Theology of Atonement

Genesis

Theology of Atonement

January 29th, 1975 @ 7:30 PM

Genesis 3:21

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
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THEOLOGY OF ATONEMENT

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Genesis 3:21

1-29-75    7:30 p.m.

 

This will certainly be a new departure for me.  Not in any wildest dream or imagination did I ever think that I would be attempting to teach in our church a course on theology.  There is a great deal of difference between studying the Bible, as we think of studying the Bible, and studying the theology of the Scriptures, biblical theology.  When you study the Bible, you just look at what the Holy Scriptures are saying, and then seek to understand their meaning to apply it to our lives; but when you study the theology of the Holy Scriptures you are putting together in a course what God says, why He says it, and attempt to understand the meaning of it.  And trying to systematize it, theology is an attempt to place what we learn about God in a reasonable, rational, understandable, systematic context.  The theology of the Holy Scriptures would be bringing the mind of man, trying to place in a logical order and in logical understanding what it is that God says.

Our defense of such a study like that would lie in the way we are made: God made us reasonable and rational creatures.  I can give you a good illustration of how that is in all of us, and it is inescapable.  If you ever saw a crooked column, it does something on the inside of you.  Why?  What is the matter with a crooked column?  You know, one that meanders around like that.  Here is the beautiful portico, or porch, up here, and here is the base down here; what is the matter with meandering around with a column from here to there to hold up the porch?  You just have never seen it.  It is never done that way.  If the column is from here to there, it will be perfectly straight, or in some kind of configuration that is straight.  Where does that come from?  That comes from something God put on the inside of you.  A column ought to be straight.  God did that; He made you that way.  And that is the way you respond.

So with all of the great axioms of life, of nature: God did them, and when you look at the axioms of anything, mathematics, it’s something that God has done; and when we see them, our minds immediately respond to them.  If a fellow says, “You see these two here?  And you see these two there?  When you add them, one, two, four, five,” there’s just something immediately on the inside of you that says, “That’s not correct; that’s wrong.  Two and two never makes five.”  Well, why don’t they make five?  Because it’s the way God put our minds together.  It’s one, two, three, four.  And when you say, “One, two, three, four; two and two makes four,” immediately your mind responds.  Well, theology is taking God’s Book and systematize it: you’re going to look at it as with one’s mind.

Now, we’re going to take one phase of that.  If we had years and years, we could systematize the whole Book, the whole revelation of God.  But in this course we’re going to systematize, we’re going to theologize, we’re going to look as a rational human being at atonement; that is, how can a sinful man get right with God?  Or, how does the cross of Christ save us?  Or, what is the meaning of sacrifice?  So we’re going to start tonight with a discussion, a presentation, of primitive sacrifice.  We’re going back to the beginning.

First, a general definition of sacrifice: what you mean by sacrifice.  We’re going to look first at what the dictionaries say, then we’re going to look at what the theologies say; first, the dictionaries.  On my desk is a great big American Heritage Dictionary.  I quote: “The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage is sacrifice; especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person for this purpose.”  I have on my desk another dictionary, the American College Dictionary.  I quote from it: “Sacrifice is the offering of life, animal, plant, or human, or some material possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.”  I have on the shelf over here a great, big, heavy Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.  I quote from that dictionary: “Sacrifice is an offering to a deity of animal or vegetable life.”  Again, “Sacrifice is an offering to a deity of things consumed on an altar.”  Now those brief definitions will give you a good idea of what we mean when we use the word “sacrifice.”  It is something that a man does, usually on an altar, offering unto God in homage or propitiation, to gain God’s favor, an animal, a plant, or a human being.  That is what you mean by “sacrifice.”

Now we’re going to look at the definition of the word “sacrifice” as theologians use it, as you read it in books of theology.  Sacrifice is a religious act in the sphere of worship, in which a material oblation—that is “offering,” something given, offered, “oblation” means “offering”—sacrifice is a religious act in the sphere of worship, in which a material oblation, offering, is presented, which has as its object to procure the favor of deity through communion with Him.  There are two elements in this worship: one, revelation, expressing condescension of God to man; and the other prayer, expressing the aspiration of man to God.  And the heart of that manward expression, aspiration, is sacrifice.

