Leviticus 4:1, 2
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
The main points in this offering were these:
I. The Law of God is made the standard of righteousness.
II. Sin is offense against the Law.
III. Offenses of ignorance or error involve guilt; that is, require that the Law shall be honoured in view of them.
IV. There is forgiveness with God for all sin.
V. Those who are in the most responsible position are the most called to offer sacrifice for their sin.
VI. The forgiveness of sin is only through expiation, in recognition of an atonement. These points embrace much of the teaching of the Mosaic economy. Consider -
I. THE LAW OF GOD THE STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The sin which has to be expiated is "sin against any of the commandments of the Lord." While distinction was plainly made from the first between the fundamental moral law, as in the ten commandments, and the ceremonial law - still all that was "commanded of the Lord" was law to Israel - was to be strictly observed, involved the covenant relation between God and man, to violate which was to be estranged from the peace of God. The ceremonial law, taken in connection with the Decalogue and the whole of the Mosaic appointments, set forth this great truth, that the existence of man in all its extent was subject to the will of God, and that that will as declared was law, which must be obeyed at peril of Divine displeasure. So there is still the same subjection of man to law, which is:
1. The law of the heart or of the inward man.
2. The taw of ethics, of man's relations to his fellow-man.
3. The law of the religious life, of man's worship of God.
The standard of righteousness must be applied in each of these spheres of Law, which our Lord shows by his Sermon on the Mount, when he proclaims the wilt of God to be holiness in all these respects - poverty and purity of heart, love to neighbours, sincerity and devotion in the worship of God. Against the Law any offense is sin. Therefore, as the gospel was a new proclamation of the Law, so was it a new revelation of sin; for Christ, by the Spirit, came to "convince the world of sin," by revealing the law of righteousness.
II. SIN IS OFFENSE AGAINST THE LAW. The fundamental conception of the Mosaic economy was the fellowship of God and man - the true blessedness of human existence. The Law was a setting out of the boundaries of that ground of fellowship where alone God and man could meet together. Whether it was civil law, or moral law, or ceremonial law, the same twofold reference was in each to the will of God as Creator, King, Redeemer, to the trustful subjection of man to Divine authority. An offense against Law in this wide sense of the word. must include not only a deliberate setting up of the will of the creature against the Creator as in immorality or intentional disobedience of any kind, but anything in the conduct which hinders the fulfillment of the Divine purposes, anything which opposes the Law as an active principle. We recognize the same universality of sanction to law in that inevitableness which we attach to the laws of nature, whether physical or social. They work out their results both in the individual and in society, apart from all respect of persons. The good man violating a law of nature must suffer the consequences. Not because he is punished by the God of providence, but because he has put himself in the way of the great chariot of the world's onward progress, and has become so far an offense and a stumbling-block, which must be treated as such. It was a grand advance in revelation that all human life was regarded as based upon law, and all law was declared to be God's Law. Therefore, all rightness, all happiness, both positive and negative, must be from God, the fruit of a living fellowship between the creature and the Creator.
III. EXTENSION OF GUILT TO OFFENSES OF IGNORANCE AND ERROR. The word rendered ignorance signifies wandering from the way. Therefore the idea of the offense is not that of absolute ignorance of the Law itself, which would exclude the idea of guilt altogether, but rather that of inadvertence, through carelessness, through human infirmity of any kind, or through the connexion of our own life with the life of others. "There are many things which man's conscience would pass over, many things which might escape man's cognizance, many things which his heart might deem all right, which God could not tolerate; and which, as a consequence, would interfere with man's approach to, his worship of, and his relationship with God" (Macintosh). Hence the need of a Divine atonement - for as David prays we must all pray, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults" (Psalm 19:12). Now, the sin offering pointed to the fact that such secret faults, unintentional violations of the Law, involved guilt, inasmuch as they were occasions demanding that the Law should be vindicated and honoured as truly as the greatest offenses. This has been universally recognized in the law of nations as a natural principle of justice, The overt act is alone before the eye of the law, not the secret intention except as it changes the character of the overt act. The offense of manslaughter embraces a large number of cases where ignorance and error might be pleaded, but are not sufficient to remove the liability of the offender. Guilt is not merely conscious or subjective liability to punishment, but objective liability as well. Thus is the conscience of man enlightened and its power enlarged by the revelation of God. As Adam knew his sin much more clearly when God had called him into colloquy, so the Law of Moses was an appeal to the conscience, a quickening of it, a setting up of the Divine mirror before man, that he might know himself. See this whole doctrine of guilt treated by St. Paul in Romans 7, "Sin by the commandment became exceeding sinful." "I was alive without the Law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
IV. THE OFFERING FOR SIN IS THE PLEDGE OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS. The sin of ignorance represented God's view of sin as contrasted with man's view. Therefore, as it was an atoning offering, it proclaimed both the righteousness of God as condemning all sin, and the covenant mercy of God as forgiving all sin. Man would naturally take account only of known sins, but the true peace is that which proceeds from the assurance of entire and infinite atonement. How different is such a revelation of mercy from any of the heathen satisfactions which were mere attempts to appease the Divine wrath as a recognized danger! But dangers are not only seen, but unseen. In the case of natural laws, how often we find that we have broken them when we knew not! The true safety is that which we know is not only partial and probable, but absolutely secured against all possible contingencies. God's thoughts are not as our thoughts. He invites us to hide under the shadow of his wings.
