Ransom and Sin Offering

“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” —I Peter 3:17,18

GOD’S PLAN FOR the deliverance of mankind from sin and death is based upon the giving of a sacrifice. In the Garden of Eden, soon after the Lord said that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head, the idea of sacrifice was introduced by the offerings which were brought before God by Cain and Abel. The Apostle Paul referred to Abel’s offering as “more excellent” than Cain’s, and it was accepted by God, whereas Cain’s was not. (Heb. 11:4) It seems evident that the Lord had revealed which sort of offerings would be acceptable to him, and if the offering were motivated by the proper spirit.

From the time Abel offered his sacrifice to the Lord until the First Advent of Jesus, sacrifices continued to be offered to the Lord, many of these on altars specially built for the purpose. Noah offered a sacrifice after leaving the ark. (Gen. 8:20,21) Abraham was called upon by God to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering, and when he proved his willingness to do this, a ram was substituted. (Gen. 22:6-13) There was the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, and later all the various sacrifices associated with the services of Israel’s Tabernacle, and later the Temple.

These sacrifices were identified in various ways, depending upon their purpose and the circumstances under which they were offered. Some were called sin offerings, others burnt offerings; and there were trespass offerings, peace offerings, wave offerings. Bullocks and goats were used for these offerings, as well as lambs, birds, grain, and wine. Whatever the nature of the offerings might be, the Lord demanded that the offerer present his best. Nothing blemished was acceptable to the Lord.

For the want of a better word to describe them, we could say that all these sacrifices made by the Lord’s ancient people were merely typical. They did not effect actual reconciliation with God. They did not remove the guilt of sin and the condemnation to death resulting there-from. However, to the extent that the offerers were sincere of heart in presenting their sacrifices to the Lord, God was pleased, and they were blessed.

Speaking particularly of the sacrifices offered in connection with the Tabernacle services under the Law, Paul wrote, “The Law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the corner thereunto perfect; for then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.”—Heb. 10:1-3

The Situation Changed

With the First Advent of Jesus a fundamental change came. Paul refers to this, saying, “Wherefore when he [Christ] cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the Law; Then :said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”—Heb. 10:5-10

Thus we see that with the coming and sacrifice of Jesus, God no longer accepted typical sacrifices. It is also apparent that those sacrifices of the past pointed forward to the sacrificial work of Jesus, and as we shall later see, in a lesser sense to the sacrifices of his footstep followers. The primary difference between the typical sacrifices and the antitypical is that the first consisted of gifts which the offerer brought to the Lord—lambs, goats, etc.—while the latter is the sacrifice of human life, and human bodies; not those of others, but of one’s own.

“A body hast thou prepared me,” Paul quotes Jesus as saying. (Heb. 10:5) This was his human body, his flesh, which he gave for the life of the world. (John 6:51) We, too, in ‘filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ’, are admonished to present our bodies “a living sacrifice,” with the assurance that they will be acceptable to the Lord. (Rom. 12:1) The combined sacrifices of Jesus’ body and the bodies of his true follwers are described by Paul as the “better sacrifices”—better, that is, than the typical sacrifices of the past.—Heb. 9:23

Different Purposes

The divine plan for the redemption of the human race from sin and death indicates that different purposes are accomplished by the better sacrifices of this Gospel Age. Fundamental to all these is, of course, the ransoming of Adam and his progeny from death. This could be accomplished by none other than Jesus himself. Being born into the world perfect, he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, and therefore was not under condemnation to death. (Heb. 7:26) Thus Jesus, in sacrificing his uncondemned life, was able to “ransom them [the world of mankind] from the power of the grave,” and to “redeem them from death.”—Hos. 13:14

This basic feature of the ‘better sacrifices’ is clearly seen when we comprehend the meaning of the Greek word from which the word ransom is translated in I Timothy 2:5,6. According to Young’s Concordance this word means ‘a corresponding price’. The thought is amplified by the statement in the Law; “Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. 19:21) In the case of Jesus and the ‘ransom’ he provided, it was his perfect human life that was given as a substitute for the perfect life of Adam—which Adam forfeited through disobedience to the divine law.

Having provided a ransom which, in due time, would lead to the release of Adam from death’s condemnation, it meant that the unborn race in his loins at the time of his sin would also be redeemed. Thus Paul states it, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) Obviously no one but Jesus could thus give his life as a corresponding price, and it was for this purpose that he “poured out his soul unto death.” (Isa. 53:12) Nothing more than the sacrificed life of the perfect man, Jesus, was needed to bring about the release of the entire human race from Adamic condemnation.

