THE THEOLOGY OF ATONEMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-12-75 7:30 p.m.
We are studying how the death of Christ saves us. That would be another way to describe a study of The Theology of Atonement. What is it that washes our sins away? And what provision has God made that we might be acceptable, washed clean in His sight, we who are not washed clean? But we are accepted as clean. How does God do that? Last Wednesday night a week, I missed last Wednesday night—last Wednesday night, Wednesday night a week ago, we discussed in the first lecture, sacrifice in the primitive offering before God. Tonight we are going to discuss sacrifice, atonement in the ritual that is Mosaic legislation.
Sacrifice in the Mosaic legislation is looked upon as a solution for the problem of sin. When sin was committed it was against God, and that raised a serious problem. If I sin against you, that may be something that you and I might work out. If I steal from you, I might in restitution give it back, what I took away. If I lied about you I might try to correct the lie and apologize. But when I sin against God what do I do?
Do you remember the cry of David in the fifty-first Psalm, verse 4? “Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned” [Psalm 51:4]. Vice may concern society, but sin concerns God. Now universally presented in the Bible is the penalty of sin, death. Romans 6:23 plainly states, “The wages of sin is death.” And Ezekiel 18:4 avows, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
You have that poignantly, dramatically illustrated in the Holy Scriptures. God said to our first parents, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. Sin and death; it is God who forged those linked together, and no man or assembly or legislative act or anything human can ever break that chain. Sin and death God linked together.
“And in the day that you eat thereof you will surely, surely, die” [Genesis 2:17]. And that day they died spiritually; that is, they were separated from God. They looked upon themselves and felt ashamed. And when they heard the voice of God as He walked in the garden in the cool of the day, they hid themselves [Genesis 3:8-10]. “In the day that you eat thereof you will surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
And as one time I pointed out in our discussion, there has been no man who has ever lived beyond that one day of the Lord. In God’s calendar, on God’s clock, a thousand years is a day [Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8]. And no man, not even Methuselah, has lived to be beyond one day old [Genesis 5:27]. “In the day that you eat thereof, thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. And the story thereafter is one of judgment and death upon sin. Achan’s family, all of them, were stoned to death [Joshua 7:24-25]. Uzzah just touching the ark was stricken dead [2 Samuel 6:7].
And all of us die. I have a funeral service tomorrow. I learned just a moment ago, a little while ago, that Dr. Draper has a funeral service tomorrow. You count every fourth person in this audience, and in ten years that fourth person will be dead. Sum us up, add us up; any group, add us up, and the fourth one will be dead. There is nothing more universal than the illustration and experience of the truth of this Scripture, that sin brings death.
Now in this problem of sin, what do you do? The ritual established a system of sacrifice, but that system of sacrifice was upon the confession that all of us have sinned. In the ritual, in the Mosaic legislation, the high priest, the priests, the nation, the king, the people, all of them, all of them had sinned. And the seriousness of that problem is without doubt, the greatest, single experience that one has in his life. What do you do with your sins? What do you do when you are wrong?
In Romans the third chapter, beginning at the tenth verse to the eighteenth verse [Romans 3:10-18], there is a long series of quotations concerning the assumption that all of us have sinned. He quotes from the Psalms; he quotes from the prophets, just one quotation after another. Romans 3:10-18 is nothing but a series of quotations from the Bible describing our fallen human nature. And in Romans 3:23 it is summarized in a verse that all of us remember. After he quotes all of those Scriptures [Romans 3:10-18], he summarizes it, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23].
Now all of us sinning, and all of us facing death, there was a need for a covering, a protection, against the judgment of God against sin. I don’t’ suppose you have ever heard me preach it. I don’t suppose I have preached the sermon in thirty years, but I prepared a sermon and delivered it on Job 7:20, I Have Sinned; What Shall I Do? And the sermon concerns what people do about their sins. And all of them do something. There is no one that sinneth not [Ecclesiastes 7:20], and there is no one but that has some kind of a response concerning it, some even to deny it [1 John 1:8]. But the penalty of sin [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23] brings to us a serious confrontation with God.
