This is the 9th study in the Christianity series (by Marty Gee).
Jesus’s atoning death
Sin involves breaking God’s moral law-but goes further than that. It ends up meaning that human beings reject their glorious identity and calling. Sin is a terrible spiritual cancer that destroys human beings, their relationships, the culture they create, and the creation itself. Because God is good and just, He hates this destruction and perversion of His beautiful artwork. The only way for sin to be destroyed is for God to eradicate it by pouring out His justice on it. It’s similar to the way chemotherapy works. Death was promised by God as the direct consequence of rejecting Him when He told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Paul explains this in Romans 6.23 by saying, ‘the wages of sin is death…’.
God made a promise to restore and redeem the nations through Abraham, and this promise was sharpened in His covenant with Israel. Israel’s history shows us two problems:
- God longs for His tangible Presence to dwell in the midst of His people; yet if He comes too close to sinful humans they will die.
- Even though Israel is God’s holy people, chosen as priests for the other nations; they continue to rebel and reject Him just as Adam and Eve did.
How can God keep His promise to restore and redeem?
Read Leviticus 16. 1-2, and 15-22
- What does verse 1 show us about the problem with people coming into God’s Presence?
- The rest of the chapter goes on to describe the sacrifices offered by the priests on the Day of Atonement. Based on verse 2, what is the purpose of the sacrificial system?
- Look at verses 15-17. This describes the first goat being offered as a ‘sin offering’ which makes ‘atonement’. Explain how the sacrifice of the innocent goat works for the Israelite people.
- Read verse 18 and 19. Why does the priest need to sprinkle blood on the altar itself?
- Read verses 18.22. Both the goats represent Israel. What different role does each goat play?
- Why does God want the sins of Israel to be atoned for? (Once the sins of the people are atoned for, and the sanctuary itself is cleansed, what will happen? Look at Exodus 34 -35 for a hint).
Read Romans 3.23-25
- In what way is sin falling short of the glory of God (based on Adam and Eve’s role in the garden)? (For more on this you could look at Paul’s description of the nature and effects of sin in Romans 1.8 and following).
- Consider Leviticus 16. How does the death of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement fulfil Leviticus 16 ? (consider the different roles of the two goats).
You might also consider Isaiah 53.5 and think about how Jesus’ sacrifice atones for Israel and for us.
- Verse 24 says we are ‘justified freely by His grace’. Here Paul is using the image of a law-court. He is saying that the whole world has been put in the dock before God, the judge. He then says that we are not just pardoned for our crimes, but justified. What do you think this means?
- How does the sacrifice of Jesus become available for us? Read verse 25.
- Redemption means to ‘buy back’ something. For example, you could buy back someone from a slave market. How are people ‘’bought back’ by the blood of Jesus?
In thinking about this, consider the biblical story which shows human beings as image-bearers who then get enslaved to the enemy through sin. This is true for Israel, who gets enslaved to the false gods of the pagan nations (and to the powers behind them) as well as for all humans.
- Think again about Leviticus 16. Once the sacrificial system is working, and the sins of God’s people are atoned for, it means that the Presence of God can remain in the Temple. Discuss what this means for those of us who have received atonement through Jesus Christ.