Other Sacrifices

While Jesus alone, by his “once for all” (Heb. 10:10) sacrifice, provided the opportunity for release from condemnation to death because of sin, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that his followers are also invited to, and do, lay down their lives in sacrifice which is acceptable to God. We have already noted Romans 12:1, which exhorts us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, with the assurance that such a sacrifice would be holy, and acceptable to God. This language, and the idea which it conveys, is clearly based upon the typical sacrifices of the past in which the bodies of beasts were offered in sacrifice; and it reveals that as followers of Jesus we do have a part in the antitype of those sacrifices.

The Apostle Peter is equally specific in this matter. He wrote, “Ye also … are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up … sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 2:5) Here the apostle not only assures us that we can offer sacrifices acceptable to God, but associates our position with the typical priesthood. One of the main functions of Israel’s priests was to offer sacrifice; and now, as antitypical priests, we are to offer sacrifice.

These sacrifices are acceptable to God by or through Jesus Christ, Peter explained. By nature we are members of the condemned and dying race, and would have nothing to offer which would be acceptable to God. But, upon the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning work on our behalf, we are released from original condemnation—“unto justification of life,” as Paul explained it. (Rom. 5:18; 4:25) Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) This is simply another way of saying that we are now reckoned as being alive, or having life, because the merit of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, symbolized by his shed blood, has been imputed to us. Thus we can present our bodies a ‘living’ sacrifice.

The Purpose

Every aspect of God’s plan of salvation has a purpose. What, then, is the purpose of Christian sacrifice and suffering? Broadly speaking, it is that others might be blessed. Colossians 1:24 reads, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” Here we learn that our sacrifices and sufferings are for the sake of our fellow-members in the body of Christ—for their benefit, that is.

This is in keeping with the admonition to lay down our lives for the brethren. But what is accomplished by this? The Scriptures explain that we build one another up in our most holy faith, and thus help to prepare them for glory, honor, and immortality in the kingdom. In II Corinthians 4:12 Paul put it another way. He said, “Death worketh in us, but life in you,” the brethren. As we lay down our lives for the brethren, it contributes to their receiving life through Christ. While the life-giving merit is in the blood of Christ, our sacrifice is the means used whereby that merit becomes vital in the lives of our fellow-members of the body of Christ. We pass on to them the ‘word of reconciliation’ by our daily sacrifices in ministering the Gospel of Christ.—II Cor. 5:19

By these cooperative sacrifices, made acceptable to God through the merit of the ransom, the ‘bride’ (Rev. 21:2,9) of Christ is made ready for her association with the Bridegroom in the kingdom work of dispensing life to all who will accept it upon the terms of belief and obedience during Christ’s thousand-year meditorial reign. It will be then that “the Spirit and the bride” will say, “Come, … and … take of the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

It is in this way that the merit of Christ’s shed blood will be made available in the next age for the world of mankind. The followers of Jesus, who are suffering and dying with him now, could properly be said to be laying down their lives for the world of mankind. These were spoken of by Paul as being “planted together” in the likeness of Jesus’ death, which of course, was a sacrificial death. Paul described this as a baptism into Christ’s death—that is, a death baptism.—Rom. 6:3-5

In I Corinthians 15:29-32 Paul discussed the suffering and death of the Christian, using the expression, “baptized for the dead.” In the context Paul argued that if there were not to be a resurrection of the dead, then this death baptism for the dead would accomplish nothing. This shows clearly that our sacrifices are designed in the great plan of God to accrue to the benefit of mankind during the “times of restitution of all things.”—Acts 3:19-21

A Sin Offering

The reason Jesus died, and the reason we have the privilege of dying with him, is that God has designed these sacrifices as part of his plan to rid the world of sin. Hence these antitypical ‘better sacrifices’ of the Gospel Age are properly called sin offerings, even as were the typical sacrifices of the Jewish Age. Sin offerings accomplish different things. The Scriptures declare that Jesus’ soul, his life, was made “an offering for sin.” (Isa. 53:10) This offering provided redemption from sin and death. The offerings of his body members, however, are related only to the administering of the life-giving blessings made available by the ransom—but this also pertains to the stamping out of sin, hence is spoken of by Paul as a dying unto, or for sin.