Now when we come to the ritual, when we come to the Mosaic legislation, there is a word that is used in that Old Testament that is translated “atone” [Leviticus 1:4]. The word is kaphar, kaphar. The root meaning of the word is ancient Semitic language, “to wipe out, to obliterate.” And in the early Hebrew language it meant to cover; that is, to wipe out by covering over, to put out of sight.
For example, in Psalm 85:2, in Psalm 85:2, “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people; Thou hast covered all their sin.” That is the meaning of the word atone. Atone means to cover out of sight. And the word is always used, that word kaphar, “covering, atoning,” that word is always used in connection with sin. Look at the penitential psalm, Psalm 32. This is the psalm of David after he was forgiven, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” atoned for, covered over [Psalm 32:1]. The fact is, that in God’s grace the sin is hidden away. There is no salvation otherwise. It is atoned for. It is covered over. And the figure, of course, in the word is that it is hidden out of sight.
Now the means of atonement in the Mosaic legislation, in the ritual, is two: one, in sacrifice appointed by God, rendered in obedience to God. In Leviticus 1, first chapter, and verse 2, it says, “When you bring your offering” [Leviticus 1:2]; that is, the sacrificial system had already been in vogue, employed by the people. It goes back to Abel [Genesis 4:4]; it goes back to God.
So one of the means of atonement, of covering sin before God, was in sacrifice. In Leviticus 17:11 is one of the great verses of the Bible, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you for an atonement upon the altar: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul” [Leviticus 17:11] So in the sacrificial system, in the ritualistic system, blood was poured out before God as an atoning, a covering, of our sins. You see that in the sin offering. In Leviticus 4:1-35, and in Leviticus 6:24-30, the sin offering was an animal, an innocent animal, brought to the altar. And the man confesses his sins upon the head of the animal; he puts his hands upon the head of the animal and confesses his sins, and the animal is slain, and some of the blood is sprinkled on the horns of the altar, and the rest of the blood is poured out at the base of the altar. On the Day of Atonement when the sin offering was made, the blood was also brought into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the propitiatory, the mercy seat [Leviticus 16:2, 14-15]. This is a prescription of God to make atonement for our sins.
Now not only in sacrifice, but there are other means of atonement for sin that we read of in the Bible. I have picked out three instances of it. One is in Numbers 16:46 to 50. This is an intervention by the hands of Aaron with incense.
And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them:
there is that word, “a covering” for them—
for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun.
And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and
he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people.
And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
This was the conclusion of a long story of the rebellion of Korah, men who sought to take away the high priestly office from Aaron, and the legislature office from Moses; and departing from the commands of the Lord, they wanted to establish themselves as the princes and the rulers over God’s people [Numbers 16:1-3]. That is a long story here in the middle chapters of Numbers [Numbers 16:1-50], and the end of it was when God sent an awesome plague among the people [Numbers 16:46-49]. The earth opened up and swallowed Korah and his company [Numbers 16:32; 26:10]. But the people who entered into that transgression were infested with a devastating plague. There died in the plague fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah [Numbers 16:49; 26:10]. Well, in that awesome, ravaging plague, it was atoned; the sin of the people was atoned by Aaron, offering incense and covering over the sins of the people [Numbers 16:46-48].
I would like to pause here to expatiate upon that just for a minute. Why do not things like that happen today to us? In the Book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira fell down dead because they told a lie [Acts 5:1-10]. What would happen to our church if all of the people who told a lie fell down dead? Now, just what would happen to us? It would be a slim congregation that I would be preaching to Sunday by Sunday.
I am just pointing out to you that it is a good thing that God does not use us; we escape. But what we find here in the Bible is God’s examples, how He looks upon lying, and how He looks upon rebellion against His appointed offices and His appointed ordinances. God doesn’t kill us like that anymore. But the example of it is here in the Bible. These things were written, Paul says, as examples for us [1 Corinthians 10:11] that we might know how God thinks and how God feels. So what we learn from this plague that destroyed so many of the people [Numbers 16:49], that was atoned for by Aaron [Numbers 16:46-48], what we learn is this: that when God ordains something for us, it is with deepest meaning that God does it, and it is with profound repercussion when we depart from it.
