 75 feet. This is laid out. There is only one entry way (only one way to God.) Inside the outer courtyard there were two pieces of furniture that we looked at the last time. We looked at the brazen altar and that's it. We're stopped there.
We talked about the color that we find in all of the fabrics and the clothing of the priests. The colors are very important because they were designed to direct the attention of the worshipper to heaven. So the dominant colors that we find are blue, a bluish-purple which speaks of heaven, a reddish-purple that spoke of royalty, two different colors of red - one that was usually translated scarlet and is a red with a hint of orange. Then you had another word that is usually translated crimson. Both of these pictures…the red is to picture the stain of sin. Red was a very difficult color to deal with. The dye was almost impossible to get out of any fabric, any wool that it was absorbed in. So it is a great picture of the stain of sin. Both of these words as I pointed out are found in Isaiah 1:18.
NKJ Isaiah 1:18 " Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Only the grace of God can deliver us from the stain of sin. Sin is permeated in everything in creation. It is a constitutional defect that everybody has.
It's amazing I think. I get shocked every time I talk about or hear about somebody who doesn't believe that people are basically bad. I know that academically that there are people out there who don't think people sin or people aren't basically bad or evil and it truly does permeate our society. That is one of the differences between conservatives and liberals. That was pointed out in a book called Conflict of Vision by Thomas Sowell. That's the foundational view, how people just view reality going back to that little exercise we did. Some people just can't get it in their head that men are basically evil. Their inclination is always to do evil. The Bible says:
NKJ Jeremiah 17:9 " The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
I was talking to my good friend Tommy Ice last week and he said, "You know, I've have a student this year that came out of the ghetto. He does not believe people are basically sinful and evil. I've had him a whole semester and he still isn't convinced."
Fortunately he has a friend that's in the class who is making some headway.
I thought, "Man! That is just amazing. Here is somebody coming out of that kind of a background that doesn't understand basic evil."
If you don't understand that man is basically sinful and evil, it's going to distort your understanding (if you're consistent) of the gospel, your understanding of grace, your understanding of everything in the Bible because you're going to start off without a dead, evil, fallen, corrupt sinner. You are going to start off with somebody who at worst has probably just got the sniffles spiritually and otherwise they're in perfectly good health. We'll run into some examples of that.
So we get into our study of the outer courtyard. We looked at the brazen altar the last time and I put the model up here on the pulpit so people can see that a little easier. The brazen altar had dimensions of about 5 cubits by 5 cubits which is roughly 7 ½ feet by 7 ½ feet. It might have been a little bit larger: about 4 ½ feet high. Solomon's altar of course was much, much larger. It was a hallow box. It was a box made out of first of all acacia wood which is a wood that's hard, incorruptible, indestructible, most enduring, least vulnerable to rotting. The acacia wood is a picture of the incorruptible perfection of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then it was covered in bronze. The reason it's covered with bronze is bronze resists the heat. It is able to withstand the heat of judgment. The altar here pictures the pouring out of judgment upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
We looked at the various instruments that were associated with this for moving the coals, for handling the blood, for handling the fire and that these were also made of bronze because they handled the heat (figuratively speaking) from divine judgment.
We looked at the fact that the horns on the altar speak of power. When there was a sacrifice the blood would be splattered against the four horns of the altar and against the sides of the altar.
We looked at the words for altar: mizbeah which is used over 400 times in the Old Testament and it's based on a noun formed on the verb zabach to slaughter or to sacrifice. This is the generic word meaning to offer or to kill an animal as an offering to a deity. This is the function of the brazen altar. We looked at sacrifices briefly and traced the fact that sacrifices were part of worship ever since Adam fell. We went back to look at Genesis 3 that after the fall God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. That's just a very quick, simple statement. But if you stop and think about everything that's involved in clothing someone with animal skins: the selection of the animal, the killing of the animal, the skinning of the animal, the treating of the hide, all of that; there's more going on there than is indicated in that verse. It's just an abbreviated statement, but if you think about it we realize that it is occasioned by sin and so God would have used that opportunity to teach them about the necessity of a blood sacrifice as a picture of expiation and the satisfaction (the substitutionary aspect) the payment of a price of death for sin.
