The law of this offering is contained in Lev.1. It reads as follows:
“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 with out 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. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into his pieces. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: but his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.
“And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood around about upon the altar. And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priests shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: but he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall burn it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.
“And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it upon the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: and he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: and he shall cleave it with the wings thereof but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.”
Reading this description of the burnt offering, the discovery is made that what formed the mark of distinction of this kind of sacrifice is that the whole dead body of the victim—even the head, legs and inwards—were burnt on the altar and thus ascended in fire to the Lord. The names that this offering therefore bears are olah, a rising, and kalil, the whole.
But there is still another important mark of distinction to be mentioned, namely, one that concerned the kind of sins for which the burnt offering availed. It was found that there were three classes or kinds of sins that could be atoned by the animal sacrifices. The first class was comprised of sins committed unwittingly, or ascribable to carelessness or inadvertence. The second class was formed of sins of weakness and such as were committed under the impute of passion or were occasioned by temptation. For as many of the sins in these two classes as could be compensated, the trespass offering was appointed. The rest were to be expiated by the sin offering.
A third class of sins was the one comprised of the many moral infirmities and miseries that even the most devout Christians feel in themselves,—such infirmities (to quote from a former article) as imperfect and weak faith, the failure on the part of the believer to yield himself to serve God with that zeal as he is bound, the evil lusts of the flesh with which every believer has daily to strive, thus weaknesses that are found in the saintliest of men. The apostle Paul consents unto the law that it is good; he hates evil and loves and wills the good; the good he would do; he delights in the law of God after the inward man; he serves the law of God with his mind; and he thanks God through Jesus Christ his Lord for his eventual deliverance from the body of this death. And yet he nevertheless complains that he is carnal, sold under sin in that he does what he hates; that thus he does evil, yet not he but sin that dwelleth in him; that he knows that in him, that is, in his flesh, dwelleth no good thing; that he finds not how to perform that which is good; that he sees another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into capacity to the law of sin which is in his members; that finally with his flesh he serves the law of sin.
The testimony of the apostle “but the evil which I would not, I do” must be made to apply to sin not as it raises its foul head in the lives of wicked men devoid of the life of regeneration and not even as it becomes manifest in the walk of life of the unspiritual and worldly Christian but as it riots in the flesh of the holiest of men. To quote from a former article, in the believer, in the essence of his being, mind, will, there still operates a principle of sin. Hence, there is still a body, an organism, a complete man of death to the believer that forms a part of him. An organism it is which also goes by the name of flesh in Scripture. This body cannot do otherwise but sin. Its lusting is a necessity, compulsion, thus a law in the believer’s members, that wars against the law of his mind, including the will, insofar as these be the seat of the operation of the new principle of life and that brings into captivity to itself Paul’s ego, so that despite his best efforts to the contrary, Paul, his ego, does the evil that he hates and thus serves with his flesh the law of sin, and bitterly complains, “I am carnal, sold under sin. . . .O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death!”
