Sufficient OT Sacrifices and Other Musings

Were OT sacrifices sufficient for forgiveness? Sufficient how? Not in any ultimate sense. The OT sacrifices were most definitely nothing more than a picture of what was to come (see below for context). The reason I say this is because it is not defensible for God to forgive sin on the basis of animal sacrifices per se. God would be unjust to do so. In fact, that should be a massive tension for you when you read the OT. How, pray tell, is God justified in forgiving an adulterer and murderer like David on the basis of nothing more than some lamb getting its throat cut? He is not. David deserved death and hell; instead, all he had to do was butcher an animal and somehow he just blissfully says, “As for me, because I am innocent I will see your face; when I awake you will reveal yourself to me” (Ps 17:15, NET) Who cares if that was written before his greater sins: who does this guy think he is, and what kind of God would grant such felicity to such a man as one who committed, or would commit (would not God know what’s coming?) such outrages?. Something more is demanded if God is God: because if the God of the Bible is not just, he is not God.

Paul felt the tension. In fact, resolving that tension is the main burden of his argument in the first five chapters of his letter to the Roman Christians. Luther missed the boat when he saw these chapters as primarily an explanation of the justification of man before God by faith. These chapters are primarily an explanation of how it is that God was just in simply pardoning hell-deserving sinners like David, and how he is just in simply pardoning Christians on this side of the cross who are nothing more than hell deserving David-like sinners. This can be seen most readily in the climax of Paul’s argument in these chapters when he explains that Jesus being sacrificed to appease God’s wrath was to demonstrate: God’s conformity to the standard of himself (viz., his righteousness) {Rom 3:25, what follows through chapter five is further explanation of the dynamics and validity of this demonstration}. Why would God need to demonstrate to anyone his conformity to himself? For one, because it is totally illegitimate to simply “let go of,” “pass over,” or “wink at” all the sin of all those who experienced forgiveness before Jesus died, let alone just David. Jesus’ suffering the wrath of God against sin when he was nailed to the cross was, among other things, about providing proof that God was righteous in forgiving people like David before Jesus so suffered.

Without Jesus bearing the wrath of God against sin on the cross, all the bloody OT sacrifices amount to nothing more than animal cruelty.

It is a glorious truth that Jesus’ wrath-bearing death on the cross is also the proof that God conforms to himself (viz., is righteous) in forgiving hell deserving, David-like sinners at the present time. Jesus’ faithfulness = God is righteous in simply pardoning wicked, evil, sinful, hell-deserving men by grace through faith (main point of Romans 1-5).

Were OT sacrifices sufficient for forgiveness?

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This is not a simple question. What is the question asking? Is it asking, were OT sacrifices needed for salvation? Or are we asking did a saint, before Christ, need to offer sacrifices to be forgiven?

Salvation has always been by faith alone in God. God says, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness'” (Romans 4:3). Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, David, Solomon, and Paul all were saved because they placed their faith in God. “All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Heb. 11:39). Salvation has and will always be by grace alone through faith alone.

So what did an OT sacrifice accomplish? Look in Leviticus — yes, the part of the Bible where your pages may still be stuck together and like new. :) Observe the situation described by the Lord and what happens to the person.

First, the situation. “When a person sins and acts unfaithfully against the Lord” (6:2).

Second, the offering, “Then he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to the Lord, a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering” (6:6).

Finally, the response, “And the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he will be forgiven for any one of the things which he may have done to incur guilt.”

There it is. The Israelite (or even alien, sojourner, or foreigner) would bring his offering to the priest, lay his hands on the offering while the offering was slaughtered and the priest would declare his sins forgiven. Did the OT saint have to offer a sacrifice in order to be forgiven? The answer is yes.

Some of us do not like this answer. It probably makes us uncomfortable because it possibly communicates forgiveness by works or undermines Christ. So here are a few points to clarify.

  1. This was only sufficient for an OT believer. Salvation is by faith alone. The believer had faith in God and brought his sacrifice to the Lord as a believer, obeying Him, and trusting God would forgive him. Faith was essential before you bring your offering.
  2. Lack of belief invalidates the sacrifice. Isaiah indicts Israels’ sacrifices because they did not believe.  (Isaiah 1:11-15) In other words, if your heart was wrong, your sacrifice was wrong too.
  3. The OT saint was really forgiven. The text declares the man is forgiven. Leviticus emphasizes this throughout the book (5:13, 16, 18; 6:7)
  4. At other places in Leviticus it says a person is cleansed (12:7; 14:11, 20, 31; 16:30).  We must not spiritualize the text to invalidate what it clearly says.

So, if the OT sacrifices are sufficient, then why did Christ need to die? Hebrews provides the answer.

