The Gospel is more remarkable than we could ever imagine! Christians have usually tasted only a fraction of what the Gospel is meant to provide. This has been described as someone who wades in a shallow stream and thinks he has experienced the depths of the ocean. As Paul encouraged the Ephesians, we serve a Lord who “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). It’s time to go beyond superficial Christianity and receive the full benefits of the Gospel!
The complete ramifications of Jesus’ passion begin to unfold when we look at the five basic sacrifices or offerings listed in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. Each one of these sacrifices points to Jesus and teaches us about a unique facet of His perfect sacrificial work.
Perhaps you have never realized the entire Bible is about Jesus—even the meticulous descriptions of sacrifices in the book of Leviticus. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). The purpose of studying the Bible is more than just learning a set of religious facts! Its goal is to bring us into a vital relationship with our Lord Jesus. And that is our objective in examining the offerings described in Leviticus.
The Five Sacrifices Jesus Fulfilled
1. The first sacrifice described in Leviticus is the burnt offering, illustrating a total surrender to the Father’s will. This is the essence of true worship: a heart that is in total submission to God.
And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. (Leviticus 1:9)
The burnt offering is a beautiful picture of Jesus’ heart of love and consecration to His heavenly Father. It is listed first among the Levitical sacrifices because of its foundational role in pointing to the example of Christ. His passion was the ultimate fulfillment of the first and greatest commandment: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might (Mark 12:28-34). His passionate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane should be our cry as well: “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
The burnt offering has profound implications for the meaning of discipleship. We try to make disciples by offering sermons, books, and classes, hoping that such resources will turn converts into fully devoted followers of Jesus. But, too often, we have left out the very first step in the discipleship process: dying to ourselves! Jesus could not have made this any clearer: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him [first] deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). We often give the false impression that a person can follow Jesus without first denying himself and embracing the cross! Forgive us, Lord.
2. The second sacrifice was the grain offering, which was also referred to as the “meal offering.” The grain offering represents the obedience of sinless service (grain without leaven), which naturally flows out of a surrendered life. It also represents communion with God. Through Jesus’ sinless service He became our grain offering, so that we might freely commune with the Father.
The salt used in the grain offering points to Jesus as the salt of the earth, who came to cover and preserve us throughout eternity (Matthew 5:13). God wants us to be salty Christians! In a world filled with decay and death, we are to be preservatives. In a world that is often lifeless and bland, we are to supply flavor and fragrance. In a world where hearts are cold and hard, we are to be agents of softening, tenderizing, melting. But the impact of salt is diminished when it becomes compromised and adulterated. Restore us to purity, Lord!
3. The third sacrifice listed is the peace offering. The peace offering, also known as the fellowship offering, is a symbol of intimate friendship and reconciliation. It is a spontaneous offering which expresses one’s gratitude and commitment to the Lord. Our fellowship with God and with one another, depicted in this offering, becomes like a sweet aroma.
There were three types of peace offerings: the praise, the vow, and the freewill. These are all a picture of Jesus’ unbroken fellowship with the Father, which we, too, can experience through the work of the cross. Not only does Jesus give us peace, He is our peace! (See Ephesians 2:14.) He has broken down the wall of separation between us and God, between us and each other.
4. The fourth sacrifice was the sin offering. It was a mandatory offering that typified Jesus as the guilt substitute for our sins. He, and He alone, is our guilt-bearer. As our sin offering, Jesus paid a debt which He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. Once and for all, He took away our guilt and paid sin’s penalty, which is death (Romans 6:23).
Many Christians have only scratched the surface in their understanding of who they are in Christ because of His sin offering. Yes, we are forgiven, but that is only the beginning. He has also given us a new nature which is free to serve Him and not our former lusts! Paul shares this amazing news with the Corinthians: “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Did you catch that fantastic message? In Christ you have received not only forgiveness, but the very righteousness of God! If you truly see that, you will want to shout!
5. The fifth and final sacrifice was known as the trespass offering, or the guilt offering. This offering represents our need for Jesus to heal the damage done by sin. From Adam’s sin (Genesis 3) to our own, acts of rebellion have always caused damage. However, the good news is that Jesus is our Savior, our Healer, and our Deliverer. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). I John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is good news! As Isaiah 53:8 prophetically declared hundreds of years before Christ’s passion: “For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”
An interesting aspect of the trespass offering is that God expected the transgressor to make restitution whenever possible: “And he shall make restitution for the harm that he has done in regard to the holy thing, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 5:16).
In light of Jesus’ great grace in forgiving our sins, we may think this requirement for restitution is somewhat out of place. Isn’t Jesus’ blood the sole hope for our forgiveness? Indeed it is, but there is also an aspect of accountability for those who would bring a trespass offering. If we expect to be right with God, we must do whatever we can to make things right with any person we have wronged (Matthew 5:23-24). When we ask the Lord to forgive our trespasses, we should be sure that we have also forgiven those who have trespassed against us (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:35-36, Matthew 18:21-35).
How Should We Respond?
Consider this: In one moment of time 2,000 years ago, Jesus fulfilled each of these sacrifices for us. He was the perfect sacrifice, setting us free from Satan’s grip and bringing us into the presence of the Father. No longer do we need to sacrifice animals, for their blood under the Old Testament was just a foreshadow of the blood of Jesus, which was shed once and for all to reconcile us to God (Hebrews 10:1-23).
How should we respond to such a great sacrifice? To such amazing love? After a clear presentation of God’s unmerited favor toward us in Christ, the apostle Paul goes on to tell the Romans how we should respond: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Because of His grand sacrifice for us, it is only reasonable for us, in turn, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him. Accurately seeing the passion of Christ will inevitably lead to passion for Christ.
(extrapolated from chapter 3 of the book “Born To Die…that we may live” by Doug Stringer)