This is shown in Romans 6:10,11. We quote, “In that he [Christ] died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus did not die ‘unto sin’ in the sense that he was once a sinner and then ceased from sin, as we do. The only way Jesus could die ‘unto sin’ was as a sin offering. And Paul says that we should “likewise, [or in the same manner] reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin.”

There are two key words in this statement by Paul. The one, as we have noted, is ‘likewise’, which indicates that we die as a sin offering even as Jesus did. The other key word is ‘reckon’. Jesus did not ‘reckon’ that he was dying unto sin, for he actually gave a perfect life as an acceptable sacrifice, an offering for sin which provided redemption for Adam and his race. But we can only ‘reckon’ that we are dying unto sin; but since the Lord, through the inspired Apostle Paul, authorized us so to reckon, it makes it bona fide, and we know that our offering is accepted on this basis.

The reason we are authorized to reckon that we are dying unto sin is that the merit of the ransom has been imputed to us to make our sacrifice acceptable. To suggest that our imperfect sacrifices would not be accepted by God for this purpose after the imputation of Christ’s merit, would be to question, by implication, the efficacy of the ransom. Yes, brethren, the imputation of the merit of the ransom does make it possible for us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, with the assurance that they have been made holy in God’s sight, and will be acceptable for the purpose designed by him.

“For Christ Also”

Our text presents further confirmation of our share in the great sin offering feature of the divine plan. “It is better,” Peter states, “if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust.” Here the key word is ‘also’.—“Christ also hath once suffered for sins.” This means that if we are suffering because of well-doing, and in keeping with the Heavenly Father’s will, we are suffering for sins, that our sacrifices are considered as a sin offering.

And note the further revealing statement in this text—“the Just for the unjust.” Jesus was ‘just’, or ‘justified’, by virtue of his own inherent perfection. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. (Heb. 7:26) We are ‘just’, or ‘justified’ before the Lord because our imperfections are covered by the blood. The merit of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice is imputed to us. Thus we too, even as Jesus, when we are laying down our lives following in his steps, are suffering and dying, the just for the unjust. Actually, this is but another way of saying that we are being “baptized for the dead.”


This wonderful partnership we enjoy with our Lord Jesus in the work of reconciling estranged humanity to the Heavenly Father is clearly foreshadowed in the Atonement Day services as conducted in the ancient Tabernacle in the wilderness. On that typical Day of Atonement, two animals were offered for sins. One of these was a bullock, and the other a goat. Both animals were sacrificed in the same manner. They were slain at the door of the Tabernacle. Their fat and life-producing organs were burned on the brazen altar in the Court. Their carcasses were burned outside the camp of Israel; and their blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat within the Most Holy.

Paul refers to this in Hebrews 13:10-13. Verse 10 reads, “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the Tabernacle.” The altar referred to here is the brazen altar in the Court of the Tabernacle, when sin offerings were burned on it. The law governing the use of the altar for this purpose reads, “No sin offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into … the Holy, … shall be eaten: it shall be burnt in the fire.”—Lev. 6:30

Here Paul is saying that the altar which we have, or which typifies our sacrifice, is the brazen altar in the Court when used for sin offerings. It is because of this, or “for,” as Paul puts it, “the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”—vss. 11-13

There is no escaping the conclusion from this clear statement by the Apostle Paul that the animals offered for the sins of Israel on their typical Atonement Day foreshadowed the sacrifices of Jesus and his church; the bullock, offered first, representing Jesus, and the goat, representing the church, his followers. This is the significance of our sacrifice as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. This is the ‘altar’, the opportunity of sacrifice and suffering which we have and which is acceptable to God through the merit of Jesus.

The Practical Lesson

While the Scriptures make it clear that the followers of the Master do share with him in the work of reconciling fallen humanity to God, we should not overlook the practical application of this great truth which Paul suggests. We quote: “By him therefore [that is, through the merit of Christ] let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Heb. 13:15,16

‘To do good and to communicate’. This is the life endeavor of every true follower of the Master. And it is with such sacrifices that God is well pleased. Paul again wrote, “Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all, … especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:9,10) This is what our share in the ‘better sacrifices’ means to us in terms of everyday living. It would be of little value to know of this feature of the divine plan unless it influences us actually to lay down our lives in divine service, doing as much good as we can now, and looking forward to that glorious future opportunity of sharing with Jesus in the blessing of all the families of the earth.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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