V. RESPONSIBILITY IN PROPORTION TO PRIVILEGE. The priest represented the people. The congregation was the nation in its collective capacity, therefore it represented not only the individuals as sinners, but the special relation of the community to Jehovah as the body to the head. The official position of the high priest was one of peculiar dignity and solemnity, therefore the sin of the individual in his case was more than his own sin - it was the violation of that larger relation in which the people as a whole stood to their God. All superior knowledge, all elevation of office and vocation, all representation, carries with it special responsibility. Those who are ministers of God must feel their sins as heavier burdens, requiring to be put away by special acknowledgment, by extraordinary effort. There are sins which none but the high priest and the congregation could commit. So there are sins of official life and sins of Church life, which we are apt to overlook because they are less upon the individual conscience than our own personal sins; but God shows us by the regulations of his Law, that we must hate them and avoid them and seek their forgiveness, even as though they were deliberate and individual offenses. How often men have done, in the name of their religious system or in their official capacity, what, if it had been ascribed to themselves in their private life, they would have immediately condemned! The purity of Church officers and of Church life in general has much to do with the growth of Christianity. The history of ecclesiastical errors is a very sad one. It was the absolute purity of Christ which so severely condemned the religious leaders of his time. They suffered their consciences to be blinded by the corruption of the system under which they lived. They did evil, thinking often that they did God service. Yet the Church and its rulers will be judged, not by the standard of its own degeneracy, but by the Law of God. Judgment begins at the house of God. There are the most responsible men, there are the greatest offenses, and there must be the most exemplary manifestation of Divine righteousness. The clearing away of sin from the Church is the preparation for the pure worship of God, for the re-established relation between the covenant king and his people, for the outpoured blessings of the throne of grace.
VI. THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN, ONLY BY EXPIATION, THROUGH ATONEMENT. This is especially set forth by the sin offering, for it represented the Divine demand of expiation in cases where human ignorance or error might be pleaded in excuse on man's side. What we require is not mere proclamation of pardon, but a peace which is settled on eternal foundations. So long as there remains in the mind of the sinner the thought that God is not satisfied, there must be a barrier to fellowship. The setting forth of the sin offering was a provision of Divine righteousness as the condition of peace. God does not overlook sin as that which has excuse made for it; he puts it away as that which is atoned for. All the details of the ceremony, especially the connection of the blood of the sin offering with the two altars - that of incense and that of burnt offering - pointed to the completeness of the atonement which God provided. In the antitype, the great sacrifice offered by our Lord Jesus Christ, whose soul was made an offering for sin, we must lay great stress on the Divine perfection of the Victim offered, his coming forth from God, his representation in himself of Divine righteousness; for Christ is not a Saviour merely from individual transgressions, but from sin itself as an evil principle at work in the nature of man. Unless we hold firmly to this atoning perfection of Christ, we cannot proclaim the regenerating gift of the Holy Spirit, for the new life must be founded in a perfect justification; the same faith which admits us into the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ, also admits us into that, fellowship and vital union with the living Redeemer, which is the commencement of a new life in the Spirit. The Apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:2) puts the sanctification of the Spirit and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ in juxtaposition. They are included in the one Sacrifice of Calvary, whereby atonement is made, and the power of an endless life is revealed in him who, having offered himself through the Spirit without spot, rose again from the dead to become the Captain of salvation, the Firstborn among many brethren, the second Adam, the man who is made, by his Divine work, a quickening spirit. "Christ is God's," and "ye are Christ's." - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,