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Lesson 5: Atonement: Purification Offering *

Introduction: For many years I struggled with the logic of the atonement. Why, exactly, does our sin require Jesus' death? On the other hand, why is Jesus' death sufficient to take away our sins? The atonement was not like a math problem, with an obvious connection. This involved issues which I did not understand. The most valuable lesson from our study of the sanctuary this week is an answer about why Jesus had to die. Why the atonement makes logical sense. Let's race into our Bible study this week and find out more!

  1. Subverting the Rule of Law

    1. Read Genesis 9:5-6 and Numbers 35:30. What is the penalty for murder? What is God's rule of law? (Death.)

    2. Read Genesis 4:8-10. What should have happened to Cain? (He should have been put to death.)

    3. Read Genesis 4:11-15. Why do you think God not only failed to execute Cain, but He affirmatively protected him from justice - from God's rule of law?

    4. Read 2 Samuel 14:4-6. Have you heard this story before? (Sounds a bit like Cain and Able.)

    5. Read 2 Samuel 14:7. The family wants justice, but the mother does not. Why? (She will have no sons. Her husband is dead, and now both of her sons will be dead if justice is carried out. There is this unsettling no "heir" comment that makes you suspect the relatives had more than justice in mind.)

      1. Do you think the mother's statement explains the unusual judgment placed on Cain? Remember, however, that Adam is still alive. (I think it does suggest the reason for Cain's sentence. It would have been a terrible tragedy for Eve to consider that her sin caused the death of both of her sons.)

    6. Read 2 Samuel 14:8-9. This is a very odd statement. Why should blame rest on the king or be transferred to the mother? Neither one committed any crime. Both showed love and compassion. (The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary on this text explains that violating the rule of law exceeded "the royal prerogative." Responsibility for the crime had to go somewhere. Since the king, at the request of the mother, had subverted the rule of law, the responsibility should fall on the king. Since the mother asked the king to violate the rule of law, the mother says, "I'll take responsibility instead.")

    7. In Matthew 27 we read the account of the trial of Jesus. Read Matthew 27:15-18. What is Pilate thinking about the verdict he should pronounce on Jesus? (He thinks Jesus is innocent!)

    8. Read Matthew 27:20-23. Should Pilate release Jesus? (Yes, of course. The crowd cannot give a good reason for Jesus to be executed. It is trying to coerce Pilate. Worse, in Matthew 27:19 Pilate's wife tells him that God sent her a message not to harm Jesus.)

    9. Read Matthew 27:24-25. How are Pilate and the crowd like the story we just read in 2 Samuel 14? (The rule of law is being subverted. Again, the judge would should take responsibility, but the people asking for the law to be subverted say they will accept the blame.)

    10. Read Numbers 35:31 and Romans 6:23. Romans does not say that we are murders, but it does say that the penalty for our sin is death. Is God violating the rule of law for a second time? We discussed the violation involving not putting Cain (and us) to death. Now we see that ransom for murders is also prohibited!

      1. Can we explain this by saying that we all die because of the entry of sin into the world? If that seems an easy answer, how do we explain Elijah (2 Kings 2) and Enoch ( Hebrews 11:5) who were taken alive to heaven?

  2. Responsibility for the Subversion of the Rule of Law

    1. We saw that when the king violated the rule of law, he accepted responsibility for the violation. When we violate a law of the state, or a law of God, who is the victim?

      1. Read Psalms 51:3-4. King David is speaking, and he is talking about his acts of adultery and murder. How can he say it is "only" against God that he sinned? (In the United States, a criminal complaint will say "The People" against the person accused; not the specific victim of the crime against the person accused. The idea is that when you commit a crime, you violate the rights of the public. This reflects the idea that sins are against God, who rules over the universe.)

    2. If God is the true (and only) victim of our sins, why can't He say, "I forgive," and forget about this stuff about God paying the penalty for the violation of the rule of law?

    3. Read Micah 7:18. What is God doing about our sin? (He pardons us. This shows that God can say, "I forgive!" In the United States, the President (or the Governor of a State) can pardon criminals.)

      1. So, I ask again, why does anyone have to die if God can pardon? (It is still a corruption of the rule of law. The one who corrupts the rule of law must take responsibility for it. However, the victim of the crime has the best claim to change the rule of law.)

  3. The Fix

    1. Read Leviticus 1:3-5 and John 1:29. Why do you think God gave this instruction about animal sacrifice in the Old Testament?

      1. How does it relate to Jesus? (This is where the logic of the atonement comes together. God subverted the rule of law by not killing us for our sins. As the One who made the decision, He took responsibility for it by agreeing to die in our place. However, He wanted us to understand the connection between sin and death, and so God created a sanctuary sacrifice system which both reminded us of the connection between sin and death and pointed to the solution to the sin problem.)

    2. Let's contemplate the assumptions that underlie the conclusion that Jesus is responsible for the problem. What are those assumptions? (First, that Jesus should assume the penalty for our sins shows that He is God. Like the king, He has authority over the problem. Satan agrees that He is God. Second, this shows the incredible importance of God's law and His determination that the rule of law should be respected. Last, it corroborates the creation account of the fall of humans.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 17:1. Where is sin written? (It is carved in our hearts and on the altar. This reference to sin and the altar in the sanctuary points to the importance of the sanctuary system.)

  4. Purification

    1. Read Leviticus 16:15-19. When we learned that the king who subverted the rule of law became responsible for the crime, what did we see? (The sin transferred from the guilty person to the king.)

      1. In the sanctuary system, the sins of the person transferred to the animal who was sacrificed. What other transfer do we see in these verses? (The sprinkling of the blood of the sacrificed animal seems to transfer the sin to the sanctuary and its furniture.)

    2. Read Leviticus 16:7-10 and Leviticus 16:20-22. What has now happened to the sins that were transferred to the sanctuary? (They are transferred once more to a live goat. The goat does not die, it is released into the desert.)

    3. If we go back to the idea that the one who subverts the rule of law takes responsibility, and the sanctuary system of animal sacrifice points to Jesus taking responsibility for our sins because He did not kill us, how do you explain the transfer of sin? Why does the sanctuary system also contain the lesson about sin transfer? (God does not want us to remain in sin. In the end, neither the sinner nor the lamb carried the sin. The sin was transferred to the sanctuary and ultimately to a goat.)

      1. What is the spiritual lesson in this? (Our sins are literally taken away. Jesus is not just paying the penalty on our behalf, our sins are removed.)

      2. If the sacrificed animal pointed to Jesus, what does the goat point to? (The release of our sins. Jesus accepted the punishment for our sins, but He also made provision for the removal of our sins.)

    4. Friend, consider what God has done for you. He gave you life by subverting the rule of law. He accepted your guilt. Jesus died in your place. How should you respond? Why not today accept His sacrifice on your behalf, rejoice in His removal of your sins, and determine to live like you want sin out of your life?

  5. Next week: The Day of Atonement.
* Copr. 2013, 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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