Again, in theology, sacrifice is a religious act by which man seeks to draw near to God.  It is ritualistic rather than ethical.  It points to the worship side of religion, not the moral.  A man might bring an offering to God and or make a sacrifice to God, and the man himself be very evil.  Cain did that [Genesis 4:3].  So, sacrifice has to do with a ritual; it has to do with an oblation, it has to do with an offering, it has to do with something that is given, offered up unto God.  Again, sacrifice is distinguished from all other acts of religion in the sense that it takes the form of a material offering.  When a sacrifice is made, it has to be something.

Now we’re going to jump ahead thousands of years.  I want to give you an illustration of that theological truth.  Why couldn’t Jesus—well let’s, can’t use, say it like that—why couldn’t the Prince of Glory, why couldn’t God eternal, the preexistent Word, why couldn’t He make a sacrifice for our sins without having a body?  The reason lies that a sacrifice has to be something material that is offered unto God.  And the Lord was incarnate, given a body in the womb of the virgin Mary, in order that He might make a sacrifice for our sins [Matthew 1:20-23; Hebrews 10:4-14].

Now to show you the vast theological background that lies in just a little simple statement like that, that explains for us who believe the Bible the death of the Son of God.  He came into the world not to be a moral example for us, or not to be a hero, or not to be a great teacher, a master teacher, not to be any of the things that the vast secular world accredit to Jesus.  “What a wonderful Man!”  Amen.  “What a glorious Teacher!”  Amen.  “What a marvelous influence!”  Amen.  “What an incomparable example!”  Amen.  All of these things that the secular world say about Jesus, that’s just fine.  But to us, we live, and think, and preach, and believe in an altogether different world: He never came into this world to be an example, or a moral influence, or a hero, or a martyr; what He came into the world was for the purpose to die, to make a sacrifice for our sins [1 John 4:10].  And in order to do that, He had to have a body [Hebrews 10:4-14].  You see, we’re going back to the definition, the theological definition of a sacrifice.  Sacrifice is distinguished from all other acts of religion in the sense that it takes the form of a material offering.  And the Lord had to have a body in order that He might offer a sacrifice unto God.  So He was incarnate, God became flesh, in order that He might sacrifice Himself for our sins [Matthew 1:20-23].  Or what we are going to use, the word is “atonement,” as time goes on; but we’re using the word “sacrifice” now.

Now we’re going to discuss the origin of sacrifice.  Where did it come from, this thing of bringing to God on an altar something living?  Now it can be something inanimate, but when we think of it for the most part we think of something living.  There are only two possible views concerning the origin of sacrifice, where it came from.  Number one: it is invented by man; or number two: it is instituted by God, by divine authority.  Now it’s one or the other.  Sacrifice either came from God, instituted by the Lord, or a man invented it, one or the other.

Now you’re going to be surprised: I was taught that man invented it.  That’s the way I was taught.  As I begin this study in my own self, in that parsonage, that library out there where I hibernate, I have been amazed at how I have changed in the years and the years of my pastoral work.  I cannot believe what has happened to me from what I used to be when I was listening to the seminary professors and what I believe and preach now.  I cannot believe it.

Here is a good illustration.  I was taught that sacrifice was an invention.  Now, the professor defines his use of the word “invention,” quote, “Came upon,” quote, “discovered,” quote, “naturally turned to.”   So let’s just use all of his words.  I was taught that sacrifice was an invention by man, that he came upon it, that it was a discovery by man, that it was a natural turning to on the part of man.  The reasons given were these—and I sum them up briefly in three ways, the best summaries that I can make for hours and hours of lecturing.  One, why is it that the seminary professor taught me that sacrifice began in an invention by man?  Number one: he says there is no Scripture in the beginning that sacrifice was commanded.  The divine view, that it came from God, reads more into the faith of Abel than is required.  The divine view, that it came from God, reads into the incident more advanced theology.  They didn’t have that back there; this is all of our ideas about that that we read into Abel’s sacrifice came in the years and the years later.  Abel of himself, I was taught, came upon and devised this mode and form of worship [Genesis 4:4].  It came from within him to do this for God.

