Based on a sermon by Peter Shee—Singapore
Almost every religion on earth,
ancient and modern, includes making sacrifices to gods for favors. Today,
sacrifices, or offerings, are usually made to gain wealth, good health, or a
However, the biblical concept of
offering sacrifices is very different from that of other religions. According
to the Bible, the first sacrifice was not offered by man to God but was made by
God for the good of man. After Adam and Eve had sinned against God, they felt
the need to cover themselves because they realized they were naked. To take
away their guilt, God sacrificed an innocent animal and used its skin to cover
them. This is the beauty and key difference between the biblical concept of sacrifice
and man’s sacrifice to gods: God made the first sacrifice, and He did it for
the good of man.
By studying God’s Old Testament
instructions on the five offerings in the Book of Leviticus, we will understand
the richness of God’s grace for us, what He desires for us, and how the full
benefits of salvation are achieved for us in the one single sacrifice God
Himself would make thousands of years later. Each of the five offerings point
to a different aspect of the greatest sacrifice of all: Jesus’ death for our
1. THE BURNT OFFERING: JESUS’ TOTAL SACRIFICE
Leviticus chapter 1 explains that
the ritual emphasis of the burnt sacrifice is on the body of the animal; it
highlights the totality of the sacrifice. The animal must be skinned and cut
into pieces and the entire body needs to be burned.
As God, Jesus existed even before
He was born on earth. Therefore, in order to be sacrificed for the sake of our
sins, Jesus had to take on a human body:
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering
You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. (Heb 10:5)
Furthermore, Jesus “made Himself
of no reputation,”
emptied Himself, and took on a physical body so that He could sacrifice Himself
for us. As the “entire body” is sacrificed in the burnt offering, so is Jesus’
entire body sacrificed, connoting the totality of His sacrifice for our lives.
Yet the burnt offering of the Old
Testament could never remove sin. Instead, it was a “reminder of sins every
year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats
could take away sins.”
Only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can sins be removed, for “Christ
also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to
Whilst other religions sacrifice for selfish desire or material gain, God’s
sacrifice is the greatest love for mankind: to lay down one’s life for another.
2. THE GRAIN OFFERING: JESUS’ SINLESS NATURE
The grain offering shows us the
second aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: His sinless nature. Leviticus
chapter 2 explains the grain offering: one takes some grain, grinds it into
flour, bakes it into unleavened bread, and offers it as a sacrifice to God. The
purity of this bread without leaven, represents holiness and gives off a sweet
aroma to God. Biblically, leaven represents sin; moreover, “a little leaven
leavens the whole lump,”
meaning even the tiniest speck of sin will completely sully something pure and
righteous. Because of this, the grain offering is the “most holy of the
offerings to the Lord made by fire.”
Like the grain offering, Jesus’
sacrifice was also a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God; He alone can cleanse our
sins, because He was sinless. Hebrews 9:14 tells us Jesus “offered Himself
without spot to God.” In order for Him to die a sinless death, He had to lead a
sinless life. However, this doesn’t mean Jesus was never tempted.
The Bible records His first and
final temptations after starting His ministry, namely, the devil’s temptations
in the wilderness and a desire to avoid death on the cross respectively. Now,
after Jesus’ first recorded temptation, the Bible states, “[the devil] departed
from Him until an opportune time.”
This means that the devil sought opportunity and did, indeed, tempt Jesus in
addition to the recorded temptations, “for we do not have a High Priest who
cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted
as we are, yet without sin.”
We face temptations every day.
Unfortunately, we tend to cave in because of our weaknesses. Jesus too had
weaknesses as a human being. However, unlike us, He did not yield to them, even
though the devil tempted Jesus as he does to us. Instead, Jesus overcame all temptations
and maintained a pure and holy life.
When we see the grain offering and
remember that it refers to the sinless death of Christ, we remember His sinless
life. Having lived over thirty years in the flesh, imagine the amount of effort
Jesus had to go through to overcome these temptations. Yet He did not sin once.
Jesus loves us so much that He fought against temptation and sin for the sake
of our weaknesses, so that we might overcome our sin and live.
