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Jesus and the Sadducees were having a little tête-à-tête. Perceiving that they were losing ground before the Master with their hypothetical reasoning, a scribe jumped in to save the day with a bona fide theological question. “What is the first commandment of all?” he asked Him.

Mark 12:29-31
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Jesus didn’t bat an eyelash! “There is one God and we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.” These two laws encapsulate the entire Law. As it is stated elsewhere, “Upon these hang all the law and the prophets.”[1] Unlike the argumentative Sadducees, this scribe appreciated the truth in all its beauty.

Mark 12:32-33
32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

The scribe said that these two laws were greater than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. The purpose of the entire sacrificial system is summarized in these laws. The two laws give us the goal, but the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices give us the objectives. Many of the sacrifices were made necessary because of man’s inability to keep the Ten Commandments. And the Ten Commandments are summarized by the two laws. But if we only teach the two laws, will people know what it means to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? No; to teach people that, we would have to delve into the Ten Commandments—have no other gods before Me, make no graven image, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath, honor father and mother, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t covet. These define sin for us. And sin explains the reason for the sacrifice, because the wages of sin is death.

The Old Covenant is replete with sacrifices and offerings. When we consider the daily, the Sabbath, the feast, and the five primary offerings and all the ways they were to be done, we can appreciate how large a volume would need to be written to cover all the material. And so, for brevity’s sake, we are going to concentrate on the sin, burnt, and peace offerings. There are five primary offerings upon which the whole sacrificial system is based. In addition to the sin, burnt, and peace offerings, there are the trespass and the grain (or meat) offerings. But the grain offering is a bloodless offering, which is outside of the scope of this work. And the trespass offering is a special form of sin offering, so we will not be dealing with it in detail.

The scribe said knowledge of the one God and loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. He didn’t say offerings or sacrifices. It was a “both/and” proposition. Was he right?

Mark 12:34
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

Jesus determined that the scribe had answered discreetly. This means he had spoken wisely with forethought. His comment didn’t just dump out of his mouth. He had thought it through and answered Jesus wisely. Jesus said to him, “Thou are not far from the kingdom of God.” Well, not being far from the kingdom of God is good, but it’s not quite being there, is it? Not far from the kingdom of God is, “You’re getting close” like the hot/cold game—“you’re warm, hot, hotter, cold, freezing!” This guy was hot, but he wasn’t on it yet. What was he missing? He was missing the Person standing before him. He was right in the fact and in the truth that to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself was more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. But without the burnt offering and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is impossible to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

It doesn’t matter what religion a person is. They could be Hindu, Buddhist, Mohammedan, Bahai—it doesn’t matter. Without Jesus Christ, they cannot love God. Scripture declares that we love Him because He first loved us.[2] Recognizing that God gave us His Son out of love for us is our basis for loving Him. Thus, if one doesn’t accept Jesus Christ, one cannot love God. It can’t be done. To love God requires a sacrifice because we can’t get close enough to say, “God, I love you” without being cleansed by blood. We can shout it out all we want. Without the blood, it is of no affect. The scribe was close, but he missed the point—Jesus, the Lamb of God. That being said, what exactly was involved in the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices that were fulfilled in Christ?

Well, that’s exactly what we are going to examine. We are going to look at the sin, the burnt, and the peace offerings. And we are going to see that if we stop at the sin sacrifice, our conscience will not be perfected. If we only offer the burnt sacrifice, our conscience will not be perfected. We have to go all the way through to the peace offering to have our conscience perfected. This is one of the primary reasons we are still being plagued by the guilt and bondage of our sins. We will offer up the sin sacrifice, but we fail to follow through the whole process of offerings and sacrifice that the saints in the Old Testament followed.

In the Tabernacle system, the sin sacrifice was just the beginning. After the sin sacrifice, they had to give a burnt offering. Then they would be able to offer up a peace offering to be in full communion and community with God and His household.[3] We are going to see this in the Old Testament, then we are going to look at how Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of these sacrifices. Finally, we’ll see how Paul gained a clear, purged, and perfect conscience by walking through the sin, burnt, and peace offerings.

When we do this, when we go all the way through the cross and don’t fall short (for we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul)[4] in fully applying of the blood of Jesus Christ to our lives, we will be free. Our conscience will be purged and perfected. Now, a perfected conscience isn’t one that doesn’t feel bad; it is one that is very, very sensitive and able to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. That is the kind of conscience we need to be effective New Testament priests.

[1] Matt 22:40. It is interesting that He said “hang” and not “based.” All the requirements of the Law are suspended from the common threads of loving God and loving our fellow man. In other words, they point up in that direction. Thus, these laws supersede all others.
[2] 1 John 4:19
[3] See, for example, Ex 29:14, 18, 28 and Lev 9:15, 16, 18
[4] Heb 10:39