All right, number two: the idea of invention, I was taught, the idea of discovery is in keeping with the idea of the development of man.  He was created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], and he seeks after God, and this act of Abel, when he offered the lamb before God, is the beginning of a development that came into greater theological meaning much later.  It was something that he fell upon.  It is something that he discovered.  It is something that he invented.  It is something that he turned to.  And then later on, as the generations and the centuries passed, why, it came to have deep theological meaning.  But it didn’t have that theological meaning back there at the beginning.  It was just something that Abel happened to come onto when he came before God and offered his sacrifice.

All right, number three, why I was taught that sacrifice was an invention of man, number three: because of the universal prevalence of sacrifice among other people indicates that it is a natural response; it just came out of the man himself, didn’t come from God.  And he says, the professors says, that the universal prevalence of sacrifice among all the peoples who’ve ever lived shows that it didn’t come from God, but it comes from man; it’s a natural response.

All right, we’re going to look at what I now believe.  With all my heart, wholly and completely, I believe that sacrifice was instituted by divine authority, that it came from God, that it is in response to a mandate from heaven.  Now I have several reasons for my persuasion, my conviction concerning this.  Number one: in Genesis 3:21 it says, that, “Unto Adam and to his wife,” when they fell [Genesis 3:1-6], “did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” [Genesis 3:21].  I want you just for a minute—and this is not something far out or far-fetched; I don’t know of anything more rational than what I am asking us to do right now—I want us, the best our imaginations can do it, to place ourselves in the garden of Eden.  And the man and his wife are perfect; the animal world is perfect, the lion, the tiger, everything in it is beautiful.  There are no fangs, there is no bloodshed, there is no death, there is no anything except paradisiacal perfection.  Now in the midst of that I want you to imagine what Adam and Eve felt, felt in their minds, in their hearts, in their souls, in every fiber of their being—I want you to imagine what they felt when they saw the Lord God take an innocent animal, and before their eyes slay it: the first time they ever saw what d-e-a-t-h meant, the first time they ever saw the crimson of life, and the first time they ever saw the earth drink it up [Genesis 3:21].  Can you imagine the effect that had upon Adam and Eve, when they saw death for the first time, saw bloodshed for the first time, and when they saw God make a covering?  “The Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them, covered them”—atonement: when God covered over their shame and nakedness with the lives, the skins, of these innocent animals [Genesis 3:21].

Now that’s the first thing that impresses me about this thing we’re beginning to study, “sacrifice”: it was something that they did [Genesis 3:1-6], not that animal that laid down its life [Genesis 3:21].  The animal had nothing to do with it; I presume it was a lamb.  That is a speculation on my part, but I suppose it was a lamb.  And the lamb had done no ill, or hurt, or evil, or injury, wrong, transgression, absolutely sinless; and they in their sin [Genesis 3:1-6] are now clothed with the life of that innocent victim [Genesis 3:21].

All right, look again, at verse 24: cherubim are placed at the east of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:24].  You know we were talking about that “east,” the utmost that I could ever find or anybody could say to me is that out of the east comes light, warmth, the sunshine, and that brings life.  So we’ll just say that at the east of Eden, at the source of light and life, God places His cherubim; and when He drives the man out of the garden of Eden, out of paradise, God’s cherubim are there, standing.  Now why?  Why?  There was a flaming sword there to keep the way of the tree of life [Genesis 3:24]; but why are the cherubim also there?  You will find in the Word of the Lord that cherubim are always symbols of grace and mercy, always.  And I think the whole passage means that at the east gate of the garden of Eden, there God taught the man and the woman the way to come to God.  How?  Through the shedding of blood, through sacrifice, through the pouring out of life in atonement for sin [Hebrews 9:22].

