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Faith in Christ
“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. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Leviticus 1:4-5)
The picture we have before us is that of a guilty Israelite during the days of the Levitical priesthood. The man was a sinner before God. Atonement must be made for his sins, in the way that God had appointed. The sinner goes out to his fields and selects a lamb, or a young calf, to be his sacrifice of atonement. He brings his sacrifice to the priest, and the priest inspects it to be sure that it is a perfect sacrifice, suitable for atonement. The guilty man then lays his hands upon the animal’s head. Then the sacrificial animal is slain. The priest takes the blood and sprinkles it upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle.
What does this all mean? What is the significance of this solemn ceremony? Why was it done? There are many lessons to be gathered from the various sacrifices of the Old Testament. The burnt offering, the meat offering, the peace offering, and the sin offering all have a distinct reference to some aspect of the atoning work of Christ. If in the minds of the priest and the worshipper they did not signify that one great Sacrifice who was to come, the Lord Jesus Christ, then they were mere empty rituals. Indeed, this is what they became during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:3). All those elaborate ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament were designed by God to point men to Christ, the true atonement and propitiation of sin. I want to show you the typical meaning of one part of this Divinely prescribed ceremony of the Levitical era, portraying faith in Christ.
Here are the two things which are of utmost importance. Without these two things, you will perish: The precious blood of Christ and faith in that blood. These were the two essential elements in the sacrifices of the ceremonial law. Both are set before us in Leviticus 1:4-5. — “He shall put his hand upon the head of the offering.” Here is the sinner expressing faith in the atoning blood of God’s appointed sacrifice. — “He shall kill the bullock before the Lord.” There is the picture of the death of Christ, God’s sacrifice for sin.
God will never receive or accept anyone, except through a Sacrifice. God Almighty requires blood, either yours or that of a substitutionary sacrifice. But this is the marvel of God’s wonderful grace. God has provided himself a Sacrifice for human sin! Behold, the Lamb of God! Jesus Christ, God’s own well-beloved Son is the Sacrifice, the only Sacrifice that God will accept. Christ is the Sacrifice God appointed and set apart. The Lamb of God was inspected by the high priests of Israel and found to be without spot or blemish. This Lamb was slain, (slain by men, the very men for whom he died, under the wrath of God!) and accepted by God himself as a sweet-smelling savor.
The Sacrifice was provided. He was slain under the penalty of the law. And God has accepted him. Yet, there is one essential thing remaining, without which you will die. You must lay your hands upon the head of God’s sacrifice. This is an act of faith.
“My faith doth lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.
My soul looks back to see
The burdens Thou didst bear,
When hanging on the cursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there.
Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing His bleeding love.”
Faith in Christ was symbolized in the Old Testament by a man laying his hands on the head of the sacrificial lamb. This is the one thing you must do. You must lay your hands of faith upon the head of Christ, God’s Sacrifice for sin.
When a man came and laid his hands upon the head of the sacrifice, it meant four things to him.
Picture the man. He is standing beside the sacrifice, at the door of the tabernacle, before God’s priest; and he lays both of his hands upon the head of that innocent animal. What does it mean? It meant, first, that he was making a solemn, sincere, and public confession. This is what we do when we come to God, leaning upon Christ. We are making a confession to him.
Laying my hands upon the head of God’s Sacrifice, I confess my sins. — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This was the thing foremost in the mind of the ancient Jew when he brought a sacrifice of any kind before the Lord. He was acknowledging his sin. The only reason I need a sacrifice is because I am a sinner (Leviticus 16:21). So, too, you and I must come to God confessing our sin. Those who lay their hands upon Christ must acknowledge their utter sinfulness.
Sin must be confessed fully. I am a sinner by birth. I am a sinner by choice. I am a sinner by practice. All that I am and all that I do is marred by sin. Like the leper, everything I touch I defile. All is stained by sin.
And we must confess our sin sincerely. Sin with us is more than a theory. We have tasted its bitter poison. We have known and felt the evil of sin. God’s Lamb is given as a Sacrifice for sinners. The righteous, the innocent, and the good have no need of him; and they cannot have him. The Savior is provided for none but sinners. Here is our true place. We lean heavily upon the Savior because we are sinners. We plead guilty to the dreadful indictment of God’s holy law; and we are therefore glad to lay our hands upon the Sacrifice for sin.
This act is also a confession of impotence. Not only am I a sinner, I’m a helpless sinner. There is nothing I can do to help myself. I must have Christ as a sacrifice for my sin. I cannot keep God’s law for myself. I cannot make atonement for my past sins. I cannot hope to gain acceptance with God by my future obedience. Christ is precious to us, because we cannot do without him. If I am not accepted before God upon the merits of Christ’s righteousness and shed blood, I am a damned man, utterly without hope!
