Jesus is the gift of God to us, as well as the gift to God for us, 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 acceptanceof 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 as gifts, the sacrifices which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus.


Throughout the Old Testament the sacrifices which were types of Christ, and offered as gifts to God, were offered as a sweet fragrance, and accepted by God. They were never rejected by God.

These sacrifices were holy and they were accepted on the behalf of the people (Leviticus 22:20, 21, 25, 27). By virtue of these offerings, the people were sanctified and made holy in the sight of the Lord.

In Philippians 4,  Paul draws on the language of the sweet savor offerings when he speaks of the gift of support which the Philippians sent to his aid: But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.~ Philippians 4:18

In 2 Corinthians, Paul again draws on the language of the sweet savor offerings when he says the following: Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest THE SAVOR OF HIS KNOWLEDGE by us in every place. For we are unto God A SWEET SAVOR OF CHRIST, in them that are saved, and in them that perish… ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

In both cases (Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 2) Paul appeals to the language of found in the Old Testament which described the atonement sacrifices foreshadowing the death of Christ.

No one reading Paul’s words in Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 2 would think the expression “sweet savor” had any other meaning than that which is pleasing to God. In fact, Paul uses the words “well pleasing” in his Philippians 4 description.

When Christ died on the cross, he paid the ransom for us with his holy life which he offered to God as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus gave himself was a sweet savor offering: well pleasing to God!

This is why holy communion is so important and powerful. It is a memorial of the death of our Lord, for through Jesus’s sacrifice we are consecrated to God and made holy.

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 on the cross for our sins.


Had God rejected Jesus on the cross, we would still be in our sins!

Throughout the Old Testament the offerings which foreshadowed Jesus were acceptedto make atonement. Those offerings which were rejected did not make atonement.

And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. ~ Leviticus 1:4

And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.  ~ Leviticus 7:18 

Rejected sacrifices and offerings did not make atonement. Those which were accepted as a sweet savor did!

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 savour. ~ Ephesians 5:2


What about 2 Corinthians 5:21?

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Doesn’t this text teach that Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness and thereby rejected by God in our place?

Not exactly.

Paul’s reference to Christ being made sin for us is derived from the Old Testament concept of the sin offerings. The sin offerings were holy sacrifices and 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 King James Version for clarity. Literally, Hebrews 10:6 says: In burnt offerings and sin thou hast had no pleasure.

However, we know that the author of Hebrews 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 sin 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.

The belief that Christ was made sin with our sinfulness is common within the teachings that Christ was rejected and condemned by God as a sinner dying under the wrath of God. If Christ had been made sin with our sinfulness, if he became the object of God’s wrath, and was rejected by God in our place as some teach, how then was he a holy offering? How was accepted as a sweet savor well pleasing to God? How was God in Christ reconciling the world (2 Corinthians 5:19) if God indeed separated himself from Christ because he was made sin with our sinfulness?


There is no precedent in Old Testament with regards to the sin offerings, which supports the theology that Jesus became sinful when he died on the cross.

The offerings for sin, which foreshadowed Jesus’ death, were not 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 they were accepted by God as a sweet fragrance.

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 6:25

The sin offering was to be killed as a Most Holy offering.

This was a foreshadowing of Jesus, who died, not as one who had been made sin with our sinfulness, but made a sin offering instead: a Most Holy offering to the Lord.

When Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “Christ was made to be sin for us,” he is not teaching that Christ metamorphosed into something unholy. Rather, he is echoing the truth of scripture: Christ was made a sin offering for us. 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.

The teaching above is an excerpt from a much larger study: THE CROSS OF CHRIST.

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