The Teaching Of The Mosaic Law Regarding Sacrifice
We agree that the Mosaic law was built upon the principle of sacrifice, but the common idea that “the animal sacrifices under the law pointed forward to the sacrifice of Jesus” is built upon a serious misreading of the Mosaic law.
To understand the pattern of sacrifice under the Mosaic law, a few basic facts should be noted:
- The majority of sacrifices under the Mosaic system had nothing to do with sin or atonement. The sin offering and the trespass offering were offerings for the removal of sin. The peace offerings, thank offerings, burnt offerings, whole burnt offerings, free will offerings, meal offerings, meat offerings, drink offerings, offerings for the first-born-all these were occasions of rejoicing and even feasting.
- Sin offerings and trespass offerings were only allowed in certain cases, i.e., when a transgression was not punishable by death (see Lev. 2, 3). When the law said that a transgression was punishable by death (murder, sabbath-breaking, adultery, etc.), no sacrifice was accepted.
- Under Moses’ law neither credit for right conduct nor guilt for transgression was transferable. There was no provision for imputed iniquity or imputed righteousness. Each individual was accountable for his own conduct, good or bad. This was a long-standing policy with God: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16). When Israel strayed from this clear thinking, God’s prophets brought them back with the reprimand, “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel ….The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:2-4).
- The sacrifices for sin under the Mosaic law are not parallel with the theory that Jesus provided the sacrifice for our sins, because under the Mosaic arrangement any sacrifice for sin or transgression had to be provided by the transgressor himself. Whether he was a priest, a ruler, or a commoner, the rule was the same (See Lev. 4:3, 13, 27; 5:6-13, 14-17.) (The idea that we can sin and someone in better standing may make an offering for us is not Biblical and not parallel with any God-designed arrangement.) Under the law, the offender himself had to bring the animal, present it to the priest, lay his hand upon the animal’s head, and kill it. And he could not bring the poorest, weakest animal in his flock. The sacrifice was intended to be felt. The offender had to bring an animal “without blemish …for a sin offering unto the Lord.” Here was the whole purpose of the law as a teaching mechanism. If our law today required a payment of penalty from someone other than the offender, where would there be any restraint of evil?
- The Mosaic system was a type, a foreshadowing of “good things” to come (Heb. 10:1). It was a “pattern,” a “figure,” teaching deeper spiritual truths. But one rule must be consistently followed: literal in the type, spiritual in the antitype. Literal sacrifices were offered under the law of Moses; spiritual sacrifices are their counterpart in the antitype. Literal blood was shed under the Mosaic system (the blood of a literal animal); spiritual blood must be shed in the antitype (the life of the flesh nature Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:2-4).
If we say Christ’s literal death is the appropriate antitype of the sacrifices under the law, we have an immediate incongruity, because His literal death cannot be the antitype of the literal sacrifices offered under the law. To have a fulfillment of the literal sacrifices under the Mosaic system (a type) we must have a spiritual sacrifice in the antitype, and this is what Paul called the offering of our bodies “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), a complete commitment of our total life to God. This is the shedding of blood (spiritual blood) required for forgiveness, without which “is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
The Christadelphians state also: “The New Testament says that Jesus was typified by the altar, the High Priest, the mercy seat and the blood on it; all the elements of the Mosaic law pointed forward to Him Hebrews 9.” We ask, where? Where does the New Testament say even once in a comparison of type and antitype that Jesus was typified by anything other than the High Priest? Always He is the priest officiating, not the animal being slain upon the altar (see Heb. 2:17-18; 3:1-2; 4:14-16; 5:5-10; 7:14-28; 9:11-14; 10:19-22). The High Priest was never the sacrifice.
Passover And The Sacrifice Of Christ
The Christadelphians infer that the Passover lamb was sacrificed, as though it were an offering for sin and in this way a type of Christ’s sacrifice. Read carefully the account of the first Passover, recorded in Exodus, chapters 12 and 13, and you will see not one reference to any atonement for sin, or offering for sin, or even any seeking of forgiveness. The Paschal lamb was not a sacrifice for sin; it was killed to be eaten as part of a memorial feast.
Was the fact that Jesus was as “a lamb without blemish and spot” a suggestion that the Passover feast pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ?
This conclusion is also based upon an insufficient knowledge of the Mosaic system. Every lamb brought to the priest under the law had to be a lamb “without blemish and without spot.” Whether it was for a peace offering, a thank offering, a free will offering, a burnt offering, or a sin offering, every offering had to be perfect. And such is a perfect parallel with the offering God requires of every believer. This is why Paul said that we must offer our bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). For this reason Paul preached, “warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom,” that he might “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28). Jesus wanted His Church without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:26-27). Paul prayed that his brethren might be “sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). He also charged his son-in-the-faith Timothy: “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Tim. 6:14). The obligation was incumbent upon Timothy, not Christ.
