Big Picture of the Bible – Lesson 3

GRACE AND MERCY. God loves His creation enough to help pay this price, even though it was undeserved. This is called GRACE (God gives us what we don’t deserve—life). He showed His MERCY (God doesn’t give us what we do de serve—death) by having the price paid by an innocent representative. This was the purpose of animal sacrifice.

ANIMAL SACRIFICE. God made provision (or atonement) for sin by an innocent life. This is described in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The life of the animal atones for, or cleanses, the sins of the sinner (Leviticus 16:30). By removing sin, we are made holy (sanctified). As a result, the penalty or price of death is paid and removed (justification), we are declared righteous, and our spiritual relationship with a holy God is restored (reconciliation). Blood (which represents life) is the ONLY thing that will pay the price for, remove, or atone for sin (Hebrews 9:22) – not good works, good beliefs, good morals, or good intentions! God does not have a blood lust—He just hates sin, and blood (life) represents the highest price possible by the guilty party!

Adam and Eve

Atonement – According to
the Plan of Redemption, the
animals’ death would represent
Adam & Eve’s deaths.

Notice some things we learn from animal sacrifice:

  • The animal was innocent of sin—it was amoral, it couldn’t sin. If an animal could have sinned it would have been liable for its own sin! Sinlessness was required for it to provide a representative death
  • The animal had to be perfect, spotless, unblemished, (see Lev. 22:21-27)
  • Man did not deserve to have a substitute die for him—this is GRACE—God gives what we don’t deserve. It was not a gift we earned (Eph 2:8)

Faith Responds

What made animal sacrifice work? It derived its power from the faith of the believers. The animal had to be killed—one couldn’t just believe in animal sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22), any more than believing in medicine will make one well!

Additionally, sacrificing without understanding why, would have been useless. Sacrifice derived no power from superstition, tradition, or ignorant obedience. Hebrews 11:6 defines genuine faith as having two elements—belief and action: “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Obedience, from the heart, is the type of faith that God has always desired. Here are some Old Testament examples of this type of faith from Hebrews 11:

by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice” (vs.4)
by faith Noah[…]moved with fear, prepared an ark” (vs. 7)
by faith Abraham[…]obeyed[…]and went out” (vs. 8)
by faith Abraham[…]offered up Isaac” (vs. 17)

We see clearly that the kind of faith required by God is belief-based action. Saving faith has always required belief-based action. In the New Testament, James even asks rhetorically, “Can such faith [without action] save a man?” (James 2:14). James even points out that the devils themselves were all believers. If belief alone saved then the devils would be saved! (James 2:14-26). Also, the removal of sin by animal sacrifice was a gift, not something that was earned. If someone gives me a birthday check, I did not earn the gift because I endorsed the check and cashed it at the bank—I merely accepted the gift. When they sacrificed the animal they had done nothing to earn removal of sin, they were just accepting God’s gracious gift. True faith is made complete by obedience.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17)

Jesus is God’s Sacrificial Lamb

Several hundred years pass under the system of animal sacrifice. Then a climactic moment in history arrives. John is preaching, preparing the “way of the Lord.” As he sees Jesus approaching John makes an astounding public pronouncement that reverberates throughout history,

Behold, the lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

There it is! The entire plan of redemption in one sentence. By pro- claiming Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” John declared Jesus to be God’s sacrifice to pay for the sins of humanity! “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold […],but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18).

Notice some important observations:

  • NO ACCIDENTAL DEATH. Jesus’ death was no accident or a failed mission to set up an earthly kingdom. It was His very purpose in coming to earth. His very purpose was to die, because a sacrifice must die.
  • AN INNOCENT SACRIFICE. If Jesus had ever sinned, even once, then He could not have been the Lamb of God. He would have been liable for His sins and had the price of death on His head (1 John 3:5).
  • REMOVES SINS. The result of being the “lamb of God” was that it would “take away the sin of the world.” Sacrifice (of life) removes sin.

Jesus came to die, to take the place of animal sacrifice to fulfill the OT (Mt 5:17). Jesus came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). “…for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:23). A price of death that Jesus paid. A payment that humanity did not deserve—such is grace. Christ’s suffering and death was prophesied clearly, vividly and specifically some 750 years earlier in Isaiah 53. Here is a sample:

v5-“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; […]by His scourging we are healed.

v8-“He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due

v12-“He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Jesus Paid the Price Owed by the Sinner

By living a sinless life Jesus qualified Himself as an innocent stand-in to die in the place of the truly guilty—you and me. When Jesus died on the cross He took our sins upon Himself and then paid the price owed by the sinner—death. Christ ’s  death represents the death of the believer (1 Peter 2:24). This role of Christ is summed up in 2 Corinthians 5:21,“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In Hebrews 9:26-28, “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…having been offered once to bear the sins of many

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this earth as a man, so that, as God and man, he could offer the perfect sacrifice, paying the price for our sins, reconciling man to God (Ephesians 2:13-16; 1 Corinthians 6:20). By dying with Christ, we can share His victory over death and have hope of eternal life.

Sanctified By JesusHe Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin.” 1 Peter 2:24

…our old self was crucified with  Him… that our body of sin might be done away with…” Romans 6:6

(See also Rom.4:25; 1 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 9:26-28, 10:10, 13:12, 2:17; Rom. 5:6-10, 5:15, 3:23-25; 1 Jn. 2:2, 3:5, 4:10; 2 Cor. 5:17-19; Eph. 2:11-16; Titus 2:14; Col. 1:22; 1 Tim. 2:5)

by His doing you are in Jesus Christ1 Corinthians 1:30

Now, try the quiz to reinforce what you have learned.