In the first part of this topic, each member should:
- Understand the importance of blood and its role in atoning for sin.
- Be enlightened about some of the different offerings given for atonement in the Old Testament and their significance.
This subject is very important, as it is a fundamental element of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, having a clear understanding of it would help us build a solid Christian foundation without which we would experience instability, or probably live as non-Christians.
What is Blood?
We’ll begin our study by clarifying some very basic things; the first being: What is blood? To understand the blood of Jesus, this needs to be clarified, because we need to determine whether in referring to the blood of Jesus, the Bible is speaking in generic terminology, or if it’s referring to something specific. Is it dealing figuratively, or is it being specific of a particular substance?
Scientifically, blood is defined as the fluid consisting of plasma, blood cells and platelets that is circulated by the heart through a vertebrate’s vascular system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to, and waste materials away from all body tissues. Functionally, a similar fluid in animals, other than vertebrates, is also called blood. It means we’re dealing with a substance: the fluid in our bodies and in animals, often red in colour. This is simple to understand because it’s something common to every one of us. So, when we talk about the blood of Jesus, we are talking about this fluid that goes through the body. Now, how important is the blood and what does the Bible really say about it?
We would begin from the book of Genesis:
Genesis 9:1 – 4: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
At that time, God had taken action against the world and destroyed it; all of mankind was destroyed except Noah and his family; and the Lord blessed them after they came out of the Ark. This blessing was very similar to the blessings and instruction He gave Adam at the beginning. He gave them every moving thing as meat, and every green herb; however, He said in verse 4, that they couldn’t eat ‘flesh with the life thereof, which is blood. God gave us a very definite understanding there, that as far as He was concerned, the blood is the life of the flesh.
This understanding in verse 4 above, was unveiled before the law of Moses was introduced.
Blood: The Atonement For Sin:
Now under the law, in Leviticus 17:11, the Bible says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
This is remarkable! In Genesis, He made it clear that the blood is the life of the flesh. Now, coming to the law, He brings in the subject of atonement, saying, the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I’ve given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls.
Atonement means appeasement; propitiation; to satisfy the claims of justice. This refers to compensation for wrongdoing. He was telling them that if they did wrong, they had no way of satisfying the claims of justice, or the divine claims, so, He gave them blood as the atonement for their souls – the blood of the animal upon the altar. This meant with the blood of an animal, God could overlook what they had done and look at the blood as their representative. But this was going to be a definite animal chosen by God, and it was to be carried out in His prescribed manner. Moreover, there were only to offer sacrifices in altars designated by the Lord.
The First Sacrifice For Sin:
The first sin in the world was committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Bible records that after they sinned, they hid themselves and tried to flee from God, but God called out, ‘Adam where art thou’. His response to God, was that He was hiding, because he was naked. But God said, ‘who told you that you were naked? Have you done what I told you not to do?’ Of course he had done something wrong, and he and his wife covered themselves with leaves (Genesis 3:8-11). However, God did something: He called them and killed an animal, spilled the blood of that animal, and used the skin of the animal to cover their nakedness, instead of the leaves they had used. Observe that He killed an animal, spilled the blood of that animal and made atonement for them(Genesis 3:21; Hebrews 9:22).
As we progress on this study, always remember what God did right there in Genesis, from the very beginning. The first time man sinned, God killed an animal, sacrificed the blood of that animal and covered their nakedness with the skin of that animal.
A Spiritual Law:
Let’s look again at Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
This shows us a spiritual law, meaning there is no other way to make atonement for the soul except with blood. This is God’s divine order; His divine principle and law, that’s why He instructed them not to eat the blood of an animal, which they killed.
You know, man may get all the elements together and try to create artificial blood, but it will never give life. God hid the life in the blood; that’s where God put the law of the human/animal life. The blood of the human body has the life of that body.
Over in the New Testament, Hebrews 9:22 agrees perfectly with what we read above: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission”
Sin cannot be wiped away without the shedding of blood; it’s a spiritual law. So relate this with what we read in the latter part of Leviticus 17:11 – the blood makes atonement for the soul. He didn’t just say for your soul, but for the soul, letting us know this is a spiritual law.
