In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. We’ve learnt about the covenant of grace by which God forgives sin and grants eternal life. We’ve also seen that the covenant of grace was shown in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, by promises and prophecies. This week I want to show that another way the covenant of grace was revealed in the Old Testament was through sacrifices.

A very large proportion of the Old Testament is concerned with instructions about the need for sinful humans to make sacrifices in order for them to be right with God. The sacrifice of an animal and thus the shedding of its blood was deemed to be of vital importance. God says to Moses: ‘For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life’ (Leviticus 17:11). Thus in the New Testament the author rightly says: ‘In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ (Hebrews 9:22). But how does a sacrifice demonstrate God’s covenant of grace? The fact that God accepts a sacrifice for sin is part of God’s graciousness toward us – God was never obligated to accept a sacrifice for sin. God could justly have condemned every sinner to hell and refused to accept a sacrifice. But in his grace, he made a covenant with sinful humans so that if you offer a sacrifice your sin can be forgiven.

And the sacrifices in the Old Testament point to the one sacrifice that can truly take away sin revealed fully in the New Testament: Jesus Christ at the cross. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament never removed sin: ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’ (Hebrews 10:4). Those animal sacrifices were a shadow of a real sacrifice that does take away sin: ‘we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’ (Hebrews 10:10).

Have you trusted in the sacrifice of Christ as part of the gracious covenant of grace so that you have forgiveness for sin?       

Joel Radford.