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Chapter 13


The Trespass Offering


The Glory of the Cross


“And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity…And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin…Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein. (Leviticus 5:1 - 6:7)


In the fourth chapter of Leviticus the Lord God gave Moses and the children of Israel the law of the sin-offering. Primarily, that law dealt with the corruption of our nature and the necessity of us being brought by the grace of God to acknowledge and confess our need of Christ as our Substitute, who was portrayed in the sin offerings. The trespass offering and the sin offering, though similar and very closely connected,[1] are distinct in many ways.


            Like the sin offering, the trespass offering was required by God, teaching us that the only way sinners can approach the holy Lord God and find forgiveness and acceptance with him is through the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Substitute.


            In all the offerings three things stand out with prominence. We must never neglect these three things or pass over them lightly.

1.    Sin and its Acknowledgement.

2.    Blood Atonement — Substitution!

3.    Grace — Atonement and Forgiveness by the Blood!


Here are four distinctions between the sin-offering and the trespass-offering.


Substitution and Satisfaction


1st — The sin offering emphasized substitution, while the trespass offering emphasized satisfaction. These two aspects of our Lord’s redemptive work are vital. It was not only necessary that a substitute be found who was willing to suffer all the wrath of God for us, that substitute must be one who could and would satisfy the infinite righteousness and justice of God for all his people. Blessed be the Lord our God, he has found such a substitute in the Lord Jesus Christ. — “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Proverbs 16:6; Job 33:24; Psalms 89:14, 19).


Complete atonement Christ has made,

And to the utmost price has paid

All that His people owed!

God’s wrath on me can never fall

Since Christ for me has born it all!

He paid the debt I owed!



Payment God cannot twice demand,

First, at my bleeding Surety’s hand,

And then again at mine!


            The Lord Jesus Christ, by his blood atonement as our Substitute, made complete satisfaction to God for our sins! He satisfied the purpose of God, the law of God, the righteousness of God, and the justice of God. And “he shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied!


Sinners and Sins


2nd — The sin-offering dealt with the sinner, while the trespass-offering dealt with his sins. God’s law requires that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Any act, therefore, done against God or man is trespass against God. If we wrong God or man by what we do, we trespass or transgress the law of God.


            The law of the typical trespass offering tells us five things about sin.


1.    All sin is against God. This chapter talks about sins, all sorts of sins, sins of ignorance, of uncleanness, of deceit, of theft, and sins in the holy things of the Lord. Yet, all are described as trespasses against God.


It is obvious that David understood this when he confessed his sin in the matter of Uriah.


“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” (Psalms 51:1-4)


            Let me give you a brief explanation of some of the specific acts of sin described in Leviticus 5 and 6. I mention these only because the reading of the text in our English translation is not as clear as it could be.


“And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:1)


            This verse is talking about perjury before one of the judges of the people. It is not talking about hearing profanity. And it is not telling us that we ought to go around gossiping about evil to which we are eye or ear witnesses. We ought to cover the faults of others, not expose them. But in a court of law, if called as a witness, a man was (and is) required to tell the truth, no matter how dearly he loved the person on trial.


“Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.” (Leviticus 5:4)


            This is talking about one who makes rash vows, either of doing evil or of doing good, vows pronounced with an oath, invoking the name of God. Let us ever pray that the Lord God might set a watch before our mouths and keep the door of our lips (Psalm 141:3). — “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).


“If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour.” (Leviticus 6:2)


            This gives us specific specimens of fraud: lying, deception, and theft. The word translated “fellowship” would be better translated “dealing.” It is talking about deceiving someone in business.


            Whatever the trespass is, it is against God, a violation of his law, a denial of his right to be God.


2.    Sin is a very costly thing. It is costly afterwards in life, costly in the misery it brings in death, costly in eternity in hell, and it was by a price of infinite cost that the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed his elect from sin.


3.    Sin brings us into debt at the bar of God.


4.    Sin’s debt must and shall be paid. — “The wages of sin is death!” — Everlasting death in hell!


5.    The only way we can both be forgiven of our sins and our debt be paid is by the sacrifice of Christ, our sin-atoning, justice-satisfying Substitute.


            The trespass offering was required, not because of what the man was, but because of what he had done. The sin offering was required because of what he was. In requiring the sin offering, the Lord mentioned specific people as sinners, but made no mention of their sins. Here, he makes no mention of anyone in particular, but deals with acts of sin, trespasses, willful sins, and sins of ignorance.


            The fact that mention is made regarding sins of ignorance, tells us that we are all totally incompetent to determine what is and is not sin. As C. H. Mackintosh observed…


“It is a very grave error to suppose that, provided a man acts up to the dictates of his conscience, he is all right and safe. The peace which rests upon such a foundation as this will be eternally destroyed when the light of the judgment-seat shines upon the conscience.”