And we must have the blood of Christ as an atonement and covering for our sin. Something must cover us to keep the eye of God from seeing our sin. The blood of Christ so thoroughly covers us that God beholds no blemish in us! I stand before God laying my hands upon the head of Christ, leaning my entire soul upon him, because I am an impotent man.
Laying my hands upon the head of God’s Sacrifice, I confess that I deserve to die. When a man brought his calf, or goat, or lamb and put his hands upon its head, he knew that the poor creature must die. And by this act, he confessed that he deserved to die. The innocent lamb fell in the dust in pain, struggling, bleeding, dying. And the man confessed, “This is what I deserve from the hand of God. Death is my due.” If ever you come to see this, you will lean hard upon Christ, and acknowledge that the death he died you deserved to die (Psalm 51:1-4). If God had been pleased to send me to hell, it would be no more than I deserve. He would have been both righteous and just in doing it. But, instead, he poured out my hell upon his Son! — “The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.”
Come, lay your hands upon Christ’s head in humble, sincere confession, saying, I am a guilty sinner, unable to do anything to help myself, and worthy of eternal damnation. But I trust Christ to save me.
Second, when a man laid his hands upon the head of the sacrifice, he was saying, I accept and bow to God’s remedy for sin, I repent. When a sinner comes to trust Christ, he simply confesses and acknowledges his acceptance of God’s salvation. That is the essence of true repentance. Repentance is, in its essence, taking sides with God.
Laying my hands of faith upon Christ, I testify to God and to all men that I believe God and bow to his plan and purpose of salvation by a Substitute (Romans 5:12-21). But there is more. Having accepted the gospel of substitution, I accept, bow to, and receive the Substitute himself. Salvation is not in a plan. It is in a Person. Salvation is not in the doctrine of substitution. It is in the Divine Substitute. We rest our souls, not upon a doctrine, but upon the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We cast ourselves entirely upon him. Thus, we receive him.
Only those who receive Christ are saved by Christ. It is true, our salvation is God accepting and receiving us in Christ; and that acceptance of our souls in Christ is eternal, from everlasting (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6). “The works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3). Yet, we must receive the Lord Jesus Christ. We must bow to, embrace, and receive him by faith (John 1:11-13). Faith in Christ is just as necessary for our eternal salvation as our Savior’s death upon the cursed tree as our Substitute.
Thirdly, when the sinner laid his hands upon the head of the sacrifice, he was expressing his faith in a marvelous transference (Leviticus 16:21). In a typical sense, that man’s sin and guilt were transferred from him to the innocent lamb, and that lamb’s innocence and perfection were transferred to him. The whole thing was done in anticipation of our Lord’s death at Calvary.
When a sinner comes to Christ by faith, accepting him as Savior, he is saying, “I agree with the mighty and mysterious transaction that took place long ago upon Calvary’s brow.” This mighty transaction took place and was completed when the Son of God stood in our place at Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21). God Almighty made his Son sin for us; and he has made us the very righteousness of God in His Son. By faith we simply accept the finished work, adding nothing to it. Laying my hands upon the head of my Redeemer, I rest my soul upon this mighty transaction, trusting the complete efficacy of God’s Sacrifice.
In the last place, laying my hands of faith upon the head of Christ, there is identification between the sinner and the Substitute. I think that if the man’s heart was right, and he was not a mere ritualist, as he watched that lamb struggle, and bleed, and die, his eyes must have swelled with tears. He must have said in his heart, “That death is mine.” Now, child of God, come lay your hands upon the head of our Substitute, and identify yourselves with him. His death is our death, and now we cannot die again (2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20).
Can you grasp this? If you are a believer, if you trust Him, when Christ died you died. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” “Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” In the Person of your Substitute you paid your debt to God’s law. When Christ arose, being accepted of God, you arose in him. As Christ is now a sweet-smelling savor to God, you are a sweet-smelling savor, “accepted in the Beloved.” Blessed be God, there is a real identification here. Christ and God’s elect are one. Believing sinners and their Substitute are one. This union, this identification is both real and it is eternal. We are one with him, one with Christ, and complete in him.
“‘Twixt Jesus and the chosen race
Subsists a bond of sovereign grace,
That hell, with its infernal train,
Shall ne’er dissolve nor rend in vain
Hail! sacred union, firm and strong,
How great the grace, how sweet the song,
That worms of earth should ever be
One with incarnate Deity!
One in the tomb, one when he rose,
One when he triumphed o’er his foes,
One when in heaven he took his seat,
While seraphs sang all hell’s defeat.
This sacred tie forbids their fears,
For all he is or has is theirs;
With him, their Head, they stand or fall,
Their life, their surety, and their all.”
“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:9-10)
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
Come to Christ. Lay your hands upon the head of Christ, God’s Sacrifice for sin. Lean the weight of your soul upon him.
Š In Confession — Confessing Your Sin.
Š In Repentance — Accepting the Substitute.
Š In Faith — Acknowledging the Transference.
Š In Joyful Identification — Rejoicing in the Identification.