What about the Passover observance pointed forward to the death of Christ? Certainly not the lamb that was killed, because the lamb was not offered to God; it was killed and eaten, as part of a ceremony memorializing the Israelites’ departure from Egypt. Even the blood sprinkled upon the door posts had no connection with a sacrifice for sin. It was a visual demonstration of one’s obedience or compliance, and every obedient one was “passed over.” There was no offering for sin, or plea for forgiveness in the whole ceremony. Passover memorialized Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt, and at the same time re-dedicated them to God because God had delivered them they belonged to God and were obligated to conduct themselves as people of God.
Jesus, as a loyal Jew, observed the Passover according to the law, but added to it a new significance His own; for at this moment He was facing the final and supreme test of His life, the completing of His own lifelong self-sacrifice to God, for He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Concerning the Lord’s Supper observance the apostle Paul explained that “the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” And of the cup He said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (I Cor. 11:23-26).
By commemorating the Passover we are memorializing not Jesus’ physical death on the cross but His complete submission to His Father, the complete sacrifice of Himself to God, which is the death that we must “show” until He returns. We would have no way to show forth His physical death; God does not require that we be physically crucified. But we must make the same complete consecration Jesus made by partaking of the same cup of which He drank, that cup which is “the new testament” or new covenant, an agreement between the one partaking and God. Loyalty to this covenant is the means to all forgiveness and all remission of sins. This is why Jesus said, “This [cup] is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28) not that it imparts Christ’s righteousness to us but it removes sins that we confess and forsake, according to the terms of the covenant. It was an agreement Christ ratified by His physical death, and which we ratify by our complete sacrifice of ourselves to God.
A Death To Share
The apostle spoke frequently of the death of Jesus as a death in which every believer must share, and how can we think they refer to His literal death? Would God ask what we cannot do? Try inserting the words “on Calvary” after each mention of Christ’s death in these passages, to see if Christ’s literal death on Calvary conveys the intended meaning. For example, “We are buried with him by baptism into death [on Calvary]” (Rom. 6:4). Or, “If we be dead [on Calvary] with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom. 6:8). Or II Tim. 2:11, “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead [on Calvary] with him, we shall also live with him.” Or take this personal statement by Paul himself: “I am crucified with Christ [on Calvary]: nevertheless I live” (Gal. 2:20). Or Paul’s statement, that “being made conformable unto his death [on Calvary]” (Phil. 3:10). Or Paul’s statement in II Cor. 4:10, “Always bearing about in the body the dying [on Calvary] of the Lord Jesus” how do any of these texts have any meaning when they are applied to the literal death of Jesus?
But when we apply them to the death of which Paul spoke in Romans 6, Jesus’ death of His own will, His “death to sin” (Rom. 6:10), each one is meaningful. Christ died not to spare us the trouble of dying (self-sacrifice). He died to His own will to show us how we must die— to our own will— and so make a complete surrender of ourselves to God, as He did. This is how Peter could challenge his brethren to rejoice in being “partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (I Pet. 4:13)— not His physical sufferings on Calvary but His life of complete self-surrender, of which His physical death was the completion and crowning act.
Peter described it precisely when he said that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21), and he immediately continued to show the moral qualities of that death, showing that it was not His physical crucifixion but His supreme nobility of character. “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not” (vs. 22-23).
No Imputed Righteousness
Picture a court scene. A man is on trial for abusing and killing his child. Everyone in the court knows the man is guilty. They have all seen him abuse the child numerous times, and the man himself admits that he is guilty. But when the judge gives the verdict, he pronounces the man “not guilty” because his next door neighbor is extremely kind to his children, and he wishes to credit the guilty man with the good conduct of his neighbor.
Or take the reverse situation. The good neighbor is on trial for abusing his child. Everyone knows he is not guilty, and everyone knows also who the guilty man is. But the judge pronounces the good neighbor “guilty” and subject to punishment because of the misconduct of the first man.
Now this is imputed righteousness, and imputed iniquity. And where is the justice? Is this the way God operates? Is this the way He treats His human family? It is, if the Christadelphians’ theory of “imputed righteousness” is true. If God can impute righteousness, what is to keep Him from imputing iniquity?
But praise God! No such unfairness blots the record of the Almighty. His principle is clear: “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins” (Prov. 5:22). Also, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20)—it, not some other.
The prophets even went so far as to state precisely that all the righteousness of the most righteous man would not be able to save the evildoer. “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, where in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God” (Ezek. 14:14). If they could deliver “but their own souls by their righteousness,” how can God make an exception of Christ’s righteousness and be true to His own principles?
