Dear friends, we don’t come to God with any sacrificial offering for sin today, because Jesus has fulfilled the Old Covenant system of worship through his once-for-all sacrifice. His sacrifice cleanses you, satisfies the debt you owe, and gives you peace with God, allowing you to enter into the presence of the Holy One.
The book of Leviticus opens up with a description of five different offerings for Old Covenant worship. These offerings are the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. Three of these offerings relate in particular to sin and its effects. They highlight the different ways in which sin taints the worshipper, the place of worship, and the community. In the New Testament, Jesus fulfills these three types of sin-sacrifices in a way that highlights the different facets of Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf.
The burnt offering is the first offering described in the book of Leviticus. What’s unique about this sacrifice is that the whole animal (sans skin) is offered on the bronze altar as a sweet smelling aroma to God. The worshiper identifies with the animal (through the laying on of hands), slaughters it, and then symbolically ascends to God in the smoke of the sacrifice. This highlights the peace or reconciliation made between God and the worshiper.
Jesus Christ is described as the one who reconciles us to God through his offering up of himself. The burnt offering was a soothing aroma in Yahweh’s nostrils, so too Jesus “gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:2) Just as the animal for the burnt offering was required to be blameless, or without any blemish (Lev. 1:3), Jesus is described the lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:19) who has redeemed us by his precious blood.
The sin offering is described in Leviticus four, and the focus of this offering is on cleansing. The sacrificial animal wasn’t burned on the altar in its entirety, in fact, most of the animal was carried outside of the tabernacle premises and burned in a clean place outside of the camp. The unique thing about this sacrifice is that the sacrificial blood was used to cleanse the furniture in the tabernacle, signifying that our sin pollutes God’s house. The priest who sinned would sprinkle the veil which separated the holy place from the holy of holies seven times, and he would also put blood on the horns of the altar of incense. Here we see that sin has far-reaching consequences. It doesn’t just affect us, but it blemishes the sanctuary (or we might say the church).