The author of Hebrews supports the effectiveness of sacrifices, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh . . .” (9:13).  The author says the offerings sanctify the believer for the cleansing of the flesh.

In fact, the author says the only way sins can be forgiven is through the shedding of blood (9:22). But there is a difference. Daily, OT sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins because yesterday’s sacrifice could not atone for tomorrow’s sin. Throughout my life I would have offered A LOT (thousands??) of sacrifices for my sins to be forgiven. This was a habitual practice. What was God trying to teach me? Hebrews says the Holy Spirit signifies gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshipper perfect in conscience since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation (not Luther’s) (Heb. 9:8-10).

What Christ offers is different because He is the truly blameless sacrifice. The OT sacrifices forgive, cleanse, and cover, but they do not remove sin and perfect you for all time sake. You will find forgiveness but “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14).

Hebrews points out, the OT sacrifices were not sufficient for all time and could not perfect you. But Christ, His sacrifice was needed once, for all time, to sanctify and perfect believers (Heb 10:10, 14). Christ forgives my past, present, and future sins. Therefore Christ’s sacrifice ends the sacrificial system and more generally the Law. His perfect nature — holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens (7:26) — makes him the perfect sacrifice.

Did OT sacrifices save a person? No

Were OT sacrifices needed for forgiveness before Christ? Yes

Was Christ’s sacrifice needed for forgiveness? Yes

Is there a greater sacrifice than Christ’s? No

Is faith in Christ needed for forgiveness? Yes

 

How I am blessed: Chosen in Him

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How are you? “I’m blessed.” This common answer is used in conversations. But what does it communicate? In part one this topic proposed a very concrete answer to the question found in Ephesians 1:3-14. The Father has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3). What benefit has the Lord provided believers? The Lord gives believers very concrete benefits described in detail. We are chosen, redeemed, and an inheritance (Eph 1:4, 7, and 11).

The first spiritual blessing God bestows is He chose believers. In the American, freedom of speech, constitutional rights, capitalistic world this seem counter intuitive and wrong. But there it is, in the text, clearly stated. “He chose us in Him.” God picks believers. Not only does God chose believers, but He intentionally choose us according to His plan “before the foundation of the world” (4). “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1:1). But before water, space, sky, animals, or Adam and Eve were formed, He chose His believers. This means, we who believe, were always a part of His plan and purpose. God does not look down in this world and randomly pick His chosen ones based on contemporary needs. He has already chosen them before they were born.

The great problem with humans is our sinfulness. We cannot enter into God’s presence because He is holy and blameless. Only holy beings can be in His presence. God provides good news for believers, He chose us to “be hoy and blameless before Him” (4). When God chose believers, He predetermined believers can enter into His presence being transformed with a nature similar to the Triune God. He determined believers would be pure and without sin. God cleanses believers so that they can be in His presence.

Paul fills in details to the picture to be chosen stating, “He  predetermined believers would be His children” (5) God did not chose us to become angels, second class citizens, or a part of a club. He chooses believers to be in His family as our Father. He adopts believers to be children, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.”  “Predestined” reinforces God’s choice before the foundation of the world. Before the Milky way, Earth, United States, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City, He knew His family.

God adopts believers. He becomes the Father because of what Jesus does on the cross. As children, God gives believers every right, privilege, and benefit to a natural child. There is no red-headed step child or second-degree child. God looks at believers as a natural born child and treats them likewise. Once in the family, like the Mafia, there is no leaving the family.

This raises the question, why did God chose me? Why am I predestined to adoption? It has to be because I am gifted, talented, smart, skilled, mighty, wise and worthy of a first or second round draft pick in God’s family. NOPE. God chose believers, “according to the kind intention of His will” (5).

Some say, “God chose those who He knew would freely chose to believe in Him.” So, God, with His great foreknowledge is able to look into the future and see who would pick Him. Therefore knowing this, God then chose that person. But God undermines this argument by stating the reason why He chose His family, “according to the kind intention of His will.”

God picks believers because He is gracious. He gives the gift of belief, adoption, and blameless character solely based on His gracious character. A child of God was adopted because God is kind. Why am I your child God? Because you are kind!

Knowing I am chosen, cleansed and adopted based solely on His kindness should produce the intended response, “the praise of the glory of His grace” (6). The Greek uses this preposition, εἰς. This preposition is commonly used to reference purpose or result. Ephesians 1:3-14 is a doxology of praise to the Father. He benefits His chosen family with the appropriate gifts to properly praise, glorify, and worship Him!