If we had time we could look upon our work, being Baptist in our ordinances, which we believe as Baptist people. What happens when you depart from them? When they changed, for example, the ordinance of baptism, just think of what happened, just by changing the ordinance of baptism. God says you have to be converted first [Acts 2:38, 8:36-38]. And upon an open, public avowal, confession of your faith in Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], you are to be baptized. Now that is the way it is in the Book.
Now when they changed that and made it sprinkling, and you could be baptized without any confession of faith, you could be baptized even as an unconscious infant; what they did was they took away a regenerate church membership. You got into the church by being sprinkled, baptized, when you were a baby. And they made the church congruent with the state. When you were born you were made in the fact of your birth, a citizen of the state, and by christening you were made a member of the church.
So the church and the state became congruent; they became synonymous. And all of the things that happened in the Dark Ages, all of the bad things that are written on the pages of human history, all of those tragic things—it is a shame that you have to say that’s true, the church was the mother of the Inquisition, and the church burned heretics at the stake, and the church persecuted people unto the death—how did they ever get to do that? By one little, simple thing: by changing the ordinance of God regarding baptism; that’s all it took. Then the rest of it was simple.
All right, let us take the other ordinance. Can you imagine the power that lies in the hands of a priest who could withdraw from you the means of grace and salvation? Excommunicate you, then you cannot take the mass; you are excommunicated, and the priest has that power. Where did he get that power? And it is an awesome power that our people know nothing about. If anyone has been reared in the Catholic Church, the thought of being excommunicated from the church, the thought of the priest withdrawing from them the mass, interdicting their presence there, is a fearful thing to them! Where did that come from? From changing the meaning of the Lord’s Supper from the memorial into the mass as a means of grace.
I am just illustrating that when we change God’s ordinances, you fall into repercussions that are as high as heaven and as deep as the abyss itself. And that is what we have been reading about here in Numbers. When Korah, and his sons, and his friends decided that this man Moses, and this man Aaron, and all of this legislation that they say they got from the hands of God, “We are just weary of their lording it over God’s heritage, and we are going to do our own choosing, and we are going to find our own ordinances, and we are going to choose our own way” [Numbers 16:1-3], and God says that is tragic. An atonement was made for the people who lay in the path of the judgment of God by Aaron [Numbers 16:46-48].
Now I want to show you another human intervention of atonement in Numbers 25. I shall read a passage, and then we shall look where it came from. Beginning at verse 6 through verse 9, in Numbers 25 [Numbers 25:6-9]:
And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
And the name—
of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; head over a people, chief in the house of Midian.
Now what is the matter here? Again, just to expatiate on what happens to people, and why the wrath of God burns against them, and why atonement has to be made: in these chapters in Numbers through this section here, Balak, the king of Moab, is frightened at the approach of Moses and the great throng of the Israelites [Numbers 22:2-3]. Though Moses had announced that there was no harm coming to Moab—they were not interested in him, or his land or his people; they were just going through, journeying to the Promised Land that was on the other side of Jordan. Yet the throng that was coming toward him frightened, terrified Balak [Numbers 22:1-3]. So he sent for Balaam to come from Beth-peor up there, from Peor, up there at the head of the Mesopotamian Valley, and to curse Israel [Numbers 22:4-6]. So Balaam came, and you have that long story; instead of cursing, he blessed Israel, which thing was a frustration to Balak the king. Three times when Balaam was to curse the children of God he blessed them instead [Numbers 23-24]. So finding it impossible before God to curse the children of Israel, Balaam rose up and returned to his place; and Balak gave it up and went his way [Numbers 24:25].
But the people of Moab had a different idea. Isn’t it strange how folks are? They are smarter, many times, than our rulers; Balak gave up. Do you know, in chapter 25, what the Moabites did? They got all of their Moabite women, and they invite all of the men of Israel to come to see them, and the people “began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods . . . And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” [Numbers 25:1-3].
Now isn’t that something? The king never thought of that, never entered into his head. He sent away, and away, and away, and away for Balaam. But those people in Moab, that was their idea: “We will just get all of these men from Israel to come over here and sit down at these orgies with us.” And one of the children of Israel, and his name is called here [Numbers 25:14-15]—one of them brought the princess of the Midianites, Midian and Moab combined together, and in the sight of the congregation of the children of Israel, they committed whoredom right there before the sight of Israel [Numbers 25:6].
