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Sabbath School Lessons on The Atonement and the Cross of Christ
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 6: Atonement in Symbols: Part 1 *
Introduction: This past Sunday evening I was sitting on a bench
overlooking the lake by my home. The quiet, beautiful evening turned
my thoughts towards God and my place in His world. I thought about
why it was I believed God existed, that Christianity was true and
Jesus was the Messiah. Our lesson this week speaks to those issues.
My reason for believing God exists is the order I see in the
Creation. Owning cars and houses has taught me that things move from
order to disorder, not the other way around. That God foretold the
Messiah through the symbols of the Atonement shows His order. The
three major world religions believe in the account of the sanctuary
service, yet only Christianity can match it up to Jesus the Messiah.
Only Christianity relies on these fulfilled symbols for the
forgiveness of sins. Christianity is the logical, consistent,
reasonable religion. Let's jump right into our study of the Bible to
better understand this!
- The Path From Sin
- Read Leviticus 6:1-4. Why are all of these sins being
"unfaithful to the Lord?" Isn't it the fellow next door
who is short his property? (God is the One who said these
things are wrong in the Ten Commandments. It is God's
standard that is being broken.)
- Read Leviticus 6:5. What is the first step to recovery
from sin under the Old Testament system? (Although God's
law is being broken, God wants us to restore what we have
taken. We need to try to fix things. The first step is to
admit our error and try to make things right.)
- Read Leviticus 5:6. Why does this text say "and as a
penalty?" I thought the 20% premium was already paying a
penalty! What else is required for sin here? (The 20%
penalty was paid to the person cheated. This penalty is
paid to God.)
- If the animal is "of the proper value," what does it
matter if it is "without defect?" Why not kill the
defective animals if they have sufficient value to
satisfy the penalty?
- Why would you kill the animal anyway? You pay
penalties with something that works, not something
that is dead! "I'm sorry I stole your rims (wheels),
here is a dead battery to make it right." (These two
requirements make no sense without the Christian
understanding of the Messiah.)
- Read Leviticus 5:7. Up to this last point in the text we
have what I would call a typical system of justice. The
state tries to take the profit out of criminal activity,
restores the victim of crime and requires a penalty be
paid to the state for keeping order. What does this text
add that is unusual? (It has to do with this last point
about the dead animal. We move into something more than
criminal activity. We now specifically address the matter
- Who does this text say makes atonement? ("The priest
shall make atonement for him" for his sin.)
- Let's explore this atonement idea a bit more. Read
Leviticus 4:27-31. Who kills the animal? (The person who
sins puts his hand on the head of the animal and then
- Notice that this involves unintentional sin. Would
this process make you more careful about sinning in
the future? (I would hate to kill the animal. For me
it would deter sin.)
- If you were to walk up to a wise person and say "I've
harmed someone, what do you think I should do?" The
answer would likely be "Try to make it right and
don't do it again." We've looked at the restitution
idea. Killing the animal would help to keep me from
doing wrong again. Is that all there is to it? Is
that what atonement means - discouraging future
wrongdoing? What important element is missing?
- Read Leviticus 17:11-12. In this text and the last, we
have all of this discussion about handling the blood. How
does blood fit into this picture?
- Why is blood something which can atone? (Read Genesis
2:15-16. The result of sin is death. God says in
Leviticus that life is in the blood. The death of the
animal substituted in some way for the death-causing
sin of the human. The animal's blood atoned for the
person's sin. This is something quite different than
restitution or deterrence. We started out saying that
sin is being unfaithful to God. It is a violation of
His standard. His standard says sin results in
- Atonement As Prophecy
- We considered before what a wise person would say to
someone who had done something wrong. I think it is safe
to say that a blood sacrifice would never enter the mind
of the wise person. Are there any major world religions
who believe in blood sacrifice for personal wrongs (short
of murder)? Are there any who believe or teach an
- Read Romans 3:23-26. How does the Bible suggest that the
atonement component of the sanctuary system predicted
Jesus? (The sanctuary system introduced the novel idea
that the blood of the animal could somehow free the human
from having to pay for his sin with his life. The person
could avoid the ultimate result of sin by using a
- Notice that Romans 3:25 says this atonement idea
demonstrates "justice." Is that how you see it? If I
were the advocate for the animals, I would be calling
this system "injustice."
- Judaism no longer practices animal sacrifices because the
temple has been destroyed and not rebuilt. Is that a
reasonable excuse not to follow the clearly laid out
procedure to eliminate sin? (Read Exodus 20:24-25. The
sacrifice did not require a temple. It could be made upon
an altar of dirt or stones.)
- Does Islam, which accepts the Old Testament as God's
revelation, have anything approaching atonement by someone
other than the sinner?
- Read 1 Peter 1:18-21. What does Peter say is the usual way
to make wrongs right? (Pay a penalty: silver, gold or
money of some sort.)
- How are our wrongs made right? (By the blood of
- Notice that Peter refers to the lamb being without
blemish or defect. I raised this issue before saying
that it made no sense in the abstract. How does it
make sense now? (The reason why God required a
perfect animal - without blemish - was to predict
that Jesus, who lived a perfect life, would die to
atone for our sins.)
- Was God making the sanctuary system up as He went
along? (No. This text says that God had this plan in
mind before the world was created. He put in place
the sanctuary service as a symbolic device to teach
us about His plan for the salvation of humans.)
- Why not just settle for animals dying? Why did Jesus
have to die? How is this justice? If I were God I
certainly would have used farm animals instead of my
son! (This is still a difficult concept for me to
grasp logically. My father's friend, Patrick
Stevenson, helped me to better understand this. If I
committed a crime worthy of death, I could not offer
the court my dog or any other animal. I could not
offer the court any member of my family. The court
would require my life. We corporately fell into sin
when Adam and Eve sinned. When we become a Christian
we become "in Christ." Jesus is the "second Adam,"
and we corporately become part of Jesus who lived,
died and was resurrected on our behalf. Thus we died
when He died. Contemplate Romans 5:12-19 to better
- Practical Living
- Does the fact that Jesus atoned for our sin give us
freedom to sin? (Read Romans 6:1-2. When we died with
Jesus, we died to sin. If you remain in Jesus, you want
to steer clear of sin.)
- If killing an animal would deter you from future
sinning, what about killing Jesus?
- Read Psalms 51:3-4. What element does this highlight? (God
says that wrongdoing is sin against Him. Confession of
sin is to God because He is the one ultimately wronged.)
- Read James 5:13-16. Is James telling us that we need to
confess our sins to fellow believers to be forgiven? How
is this consistent with the idea that we sin against God
when we break His rules? (James seems to be writing about
how fellow believers can help each other to steer clear of
sin. By letting a trusted believer know you have a problem
in a certain area, that person may be able to encourage
and counsel you. This might help you to avoid sin. Some
call this an "accountability partner.")
- Friend, Christianity is the thinking person's religion.
If you accept the Old Testament as God's revelation to
humans, the entire system for shedding sin pointed to a
coming Messiah who would die to atone for our sins.
Christianity alone accepts this logical link. Will you
confidently take hold of what Jesus has done for you?
Will you today live like you believed Jesus died for your
- Next week: Atonement in Symbols: Part 2.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.