We traced it through Cain and Abel (Cain's refusal to come to God on the basis of what God had provided already). I pointed out that there are many theologians who argue that the difference between Cain's sacrifice and Abel's sacrifice was simply their intention, not what they offered. I countered that by saying that it's not because (I will point out that.) it's called a minkah offering and you don't have that word used anywhere else in Genesis. It's not used again until you get into the offerings later on related to the Mosaic Law. It's often used in relationship to the grain offerings. That's the second offering in Leviticus. The point is there is no other offering; there is no other sacrifice other than an animal sacrifice until you get to the Mosaic Law. So there's no basis for anything other than a blood offering (a blood sacrifice) prior to the Mosaic Law. Furthermore there are many scholars who believe that minkah was a word that was associated even with the burnt offering, but it was a word that was dropped out. So that's not a determinative argument at all. So we see a failure there.
Three points I summarized and presented as a summary last time.
- The location of the brazen altar speaks of the need for a sacrificial atonement, a substitutionary atonement. I can't quite drive that word home enough in understanding the nature of atonement. It speaks of the need of a sacrificial substitutionary atonement, a penal substitute. It's a certain kind of death. It's a violent death that is needed before the worshipper can enter into God's presence. So prior to worshipping God (prior to serving God), there the basis the foundation has to be this animal sacrifice.
- The second thing I pointed out last time was the basic offering (the foundational offering), for all of the sacrifices is the one called a burnt offering. That'll be the first one we talk about when we get into Leviticus. The basis of this and the description of how it's supposed to be done are given in Leviticus 1. So the basic offering is the burnt offering, the olah, which has the idea of something ascending or something going up. It's built off the verb going up or ascending. It speaks as a sacrifice and is emulated on the altar. The smoke ascends to God. Everything is consumed in the fire and it pictures the full-orbed impact of the work of Christ on the cross both in terms of its positional sanctification and experiential sanctification. So it's not really right. We want to think about it and we want to try to classify these. This offering speaks of salvation. It does, but it speaks of more than salvation because the Jew would have been considered to have already been saved when he comes to bring a burnt offering. So it also pictures the basis for ongoing fellowship. So it's positional sanctification as well as experiential sanctification. We'll get into that a little more.
So to understand these things we're going to get into Leviticus. Leviticus is a book about priests and it's about feasts and offerings. That pretty much describes Leviticus. So if you just get a handle on Leviticus that's what it's all about. People can get caught up in all the details of all the different laws and all the different things that can make you clean or unclean, all the different sacrifices. Just remember this: Leviticus is about feasts and offerings. The focal point is on the service of the Levitical priesthood.
So what I want to do tonight is go through a bit of an overview, an introduction, to Leviticus and why Leviticus is important. It is a book that I doubt that any of us…I don't recall any preacher, any pastor, any teacher ever going through a verse-by-verse study of Leviticus and I'm not going to begin that tonight; but we need to survey it, summarize it, understand it because it is the framework for understanding what the writer of Hebrews is saying to these former Levitical priests. He is going to be basing his challenges, his exhortations, his application on an understanding of what is pictured, what is conveyed in the offerings and sacrifices in Leviticus. So we start off with some basic points on an introduction to Leviticus.
I have about 6 main points here some of them with sub-points.
- First major point - Leviticus establishes the theological foundation for the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. That's what's depicted throughout this book. The focal point is that the sacrifices are a substitution. Those of you who have been in the History of Doctrine class know that in the history of Christianity there was a long time, almost a 1,000 years before there's a clear articulation of the nature of the atonement. In the history of Christianity there were three different views (basic views) that have surfaced on understanding the atonement. Two of them are clearly wrong. It's amazing because if you go back to the Old Testament it's very clear in looking at the sacrifices that the function is substitution. So Leviticus establishes the theological foundation for the substitutionary work of Christ in the New Testament. If you think about it, all the sacrifices and offerings and everything in the Tabernacle say something about either the person or the work of the Jesus Christ. It is Christ-centered.