There are as many kinds of lusts dwelling in the believer’s flesh as there are kinds of potential lusts. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in Paul all manner of concupiscence. So reads his testimony. Operating from the flesh as their seat, these lusts, as provoked by the commandment, bestir themselves and bring into captivity the believer’s ego with the result that he, the believer, contrary to his holy desire and despite all his efforts to be done with sin, does evil. Though he would not have it so, he becomes and remains the subject of his sinful lusts that reside in and spring from his flesh. So the good that he would he does not. But the evil that he hates, that he does. He would render God a perfect service. Yet he discovers upon careful examination that his very best works, such as prayer, are mixed with the issues of his flesh and this to an amazing degree, so that his true obedience, such is his discovery, is but a small beginning. But we say it again, it must not be supposed that what Paul means to say of himself is that in his life these lusts assumed a form identical to the fixed way of life of the ungodly or even of the unspiritual Christian, so that, at the time he penned these words of his, men could see him walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners and sitting in the seat of the scornful, could thus see him walking and living in fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, anger, malice, blasphemy and the like. Persons who are truly believers and as believers are spiritual do not walk, stand, lie in sin, but by the mercy of God they crucify the works of the flesh, mortify their members which are upon the earth: the sinful will and mind, the evil eye, hand, foot and ear, tongue and mouth. In the words of Christ, the offending hand they cut off and the offending eye they pluck out. Actually therefore Paul, and with him every believer who walks with God, has his eye fixed not upon the earthy, the vile and the obscene, but upon the heavenly; and his feet are swift not to shed blood but to walk in the way of God’s precepts; and his mouth is filled not with curses but with the praises of God; and his hand he applies not to the works of sin but to the work of Christ. And as the elect of God, holy and beloved, he puts on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of spirit, meekness and longsuffering. Paul was this kind of a Christian. Hence, with his walk, his fixed way, of life before his mind, he could and in substance did say with the Psalmist, “Thou hast proved my heart, thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the works of men, by the words of thy lips I have kept me from the path of the destroyer (Ps. 17). . . . .Judge me Lord, for I have walked in my integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altars, O Lord; that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy honor dwelleth” Ps. 26.
But, someone may say, is there not a remarkable similarity between this prayer, as to the form of its words, and that prayer of the Pharisee who said, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I gave tithes of all that I possess.”
These two prayers differ as do the light and darkness. The psalmist in his prayer calls God’s attention to the presence of His redeeming grace in him, the psalmist, and to the manifestation of this grace in his life, and thereupon gives expression to his assurance, to the testimony of the Spirit in his heart, that whereas he is one of God’s redeemed, God will not gather his soul with sinners, nor his life with bloody men. Here, with the psalmist’s implicit trust in God as the Savior of His people. The prayer of the Pharisee, on the other hand, is the utterance of a man who had self before his mind. And this self he deemed God: and to this self he was praying. The works of this self he was telling.
As to the Psalmist, he also prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. . . .” And the apostle, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death. . .” This is not the cry of a man who was being made to repent of some gross sin into which he had fallen but the cry of a man who all along had been walking with God and who because he saw so much of God save so much in self that was vile. Being a man with a heart in which the word of God richly dwelt, he had so much of the quickness and the power and the sharpness of that word to pierce “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow” and to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, the vile intents that sprang from his flesh and that mixed themselves with and polluted his holy strivings. And just because he so desired to be done with sin, was he so aware of the strength of sin’s hold on him, a strength so great, that he realized, if he was ever to be delivered, Christ should have to come to his rescue. Paul was no introvert. He was not a man who took a morbid delight in self-introspection. His confession, “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” sprang not from a sickly subjectivism that is at bottom pride, and that is seemingly much concerned about and occupied with sin but in reality not so,— a subjectivism that holds doubt to be a Christian virtue and that thus is never heard saying: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God thru our Lord Jesus Christ,” and that looks askance at whoever does take upon his lips this song of redemption. To the contrary, Paul was a Christian. He belonged in a class with the holiest of men. In every sentence of the epistles from his pen, one feels the beat of a heart aflame with love of Christ. Paul was a man who stood in his faith and who thus made sure his calling and election in the way of an upright and godly walk of life. His hope was that he would see God as He is in that he would be like Him. This hope being in him and knowing that in his flesh dwelt no good thing, he, Paul, as constrained by the love of Christ, would turn to himself, to the intents of his heart, to his thoughts and volitions, to his prayers even and to all his works in search of that thing: the evil lust, ambition, striving. And searching he saw—saw another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members. And seeing he would cry, “O wretched man that I am. . .” and so crying, would cling ever faster to Christ and as standing firmly in the faith that sin in his flesh had been condemned, pray, “Deliver me, O God, from the body of this death.”