Different Types Of Offerings:
There were different kinds of special offerings, which God called for in the Old Testament. The five major ones were:
- The Burnt Offering
- The Grain Offering
- The Peace Offering
- The Sin Offering
- The Trespass Offering
These were very important offerings, and you’d find them explained in the book of Leviticus. Now, because we are dealing with the blood of Jesus, we would be looking into the offerings that had to do with blood, and their significance.
The Law of the Burnt Offering:
Leviticus 1: 1 – 4: “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” – This is the law of the burnt offering.
The burnt offering referred to here was a personal free will offering. Notice the Scripture above says, ‘…he shall offer it of his own voluntary will, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation…’ If a man wanted to give an offering, he was to take of the herd or of the flock, and offer it of his own voluntary will. He was required to put his hand on the burnt offering, and it was accepted to make atonement for him. Notice here that it had nothing to do with whether or not the man had done something wrong.
Noah also offered a burnt offering even before God gave instruction about the blood in Genesis, and it wasn’t because he had done something wrong.
Genesis 8:19 – 21: “Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”
He got a blessing there, because he did what pleased God. This would not be the first time a man would offer a burnt offering. The Bible tells us Abel evidently offered a burnt offering unto the Lord.
The burnt offering typically represented what we call an acceptance offering. It was an offering of dedication and acceptance, which meant on the man’s side, when he offered a burnt offering, he was dedicating himself; and the Lord’s instruction was that the whole offering should be burnt, so everything on the altar would be accepted. From the man’s perspective, it was an offering of dedication, and from God’s perspective, He accepted the man.
Notice Leviticus 1 Verse 4 above says, “…and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. The man hadn’t done anything wrong, yet the Bible says the burnt offering shall be accepted to make atonement for him. Meaning even in their relationship with God, they needed to have atonement/an appeasement, to come before God and be accepted of Him. They didn’t have to look around to know if they had done anything wrong, as far as God was concerned, they were unclean in themselves. God was so holy; He required a burnt offering.
The Sin and Trespass Offerings:
The sin and trespass offerings also required the shedding of blood. If you sinned knowingly and willfully, you were expected to give the sin offering. But, there were certain sins categorized under trespasses, and these were sins committed unknowingly.
These offerings – the sin and the trespass offerings were given as atonement for personal sins and guilt. In each case, an animal or a bird was killed, and that became the atonement for their specific sins. They always had to go before the priest with this animal, and the priest who was designated would take the necessary action; he’ll kill and offer the animal in the prescribed manner, and then burn whatever part God said should be burned in the prescribed manner. And this continued every time a man sinned. If you study the whole of Leviticus 4 and 5 you’d see this covered all kinds of sins. You either had to offer the sin offering or you offered the trespass offering, depending on what category the sin belonged. But this provided covering or atonement for the time being.
In addition to the offerings made for personal sins, guilt, trespasses and dedication, was the national offering. This is a very significant aspect, where God charged Israel as a nation with sin. They were not the only nation that did wrong; other nations and people sinned too, but the beauty about Israel’s situation was that God provided a means to come out of their predicament through the Abrahamic covenant, which they had with Him. But the rest of the world didn’t have a way out; they lived in complete condemnation, that’s why the Bible says they were strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). But these chosen people of God, the Israelites, were given a particular way to come out of their trouble, when they sinned against God.
As a people, every year, they had to offer a special sacrifice by which God was appeased over them and their sins, so that they could walk before Him, and enjoy all of His blessings for the next one year. However, at the end of one year, it was brought to mind; their sins were remembered again. Why? Because the Bible says it was not possible for the blood of an animal to completely take away sin. For this reason, it had to be done again and again. Remember, the Bible shows us that sin is actually a nature. When Adam sinned against God, he took on himself the nature of Satan; the very nature of sin. The Bible tells us that disobedience brought sin (Romans 5:18). When he disobeyed, he sinned against God and that sin brought spiritual death, which is separation from God. And so, in order to cover his sin for the time being, God killed an animal, but that couldn’t cover his nature. Man was still a miserable offender and sinned again and again; therefore God allowed these sacrifices to go on and on.