- Leviticus describes the entire operation of the Jewish system of sacrifices and ritual. The ritual is designed to be a picture, a shadow image, or a training aid for understanding certain doctrines that will be taught, made clear over the progress time and the progress of revelation. So God doesn't just dump everything like a 25 volume systematic theology on Adam. But there is a progress to revelation. He adds a little here. He starts off and He says, "Okay. This is how you slaughter a lamb or a sheep and this is the kind of lamb. This is how you sacrifice it." Then time goes by and other things are added to it. You get to the Mosaic Law and you have a much more developed sophisticated complex system of sacrifices and offerings all designed to teach now other facets that relate to both salvation and the spiritual life. Then when Jesus comes along, now you have a framework for understanding what's going on.
- Leviticus is written by Moses and it has more verses presented as direct revelation than any other book of the Old Testament. Moses says, "Thus saith the Lord" more in this book than any other book in the Old Testament. So it purports to be a book giving direct quotes (direct instructions from God) over and over again. So this isn't something that is inconsistent then with the righteousness and holiness of God.
I have had people say, "Well you know the Mosaic Law was really a system of tyranny."
Now Phariseeism in the New Testament had become a system of tyranny because of how they distorted the Mosaic Law. But the Mosaic Law can't be a system of tyranny because #1 it comes from God. He's the one who originated it. He's not putting man under a tyrant and under bondage and #2 because Paul says in Romans 7 that the Law was holy, righteous and good. It is inherently virtuous because it comes from God. So it's direct revelation from God.
4. The key idea throughout Leviticus is the idea of holiness. Holiness means to be set apart to the service of God. So the idea in the book is that you have to be clean, ritually cleansed from sin in order to be able to serve God. So that relates to both our positional sanctification which is what happens the instant you're saved and set apart positionally in Christ and it relates to ongoing service that in order to serve God we have to have the ongoing sin in our lives dealt with and be continuously cleansed.
5. A crucial issue for the Church Age is to determine the purpose of the Law. This is something that has been a problem with Christians ever since the early church. In the early church there was tremendous discussion among the apostles initially as to "Okay, once these Gentiles get saved what do they have to do in relation to the law? Do they need to get circumcised? Do they need to be involved in all the ritual? How do these new followers of Jesus relate to the Law? What do we do?" They held the Jerusalem Council which is was held in Jerusalem and described in Acts 15 where they worked this out. At the end their conclusion was that it seemed right to them that the Gentiles were to abstain from idolatry, abstain from eating meat offered to idols, abstain from fornication and live their lives before God in righteousness. They weren't going to require them to come in under the Law. They were beginning to grapple with the issue of grace versus Law.
Then we come to the verse in Galatians 3:24 which is central to understand this. Paul said;
NKJ Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
He's thinking in terms of a very broad picture like a young child making the early history of mankind analogous to that of a young child. Once Christ comes, he is more mature because there is more knowledge. You have the Holy Spirit, things like that. So in mankind's infancy the law was a tutor. It was a pedagogue (a Greek word). The pedagogue was a slave who was put over (given authority over) the training of a child in the household. The child virtually becomes a slave to the Law. The Law is the boss; but the Law is designed to teach things, to prepare the child for maturity. So the Law then points to Jesus Christ. Within the law there are numerous things, numerous symbols various principles taught through sacrifices and offerings that are there so that by the time Jesus came they would understand these concepts of atonement and justification and purification and consecration and reconciliation all of these concepts would be understandable to them when Jesus came.
- That brings us to a sixth point which is an introduction to the Law of Moses. Under this introduction we will have numerous sub points – 4 basic sub-points several of which have sub-sub-points. So, pay attention. Don't fall asleep.
- Introduction to the Law of Moses – first point. The recipients of the Law were Jews only.
