…He Shall Be Forgiven…

“…So the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven…”

-Leviticus 4:26, 30 & 35

Some Considerations on a Recurring Theme

If there is a book that I haven’t heard a pastor preach through for as long as I’ve been a Christian, it is the book of Leviticus. This may be due to the fact that Leviticus is not historical narrative and, therefore, can’t be exploited by preachers seeking to interpret the Old Testament as nothing more than a series of moral tales featuring men and women whose lives we should learn to emulate, of course with an occasional dash of prophecy concerning the Son of God. Now I don’t claim to have any special insight into Scripture, I’m just sharing what the Holy Spirit has illuminated in the Word, which countless theologians have already noted. And what I’m sharing is a simple fact: “The priest shall make atonement for him, for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven.” It’s true that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,”[1] nevertheless it is also true that all of the Old Testament points us to Christ whose blood can truly take away our sins. This refrain, moreover, found ten times throughout the book of Leviticus,[2] also shows us that it is the priest who makes atonement for sin through the sacrifice of a guiltless substitute. Christ is signified by the priest and the sacrifice in Leviticus.

In the place of a guilty Israelite, there stood an innocent animal who suffered death and was consumed by fire on the altar. This should immediately remind us of Genesis 3:21 and 4:4, where we learn that it is Christ Himself to instituted the sacrificial system in order to show the way by which man would be pardoned and clothed in His righteousness and reconciled to God, and we learn that Abel’s appropriation of the sacrifice by faith alone[3] is said to have been met with God’s approval. Abel was justified by faith alone through the sacrifice of another, through the sacrifice of a sheep of the firstborn of his flock. The reason why Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, the writer of Hebrews says, is because he offered it by faith. Abel believed the Gospel[4] and consequently offered up a substitutionary sacrifice which pointed backward to the Garden where spiritual and physical death were introduced into the world, and which pointed forward to when spiritual and physical death would finally be dealt with, for all of God’s elect, at the cross. When I was a false convert, I heard quite a few misguided men say that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he gave of the firstborn of his flock whereas Cain merely brought some of his fruits. Unfortunately, there are many who believe this way and are, unwittingly, preaching a works-righteousness Gospel, where the only difference between one sinner and another is not the grace of God that imparts life and imputes righteousness, but, rather, the effort put forward in seeking to be accepted by God. Arminianism teaches this, although its teachers deny this or are too short-sighted to see their errors – which is scary, considering the fact that it is damnable heresy to believe that men are justified by faith and anything else. Faith is the instrumental cause of justification, and it is through faith that we are justified, and through faith alone.

Justification has always been by faith alone; therefore, all who were called by God were justified by Him in exactly the same manner: By faith alone. The significance, therefore, of the sacrificial system is not that I can be the source of my own forgiveness by something that I do, for that would be justification by works, and Scripture clearly condemns any such thinking as being another gospel.[5] Instead, the significance of the sacrificial system is simply this: All who placed their faith in the Seed who would be bruised for their iniquities[6] would be justified by faith alone. Returning, therefore, to Leviticus we see that it is God who justifies His elect people through faith in the Substitutionary Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is typified in the Levitical sacrifices. Those who come to God, therefore, come to Him on the basis of this promise: The Priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.

Amen and Amen.


[1] Heb 10:4

[3] Cf. Heb 11:4

[4] Cf. Gen 3:15

[5] Cf. Gal 1:8-9

[6] Cf. Gen 3:15 & Isa 53:5 & 10 [Note: The word is not the same in Hebrew, although the King James has the English word bruised in both Genesis and Isaiah. However, the words both convey the same idea: Christ will be physically overwhelmed, crushed, and He will be covered with the shame that properly belongs to us, His elect people.]


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