The word “impute” is used 15 times in Scripture, and of these, 7 refer to imputing sin or iniquity, 2 are irrelevant, 4 speak of imputing righteousness to the righteous individual himself, and 2 others refer to imputing righteousness to those who believe. There is no passage in the Bible which says that Christ’s righteousness can be imputed to us so that God will count us as righteous when we are not. “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (James 2:23). And righteousness will likewise be imputed “for us also, …if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:22-24).
”Impute” simply means to “put down to one’s account,” to make a record of what is due to one on the basis of his actions. This is exactly God’s method: to reward every man according to his works. The record is being kept, and according to that record each servant of God will be judged and rewarded (Mal. 3:16-17; Rev. 20:12).
Neither righteousness nor sin is transferable from one individual to another, no matter who the individual may be. We ourselves must become pure as Christ is pure (I John 3:3). We ourselves must become holy as God is holy (I Pet. 1:15-16). Abraham was counted righteous because he believed God and acted upon his belief. “Because thou hast obeyed my voice,” said God, he received the blessing (Gen. 22:16-18). We will be counted righteous by the same process, just as we believe and act upon our belief.
Our Righteousness, Not Christ’s
The Christadelphians say that for Christ to present us “faultless before the presence of His glory” (Jude 24), or “without blame before him,” He must cleanse us, that only so can He present to Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:26-27). “All these statements,” they say, “become meaningful within the context of righteousness being imputed.”
But what about Paul’s own words in II Cor. 7:1: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”? Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit—this does not sound as though Christ does it for us. And the very passage they cite from (Eph. 5:26-27) shows what is the cleansing medium: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The washing is accomplished “by the word,” by the application of His message, His gospel. This is the cleansing medium, just as Jesus said, “Now are ye clean”—because I am going to shed my blood on the cross for you? No, “now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).
The Place Of Forgiveness
The Christadelphians say, “Megiddo must have a strange concept of forgiveness, if salvation is by human effort, with no reference to the sacrifice of Jesus.” We do indeed want and need forgiveness, but we want it on God’s terms, not our own. And we do not find any evidence in the Bible that “forgiveness and the imputation of righteousness is made possible only by the death of Christ.” What does the Bible say about God’s terms of forgiveness? “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). What more could one need?
The Purpose Of Christ’s Life
What was the purpose of Christ’s life? The Christadelphians say, “The fact is that Christ was born and he died, ‘for us’. This was his very reason of being.” No Scripture is given to support this point—because none exists. But Jesus stated clearly the purpose of His life. When questioned by Pilate, “Art thou a king then?” He answered, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:37). This fact is reinforced by a statement made prophetically of Christ in Psalm 40, that He came to do His Father’s will, a statement directly applied to Christ (see Heb. 10:7). This same statement in Hebrews 10 says also that God does not value literal sacrifice, that “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein” (v.8) —why, then, would He demand the sacrifice of His own Son? But on the contrary, He wanted a life of obedience, of delighting to do the Father’s will. “Lo, I come …to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7).
About Breaking Of Bread And Associating With Christ’s Saving Work
The Christadelphians say that “because forgiveness and the hope of salvation is only available through Christ’s own death” —a statement for which they offer no evidence—we “need to associate ourselves with him.” The inference is that we do this by regularly breaking bread, i.e., every week. The early Church, they say, “broke bread very often,” and cite Acts 20:7 and 2:42, 46.
There is a basic problem with this stance. How can we know that “breaking of bread” always referred to the Passover memorial? We read in Matthew 14 that when Jesus had commanded the multitude to “sit down upon the grass,” He took bread and “brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples.” Were all of these thousands of people keeping the sacred memorial? The same is said when He fed the multitude the second time (Matt. 15:33-38). Was He instituting the sacred memorial supper with all these multitudes? The apostle Paul also took bread and brake it when the ship was on the verge of being wrecked. We read that “He took bread, and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat” (Acts 27:35). Was this the time to observe the Passover? The term “breaking of bread” was simply a way of stating that the people had a meal together. It may or may not have been a Passover ceremony.
Do we have any instructions to partake of the emblems each week? During five full weeks after His resurrection (Acts 1:3), Jesus did not partake of the Passover with His brethren. How do we know? We have His own statement, made at the time He observed the sacred ceremony with His disciples on the evening of Abib 13, that He would no more eat thereof “until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16; see also Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25).
In observing the Passover, Jesus was observing the ancient Passover, an annual remembrance of the night of the Israelites’ miraculous deliverance from Egypt. It was an anniversary, which is always a yearly occasion. In keeping it, Jesus re-memorialized it by associating it with Himself on the night before He suffered. But how could He change an anniversary (annual observance) into a weekly observance?
Ruth Sisson, September, 1992