Now I had a question this week that relates to this. It was a very good question related to the sacrifices on the brazen altar. Were Gentiles allowed in the court? They were. If they weren't allowed to go any further, how did the so Gentiles get cleansed from sin? Well, Gentiles weren't under the Mosaic Law, so Gentiles still got cleansed from sin the same way they did before the Mosaic Law and before Abraham - just through the general law of offerings (of a burnt offering) just like they did before Abraham was called out and separated. But remember the offerings even though a sacrifice like the oath offering and the trespass offering as those offerings picture something related to cleansing from sin those offerings picture an already accomplished reality. It is not when they bring the sacrifice, the sin offering or the trespass offering that they are forgiven. When they sin and they confess it, then they're forgiven and then they go because they're forgiven and offer the guilt or the trespass as a sign, as an outer sign of an inner reality. That's the same terminology that we use to describe baptism. It's an external sign of an eternal already existing reality. So the Jews did not to present a sacrifice at the Tabernacle or Temple to gain forgiveness. They gained forgiveness through the confession of sin. The offering is simply the result of that. Okay. So the Law only applies to Jews. It doesn't apply to Gentiles. Gentiles were not part of it.
The Law was never given to the Gentile nations. It's given only to Israel. Deuteronomy 4:8, Romans 2:12-14. The Mosaic Law is part of the contract between God and Israel. It doesn't apply to anybody else. There stands a unique relationship.
- The second thing under point 6 is that there were certain limitations to the Mosaic Law. I've got 5 limitations under point 2.
1) The first limitation, the law could never justify. You can't get justified by obeying the Law; that wasn't its purpose. The law could never justify. Justification in the Old Testament just as in the New Testament came by faith in the promise of a Messiah. This is Paul's whole argument in Romans 4. Abraham is justified by believing God's promise. That's in Genesis 15:6. That's referring back to something that had already happened. Well, Abraham gets justification by faith in approximately 2100 BC. The Law doesn't come along until about 1400 BC. You've got 700 years. Before the law you have justification. So justification wasn't the purpose for the Law. It pictured certain things related to it, but it doesn't justify.
2) The law could never give eternal life. Galatians 3:21. The Law was simply ritual. You had to believe in the promise of Messiah and only on that basis did you have eternal life. So the law could never give eternal life.
3) The third limitation of the law is the law could never provide the Holy Spirit. This is one reason as we studied not to long ago in our study of Hebrews that God promised a New Covenant. In the New Covenant God would put a new heart and new Spirit (His Spirit) inside of the Jews as part of the New Covenant which is enacted when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His kingdom. So the Law could never provide the Holy Spirit. The law can't justify. The Law couldn't give eternal life. The Law couldn't provide the Holy Spirit.
4) The Law could never produce miracles, Galatians 3:5. There is a limitation there.
5) The law could not resolve the problem of the indwelling sin nature because it's not defeated other than by the Holy Spirit. This is where Paul goes in Galatians 5 that the Spirit wars against the flesh. So the Law could never resolve the problem of the indwelling sin nature. Romans 8:3-7 and compare that with Galatians 5:16-17.
So those are the limitations of the Law. What we have to remember here is that salvation in the Old Testament was based on faith alone in Christ alone. But, it's based in the promise of a Messiah not in the fulfillment, the already accomplished fulfillment of a Messiah. It's anticipating, not looking back. So in the Old Testament they believed in a future provision of a Messiah who would provide salvation. In the Church Age we look back to its having been completed that Jesus Christ was our spiritual substitute who paid the penalty for our sins.
Now going on to the next point. This is the third point under point 6, the introduction to the Law of Moses. .
- The third point under point 6 deals with the church's relationship to the Law. The church is not related to the Law at all.
1) The Law according to Romans 10:4 Christ is the end of the Law for believers. The Law's purpose was to point to Christ. Once Christ came He fulfilled the Law and it no longer provided a purpose for the Church Age. It was null and void.