3. THE PEACE OFFERING: JESUS RECONCILES US TO GOD
The peace offering, sometimes
known as the fellowship offering, signifies reconciliation with God. Leviticus
chapter 3 explains that the priests “sprinkle the blood all around on the
altar” and the sacrificed animal is not
completely burnt. While the fat is burnt as food for God, the flesh is eaten by man: this represents fellowship
between God and us. Additionally, the peace offering is offered voluntarily
whenever one desires to give to God, make a vow, or to have fellowship with
Him. This refers to the sweet and meaningful aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death
of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Being an “enemy” of God refers to
our status whilst we are sinful and have no relationship with God. The
reconciliation Paul refers to, through Jesus’ sacrifice, indicates not only
forgiveness, but also a relationship between ourselves and God that is just
like a relationship of love between father and child.
Without Christ, our spiritual
status is as a Gentile:
without God and without hope in the world. Without Christ’s loving sacrifice,
we would not know God; we would be His enemy and face physical death and
spiritual torment. But when Jesus reconciles us to God through His death on the
cross, we are made holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight. We no
longer have to avoid God’s presence like Adam after he had sinned against God.
We are no longer strangers to God but members of God’s household! Like the
peace offering given the Israelites, today, Jesus gives us fellowship with God.
4. THE SIN OFFERING: JESUS CLEANSES OUR SINS
While the burnt offering highlights
the body, the sin offering focuses on the blood of Jesus and its cleansing effect.
Just as the blood of animals would cleanse the flesh, Jesus’ blood cleanses
“[our] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Here, the writer of Hebrews
explains the true effect of Jesus’ blood: it will completely cleanse our sins
and spiritually restore us to God.
Paul further explains that being
under the control of sin is similar to being a slave to sin. In order to free
us, Jesus “paid” for us with His blood. This is so precious a price, yet Jesus willingly
laid down His life and shed His blood for our sakes. We should, therefore,
remember His sacrifice and glorify God with our lives.
5. THE TRESPASS OFFERING: JESUS BORE OUR GUILT
Whilst the blood cleanses sins,
according to Leviticus 5:1–5, the trespass offering focuses on one’s guilt and
shame. To bear guilt is to bear punishment, and the trespass offering reminds
us that sin has its punishment. Jesus paid with His life so that we would not
have to face the consequences of our guilt.
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. (Lev 5:16)
This verse discusses the concept
of restitution, or compensation. Our Lord Jesus Christ died for us, not only to
cleanse our sins, but also to pay what we owe due to our sins―a necessary
part of reconciliation with God. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is
death: whoever sins must die. Yet we truly praise God, for Jesus, in His great
love, took our place and paid that price on our behalf.
Paul understood this deeply and
explained to the Colossian church:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your
flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having
forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of
requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it
out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
We may be walking, living, and
breathing, yet because of our sins and the guilt we carry, God sees us as dead.
Today, we owe our spiritual life to Jesus. When He died on the cross, the
requirement of compensation we owe died with Him. Some people misunderstand
this and say that the law died with Jesus. However, this doesn’t make sense,
since God’s laws direct our everyday lives. In reality, God nailed to death
what we owe: according to the law, our death. When Jesus came, He did not
abolish the law but fulfilled it. He saw what each of us owed and said, “I can
pay it.” He took our debt
to the cross and nailed it to the cross, along with Himself.
We owe life that is finite, yet
Jesus paid with His infinite life. If you owed someone a million dollars and
were given a blank check, you would probably write a number exceeding a million
dollars turning it into a lifelong annuity. Similarly, Jesus has signed our
check of guilt over and above what we needed to pay. As for the change, Jesus
says: keep it. He has not only forgiven our sins but has also given us
everlasting life in heaven.
OFFERING A LIVING SACRIFICE
The five offerings of the Old
Testament are fulfilled in Jesus’ singular sacrifice of perfect love for us.
The question is: how do we repay what Jesus has done for us? As mere mortals we
cannot do very much in relation to Jesus’ unconditional sacrifice; but we can
strive to offer continual sacrifices of praise to glorify and honor His name
with our words and deeds. Jesus gave His life for us. We should give our lives
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. And do not be conformed to this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove
what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.