Sometimes More Questions

Sometimes I have more questions than answers.This tends to be truer the older I become, but strangely enough, I find there are fewer things that change in the basic code that I operate by. I call that code “my theology” when it is based in my Christian beliefs.

However, I came by something – through writing a comment in a blog oddly enough – where I have a hard time explaining why I believe that. Maybe my mind is just more fuzzy of late. But the viewpoint is this: I don’t believe that there is any forgiveness from God for anything past or present outside the work of Christ on the cross. That this was the pivot of all forgiveness through out time. But the question that came up for me …is it possible to have had forgiveness under the Mosaic Law through obedience? Isn’t the institution of animal sacrifice an admission that there could not be complete obedience? And isn’t this where the thought enters that the Law condemns?

It told you what was wrong with your actions.

Even the Prophet Isaiah declares this :
“11 “ To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
Says the LORD.

“ I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
Or of lambs or goats.
12 “ When you come to appear before Me,
Who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?
13 Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me,
I am weary of bearing them.”

I know I base my idea on the necessity of justice within God’s system, universe, nature, however you want to term the great ‘what is’. Justice is a necessary component and is not simply wiped away, it must be paid for. Yet, mercy competes for supremacy in judgment. Mercy, however does not come cheap…it has to satisfy justice before it can operate. thus comes the idea of substitution. But we are back to animal sacrifice. Is it ever really spoken in the scriptures that animal sacrifice bought the needed forgiveness and mercy? That it sufficiently paid? Or was it only the interest on the principle, giving the faithful the means to continue in relationship with God, rather than being forced by ones own impossibly compounding debt to be swallowed in complete despair?

I’m sort of flummoxed on this one. But it seems to follow that if salvation is only by faith… faith in what? Faith in Christ is the only means given.

6 thoughts on “Sometimes More Questions”

  1. Hebrews 10:4 states clearly that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins.

    Our pastor teaches that the animal sacrifices were a type or shadow of Christ’s sacrifice. Whether people actually *got it* or not, and to what extent they did, is unknowable. But we do know that there were Elect in Israel, so those must have had enough understanding to realize that their salvation depended on the the righteousness of God, and their faith must have reflected that in some shadowy way.

  2. Leviticus 4:26 is one of many passages that says clearly that an animal sacrifice offered by a priest results in forgiveness of sin. These laws were given to Moses by God. I don’t think we can say that God was being disingenuous, so it seems to me that forgiveness did in fact come to those who made sacrifices for their sins.

    But there is more to it than that. Even if our sins are forgiven, our hearts are still evil. The blood of animals was sufficient to pay the price for our sin, but it could never transform us, it could never transform our evil hearts. Past sin could be forgiven, but our sinful nature remained.

    It seems to me that Hebrews 10 is saying that Christ’s sacrifice was superior in that it not only paid the price for sin, but transforms our hearts. Hebrews 10:10 says that the blood of Christ “sanctified” us. We have been made holy. That wasn’t possible through the blood of animals.

    So it isn’t that animal sacrifices were ineffective, but that they didn’t get to the heart of the problem — our carnal natures. Christ both redeemed us and made us holy — as evidenced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

  3. Charlie, What you say makes alot of sense to me, but I need to be able to put these things together with a cohesive theological structure. Animal sacrifices were ineffective, but maybe, as you say, because they were only provisional: effective for the temporary purpsoe of forgiveness on specific basis for specific sin, but unable to deal fully with man’s sin.

    As Christians, we understand and accept this:”Christ both redeemed us and made us holy”, but I am going beyond that. This seems to me the basis for all forgivenenss through all time. That the Old Testment ( Jewish saints) looked forward to the provision of God, while we now look backward on it as accomplished fact. Both requiring faith, but all pivoted upon the cross of Christ.

    In this case, animal sacrifices carried the faith that God would indeed forgive, but in themselves were not what God required…which is inline with what the Jewish Prophets spoke. They represented the fact that blood was required for forgiveness, but were insufficient for paying the price required ( like for like). In the Old Testament things were sanctified…including priests for the service of the temple, so I don’t think this idea of sanctification is new.

  4. I think you’ve said it well, Ilona, and I confess that I don’t think I’ve yet come to understand this whole issue of substitutionary payment for sin yet. It’s an area where I accept in faith the plain doctrines of Christ’s work on the cross, but I don’t really understand why it had to be that way, and what the shedding of blood really means from God’s perspective. Still listening and learning.

  5. I think we can “get” things in the spirit without fully being able to explain them. I think part of our sharing these things means we dig into the ‘how-to’ of them,too. And we have different things that we absorb – this whole process of justice and substitution, and the importance of covenant to God has been really important to me in dealing with the guilt that sometimes would stand in the way of me approaching God in prayer.

    So it has been something that I’ve sought understanding for and that has had to work out in my life. I just always seem to know so little as I get further into it! So I do the same thing you do ( maybe we all have to) and just accept things in faith even when I can’t fully explain it to myself.

  6. erm I’m probably missing the point

    but is your understanding that the Jews of the OT – Moses Abraham etc are in heaven, if it is, then it stands to reason (I think) that their faith WAS enough and since Jesus hadn’t been incarnated then, their faith was in YHWH and the sacrificial system.

    in otherwords it was enough.

    (disclaimer – I’m no scholar and I’d love some info on just this area if it comes up)

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