2) The second point related to the church and Law, the church is specifically not under the law. The Law is not the Christian way of life. Does that mean that we have no law, no rules, no principles? No, we're not antinomian. If you're free grace, that's what you'll be called by the lordship crowd and especially if you get over into the more reformed camp the theonomists (that means God's Law) that basically want to establish a theocracy because they're post millennial. You have got to bring in the kingdom. They will accuse us of being antinomian because we believe in grace. But grace doesn't wink at sin, which is what Paul argues in Romans 6. It just provides a solution for sin so we don't have to be under the Law. The second point is the church is specifically not under the Law.
3) Believers in the Church Age are under a higher law; the law of Christ which is the law of love, but its no a subjective concept of love. It is a concept of love related to the integrity of God. This is found in Romans 8:2-4, I Corinthians 13:1-6, Galatians 5:18, 22,23. (Christ is the end of the Law. The church is not under the Law. Believers in the Church Age are under a higher law.)
4) The only one of the Ten Commandments that's not repeated in the New Testament is in the relation to the Sabbath observance. Now that's really important because one of the things that distinguishes a dispensationalist from a covenant theologian is that in covenant theology they think that unless Jesus specifically ended something, whatever was practiced in the Old Testament continues. So they would say that He ended sacrifice, but everything else continues. Dispensationalists would say unless it is said to continue, it ended. Hear the difference? See covenant theology will say unless Jesus stopped it, it continues. Dispensations would say unless the New Testament says it continues, it stopped. That makes a huge difference in how they each look at various aspects of the Scripture. So we would say that everything related to the Ten Commandments except the Sabbath observance is repeated somewhere in the New Testament. So the Mosaic Law didn't establish that murder was wrong. It didn't establish that idolatry was wrong. It didn't establish that adultery was wrong or false witness was wrong or dishonoring your parents was wrong. Those were wrong and sinful from the time of Adam's fall. They were always sin. But, they're still sin in the New Testament. But the sign of the Mosaic Covenant was the Sabbath so it does not continue.
- That brings us down to a fourth point. This is still the fourth point under 6. Six had to do with the introduction of the Law under Moses. If we're going to get into Leviticus you have to understand the basic framework of the Law of Moses. Most Christians don't.
1) To provide a civil, criminal, and ceremonial law code for the nation of Israel (not for any other nation). It has civil law. It has ceremonial law. It has criminal law and what the punishment should be. And, it's given in terms of case law so that by studying these cases you can extrapolate the principles and apply them to other areas. See that's the freedom that God gives man under the first divine institution of individual responsibility. We look at one case and we say, "Okay, on the basis of that we can think of other similar situations so God gives us the pattern for one now let's apply it in these other circumstances."
2) The Mosaic Law was to teach people how a redeemed nation would live that was set apart to the service of God. God said, "You will serve Me and all the nations will come to you. This is how you live in a way that will attract their attention." So it's teaching the people how a redeemed people are to live set apart to the service of God.
3) To demonstrate that no one could consistently keep the Law (all 613 commandments.) Nobody can do it. Therefore if you can't keep 613 commandments, how do you think you can measure up to God's absolute righteousness and save yourself? You can't. So the purpose of the Law is to show that man can't do it on his own. It is impossible for man to live in such a way that pleases God.
4) The fourth part of the purpose of the law a fourth reason is to communicate God's grace. Man can't do it on his own, but God provides a solution. That's the purpose that we see in the sacrifices is God is the one who provides a substitute that can bear the penalty provisionally and teach them about His grace until the perfect solution comes in Jesus Christ.
5) To provide a law code that would promote freedom and prosperity for the nation. They weren't enslaved to their leaders. They only became that way under the tyranny of taxation as the leaders violated the law. (I'll avoid the temptation to make comments.)
6) The Law was to serve as a tutor to lead us to Christ, to point to the various aspects of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
- The giving of the Mosaic Law introduces a new dispensation. God is now administering history differently than He did before the Law was given. All part of the dispensation or the Age of the Jews which is divided into two parts – the introductory part which is the dispensation of patriarchs and the Mosaic Law the dispensation of Law. You know the dispensation or God's governing of man changes because He gives new information, new revelation, new covenant which means that the terms changes, the expectation of God changes. It begins at Sinai and extends to the cross.