Oh, isn’t that bad? If you will come out where I live, I will take you to a picture show; they are just opened in our—what we are trying to do to lift up the east section of Dallas. And I will show you pictures that run by the hour, that are nothing but whores and whoremongers, right there before your eyes, doing every conceivable unclean thing that mind can imagine. Does Dallas do anything about it? The only thing that I have heard is they say, you write a letter to your legislator, and you see if the legislator might do something to clean up the dirt and the filth that is beginning to pour over into the part of the city where I live.
So when you think, “These people are sure dirty back there, they are sure whoremongering back there, they sure do things that are unbelievable back there,” just walk around the city of Dallas and see what you see here, where we live, before our very eyes. “And the wrath of God was kindled against Israel” [Numbers 25:3]. Isn’t it a merciful thing that the wrath of God does not burn against us? Twenty and four thousand died in the plague [Numbers 25:9].
And Phinehas—and I have wondered at the strength of this man—Phinehas took a javelin, and he ran it through the bodies of the man and the woman, and just pinned them to the ground [Numbers 25:7-8]. Think of the strength of a man that can do that, run a javelin through two human bodies, clear to the ground! And so atonement was made for the sin of the people [Numbers 25:13].
Ah! It just staggers you, when you read the Bible. It bows you, the awesomeness of God’s judgment upon sin. I don’t blame these worldly people. They don’t want to come to church. It reminds them of what lies ahead. I don’t blame them for saying, “I don’t believe in hell.” I don’t blame them for saying, “I don’t believe in the judgment of God.” I don’t blame them for saying, “God will never call me to account.” I don’t blame them for saying that. It is a horror, what lies ahead for the unforgiven sinner. So he doesn’t want to know, and he doesn’t want to hear, and certainly, he doesn’t want to be reminded.
But in the Bible, when you read these things, the awesomeness of God’s wrath and judgment against sin, and the ritual appointed that; that is the purpose of it. And you are going to see as we go on with our lesson, and we must hasten—you are going to see that these appointments of God did nothing but remind the people, to teach the people, how awful was the judgment of God on sin.
The appointed offerer of the atoning sacrifice is the priest. He is God’s representative, and he is the people’s representative. As the people’s representative on the Day of Atonement, in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, he lays aside his high priestly robes, and he becomes a suppliant himself. And the first sacrifice on the Day of Atonement he makes for his own sin, for himself [Leviticus 16:6]. He himself is a sinner. He himself is a suppliant, and he makes atonement for his sin and for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:17].
And the condition upon which the atonement is effectual lies in the assumption of repentance and trust in the hearts of the offerers. I am going to read Numbers 15:22-23. I want you to see that in the ritual no sin in direct opposition to God could be atoned; no high-handed sin was forgiven. Numbers 15:22-31:
And if ye have erred, and not observed these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses,
Even all that the Lord hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the Lord commanded Moses, henceforward among your
Then it shall be, if aught be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savor unto the
Lord, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering.
And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the
Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their ignorance:
And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance. But—
if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring
a she goat of the first year for a sin offering.
The priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. But—
and this is what I was getting to—
But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.
There was no provision in the sacrificial system for a high-handed sin; that is, a sin done in violation and in volitional rejection of God. There is no sacrifice for it. The assumption always is that when the man came to make his sacrifice, he came in repentance and in trust. And without the previous condition of repentance and trust, the sacrifice had no availing efficacy whatsoever.
It is the identical and same doctrine as if somebody came down here to the front, and he says, “I want to be baptized, and I want to be a member of the church, and I want to take the Lord’s Supper, and I want to attend the services.” But if he does not come first in repentance and in confession, all of these other things are as nothing. They are posited upon the basis that the one who is coming comes in repentance and in trust.
And if a man volitionally turns away from the appeal, and the grace [Ephesians 2:8], and the love [John 3:16], and the forgiveness of God [Ephesians 1:7], there is no sacrifice for sins [Hebrews 10:26]. This is that famous passage in the tenth chapter of Hebrews, and the twenty-sixth verse:
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.