So prayed one of the saintliest of men. And the reason he so prayed and the reason that he could know whereof he spake when he so prayed, is that he dwelt in the light of God’s presence. This is not the prayer of an unconverted man, as some Bible students have been maintaining. One unconverted cannot pray this prayer with true understanding. And even among the true believers there are to be found those who never yet have gotten close enough to God to appreciate this prayer. Their walk of life is so very faulty at all times that the sins with which they must be occupied in their prayers are sins that should not even have to be mentioned among believers. Sins they are for which the sin and the trespass offerings were appointed; sins like unto these: willfully withholding or diminishing the gifts that should go to the support of the ministry of the Word and of the poor; lying unto the neighbor in that which was delivered to be kept; taking away a thing by violence of whatever character that violence may be; defrauding the neighbor in transacting business with him. And so we could continue. The list is a long one and concerns every one of the ten commandments. What a pity that the minister of the gospel must spend so much of his time in the pulpit exposing and rebuking in believers sins of this character. And what is so extremely sad is that believers (including the pastors, of course), when they hear themselves rebuked for sins of this kind, will at times react as do the children of darkness.
Now as to the burnt offering, it was appointed for the spiritual believers, thus for the God-fearing Israelite who by the mercies of God had succeeded in so crucifying the works of the flesh and mortifying his members which were on the earth, that his walk of life was plainly that of a child of the light; thus a believer, who, as constrained by love, was walking in the way of the covenant and was thus walking with God, and who therefore, at that particular juncture that he brought his burnt offering, did not find himself under the necessity, on account of some particular or special sin or sins that he either willingly had committed, of bringing the sin- or the trespass offering. The truth of this statement is borne out by the following. Firstly, the description of the burnt offering (Lev. 1) does not set out with some such statement as, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning the things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:. . . .” and as, “If a soul commit a trespass against the Lord. . .” The opening sentence of the description of the offering under consideration simply reads, “If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: . . . .” Secondly, the burnt-sacrifice was one that the worshipper offered “of his own voluntary will” at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. It was thus not a sacrifice that had to be brought on account of the offerer’s having committed some outstanding sin. However, whereas the holiest of men have but a small beginning of true obedience, whereas also such men despite all their striving to attain to the ideal of a perfect life in Christ, continue in this life to lie in the midst of death, do evil—the evil that they would not—and thus daily increase their guilt, the burnt-sacrifice also had to be one by blood. And because he saw so much of his own vileness as a result of his having gotten so close to God, the believing worshipper whose right it was to bring this particular offering, would not have dared to venture into the presence of the Holy One without the priest first having made atonement for him in respect to his sins. For this his consciousness of his own moral unfitness was too highly developed and the realization of his not even being worthy to direct his gaze to God’s sanctuary too lively. Thus, also in the description of the burnt offering, we come upon the notice, “And he shall put his hand upon the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”
The victim having been slain and thus having been made to atone by its death the sins of the worshipper, its blood was collected in a basin and thereupon presented to Jehovah as a covering for the worshipper through its being sprinkled by the officiating priest “round about upon the altar.” With the exception of the skin, which was all that could be given to the priest, the whole offering (including the head, the legs and the inwards) after being cut into “his pieces” and the filth that might adhere to any of these washed off, was laid upon the altar and burnt. It will be recalled that when the sacrifice was a sin- or trespass offering, only the fat of the victim was laid upon the altar and burnt and thus, not the whole carcass. But it can readily be seen that the burning of the whole and the burning of the fat only were two signs that declared to the worshipper the same mercies. Why, it may be asked, was there appointed a sacrifice the whole of which was to be consumed. The Old Testament believer had need also of this sacrifice then when, as a result of his having drawn near unto God, the consciousness of his own unworthiness was exceptionally lively in him and his desire of hearing the Lord tell him that he was beloved and forgiven exceptionally strong. In such times the believer had need of the burnt offering, and this for the reason that the laying of the whole of it on God’s table and the ascending of the whole in fire to God, formed the most vivid testimony that the sacrifice was accepted, that thus sins had actually been (symbolically) atoned and that iniquity was no longer being imputed.