That should take us down through a good bit of our introduction. So Leviticus is based on the divine purpose that God chose Israel to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. They were chosen to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. This is going to describe the code of conduct for people who are set apart to the service of God in that dispensation.
So let's look at some other aspects, some random principles related to Leviticus. First of all we can't separate Leviticus from its historical setting and context in the Pentateuch.
You can't go in and say, "Okay, I'm going to have my morning devotions in Leviticus 11 and see how that applies to my life today."
There are principles there, but if you don't really understand how Leviticus 11 fits within the structure of Leviticus and you don't see how Leviticus fits within the structure of these 5 books of the Pentateuch and how that at the beginning of the Scripture lays the foundation pointing to Christ; then you're probably going to get lost in the weeds which is where a lot of Christians have ended up with the Mosaic Law. So we have to understand historical setting, the context, and where this fits in the flow of God's revelation.
The second thing we have to recognize in Leviticus is it assumes the reality of the Exodus event. For those of you who recognize that probably the third or fourth most attacked historical event in the Scripture is the Exodus event. (Creation is attacked. Noah's flood is attacked. The resurrection is attacked and the Exodus is attacked: "That really didn't happen. The Jews were just a bunch of wandering tribes and they made the whole story up to sort of bolster their self image").
You have many Jewish scholars who argued for that position. That's because they deny revelation at the very outset. So it is reduces the Bible to a bunch of legends and stories and doesn't really tell us anything. But if you treat the Bible as an integrated whole, then everything fits together.
Leviticus also presupposes the giving of the Mosaic Law from God. Moses didn't sit down and write this. It didn't originate…what I mean is it doesn't originate from within Moses' soul. He doesn't go up and meditate and contemplate his naval for 40 days and nights up on Mt. Sinai and then come up with a law code all by himself. God is the one who dictates it to him.
"Thus saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord." is said more in Leviticus than any other book.
Leviticus is given to teach us about what it takes to have fellowship, an ongoing relationship with God. So there is teaching about uncleanness. We have to distinguish between being ritually unclean and sinning because many of the things that made you ritually unclean (touching a dead body, a woman giving birth)…many of these kinds of things weren't sinful. But they were related to things that were part of the curse. So God is using them (sin) as pictures of the fact that sin permeates everything. That's why there is this emphasis on leaven because leaven as a picture for sin is used because it permeates everything. So sin permeates everything so there has to be something to deal with that and to provide cleansing. Often when the person is unclean, it's not that they sacrifice the animal, collect the blood and splatter it on the person. Did you ever think about that? Where do they splatter the blood? They splatter the blood on the altar and on the furniture of the tabernacle because the Holy God is living in the midst of corrupt sinful people and sin has an affect. The Temple itself needs to constantly be cleansed from the corruption of mankind. So the blood is put on things related to God because that's what also needs to be also cleansed. We'll see passages related to that. Again emphasizing this facet of ritual cleanness is not the same as being in fellowship; but it's a picture of being in fellowship. If you sin you're out of fellowship. You confess your sin you're back in fellowship. Then you go and give the guilt offering, the trespass offering as a sign of your humility before God and your gratefulness to God.
That brings us to the basic theme of Leviticus. Everything relates to this idea that to worship God, God demands worshippers be set apart to Him in order for them to serve Him. God demands that worshippers be set apart to Him (be cleansed) in order to serve Him. That is your main focus.
We have about 5 minutes left to start getting into the first part of Leviticus 1. So open your Bibles with me to Leviticus 1 and we will look at the first of the 5 main sacrifices that are described here. I could probably spend the entire summer just going through these and I'm not going to do that because I think for the most part we can understand them in a little more of a survey fashion.
In Leviticus 1:1 we read:
NKJ Leviticus 1:1 Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying,
Notice, God is the one speaking.
NKJ Leviticus 1:2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock -- of the herd and of the flock.
In the first chapter we will get instructions on the basic foundational offering which is the burnt offering. Now the focus here is when anyone wants to come near, this is a word that speaks of fellowship. When you come near to God (when any of you wish to come near to Me), then there has to be an offering to the Lord.