            Fallen man is totally incompetent to know the evil that he has done, how much less the evil that he is! We call light darkness and darkness light and think we are right. We call good evil and evil good and are dead sure our judgment is right. But it is not so. A man can be unclean or do an unclean thing, and not know it; but he is still guilty (vv. 2-3). A person can speak rashly with his mouth and be ignorant of it; but he is still guilty (v. 4). Verse 17 tells us that a man can violate the law of God and be unaware of his trespass (How often we do!); but he is still guilty.


            Read verse 15 and come face to face with this shocking truth: we often, in ignorance, commit trespass and sin in the worship and service of our God! — Even our holy things are polluted!


“If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering.” (Leviticus 5:15)


“Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)


            But here is the good news of the gospel given in the legal type of the trespass offering: all manner of sin is forgiven by our great God! Thank God for our Aaron, our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has borne the iniquity of our holy things!


“And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him.” (Leviticus 5:17-18)


            Five times, the Lord God declares, “It shall be forgiven!” I think it is safe to assume that, “It shall be forgiven!


            Three things are essential. None shall ever have forgiveness without these three things: (1.) The sinner must be convinced of his sin. (2.) The sinner must confess his sin. (3.) Atonement must be made for the sinner and his sin. Blessed be God, where these three things are found, forgiveness is sure (Isaiah 43:25; 44:22; 48:9; Jeremiah 50:20; Acts 13:38-39).


            It is God against whom we have sinned, who made atonement for sin, convinces us of sin, and convinces us of atonement, satisfaction, and forgiveness by the sacrifice of his darling Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Blood and Money


3rd — The sin offering was an offering of blood only, while the trespass offering required both blood and money. Whether a man robbed God in worship or robbed his neighbor by fraud, the Lord God required, “He shall make amends for the harm that he hath done…He shall restore that which he took violently away.” This was to be done by adding to his blood sacrifice the priest’s “estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary” (v. 15). To this, “the fifth part” more was added (5:15-16; 6:5-6).


            The measurement of the silver by which atonement was made was not man’s measure, but God’s, “the shekel of the sanctuary.” In other words, God’s demands were measured out by God himself, exacted by God, and paid to God. Here is the measurement of the sanctuary: — “The precious blood of Christ!


Restitution Required


4th — In the sin-offering no restitution was required; but in the trespass-offering restitution was made and then some. A fifth part was added!


            What does that mean? Read Genesis 47, and you will see. The first time these words “fifth part” are used in Scripture is here in Genesis 47. You know the story. Pharaoh was king over Egypt and Joseph was his prime minister. Before the seven years of famine, Pharaoh was possessor of the land and the people were his servants. Yet, they were, in a sense, somewhat independent of him until Joseph did something for the people in Pharaoh’s name.


(Genesis 47:18-26) “When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, we will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. And they said, thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.”


The fifth part was a declaration by the forgiven sinner that he now belonged to God by another claim — The Claim of Redemption!


“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)


“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)


            This added fifth part also tells us that both God against whom the trespass was made and the man who was injured by it were gainers in the end! Here is the glory of the cross. — “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!” The trespass offering declares, “Because sin abounded, grace did much more abound!” I have chosen my words deliberately. Both God and man have gained more by the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Christ than was lost by the sin and fall of our father Adam.


            The holy Lord God has gained more by redemption than ever he lost (if I can be permitted to use such language) by the fall. The Lord God reaps a richer harvest of glory in the fields of grace than he could ever have reaped in the garden of innocence (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:7). The sons of God raise a loftier song of praise around the empty tomb of the crucified Christ than we could ever have raised in the garden of Eden. The injury done by sin has not only been perfectly atoned for and remedied by the blood of Christ, but God has gained by the cross the praise of the glory of his grace (Psalm 76:10).


            This is a stupendous truth. God, the eternal, triune, holy Lord God, has gotten himself great gain by the work accomplished by our all-glorious Christ at Calvary!


            Who could ever have conceived such a thing? When we see man and the creation over which he was lord laid in a heap of ruins at the feet of Satan, how could we ever imagine that from amid those ruins the great God of Glory would gather a crown for his holy head which could not be gotten in any other way? Let every knee bow to the crucified Son of God and every tongue confess his praises forever. He deserves it! Oh, let the crucified Christ hold all the affection of our hearts. He deserves it!


“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 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.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)


            Not only is it true that God is the gainer by the fall, we are too! Martin Luther understood what I am trying to preach to you. He said, with regard to Adam’s sin in the Garden, “O blessed fall!” Had there been no fall, no sin, no condemnation, we could never have known the wonders of redemption. Had there been no fall, no sin, no condemnation, we could never have known the glories of grace. Therefore, we most gladly say to our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Egyptians said to Joseph, “Thou hast saved our lives: we have found grace in the sight of our lord, and we will be thy servants forever!






Don Fortner








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[1] In Leviticus 5:11-12, though the law here is talking about the trespass-offering, the sacrifice offered is called “a sin offering”. Both the sin-offering and the trespass-offering were required sacrifices, sacrifices which the Lord God demanded. Whereas, the burnt-offering (acceptance with God), the meat-offering (consecration to God), and the peace-offering (peace with God) were optional, free-will sacrifices of gratitude and praise.