But this is not all. What rendered this testimony the more vivid was that when the altar was required for no other use, there always lay upon it, day and night, a carcass of the burnt-sacrifice in a condition of being consumed. This kind of offering was presented morning and evening for the whole congregation and especially during the night it was so slowly consumed that it lasted till the morning. Thus the carcass of this offering was perpetually or nearly so on Jehovah’s table before His face a sweet-smelling savor. What stronger evidence that sins had actually been atoned could the worshipper have desired.
Further, the fire by which the whole carcass of the burnt offering was consumed, signified the fire—the fire of holy zeal and love—with which the Spirit first baptized Christ and then His redeemed body. It was therefore especially through the instrumentality of the burnt offering that believers gave expression to the hope that was in them—the hope, namely, that when they would awaken from the sleep of death, it would be to appear upon God’s altar in the true sanctuary, a living and holy, a spotless and unblemished sacrifice, wholly yielding themselves in perfect love to their Redeemer.
The carcass of the burnt offering in its lying on the altar in a state of perpetual consumption was but shadow, the body of which is firstly the ascended and glorified Christ everlastingly upon God’s altar in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, His glorified self, body, human nature, still wholly consumed with the zeal of God’s house—consumed now and everlastingly. And in this zeal—the same zeal in which He atoned by His suffering and death, the sins of His brethren—He shall everlastingly be representing His very Self, the Lamb “as it had been slain” a living and holy sacrifice. In His zeal, He shall be about His Father’s business everlastingly, praying for His church, leading and feeding His flock and thus filling it with that inexhaustible fulness with which the Father, smelling a sweet savor, fills him because He prays! For He is our true burnt offering eternal in the heavens.
So was that carcass of the burnt offering perpetually upon the altar the shadow of the abiding and habitual state of perfection and glory of the glorified Christ and His body, the church. Now the consumption upon the altar of the fat of the sin—and trespass offering betokened these same heavenly realities, yet not so plain and emphatically as the consumption of the whole carcass of the burnt offering.
We have then a burnt offering eternal in the heavens—the glorified Christ, the Lamb “as it had been slain”. To be sure, also in His state of humiliation, during the time that He sojourned among us, He was on the altar, bearing the burden of God’s wrath against our sin. But having fulfilled all righteousness, He entered by His own flesh into the heavenly place where He continueth ever as the true burnt offering of His church.
For, as has been shown from Scripture, Christ’s mediatorship shall not come to an end, when the church shall have appeared with Him in glory. The better covenant of which He is the Mediator is eternal and thus likewise His mediatorship. As the chief Prophet, the only High Priest, and the eternal King of His church, He shall abide everlastingly, walking worthily of the calling wherewith the Father shall call Him—a calling that shall ever consist in His praying for His redeemed and glorified body that He may everlastingly be able to reveal unto it the glory of the Triune Jehovah and to lead and feed His flock. And this He shall do to the eternal glory of the Father and to the everlasting well-being of His church. Verily, He is our burnt offering, eternally upon God’s altar in the heavens.
It is precisely the presence of His resurrected and glorified body, human nature, on God’s altar in the heavenly place that forms for all those who believe the certain and undisputed evidence that their sins were truly expiated by His sufferings and death. If all that believers could learn from Scripture is that Christ died for their sins, their faith could not possibly flower. If this were all that Scripture revealed, it is questionable whether there could be faith. But there is more to be said on this. It is the presence of that body of His upon the altar that at once forms the sure pledge “that He, as the head, will also take up to Himself His members”. Such is the Father’s will. For the Father smells a sweet savor as He Who presents Himself is the Lamb “as it had been slain” and Who, as aflame with that same zeal in which He laid down His life for His brethren, devotes Himself to His eternal calling wherewith He ever shall be called. And that He is the eternal delight of the Father, all His brethren well know. And they know it now even while still lying in the midst of death. For He may and does send them all His Spirit as an earnest, by whose power they seek the things which are above, where He, their true burnt offering, sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth.