NKJ Leviticus 1:3 ' If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.
What we'll see here is three different sacrifices that can be brought. The first is a male bull, male of the cattle. Second is going to be from the flock, also a male. The third is a dove or a pigeon. Now why the difference? Well, because the wealthy could afford to bring a bull. Those who were less wealthy but still fairly affluent could bring a sheep or a lamb, a ram. Those who were poor who didn't have the resources could bring a bird. So there's provision for everyone so that economic circumstance didn't keep them from being able to have a relationship with God. Even the poorest could bring a pigeon or a dove as a sacrifice. So if you read the chapter what you see is a lot of repetition because it's says almost the same thing about each one. But they all picture the same basic thing related the burnt offering (the olah) which is sometimes referred to a holocaust offering because everything goes up to the Lord. Everything is consumed in the fire. While it's not always the first sacrifice given when people come, it is the foundational sacrifice.
In Leviticus 1:4 we read that when someone brings the offering the person bringing the offering comes into the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting. As they enter in they are at the entryway as they approach the brazen altar they will sacrifice the male from the herd. It is to be a male that's without blemish.
In verse 3, he must offer it of his own freewill. It's a volitional thing.
NKJ Leviticus 1:4 'Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
This is a key word to understand – holy, atonement, cleansing. These are major concepts that permeate the rest of the Old Testament and into the New Testament. So it sets. Our understanding gets set here in these sacrifices.
The English word atonement means at-one-ment. It's a word that's coined in the early Middle Ages as a picture of reconciliation that two people are brought together. Man is brought to God at-one-ment. That's where that word comes from. It was used to translate this basic word that we find in the Hebrew that's pronounced kaphar or kippur like Yom Kippur. That's the root word.
For many, many years in the study of Hebrew it was thought that both of these words were identical. What we actually have now is a recognition that these are homonyms. They're spelled the same, but they are two completely different words. One word which is the first one I have listed there means to cover. That's a word that's used of Noah covering the Ark with pitch. What you probably heard and what I heard most of my life is that what atonement does is provide a covering for sin. You have a nice image there of the Mercy Seat and the blood being put there and it covers sin. That's not what the word means. The word means to expiate, to satisfy, to propitiate. This is the concept of KPR. In many places when the Jewish rabbis translated kaphar in Leviticus and in Exodus and translated it into the Greek of the Septuagint they used the Greek noun related to katharizo which is the word for cleansing. The same word which we have in I John 1:9 - that God cleanses us. So cleansing and either positional cleansing or ongoing cleansing is also a major idea in the word kaphar. So we understand atonement here as this idea of providing some sort of sacrifice. That's what's pictured here – a substitutionary sacrifice.
In the history of Christianity we've had some different views here. The first view that was clearly articulated was that of Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm lives in the 11th century and he was the first to clearly articulate a substitutionary atonement. They believed that before, but it wasn't clearly articulated. He emphasized that God's honor was violated. We would say God's righteousness was violated so there had to be a satisfactory sacrifice. So Anselm is the first to understand and clearly articulate rather that Christ died for us.
But, just about the same time that he's living they had a guy named Abelard. Abelard is the theological liberal. Abilard didn't believe Christ died as a substitute; he's just a moral encouragement: that you look at Jesus and you see God's love and you are motivated to live for Him. It's about love. It's not righteousness or holiness or the payment for sin. So that's the Abelardian view, and that was viewed by the Roman Catholic Church as heresy. But it permeated people's thinking down through the years in certain heretical groups.
After the Reformation you had a brilliant sea lawyer by the name of Hugo Grotius who came along developed a slightly different view.
He said, "What Jesus is doing on the cross is not paying the penalty for your sins. What Jesus is doing is showing that God really doesn't like sin and He's going to punish it."
So the purpose of the atonement is to motivate you to not sin because you are basically good. So it's motivational. Here is a picture of Hugo Grotius. He was a leading jurist and he was a member of the Arminian group and present at the Senate of Dordt. Later he separated from them to some degree. Most Arminians did not go along with him. In his view the character of God is diminished and the atonement is unnecessary, but it demonstrates that God doesn't like sin.