Do I know that?  Only spiritually.  It does not spell it out in so many words.  I think the record is so brief, there was no particular purpose in spelling it out because as you read through the Bible, the development of it is extremely careful and profound, reiterated, emphasized.  But talking about the beginning of it, I think that in the beginning what developed in later time as we study the systematic theology of it, that what developed in later time was here, that none of it, either later or here, was an invention or a discovery of man, but it was something God did!  It is something the Lord Himself brought to pass.  He killed the first animal; God’s hand did it [Genesis 3:21].  Just like God’s hand slew the Lord Jesus, it was something God did: God offered His Son a sacrifice for our sins [Romans 3:24-25].  It would have been the simplest thing in the world for Him to strike the Roman soldiers dead; would have been the simplest thing in the world for God to smite the Sadducees and the Pharisees with blindness.  But this is an act of God; this is something God does.  This is something God does for us.  This is covering, atonement, for our sins, that we might be saved [Romans 3:26].  So I think there at the garden of Eden the cherubim, symbols of God’s mercy and grace, indicate to us that God taught the man there how to come before Him [Genesis 3:24].

Now in the next chapter, chapter 4, verses 3 and 5, we have the story of the refusal of the offering of Cain.  Why?  Why?  Was it because it was a vegetable offering?  “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord” [Genesis 4:3].  And God refused the offering of Cain [Genesis 4:5], why? Because it was a vegetable offering, an offering of the fruit of the ground?  He was a farmer; he was a tiller of the soil [Genesis 4:2].  Was it because he brought a vegetable offering?  No.  When you read the Book of Leviticus—and you remember I said you can pretty well tell the spiritual height or depth or temperature or sensitivity of somebody according to whether or not they like the Book of Leviticus: if Leviticus is absolute boredom to them, they have no sensitivity to the Word of God; but when you find somebody that sees in Leviticus some of the profoundest, deepest truths of God, you have somebody who is beginning to understand the mind and revelation of the Lord—all right, here is an instance of it: in Leviticus 2:1-16, that’s the whole chapter, there is the meal offering.  In the King James Version it’s sometimes in the chapter called the “meat offering”; it’s a vegetable offering.  And the whole chapter is about the meal offering, the vegetable offering: flour and ears of wheat.  Well, I’m just pointing out, was it because that Cain brought a vegetable offering unto God that he was refused? [Genesis 4:3, 5].  No!  He was refused, Cain and his offering were refused, because he had no blood offering with it.  There was no lamb brought.  His heart was in disobedience to God.  God says, “By blood” [Leviticus 17:11]; and Cain said, “Not so.”

Is that a strange and unusual development among men?  I would say practically all of them are like that.  “You mean I must plead the blood of Jesus to be saved? [Ephesians 1:7].  You mean I must accept the cross of Christ if my sins are to be forgiven? [1 Corinthians 2:2]. You mean I have to repent and ask God to save me for Jesus’ sake before I can get to heaven? [Mark 1:15]. Listen,” says the world, “I couldn’t imagine anything more constricted and narrow and illogical than that.”  Brother, they say, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to portray, I’m going to display all of my good works.  I’m going to say, ‘Lord, just look at me.  Just look at me.  Look at me.’  I’m going to get to heaven on my own merits.”  Well, I pray that he succeeds, because I don’t want to see any man lost.  But if I can understand the mind of God at all, if there is any access to the throne of the Almighty, it has to be in the poured out blood.  It’s by blood [Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22].  And that’s why Cain was refused: not because he brought a vegetable offering, but because his heart was in the spirit of rejection and disobedience to God, and he said, “No, not by blood, not by blood” [Genesis 4:3, 5].

Now all of this is in answer to what I have come to believe: that sacrifice was instituted by divine authority, and it began that way in the first family of the human race.

Now we’re going to look at the ancient meaning of sacrifice.  As you look at sacrifice, and read it, and you just read it all, all, all, as you look at it, what is the ancient meaning of sacrifice?  All right, first we speak of blood, the ancient attitude toward blood.  And this is going to be a thing that is as modern and up to date as your latest medical discovery.  In the Bible, in the ancient world, blood represented life [Leviticus 17:14].  The pouring out of blood was the pouring out of the life.  You have it spelled out in Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and then in Leviticus, “and I have given it to you upon the altar of atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.”  Now we’re talking about the first part of that verse, the attitude of the ancient toward blood; “The life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11]

Now isn’t it a marvelous thing?  Modern science says that.  But it’s modern science; it’s something that has been modernly discovered that the life is in the blood.  You don’t have that circulation of blood through your veins and capillaries, you will rot, you will die!