Only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Outside of repentance [Acts 3:19, 20:20-21] and casting ourselves upon the mercies of God [Titus 3:5], there is no sacrifice for sins, none at all. The death of Christ has no efficacy. All the ordinances in the world have no efficacy. The whole system of atonement [Romans 5:11] is posited upon the assumption that the man is seeking God’s forgiveness and God’s grace [Ephesians 2:8].
And if that assumption is not true, the sacrificial system has no meaning. The death of Christ has no meaning. And all of the rigamarole of the church, its ordinances, its services, its convocations, whatever religion is, it is nothing outside of that basic assumption that we are coming to God with hearts that are repentant. And we are looking to God, in His goodness and grace, to forgive us [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Now in the presentation of the sacrifices, confession was always made [Leviticus 5:5]. And it was the confession that gave them acceptance unto God. And without the confession there is no reception, no receiving of the offering, the sacrifice that was made.
There were two conditions that must be met for a valid sacrifice. One is objective: it had to be made according to the commandment of God. Mahatma Gandhi may have died, but he is not the appointed one to die for my sins. Abraham Lincoln may have died, but he is not the appointed one to die for my sins. There is a valid sacrifice, and it has to be made according to the purpose and will and sovereign direction of God, and for us that sacrifice is our Lord [1 Corinthians 5:7]. It is He alone who is able, who is efficacious to forgiving, atoning our sins [Ephesians 1:7]. In the Mosaic legislation it was according to what we read here in the ritual [Deuteronomy 16:1-8].
But there is not only an objective atonement; I had nothing to do with the sacrifice of Christ. It was offered almost two thousand years before I was born. My salvation is, for one part, outside of me. Jesus died for me before I was born. When I came to consciousness I was taught; it was told me; it was revealed to me by the word of my pastor and by my mother and father, what God hath done. So my salvation is one: objective. It is outside of me; it is something that comes from outside of me, from beyond me.
But there is also a subjective side to the sacrifice. And that subjective side is found in the heart of the offerer. He had to come before God with His sacrifice in humble repentance and trust, and confession was made before God when he brought the offering to the Lord [Leviticus 5:5-7].
Now I have one other, and it will not take long, and I am through. It concerns the substitutionary nature of the atonement. And this is one of the most unusual things in this world. The atonement in the sacrificial system was substitutionary. Now I want you to look here, and I am going to read it. It sounds…let me read it first, and then let you see what you think about what God thinks about us. I am going to read from the thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus, verses 19 and 20 [Exodus 34:19-20]:
All that openeth the matrix, all that openeth the womb, is Mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male, that is Mine.
But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem.
All of the clean animals like an ox, a sheep, the flock, the herd, the first one born belonged to God. You just gave it to God. Here is a calf, the first one that is born, you gave the calf to God. Here is a lamb, the first one that is born, you gave the lamb to God. All the firstborn that is clean, you give to God.
But you couldn’t bring an unclean thing to God. That doesn’t belong to God. God doesn’t want the unclean thing. And an unclean thing He gives the illustration of here is an ass, a donkey. It is an unclean animal; you couldn’t bring a donkey and sacrifice it before God, so you have to kill it. But if you want to keep it you have to redeem it, make atonement for it, with a lamb [Exodus 34:20]. So if you want to keep your donkey, you have to redeem it with a lamb.
And just like a donkey’s offspring is unclean, so is a man’s offspring unclean. God puts the progeny of a donkey and the progeny of Homo sapiens in the same unclean class [Exodus 34:20]. Now how do you like that? God categorizes you with an ass. That’s what God thinks about you. You are in the same category. You are an unclean animal.
“You just don’t know how fine I am!” That is the attitude of most people concerning themselves, “You just don’t know how honest I am. And, you don’t know how good I am. And you just don’t know with what fine virtue I walk through every day’s light.”
God doesn’t think that; God classifies us with the donkey [Exodus 34:20]. And just as the first-born of the donkey had to be redeemed or its neck broken [Exodus 34:20], so in the ritual the firstborn of the son was slain in the great night of Egypt, except those that were redeemed by the blood of the lamb; and that was the meaning of the Passover sacrifice [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. That is, we are a redeemed people, and without that redemption, we are all damned. Our necks are going to be broken, our souls are going to be cast into hell. We are shut out from God. We are lost, with all the meaning in that and God must redeem us [Titus 2:13-14].
