I will admit that one of the things that I don’t speak about in significant depth is sin. The reason for this is that I assume the majority of the people reading my blog already have heard, read, and been taught about the absolute horror of sin. Here we find that out of all of the offerings spoken of in Leviticus 1-5, the sin offering is the one given the most amount of room. This should strike us right where it hurts. The reason that it takes up so much room is because it has such a lengthy discussion of what kind of offering to give depending on your leadership position. The sin offering is predominately for unintentional sin.
For most of us, though, our sin isn’t unintentional… is it?
When we’re truly honest with ourselves, we’ve been giving our lives over to things that ought not to rule us. There are statistics given by many different ministries to tell us just how sinful, wicked, and perverted Christians really are. Many of my male friends are struggling with porn addiction. Others have kids outside of marriage. I know women who are just as sexually trapped in their perversion as men. I know many Christians who speak venom about their brothers and sisters in Christ – and it doesn’t even grieve them. Some manipulate their emotions and their inner being – whether into hysteria or into emotionless absence – and thus subject the Spirit of God into their theology rather than being transformed by the renewing of their minds.
All have sinned and fall short.
Yet, before we look at the text of Leviticus, it seems most reasonable to ask the question, “What is sin?” You see, we seem to have this false notion that sin is only an act of disobedience to God. It is beyond that. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” What does that mean? For the sting of death to be sin, there must be an intimate connection between death and sin. For the power of sin to be the law, there must be something going on behind just the word “law”.
In almost every instance that Paul speaks of the law, he also mentions sin, death, or the principalities and powers…
What do the principalities and powers have to do with law?
In Galatians 4:8-9, Paul quite distinctly draws the parallel: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaved to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” When we compare this text with Colossians 2:14-17, we find this parallel all the more blatant: “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us, he took it away nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
For Paul, the law is not something that God gave upon Mount Sinai alone, but instead an entire system of religion that has been established in order to “do for God” what we think He requires. The law is about righteousness through our own ambition and ability. Because we have enough zeal to memorize what the Law says, and because we have the gumption to attempt to live according to it, we feel as though we’ve attained a certain righteousness through observance of the law.
The point is pressed that righteousness comes through faith, and through faith alone. To be under the law is to use the wisdom of the principalities and powers, which is to say, to use our own strength and endurance, in order to attain unto righteousness. It is a false righteousness, however. This is why Paul tells the Galatians not to submit again to the law, because the law is not simply the written words of the Old Testament, but a wisdom that promotes self-righteousness according to deeds and accomplishment. Through the wisdom of the principalities and powers, we formulate a conception of righteousness, and we thus pursue that end through our own strength, but the Law of Christ is freedom in the Holy Spirit – to walk according to the fruits of the Spirit.
The reason that the law is the power of sin comes back to the problem of humanly contrived righteousness. In Colossians, the Greek word is used: στοιχεια (stoicheia). Στοιχεια is translated as “basic principles”. When Paul uses this word, he is using it in relation to the principalities and powers. He seems to be drawing a connection between the basic principles of nature and the powers of the air. Judging by the context, it seems most logical to conclude that these “basic principles” are “first principles”, referring back to the dietary laws, holy day observance, and other aspects of the Jewish custom.
The mystery being expressed is that the bondage of the law does not come from the law per se, but from the law of sin at work within the person. We are enslaved by these powers, whether powers of morality, powers of nature, or powers of religion. The powers demand worship, and many of us are still worshiping the powers that be. It is upon the freedom found in the cross of Christ Jesus that we find liberty from the oppression of these powers.
We read in Ephesians 2, “As for you, you were dead,” and not dying, “in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” The root of sin is not a sinful nature, as many suspect. The root of sin is being bound to the kingdom of darkness. We were following the principles of a kingdom contrary to God, and in that, our nature was tempered to pursuing darkness and death rather than light and life. Notice, then, that sin is not merely disobedience to God, but rather a condition that we’re born into.
When we say that the law is the power of sin, and that the law is defined as a self-righteous system of religion that desires to perform certain religious acts and functions to “be right” before God, then we see quickly how this is binding. We are constantly enslaved to a system of performance.
In this, we find what the power of sin is. It is that false mindset that tells us to constantly offer more and more until we’re cutting ourselves and offering our children on altars. Our sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ. This is our freedom. But for those outside of Christ, they are entrapped in a system of continuing to offer more and more. The people who must work 12+ hours a day are enslaved to a system. Work is their god. The people who continue to find their fulfillment in relationships with others, sex and relations are their gods. When you search for fulfillment in something that does not give satisfaction, you find yourself devoting until there is nothing left to give – thus resulting in death. Whether our gods are drugs, work, sex, education, or the State, we are entrapped in systems of bondage through the law.
In essence, the way that the Law is viewed in the eyes of the unregenerate would be like the cliché that many of us say: “The Bible is the B.I.B.L.E – the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”. In this we see the Scripture as a “manual” instead of a revelation of the heart of God. Because we extract the heart of God to ask what we must do, we give ourselves to law instead of to grace. Grace constitutes that we are no longer under obligation through observance to certain laws in order to be righteous. Righteousness comes through faith. Yet, as James has said, “You show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Leviticus 4 brings us face-to-face with a holy God who has set us free from our sin. Just like the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, the inward parts are set before the Lord, but the hide and the flesh and the dung are all burned outside the camp. In this, I think we find three steps in our baptism. John the Baptist baptized with water for repentance. This is our salvation. Second, we are baptized into Christ Jesus. From there, we read of a third baptism – the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6 shows all three).
This sin offering represents a final step in our baptism. I’ve heard some call this the baptism of fire. I personally don’t care what it’s called. What I see in Scripture is a final working of God to deliver us from even the most intimate sins. The author of Hebrews writes, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (12:4). It is Gethsemane – travailing before the throne to be made into the image of Christ and be dead to sin once and for all.
We find the fruits of this baptism in Leviticus 5:5, “When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned…” Compare this to James 5:14, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Why is it that our prayers are not powerful and effective? We have neglected the baptism of Spirit, the purging of our souls even from sin and death. Resulting, we’ve even neglected the confession of our sin to one another. When was the last time you heard testimony in your church, and someone stood up and confessed their sin to the congregation? The reason there isn’t confession is because we see by the eyes of the flesh, and we continue to live by the flesh. But the prayer of the righteous man is effective and powerful. That prayer and anointing with oil will heal you.
Similarly, we find in the sin offering a pattern for freedom. To see the death of another because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut when you should have, or you couldn’t open your mouth when you needed to testify is a crude wake-up call. God would require blood for such a small “sin”? How far does the Lord need to take us before we end up on our knees and broken before Him? We are handing ourselves back into the mouth of the enemy, and when we’ve bound ourselves to darkness after being set free, what is left then to set you free? “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” This is as serious as it comes. Check yourself, examine to see if you are even in the faith. Because if you’re just playing games, then you need to go back to the burnt offering and dedicate yourself afresh before God – begging forgiveness and freedom from your sin as only God can do through the blood of Jesus.