I go see one of the dearest, sweetest deacons I ever had in my life.  And they are whittling off his foot. They started up there at his toe, and then cut, and then cut, and then cut, and then cut, and then cut; and they’ve got down now to the half of his foot, and he’s still in the hospital facing other cutting, cutting.  It’s just an awful thing.  Well, why?  He is diabetic, and the capillaries that feed the cells are constricted, and he can’t get enough blood, so it rots, and it rots, and it rots, and it rots.  Medical science confirms to us what the ancient knew by God’s mandate: “The life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

So, we say, “Blood is thicker than water,” referring to family ties.  The Arabs say, “Blood is thicker than milk,” referring to those family ties.  The blood represents life [Leviticus 17:14].  And when Abel offered blood, he offered life, he offered himself, substitute for him, blood! [Genesis 4:4]. Cain merely fulfilled religious propriety [Genesis 4:3].  God said, “Come at an altar, worship” [Leviticus 9:7].  So he said, “If the thing of respectability is to go to church on Sunday, I’ll go to church to be respectable, on Sunday.  But I won’t do any more than that.  It’s a matter of respectability.”  So Cain dressed up and went to church.  It’s the same thing as the difference between Orpah and Ruth: Orpah was gracious and nice, showed her appreciation, and then turned back to Moab.  But Ruth gave herself to Naomi; she clave to Naomi, loving her and giving herself to Naomi [Ruth 1:14-17].  Blood represents that.  When blood is offered, life is offered; for the life is in the blood [Leviticus 17:11].  And when the blood is poured out, life is poured out.

Now that explains for us the rite of circumcision.  In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Genesis—now I want you to notice how God frames this—in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, in verses 10 and 11, “This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between Me and you” [Genesis 17:10-11].  Now do you notice, “This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee” [Genesis 17:10].  The covenant concerns seed and posterity, and the consecration by blood offered unto God the unborn children of all the succeeding generations.  Why doesn’t God do some other thing?  We may talk to Him about it when we get to heaven.  But the way of God is by blood, always; by blood.

In the fourth chapter of Exodus, verses 24 to 26, you have the story of Moses’ brush with death in disobeying that covenant and that mandate [Exodus 4:24-26].  Circumcision is by blood: at the fountain of life, showing that it is the purpose of father to dedicate to God children that are not even born.

All right, we’re talking about the ancient meaning of sacrifice.  One of the elements in sacrifice is expiation, expiation: sin taken away.  You see that plainly here in the story of Job, in Job 1:5.  Look at this godly man: “And it was so, that when the days of his sons’ feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.  Thus did Job continually.”  It is plain to see there that the sacrifice is expiatory, taking sin away, the purpose of covering over sin.  “For it may be,” said Job, “that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts” [Job 1:5].  And Job offered a sacrifice for each one of them, pouring out blood.

Now you look again in the forty-second chapter of Job, verses 7 to 9:

And it was so, that after the Lord has spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath.

Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of Me the thing which is right, like My servant Job.

[Job 42:7-8]

There the sacrifice is plainly for the purpose of covering over the folly, the foolishness, the transgression, the sin of the three friends of Job.

Now, not only is it expiatory, sacrifice, for the purpose of covering sin, but it is propitiatory.  A propitiation is an act of conciliation, to make favorable.  In other words, the sacrifice was the purpose, had the purpose to avert the judgment and wrath of God upon sin.  Now we’re going to take one passage and I’m going to read that.  In the twenty-first chapter of Deuteronomy, as I read it, remember the purpose of sacrifice, one of the purposes is to avert the judgment and wrath of God upon wrong, upon sin.  All right, now listen as I read, Deuteronomy 21:

If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:

Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:

And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;

And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley:

And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the Lord; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:

And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:

And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.

O be merciful, O Lord, unto Thy people Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto Thy people of Israel’s charge.  And the blood shall be forgiven them.

So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.