By nature we are the children of wrath; by nature we are like the offspring of an ass. By nature we are unclean [Exodus 34:20]. As Paul says in Ephesians, we are born into iniquity and uncleanness and death [Ephesians 2:1-3]. We are the children of transgression. That is the way we are by nature.
You don’t have to teach a child to be bad; it will be bad just being itself. You don’t have to teach a child to be selfish, “Mine, mine, mine!” You don’t have to teach a child to disregard how you feel. It is just, holler at two o’clock in the morning, and yeah, but you need to sleep. It doesn’t matter to that little child at all, or anything else. We are by nature full of all kinds of greed and grasping and selfishness and everything else bad. We need to be redeemed, and that is what God is teaching us in the Mosaic legislation [Romans 3:20].
Now that substitutionary nature of the atonement is seen in the laying on of hands. When the victim was brought to the altar, you bring in a bullock that is a clean animal; you could offer that, if you are bringing a lamb, that is a clean offering. You are bringing a goat. Why the Lord would want a smelly goat and call that clean, I do not know, but a goat is a clean animal in God’s sight. If you were poor and could not bring a goat or a lamb, could not bring a kid, you could bring two turtledoves [Leviticus 5:5-7]. They were clean.
But when the victim was brought to the altar, the man who brought it took his hands and laid it on the head of the victim [Leviticus 4:29]. What did that mean? That signified that the man who brought the offering identified himself with the animal. “This is I.” He put his hands on the head of the animal. He identified himself with the animal [Leviticus 4:29].
Then, having identified himself with the animal by putting his hands on the head of the animal [Leviticus 4:29], he confessed his sins [Leviticus 5:5-7]. And the animal was slain, and his blood sprinkled on the horns of the altar, the rest of it poured out at the base [Leviticus 4:28-30]. And a whole burnt offering, the body consumed before God on the Day of Atonement, the blood brought into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat [Leviticus 16:14]. All of that shows us that the idea that lay in the sacrifice was substitutionary. I deserve the penalty of death, and this victim dies in my place; he dies in my stead [Leviticus 22:19].
Now I do not think that the people who did this had any idea of the great typology that they were teaching the children of each generation as they did this, as they came before God with their sacrifices. But when we come to know what is it that God is doing here, teaching these people these things, we come to see He is teaching His people that by nature we are the children of wrath, that we are sinful by nature [Ephesians 2:3]. I don’t have to learn to be bad. There is just a fallenness about me, that I am bad. I can fall into just one hurtful thing after another, just by nature. So this teaches me that by nature I am shut out from God. It teaches me that I need atoning for it. I need a covering over my sin. I need a wiping of it out before God.
And it teaches me that the substitutionary sacrifice for my sins is one that is slain, and His blood poured out before the altar [Leviticus 4:29-30]. And that teaches me that the pouring out of the blood of Jesus was not only expiatory, covering over my sins, but it was also substitutionary [2 Corinthians 5:21]. He died in my place [1 Corinthians 15:3]. I am the one who should have been nailed to the tree. I am the one that should have received the death sentence. I am the one that ought to be crying, “My God why hast Thou forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46] I am the one that should be shut out from God. But He did that for me; He took my place. His death is substitutionary, He died for me [Romans 5:8]. And as we go through this theology of atonement, more and more and more, will you see God bringing that to the heart of the people.
The next Wednesday night, we will be studying the doctrine of atonement in the Prophets. We have studied the theology of atonement in the primitive sacrifice; tonight, the theology of the atonement in the sacrificial system, the ritual system, the Mosaic legislation. Next Wednesday night it will be a study of atonement in the Prophets. Part of that is going to be our preaching in Isaiah.
I just—every time I read it, I just cannot imagine how a man seven hundred fifty years before could describe the death and the meaning of the death of our Lord just as clearly, as plainly, as if he were standing there looking upon the suffering of the Son of God [Isaiah 52:13-53:12]. Then beyond that we will come into the New Testament, and then we are going to study what the great theologians and scholars of the earth have said concerning how the death of Christ saves us, the meaning of atonement.
Now Dr. Draper, there may be some way you would like to close our service tonight.