For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments.
-- Leviticus 16:30-32, ESV
When people ask me a Bible question I cannot answer, I usually make something up and say it's in Leviticus. I know they probably won't go there to look. Walking through Leviticus is meaningful but monotonous, until Chapter 16 stuns us, right between the chambers of the heart.
Leviticus 16 describes the inaugural Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, made necessary by the holiness of God and the sins of the people. The entire ritual is a perfect type, a beautiful picture, a gospel proclamation of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and Christ alone.
Of all of the attributes of God, holiness is the one that is most important and overlooked by modern Christians. We gravitate toward the love of God. "God is love" indeed, and love is an amazing grace. But we have magnified it as if it is His only attribute, so much so that Christianity today is mostly an invertebrate religion preaching a unitarian gospel with salvation for all and punishment for none.
To understand salvation in Christ alone we have to begin with the holiness of God. Holiness is perfection. God is spiritually, physically, morally, and absolutely perfect. God created a perfect universe and planet for us to inhabit, but when we entered in we sinned. God has made a plan to regenerate people into ultimate perfection and recreate the heavens and earth in a state of perfection. For this we need Christ, and Christ alone.
Holiness is righteousness. Sin is anything not right, or righteous, according to God. Sin entered into the human race when we disobeyed God's commandments. God is perfect, and perfectly righteous, and the only way to be rightly related to Him is to be perfectly righteous, too. This requires Christ, and Christ alone.
Holiness is justice. There is a longing in every human heart for justice, for all humans are made in the image of God. Sin is injustice, and the failure to properly punish sin is further injustice. Therefore, for God to remain perfect and righteous, He must punish the guilty. For this the holy, perfect, and righteous judge had ordained two places: Hell or the cross of Christ, and Christ alone.
Because of God's holiness, sin is serious. It disqualifies us from sharing in God's glory and prevents us from having any relationship with God at all. Sin, be it one or one trillion, can banish you from the presence of God now and forever. Because of God's holiness, sin will be seriously punished with double death. Physical death ensues, from crime or disease or old age. Eternal death is the final death, it is Hell, figuratively and literally, from whence there is no return.
Is there no escape? Is there no forgiveness? Is there no grace? Is there no mercy? It there no way to reconcile the holiness of God with the sinfulness of man? There is one way, and He is Christ, and Christ alone.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was a beautiful and meaningful ritual that prescribed and predicted the person and work of a single Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It was instituted in the Mosaic Law and repeated annually until the Old was fulfilled by the New, until Christ came. It has a lot of moving parts, all of which point to one person.
There were sacrificial animals. There were two goats, sacrificial and substitutionary. This is the dual nature of salvation, sins forgiven and sins forgotten. There was one high priest. He was "a son in the father's place." Look at each picture now. Tell me whose face do you see?
It is the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. Jesus Christ is the male without blemish, without sin. Jesus Christ willingly gave His lifeblood for the forgiveness and erasure of our sin. Jesus Christ is the great high priest who, though being God, stood between holy God and sinful man to bring the two together in reconciliation, relationship, salvation, atonement. This is by God's grace, alone, through faith, alone, in Jesus Christ, and Christ alone.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]