How is this made possible? This is all made possible by Christ. Throughout Ephesians 1:4-6 God communicates these benefits exist because of Christ. “He chose us in Him . . . He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ . . . grace, which He creel bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Without Christ none of this is made possible. God unites us with Him, through Christ believers are united to Him forever. Often we look over such small words as “in Him” not realizing the significance to them. Paul overwhelming uses union language throughout His writings, realizing this teaches the depth and significance to a believers union with God.

How am I today? No matter what trial exists, I am chosen, praise be to Him!

 

I’m blessed with what?

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We have all probably had this conversation:

“How are you?”

“Blessed.”

But what does ‘blessed’ communicate? How am I to interpret this? I assume my friend’s answer communicates he honors the Lord and recognizes His grace. But sometimes in context, the person’s answer communicates material wealth, relationship status, and lack of trial. “I have my dream job, spouse, children, and home — I’m blessed.” Continue reading

Jesus answer to the worship debate

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The components of corporate worship have diversified, renovated, and “modernized” throughout church history. Today, it seems everyone has a preference and those preferences have become a requirement. By preferences, what I intend to communicate are those elements in corporate worship not prescribed in Scripture even though important to a person. Style of music is a preference whereas preaching the Bible is directly from the Lord (2 Tim. 4:2). Passing an offering plate or sock is preferential yet the biblical issue is your motivation (see here for details).

I sometimes imagine, church “shoppers” bringing a bingo card with preferences on it and if the church bingos then the family stays. Debates in corporate worship include style of music, offering logistics, children’s church, pastor’s stories, attire, and length of corporate worship. Most argue these issues along preferential lines even though everyone thinks he or she has a great argument. Continue reading

Why Israel is not the church

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Some argue Israel is now the church — almost treating Israel like a metaphor for the church. Often (and this is my understanding of their position) they say there is no future hope for Israel’s restoration. This view however is hard to explain given biblical data. God says in Romans 11:25-29,

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘This is my covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’ From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Continue reading

Why your pastor does care about your giving

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WHAT!?!?! I knew it!!!! “All pastors care about is how much money the church has!” Most of us have probably heard this charge a time or two. Unfortunately there are ‘ministers’ out there who seem to care more about the quantity of your tithe than the quality of your heart in tithing. TBN seems to give time and space to men and women who advertise the more you give, the more blessed you are. But this post is not about false teachers. This post is about why faithful, men of God, trustworthy, honorable, and called to shepherd your soul care about your tithing — to be referenced as giving from this point on.

First, the Bible mentions giving is an act of worship. Matthew 6:2-4 Jesus says that when we give, we need to give secretly and to the Lord. “Your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” In context of chapter 5:21-7 Jesus is talking about righteous actions done for God’s glory. These are sacrificial acts of worship done by believers to honor the Lord. If giving finances to the Lord is worship, then would you want your pastor concerned with your giving? It would seem rather silly to want a pastor to care about your worship but say giving is off limits to the pastor’s concern. Continue reading

Why Eschatology Matters

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Eschatology, the study of end times, may be one of the most debated issues in theology. I have heard some people say, “It really doesn’t matter”; “It’s too complicated, why study?”; and “Too many people fight over it, I don’t want to fight”.

Those objections may have a glimmer of truth to them. First, people can have differing views of eschatology (on some level) and still have the gospel right. People disagree over whether or not Israel will be restored and a seven year tribulation, but both groups still place their faith in Jesus Christ and have been atoned for and will stand next to each other in heaven. Continue reading

Listen to the pastor “among you”

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God calls elders and pastors to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). This small statement has huge implications. First, the key word here is “among”. This word supports three truths regarding the pastor and his flock.

First, it supports the local church because the flock is defined. It is popular, especially in my city, to think the church is universal and as long as you gather with other believers, it is okay because there is a universal church. But 1 Peter 5:1-5 supports a local church led by leaders. In fact, the church here is defined as a specific set of people. “Shepherd the flock of God among you” and elders are not to rule “as lording it over those allotted to your charge but proving to be examples to the flock.” The bold language here supports a local context. Shepherds are called to watch over the church, those specifically allotted to your charge. The church at large mentality does not fit here. Who is called to shepherd the church at large? Who are the elders? Believers are called to be in one local church.[1] Continue reading

Why following God’s design for marriage is wise

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Most people who have read the Bible know Ephesians 5:22-33 lists responsibilities to the husband and wife. These responsibilities are commonly called roles. Both the husband and wife are called to operate in the marriage with different functions. Having different roles does not make one person more valuable than the other. It is like a team. Each person on the team has responsibilities and when they are faithful to the role, working with the other members of the team, the team can produce success or its intended goal. Just like a functioning team, marriage is designed for both people to come together and be one body, with one goal, for a purpose but with different roles. We are commanded to follow the roles. In fact, to not follow the roles makes us unwise. Continue reading