Once more, Christ is the true burnt offering eternally upon God’s altar in the heavenly. The signification of this is that He is indispensable to His people not only now while they lie in the midst of death assailed on all sides by the powers of darkness but ever. For in Him dwelleth all fulness bodily—the fulness—all that great good that accrued from His suffering and death. No blessing of whatever character and however infinitesimally small can be had apart from Him. Life apart from Him is solely death and hell. The Scriptures teach this over and over, teach that in Him all fulness dwells, Col. 1:19. Hence, in Him we have redemption (Eph. 1:7) and forgiveness of sins and, the apostle might have added, sanctification and glory—in Him, that is, through our being in Him legally, and mystically by a living faith we have redemption, not stingily, not meagerly, but copiously, according to the riches of His grace and (so the apostle continues) through His blood, that is, through the Lamb “as it had been slain,” thus in the way of strict justice. And we have and retain this grace only thru our abiding in Him and abiding in Him everlastingly. “Abide in me,” said Christ to His disciples, “and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” This discourse concerns the believer not only in his present state but in his glorified state as well. It is true now and ever that without Him the redeemed can do nothing. For all fulness dwells everlastingly in Him. What an apt and striking figure of the eternal importance of Christ for His people. The life-sap of the branches (of the vine in nature) dwells bodily in the vine. Thus, of this fulness not the branches but the vine is the seat and channel. And with this fulness, yet without in the least diminishing this store, the vine perpetually fills all its branches. Thus, though the branches are full on account of their being in the vine, they could not be disconnected from it and continue to live and bear fruit. For the fulness dwelt in the vine and of this inexhaustible store the branches must continue to receive in order to abide as living and fruit-bearing branches. Hence, the branches must be allowed to abide in the vine. In the mind of Christ the emphasis lay on the fact that the believers are made to abide not for a time only but everlastingly in Him and that solely because of this they live and bear fruit now and for ever. “Abide in me and I in you. . .”
Thus the truth that underlies this discourse of Christ is that the church now and ever moves and lives and has its being in the Father (the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and in Christ—in the Father as the creative fountain and in Christ as the seat and channel of its heavenly existence. Now of this truth especially the burnt offering (and also especially the meat offering) in its lying perpetually (or nearly so) upon the altar of the worldly sanctuary in a state of being burnt as to the whole of it, was the type and symbol. This carcass of the slain victim that by its death had (symbolically) atoned the sin of the entire congregation might never be allowed to disappear from God’s table, the altar. As soon as the one carcass had been wholly consumed, it immediately had to be replaced by another. And this was done morning and evening. Hence, the savor of this offering was perpetually rising heavenward and this in behalf of the entire congregation. So, too, Christ our true burnt offering—ever shall He be, presenting Himself in the heavenly place. And the savor of this offering shall be ever in God’s holy nostrils. And the Father shall fill Him that the church as abiding in Him may have life everlastingly.
Fact is therefore that what forms the heart of all the preaching of the apostles (and also of the prophets of the Old Covenant) is the resurrected and glorified Christ, the Lamb “as it had been slain.” It was always with this Lamb, with the glorified Christ and His redeemed and glorified body, the church, before their mind, that they penned their epistles. But as the Christ glorified includes the cross, they, through their preaching the former, of necessity preached also the latter.
To preach Christ glorified is to preach Him as He has been crucified and therefore raised unto the justification of His people and of His people only; it is to preach Him as One who offered Himself once and who thus needeth not daily to offer up sacrifice first for His own sins and then for the people’s: it is thus to preach Him as the One who hath an unchangeable and thus eternal priesthood in that He continueth ever and Who therefore is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him; it is to preach Him as the true bread and the living water and as the everlasting redemption and sanctification of His people. It is to preach, finally, that even when His people were dead in sins, God quickened them together with Christ (legally) and raised them up together, and made them sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
To truly preach Christ glorified is to make it impossible for oneself to preach any other Savior than the One Who died upon the cross with the intention in His heart of expiating only the sins of His people, of those raised up together in Him.