What is a sacrifice?
In the Old Testament (OT), God provided a sacrificial system to help the Jewish people to establish in their own minds that the penalty of sin is death “ either the physical death of the individual or of an animal that could die in their place. The first sacrifice recorded in scripture is found in Genesis 3:21 where God makes garments of animal skin for Adam and Eve. This first sacrifice was to cover the first sin. It is obvious that Adam and Eve passed this experience on to their children because in Genesis 4, Cain and Abel bring sacrifices to God. This sacrificial system was provided so that in the instance a sin could be covered, an animal was killed in the place of the guilty party. There were also other worse sins that required the immediate death of the guilty party (usually by stoning) with no possibility of a substitute such as worshipping a false god, failure to keep the Sabbath law, kidnapping, sex with an animal, homosexuality, practicing witchcraft, improper service in the tabernacle, blasphemy, rebelling against parents, murder, sex outside of marriage, adultery, and rape.
The OT sacrifices required that animals be sacrificed for known sins but also for unknown sins. If someone was guilty of a known sin (that did not require death), they were to bring the sacrificial animal to the priests who would sacrifice the animal for their sin. Leviticus 4 and 5 explains the details of sin offerings that we to be offered. There are a total of about 120 verses in the OT that refer to sin offerings. In this case, the sin offering (usually a lamb or a young goat) would be killed in place of the person by shedding it's blood. This sacrifice, however, was not sufficient to forgive the sin of the worshipper but rather demonstrated the obedience and faith of the worshipper before God. The imagery provided in the sacrificial system led the Jewish nation to look forward to the perfect sacrifice to come that would permanently and completely take away their sin.
Who is the perfect sacrifice?
Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, was chosen by God before He created the Universe to be the perfect sacrifice and take away the sins of those who would believe. Peter states:
1Pe 1:17-21 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; (18) knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, (19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (20) For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you (21) who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Jesus Christ is the perfect sacrifice and his death (as a substitute) is sufficient to completely forgive any sin you have ever committed or will ever commit. Christ Jesus accepted the penalty of your sin upon Himself and bore the punishment for it upon His own body. His death has provided a way for you to be free from the penalty of sin and death. Because Jesus was God incarnate (God with Us), His perfect sacrifice was sufficient to meet God's righteous standard of justice. Your sin required a punishment because of the Holy nature of God but He provided the perfect substitute (in His Son) so that He might accept the penalty in your place. If Jesus was only a man, His sacrifice would only provide for His own sin. Even if He (as only a man) perfectly met God's standard, He would only earn salvation for Himself. By being wholly God and wholly man, He was able to meet God's standard, but also be capable of accepting the penalty for the sin of all who would ever believe. Because He was God, He was able to accept an infinite punishment for you instead of your condemnation to an eternity in hell. This sacrifice was God providing a perfect sacrifice that would meet His own perfect standard. Colossians clearly states Christ's deity and shows the sufficiency of His sacrifice to forgive our sin:
Col 2:8-10 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (9) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (10) and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (14) having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then is sufficient to pay our sin debt. It is completely and utterly cancelled out by His substitutionary death on the cross. He took our place and accepted our sin upon Himself, so that we might be free of the punishment.
That, in itself is a wonderful gift to us, but by itself His death is utterly worthless. Remember, that Christ died on the cross to take away our sin and the penalty of death, but if God died to do this, then sin and death was more powerful than God and He was not powerful enough to actually free us from the punishment¦.. (continue)