Last week I reviewed some aspects of sacrifices and their fulfillment in Christ. Most Christians know that sacrifices are no longer called for in Christianity. What we come to this week is more difficult. There are curses on “the land” because of the “abominations” of “the people.” But these phrases mean more to us now. God has given us better and fuller revelation through His Son Jesus Christ, just as He did with sacrifices.
Again, the outline is drawn from my Old Testament I class with Dr. Hamilton.
- Blood (17)
- Family and Society (18-20)
- Priests (21-22)
First, in Leviticus 17 Moses describes laws governing blood. These laws are important because of what blood is. Leviticus 17:11 reads, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” I bring this up to dispel a commonly held view in churches who are trying, rightly, to focus on the holiness of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately they wrongly elevate the blood of Christ to the point of deity itself. They say things like, “even one drop of Jesus’ precious blood could have saved all the people who ever lived.” Though we should respect such reverence for Christ we should not elevate it to an unbiblical level as that statement does. As the beginning of Leviticus 17:11 tells us, the life is in the blood. And, according to the end of the verse, that is why the blood makes atonement – because the life is in the blood. So Jesus cutting His finger would never atone for sin. That’s not the way God set it up. God set it up so that Jesus would need to give Himself completely and entirely to obedience to God, even obedience to death – which is symbolized by the blood being poured out.
Now back to the phrases I put in quotes in the introduction paragraph. Many things have changed since the laws of Leviticus were given, a broader revelation of God through Jesus Christ. Genesis through Deuteronomy tell us about “the land” or “the promised land” and how it was defiled by the people so God was sending Israel in to be the punishment of God on them. Today there is no land, no promised land. Now we have a new destination – all nations. And we have a new way to conquer – going to make disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). So when we try to apply Leviticus we are not trying to purify a land.
There were also many “abominations” mentioned in Leviticus 18. But we are called to look at the church and keep it pure and holy, even stripping membership from those who act immorally. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:9-13,
9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
So we go to those outside of the church with the gospel. It’s great if they don’t take part in these abominations but it will not save them. Accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ will save them. Instead we make sure that those inside the church are getting the help and prayer they need to battle sin (Galatians 6:1-2). And then if they refuse we have to disfellowship with them, so that they might see their error and return to God (1 Corinthians 5:5). And more than that we must keep in mind that Jesus gave us a greater revelation of the depth of these abominations. He did not change or add to the commands but He revealed that even when we think about murder or sexual immorality or any sin, we break the same law (Matthew 5:17-48). So we must be more careful and test ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) so that we might be holy, as God continues to call us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16)!
The last phrase from the introduction that is often misunderstood is “the people.” God chose Israel to be His people but those who inherit the promises do so by faith as Abraham did (Romans 4). Since we know God saved all those who had faith and us through Jesus Christ, we know that they too were part of the church, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
God has called us to holiness. We must be different from the world that surrounds us. And we not called to point to the actions of those outside the church to improve our holiness but bring the gospel to them while we examine our own hearts for hidden craters of sin and seek to free ourselves from them while helping our brothers in Christ do pursue that same holiness!