He's not as Calvin Coolidge once said when he came home…You know he is called silent Cal. He had gone to church and somebody asked him when he came back, "What was the sermon about?"
He said "Sin."
"What did they say about it?"
"God doesn't like it."
Well, Grotius has that view of the atonement that it's simply to demonstrate that God doesn't like sin. So it demonstrates the righteousness of God's judgment.
Now this is really important to understand how this affects history. When you get into the early 19th century, there was a second great awakening in American history. A lot of bad things came out of the Second Great Awakening – Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists to name a few transindentalists, utopians all kinds of other people. There is a major shift in the way people thought about God and the Bible and man as a result of that.
One of the leading evangelists who is considered the Father of Revivalism was a man by the name of Charles Grandison Finney. Finney had the same view that Grotius did on the atonement. He didn't believe that man was born a sinner. Adam became a sinner, but every human being after him is totally free of Adam's sin. Every human being is born like Adam was created - completely free of sin. That goes back to what is called Pelagianism which was a heresy at the time of Augustine that man is born free of sin and he is basically good. If man is basically good, he just needs to be motivated. Sermons need to be motivational to encourage man to live to please God. You don't need to talk about God punishing sin. That's just a bad concept. You can see how this has impacted things down through the ages.
Well if individual people are improvable and perfectible, then society is improvable and perfectible. So the purpose of the church is to improve and perfect society and bring in the kingdom. So there's post-millennialism there. But there's no true biblical understanding of sin, righteousness, justice or substitutionary atonement.
Tonight is just the night for tests. I have another little test. This comes out of a current publication. One other note is Finney is the founder of Oberlin College and Seminary – Oberlin School of Music where Louis Sperry Chafer went. He wasn't influenced…he hated Finneyism. Finney was the first to invent walk-the-aisle invitation thing. A lot of things came out of that period that man is going to perfect society. So you have the clean up social ills. That's the purpose for the church. You clean up social ills. This kind of mentality will lead to Marxist theology, liberation theology. It's going to produce the radical suffrage movement. The Now Gang of the 19th century was just as bad as the Now Gang of the 20th century.
But I just want to focus on one final little test here of discernment related to atonement. You have Brian McLaren who is a leader in the Emergent Church Movement. He recently spoke to a group of people related to the church growth crowd up at Willow Creek Church. In an article about that I have a summary of McLaren's views. This is what influences the modern Emergent Church Movement. I want you to tell me from this quote what his view of the atonement is.
He wrote in his 2007 book:
Everything must change.
That's the name of his book. Doesn't that sound familiar? Hmm. I wonder who he wants for president.
…that the doctrine of hell needs radical rethinking. He argues that people who believe in hell may be inclined to dominate and take advantage of other people rather than to help them. The orthodox understanding that Jesus will return at a future date and forcefully conquer all of His enemies also needs rethinking according to McLaren. The book of Revelation does not actually teach that there will be a New Heavens and New Earth (he wrote) but that a new way of living is possible within this universe if humans will follow Jesus' example.
Right there you're thinking wrong. You just said "I know. It's an Abelardian view. He believes in the example theory." Keep reading.
By going to the cross (McLaren argued in his book), Jesus committed an act similar to the Chinese students in Tiananmen Square in the late 1980's. He placed Himself in harms way to demonstrate the injustice of a society that would harm a peaceful and godly man.
The key word is injustice. Jesus is demonstrating God's justice on the cross. That's the Grotian view. He's an out-and-out heretic. He's right in line with Finney and with Grotius and there's no understanding of sin as sin with these people. This is pure heresy. People don't have any biblical or theological discernment so this is why we have to understand concepts like these sacrifices and offerings to see that substitution is the key to having a relationship with God and always has been. So it builds into some discernment.
So that gives us a little introduction to burnt offering. We will come back and talk about it more next time. Let's bow our heads in prayer.