The Sin Offering:Cleansing By God

Jerry A. Collins


When we refuse to deal with something that needs dealing with we will usually end up with more problems. Ignoring that nagging ache in your tooth can lead to more serious problems like root canals and infection. Refusing to stop overspending will lead to more debt and increasing pressures in your life. Setting aside the need to resolve a relational issue can lead to relational ruptures, heartache, suffering and deep pain in your life. When we sin and do not deal with it we hinder and hurt our relationship with the Lord.

The sin offering in Leviticus 4 was a very frequent activity in the temple and publicly testified to the fact that there was not a day that went by that the people sinned against God. The very real possibility that their was relationship with God was in jeopardy made the sin offering a regular practice with the devoted of Israel.

All of us would have to admit that every day we sin, either by omission or commission and need inward renewal for our spiritual lives. So God made provision for the forgiveness of sins in the community through the sin offering so that communion between God and His people could be maintained.


Sin is the perversion of good. To say I have a good arm is the same as saying I have an arm. An arm is a good arm unless there is something wrong with it. But if I say that I have a bad arm, I mean that my arm has become perverted in some way. A broken arm cannot exist except as a perversion of a good one. So with sin. Since God is the definition of good, sin is any perversion of good as defined by God. Sin is anything contrary to the character of God. it is something that falls short of or misses the mark or violates Godís standard or benchmark (James 2:8-11).


God thought it good to let evil be possible. It is the best possible plan for the universe or else God would have introduced a new one. The first actual manifestation of sin was found in an angel named Lucifer, later Satan (Ezek 28:15. Sin was then discovered in 1/3 of the angels who followed Luciferís rebellion (Rev 12:4). After creation, Satan tempted the woman and she the man and sin was found in both (Gen 3:1-7). Now sin is found in all of Adamís children including every one of us. The whole human race is infected with the sin virus (Romans 3:23). This results in human beings being extensively sinful. In other words, it is not that we are as sinful as we can be, but that we are sinful in every dimension of our being including the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, relational, psychological and social.


There are three things that alienate people from god. (1) Transmitted sin from Adam to each and every member of the human race (Rom 5:12). It is guilt by association. It is not because of what we did but because of who we are. (2) We possess a sin nature that has the bent or capacity to act contrary to the character and standards of God and this capacity is transmitted to us from our parents just like our body is (2 Cor 4:4). We do not inherit their sin but the motive and intent to sin comes from our ancestors all the way back to Adam. (3) So each of us commits personal sin (Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10). We personally sin and this is what jeopardizes our relationship with God, either resulting in eternal damnation or loss of fellowship and rewards.


People could be steadfast in their devotion to God, they can set standards clearly from the Law, can devoutly worship in the sanctuary--yet he may still be overtaken in a fault or sin unknowingly. these imperfections and defects are real sins too. One may plead ignorance but the law made it clear that he was guilty before God. Sin is sin and guilt is an essential part of it wherever sin is uncovered in the life. The effect may vary but to God they are always evil, repulsive and condemned. Little sins like ignorant ones may seem trivial to us but they are enough to sink a soul to an everlasting death if left uncancelled by the Saviorís blood. All of this is portrayed in the sin offering of Israel.

First, we notice that this offering was for sins of ignorance. In vs 2 sins unintentionally. In vs 13 the sin escapes the notice of people. In vs 22 when the leaders unintentionally violate a command of God. In vs 27 when the common people unintentionally violate a command of God. We can observe that sins forgiven through the sin offering sacrifice are those done unwittingly. In other words, the sin is not premeditated or intentional--he did not know that he had sinned but found out afterward. Sins of ignorance (Lev 4), sins of carelessness (Lev 5:4), sin without defiance (Num 15:30). The idea of defiance is stressed by high handedness. Not only is the sin in this case done out in the open, it is arrogant and defiant--almost a fist shaking rebellion against the Lord God. those premeditated, arrogantly and defiantly committed sins are not covered by this sin offering.

Second, forgiveness could be granted by the free act of grace on the basis of the sin offering. In vss 20, 26 and 35 the result of an accepted sin offering sacrifice was forgiveness by God for the offense. The worshipper would go home with a clear conscience and a spirit of praise knowing that his sin has been removed. the comfort of knowing that God had forgiven him would be endorsed and conveyed by the priest during the ceremony itself and afterwards when the priests ate the sin offering that had been offered (Lev 6:25-26). The eating and the burning were outward signs that God had received the sacrifice, that the sin was atoned for and forgiveness granted. Of course, then priest should discern the attitude to see if the person has a contrite heart, a broken spirit, an awareness of the seriousness of sin and genuine repentance (Psa 51:16-17).

Third, blood was a very prominent part of this sacrifice. The offerer brought the animal to the door of the tabernacle and laid his hand on the head of the victim which he then killed. The priest, however, collected the blood in the bowl. He would either sprinkle some on the veil of the holy of holies or put some on the four horns on the altar of incense and pour out the rest at the base of the altar of burnt offering (4:7). After the blood had been applied in the appropriate place the burning took place. The remainder of the offering would be taken outside the camp to be burned (4:11-12). The people were constantly reminded that sin required blood sacrifice. The cost of sin was life.


1. No frankincense or oil was put within the sacrifice. There was nothing joyful about this. This sin offering sacrifice represented a terrible necessity for which God in his wondrous grace had made provision. It is a very dangerous to be cavalier about sin in your life. Sin is serious business with God. The most serious business there is. We might tend to believe that the more spiritually mature a person becomes the more sinless they become. Actually, the more spiritually mature you become, the more sensitized to your own sin you will become. Notice the apostle Pauls assessment of himself as he grew spiritually in 1 Corinthians 15:9 calls himself the least of the apostles. Later in Ephesians 3:8 the least of all the saints and near the end of his ministry in 1 Timothy 1:15 the chief of sinners. The closer you get to the light, God, the clearer you can see the dirt and filth in your life.

2. The sin offering differed according to who was bringing it. The High Priest on day of atonement, or the whole congregation, or a ruler, or just common man--all had varying rituals. The sins of teachers for instance, are teachers of sins. As a result leaders sins had great emphasis placed on them. But the common man could find forgiveness too since his sin could ruin him. he may not be able to cause as much mischief as a ruler or priest by his sin, but his sin is just as evil and God would have to reckon with him for it. the point is no matter how obscurely a person may live, however poor or uneducated he may be, his sin will ruin him if not pardoned. However commonplace or insignificant the sinner may be in the eyes of the world, nothing will cleanse him but the blood of Jesus Christ, the same blood that cleanses priest or king.

3. The accepted sin offering removed sin. This sin offering looked forward to the death of Christ. God made Christ to be sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of God 2 Corinthians 5:21. The removal of sin was complete. Christ once for all suffered the just for the unjust 1 Peter 3:18. Further, now we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins 1 John 2:1-2. In other words, it is His blood which goes on cleansing us. so the blood of Christ shed for our sins has a continual cleansing effect in our lives as the repeated sin offering in the OT did. Jesus sin sacrifice removes the sin and guilt that alienated me from God and cast me into eternal condemnation. I am now delivered forever. That same sacrifice allows me to maintain fellowship with God by confession and repentance.