Okay, let’s quickly recall where we’re at.
Admittedly, my last post did not conclude on the most positive note.
In fact, for some, it may have appeared to paint a very bleak picture.
And the reason is because I made it pretty crystal clear that the Levitical Sacrificial System of which Yeshua was a substitute did NOT provide atonement for any and all sins a person could possibly commit.
The sacrificial system ONLY provided atonement for what the Bible classifies as UNINTENTIONAL sins.
INTENTIONAL or high-handed sins could not be atoned for under the Levitical Sacrificial System.
These type of sins were turned over to that aspect of God’s justice system called the curses of the law.
This reality forces us to face a very difficult and uncomfortable question.
If the sacrificial system of the Bible only covers sins that weren’t intended, and if Yeshua fulfilled ONLY THAT system, where does that leave us when most of the time we sin intentionally (and trust me, we all have committed intentional sin)?
Well, here’s the spine-tingling, AWESOME NEWS and once the Apostle Paul comprehended this, he was ecstatic and became an unstoppable force for the Gospel of Yeshua.
(DRUM ROLL PLEASE!)
Yeshua’s sacrificial death on the cross fulfilled MUCH MORE than the Levitical sacrificial system.
Let’s take a look at these verses from the Book of Romans.
“Since all have sinned and come short of earning God’s praise. By God’s grace, without earning it, all are granted the status of being considered righteous before him, through the act redeeming us from our enslavement to sin that was accomplished by the Messiah Yeshua. God put Yeshua forward as the propitiation for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated God’s righteousness; because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [with neither punishment nor remission] the sins people had committed in the past.”-Romans 3:23-25
The first thing you need to know is that Paul is talking about INTENTIONAL SINS in these verses.
How do I know this?
I know this because of the phrase “enslavement to sin”.
One was obviously not a slave to unintentional sins because the Levitical sacrificial system could deal with those.
What one was a slave to were the INTENTIONAL SINS, because the sacrificial system could NOT atone for those.
Commit an intentional sin and you were its slave forever.
There was NO ESCAPE from the consequences of intentional sin under the Levitical sacrificial system.
And the Rabbis over the centuries were never really able to come up with a suitable solution to this problem.
As I mentioned earlier, this was the terrifying reality every Hebrew under God’s justice system faced.
All of this lends new meaning to the words “enslavement to sin”, doesn’t it?
Now let’s take a look at the word “propitiation” from the above verses from Romans.
The Greek word being used here is HILASTERION which means ATONEMENT.
In Hebrew, the word for atonement is KAPPARAH.
Other Bibles may say “mercy seat” or “sacrifice of atonement”.
Regardless of which word is being used, all of these words are referring to the lid of the Ark of the Covenant.
Recall that the lid of the Ark of the Covenant was the MOST IMPORTANT FURNISHING IN THE MOST IMPORTANT LOCATION OF THE TABERNACLE, which is central to the Levitical sacrificial system.
In fact, the word HILASTERION is only used twice in the whole New Testament and both times it is referring to the Mercy Seat.
Can you see how thoroughly linked Yeshua and the Levitical sacrificial system are?
Now notice that part from the Romans verses above where it says “Since all have sinned and come short of earning God’s praise”.
The implication is pretty clear here folks.
Paul is saying because not one person has ever gone his entire lifetime without committing an intentional sin, by Yeshua’s sacrifice, there is now a means by which intentional sins can be atoned for.
It was obvious to Paul that what Messiah had accomplished was something far above what the Levitical Sacrificial System was capable of.
Yeshua’s sacrifice could deal with those sins that up until now had to be turned over to the curses or punishments of the Law.
One common misconception about Paul and other Pharisees is that when he made the rounds strong-arming fellow Jews, he was only targeting followers of Yeshua.
Paul’s primary job and one he seemed to take great delight in was tracking down Jews who had committed an INTENTIONAL SIN.
Because if he found a Jew who had committed an intentional sin, that person was now under the curses of the law, as opposed to under the sacrificial system, and Paul’s job was to make sure that person was dealt with harshly.
A Jew under the curses of the law was now out fellowship with God, and thus would now be punished by men.
This was how Judaism operated in Biblical times.
See, one reason the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling authorities) was so infuriated with Yeshua’s ministry was because He was running around pronouncing divine forgiveness on those WHO HAD COMMITTED INTENTIONAL SINS!
Imagine their shock and seething rage!
Even the sacrificial system, the holiest, purest, most gracious and powerful part of the entire Hebrew justice system was incapable of providing forgiveness for intentional sins.
Yet here was this itinerant, plain looking rabbi from Nazareth claiming that if any person put their trust in Him, they could have peace with God, EVEN IF THEY HAD COMMITTED AN INTENTIONAL SIN.
I can only imagine the uproar, in fact, outside of Yeshua, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any other rabbi in history making the kind of claims Yeshua did.
So with this information, I think you can now understand that when the Apostle Paul proclaimed to his Jewish brethren that Yeshua’s sacrifice had freed them from the curse of the law, to the Jewish mind, it was an astounding revelation.
And I think you can now also understand how inferior the sacrificial part of the Law must have seemed to Paul once he really grasped what Yeshua’s death had accomplished.
So let’s get something straight.
Paul NEVER said the Law is obsolete or dead.
He only said that compared to Yeshua’s sacrifice, the SACRIFICIAL PORTION of the Law was nothing, that by faith in Yeshua, you are covered by His grace if you commit an intentional sin, instead of being turned over to the curses of the Law for committing an intentional sin.
Of course, this wasn’t a license to go hog wild and commit all the intentional sins you wanted just because Yeshua’s grace was now available to you.
The opposite in fact, you would have been down on your knees weeping puddles of gratitude for the divine forgiveness and grace in Messiah the Lord had provided.
The nightmare of not knowing where your fate lie because you had committed an intentional sin was NOW FINISHED, IT WAS OVER!!!
So understand when Paul says Yeshua’s sacrifice provides “forgiveness of sins”, at the forefront of his mind was INTENTIONAL sins.
Paul wasn’t worried about unintentional sins because he took it for granted that this type of sin could be forgiven by offering a proper animal sacrifice at the Tabernacle, as it was since the days of Moses.
Taken from this perspective, I think it is now easier to see why Paul sometimes used such harsh language when contrasting the Levitical sacrificial system with Yeshua’s sacrifice.
And here’s another revelatory thought for you (revelatory if you’re a gentile that is).
Paul NEVER compared Yeshua’s ability to forgive with the sacrificial system’s ability to forgive.
It would have been like comparing apples with oranges.
The purposes of the sacrificial system was to provide atonement for unintentional sins (something every Jewish child is taught by the way) and the purpose of Yeshua’s sacrifice was to provide forgiveness for intentional sins or to quote Paul, free us from the curse of the law.
One did NOT cancel out the other, and soon the temple will be built again, and the flowing blood of sacrificial animals for unintentional sin will be shed once again.
So keep in mind that once we start doing our text study of Leviticus (got a few articles left before that though), there is NOTHING in the sacrificial system that deals with intentional sins, ONLY unintentional sins.