A Picture of God’s Grace

Many believers misunderstand God’s grace, and therefore lack assurance of it. They wonder if they are really saved. They live thinking they are never enough. They wonder if they forget to confess some of their sins if they will be kept from the kingdom of heaven. They may look at mature Christians and think they fall short of what it means to be a believer. But God doesn’t want His children to live this way. He wants His people to rest in His grace. There are many books of the Bible from which we could learn about the grace of God, and perhaps there aren’t too many Christians who would first think of Leviticus. Yet this book, which spans one month of time in Israel’s history, contains commands that repeatedly point us to God’s grace. In particular, it begins with commands concerning the sacrificial system God gave His people. Although we could focus on any one of the different aspects of this sacrificial system, I want to begin where the book itself begins, with the burnt offering (Lev. 1:1-17).

                   Not everyone in Israel could afford to bring the same kind of burnt offering, but the Lord, in His grace, made allowance for all peoples, whether rich or poor, to approach Him (Lev. 1:3, 10, 14). This did not mean that the rich could bring a lesser animal than they could afford. After all, sacrifice is supposed to be costly. But God, in His mercy, designed things so that all people had a way to come before Him and receive forgiveness of sins.

               The animal would be accepted in place of the offerer in order to make atonement for his sins (Lev. 1:4).            The burnt offering was a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But unlike the other offerings, the whole offering was consumed. There was no portion left for the priest, or the one offering, to eat. The purpose of the burnt offering was to assure the offerer that atonement had been made and reconciliation had occurred.

               The burnt offering was the most common offering in the Old Testament, offered daily in the tabernacle, and later in the temple. It was a constant reminder that man was guilty before God, and in need of reconciliation. As such, it foreshadowed the work of Christ. Jesus told His disciples, even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

               Jesus is the burnt offering with whom the Father is pleased, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). He is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Father “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). Christ “gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Jesus “has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb. 7:27). “Christ has entered…into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (9:24). He has “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (v. 26). Believers have been “ransomed from…futile ways…with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

               Believers today are still required to make sacrifices, though of a different kind. Paul exhorts, “by the mercies of God…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). Gifts we send to help those in ministry are considered a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). Through Christ we are to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15) and “not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (v. 16).

               Because Jesus “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 9:15) we no longer need to offer burnt offerings. Christ has, “by means of his own blood” secured “an eternal redemption” (v. 12), and purified “our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (v. 14). Dear believer, if today you lack assurance of God’s grace, look to Christ. He alone saves, and because of the redemption that He has accomplished on your behalf, you will enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.



Sarah Ivill