This week begins the annual cycle through Leviticus with the first Torah portion, Vayikra, Lev. 1:1-6:7.
As we were reading chapters 4 and 5 this morning, I was again reminded of the gravity of intentional sin and and our propensity to justify with ‘cheap grace’ the lusts of our heart because we do not understand the Law.
First off, let me begin by saying that Scripture has very little to say about intentional sin. In fact, willful sin or intentional sin is regarded as high treason against the covenant. Leviticus opens with a number of explanations about proper sacrifice and peace offerings. Interestingly, over and over the phrase, ‘sins unintentionally,’ or something very similar appears in many of these instructions.
4:2 If a person sins unintentionally…
4:13-14 …if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty; 14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known…
4:22 …sins and unintentionally…
4:27 … sins unintentionally…
5:15 …sins unintentionally…
5:18 ….sinned unintentionally…
The point is that Messiah’s sacrifice is not there to give us license, or a type of ‘get out of jail free card.’ The original intent for most sin sacrifices was for unintentional sin! As best as I can tell, there is very little for intentional sin.
Now, before some of you cry ‘foul,’ understand, I do believe that in Messiah we can be forgiven when we come in true repentance, but here is the question: If we have to keep coming and asking for forgiveness for the same thing, over and over, is there true repentance? Repent, from אשב H7725 ‘shuv,’ means ‘to come back to’ more than it means ‘turn away from.’
What I have come to really struggle against is the ‘cheap grace’ or, in many cases, lawless grace (as if grace can exist without Law) that becomes a stack of ‘get out jail free cards.’ Christendom is full of this error which may not be openly stated, but it is certainly implied by preaching ‘grace, grace,’ without ever mentioning ‘law,’ or consequences (for fear of ‘turning off’ the audience) of breaking the Law. Indeed, I believe many hate the Torah precisely because it points out sin in so many areas that Christendom prefers ignorance. (Hard to have a Christmas ham if you know what Scripture really says!)
Now, I have made the error of stating that there is no sacrifice for intentional sin in the Torah. Leviticus 5:1-6 seems to indicate the possibility, though in only one of the several cases is it clear. Stone’s Chumash, commenting on vs. 5 says,
“The three sins in this passage are especially serious because all were committed either intentionally or with a degree of prior knowledge.”
Rabbi Yeshua speaks to the issue of intentional sin in Luke 12:41-48, the last two verses quoted below.
…that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of [d]a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
The author of Hebrews seems to also be addressing the gravity of knowingly sinning when they state,
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, [a]since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Admittedly, this is a VERY challenging passage! It should lead us to the King in fear and trembling, not wanton refrains of ‘grace, grace…’
Is there grace? Absolutely! It is the means, through the atoning blood of Messiah, by which we enter the covenant and are grafted into Israel, but then ‘grace’ is to be a safety net, not our hammock as we immaturely and irresponsibly live in sin. Intentional sin is NOT the lifestyle of a member of the Kingdom! Intentional sin is treason!
While there are examples of forgiven intentional sin in the Torah/Tanak, perhaps the reason there is not sacrifice (barring the lone example I see in Lev. 5) is to not ‘encourage’ the use of the net of sacrifice to commit sin. We should be walking circumspectly in righteousness, rather than ignoring the Law and expecting ‘grace.’
As I finish, I am reminded of a song by one of the most passionate followers of Jesus who influenced me greatly though his music. Here is ‘To Obey is Better than Sacrifice’ by the late Keith Green.
Something to think about.