[Deuteronomy 21:1-9]

It is plain to see there that the purpose of the sacrifice is for the purpose of propitiation.  “The Lord is about to judge us.  Look, this man is slain in our midst, and he lies here abandoned to rot in a field.”  What do they do?  God says, “Take a heifer, and slay it, and over that heifer plead God to be merciful to His people.”  “We did not do it; our eyes have not seen it.  O God, avert Thy judgment upon this wrong.”  It is a propitiation to make God favorable, to avert His judgment.

There is also unmistakably in sacrifice the idea of a gift.  For example, the word translated “offering” in the story about Cain and Abel is minchah, minchah [Genesis 4:3-5].  Minchah means “gift.”  When you approach a king, a great sovereign, it’s with a gift; you bring him a gift.  If the queen of England comes to see Eisenhower, she’ll bring him a beautiful gift.  A Dorothy Doughty bird.  And when the queen of England comes to see General Eisenhower, he’ll have a gift for her, a Boehm bird.  When I was in the White House looking around, oh, I just loved to see those pretty things that the kings and the queens have brought.  A minchah, a gift for God.

Another reason why there is the idea of gift in the sacrifice is the word korban, k-o-r-b-a-n.  In the Greek, when you get it over into Matthew, it will be korban, korban [Matthew 15:5].  In Leviticus 1:2, in Ezekiel 40:43, it’s translated “gift”; literally “something brought near” or “something brought into the presence.”  Another idea in the word for “sacrifice,” olah, burnt offerings; literally, “that which ascends, that which goes up.”  It’s wholly given to God.  We don’t have time to read it now, but in Genesis 8:20 and in Genesis 8:21, Noah’s first act after he came out of the ark was to offer a burnt sacrifice, a whole burnt offering unto God.  And it pleased the Lord; a gift for God, a whole burnt offering.

Another word that emphasizes that word gift and sacrifice is ishe, ishe.  That is, “fire”; sacrifice is made by fire, from the root meaning “fire.”  In Joshua 13:14 the sacrifice, burnt with fire, was given to the Levites for food.  And in 1 Samuel 2:28 the sacrifice, burnt by fire, not wholly consumed, just cooked, broiled you’d call it, is eaten by the priest Eli and his son.

And that leads me to the last idea in sacrifice: outside of the whole burnt offering, the sacrifice is always a communal meal, a shared meal.  All of the sacrifices were eaten, except the whole burnt offering.  They brought it, the blood poured out at the base of the altar, expiation made for sin, propitiation offered unto God, a gift brought to God, and it was shared with God, with the priests, and with one another [Deuteronomy 12:6-7].

Ah!  I have to close.  Take the Passover: what did they do with the Passover?  They ate it [Exodus 12:4, 8-11, 46].  Isn’t that right?  They ate it.  What was done with the blood?  It was poured out for expiation and atonement [Exodus 12:26-27].  And the people were under the blood, openly displayed where everybody could see it [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23].  But the sacrifice was eaten: a fellowship with the family and with God [Exodus 12:3-11].

What do we do at the Lord’s Supper?  “This is My body which is given for you,” atonement.  “This is My blood which is shed for you” [Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20], atonement.  And what do we do with the bread and the fruit of the vine?  We eat it.  And in the early church, how much, how much did they gather together in agape feasts, and I think they closed every feast with the Lord’s Supper.

Did you know, I have never had nerve enough to try that; yet the early church did it all the time.  They all gathered together in an agape, a love feast, and they closed the feast with the breaking of bread, His body, and the sharing of the cup, His blood [Acts 2:42, 46].  I’ve just wondered how it would be if we had a marvelous love feast here at the church, and closed it with the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup.  Well, we must close.

So in sacrifice, when you look at it way back yonder in the beginning, it is the pouring out of life, the blood, in expiation, in atonement, in propitiation, the covering of sins, and almost always, outside of that one whole burnt offering, it is a communion with God.  We have fellowship with God in the cross, in the death of Jesus Christ [1 John 1:7]Not coming before God in our own right, but coming in His name, forgiven for His sake, loved and welcomed and accepted; propitiation, welcome for Jesus’ sake.  And in that “we have fellowship, one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”  Isn’t that the way John puts it?  “We have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7].

Well, this is what you call theology; looking at it with our minds, seeing what God has done, putting it all together.  And the next time, we’re going to study the theology of atonement in the ritual of Israel.