Jesus is the gift of God to us, but he is also the gift to God on our behalf, for he gave himself to God as a holy sacrifice when he offered his holy life on the altar of the cross as the offering for our sins.
Under the Old Testament, the sacrifices which were offered upon the altar were called “offerings” and “oblations” and they are so called some 40 times in the book of Leviticus alone.
These two words come from the same Hebrew word, kor-bawn, meaning a sacrificial present brought near to the altar. The sacrifices which were brought to the altar, were to be presented as “sacrificial presents” or “gifts.”
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews uses the word gift on multiple occasions to refer to these.
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both GIFTS and sacrifices for sins… ~ Hebrews 5:1
For every high priest is ordained to offer GIFTS and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. ~ Hebrews 8:3
In Hebrews 11:4, the author of Hebrews refers to the more excellent sacrifice offered by Abel as a “gift.”
After God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, he commanded Moses to build a tabernacle so that he could live among his people. ~ Exodus 25:8
Upon the completion of the building of the tabernacle, both the priests and the tabernacle, were consecrated to the Lord for service.
At the inauguration of the service of the tabernacle, God demonstrated his acceptance of the offerings (the gifts) which foreshadowed Christ by consuming the sacrifices by fire from his holy presence.
And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and THE GLORY OF THE LORD APPEARED unto all the people. AND THERE CAME A FIRE OUT FROM BEFORE THE LORD, and CONSUMED upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. ~ Leviticus 9:22-24
This fire which consumed the sacrifices came from the presence of God from within the inner most section of the tabernacle: the holiest of all.
This demonstration of God’s glory was repeated at the dedication of the temple which Solomon built, except this time the fire came down from Heaven.
Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, THE FIRE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, and CONSUMED the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and THE GLORY OF THE LORD FILLED THE HOUSE. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because THE GLORY OF THE LORD HAD FILLED THE LORD’S HOUSE. And when all the children of Israel saw how THE FIRE came down, and THE GLORY of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:1-3
In both cases, in the tabernacle of Moses and in the temple of Solomon, God’s glory was manifested as he accepted the sacrifices which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus.
Throughout the Old Testament, the sacrifices which were types of Christ were offered (presented as presents) to God as a sweet fragrance and were accepted by God. They were never rejected by God.
These sacrifices were holy and they were accepted on the behalf of the people (Lev 22:20, 21, 25, 27). By virtue of these offerings, the people were sanctified and made holy in the sight of the Lord.
Ephesians 1:6 tells us, “we have been accepted in the beloved.” We are accepted in the beloved because of Jesus who gave himself for us as a sweet saver offering when he died for our sins.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God FOR CHRIST’S SAKE HATH FORGIVEN YOU. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US AN OFFERING AND A SACRIFICE TO GOD FOR A SWEET-SMELLING SAVOR. ~ Ephesians 4:32-5:2
God accepts us because he accepted (not rejected) Jesus, when he died for our sins. Someone may ask, doesn’t the Bible teach that Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness and thereby rejected by God in our place?
Paul’s reference to Christ being made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), is derived from the Old Testament concept of the sin offerings. The sin offerings were offered to make atonement for sin.
Throughout the Old Testament the word atonement was used to convey the idea of reconciliation, sanctification, consecration, and forgiveness. This is the context which surrounds Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5.
Literally, Paul is telling us that Christ was made to be the offering for our sins, and that is how we are reconciled to God. Christ was made to be our sin offering not our literal sin.
Throughout the Old Testament the words sin and sin offering are translated from the same Hebrew word chattath, which is translated as sin offering 118 times, and as sin 168 times.
In Hebrews 10:6, the writer of Hebrews speaks of sacrifices for sin. The words “sacrifices for” were added by the translators of the KJV for clarity. Literally, Hebrews 10:6 says: In burnt offerings and sin thou hast had no pleasure.
However, we know that the author is not referring to sin but to the sin offerings instead. We know this because of the context and we know this because Hebrews 10:6 is a quote from Psalm 40:6 which says the following:
Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.
The same Greek word “hamartia” used throughout the New Testament for sins is used in Hebrews 10:6 to reference the sin offerings, and this is exactly how Paul employs the same word in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
It should also be of importance to us that the apostle Paul was a Jew who had come to know Christ. The things which Paul taught about Jesus were rooted in his scholarly understanding of scripture. Paul most assuredly would have thought through the scriptures as a Jewish scholar and would have understood Christ’s death and resurrection in view of the scriptures.
Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
3 I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES…~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Paul certainly understood Christ’s death in view of the Old Testament scriptures and did not teach contrary to the Old Testament’s motif when he speaks of Christ dying for our sins. Paul spoke of Christ’s death in view of the precedent set forth within the sacrificial system because those sacrifices foreshadowed Christ. Jesus is our Redeemer, and he died for our sins as one who was pure and holy.
There is no precedent in scripture which would indicate that the offerings for sin were made sinful with the sins of the people and consequently rejected by God. Instead they were to be offered as unblemished sacrifices which were holy gifts to the Lord and accepted by God as a sweet fragrance.
Leviticus 6:25 says, Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, this is THE LAW OF THE SIN OFFERING: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: IT IS MOST HOLY.
Leviticus 22:21 tells us that the sacrifice had to be perfect in order to be accepted.
Christ was perfect. He was without sin. He knew no sin. He was without spot or blemish, and as a perfect and holy sacrifice offered for our sins, Jesus was accepted by God on our behalf, to reconcile us to God. He was made to be a “sin offering” for us, not our literal sin.
The teaching of the Bible is that we were redeemed with the precious blood of Jesus as of a lamb without spot or blemish. ~ 1 Peter 1:18-19
Jesus is, was, and always will be holy, pure, and just. The apostle Peter declared that he is the holy and just One which the people rejected (Acts 3:14). Peter also declared that he is the prince of life and that the grave could not hold him because God would not allow his HOLY ONE to see corruption. ~ Acts 2:24, 27; 3:15
Jesus redeemed us to God by his own blood when he gave himself (his holy life) as a gift to God to make atonement or reconciliation for our sins.