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Leviticus 5:1, 45, 1416; 6:17comment (0)

May 13, 2010

By Jeffrey S. Quiett

Related Scripture: Leviticus 5:1, 45, 1416; 6:17

Explore the Bible
Associate professor of marriage and family counseling, University of Mobile

Leviticus 5:1, 4–5, 14–16; 6:1–7

Confession (5:1, 4–5)

Leviticus serves as a commentary on and expansion of God’s law found in Exodus with the Ten Commandments as the foundation. Including this passage, Leviticus reveals the depth and application of God’s universal law for mankind. One of Leviticus’ primary themes is God’s holiness by which all human thoughts and behavior are measured. The first four verses of Chapter 5 give examples of unintentional sins but sins nonetheless. One can regard verse 1 as a “sin of omission,” meaning the failure to do what is right by not doing anything at all. This verse also stresses the importance of speaking out to defend the integrity of others. In a “me” obsessed society, verse 1 implies a responsibility to others as well.

Verse 4 concludes the examples of unintentional sins by addressing integrity of speech. This verse can be regarded as an injunction to be careful of one’s speech by considering the meaning behind what one says. A similar, but stricter, command is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Jesus maintained that a true Kingdom citizen stays away from oaths completely by making his or her speech truthful at all times (Matt. 5:33–37). A simple “yes” or “no” from an honest person is better than an oath from a liar. Verse 5 presents a key understanding of sin. Offenders of God’s law must acknowledge (confess) their sin to Him in order to receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9). This principle is even more striking considering that the sins enumerated before verse 5 are unintentional sins. Though to some this may seem burdensome or unfair, this passage emphasizes the responsibility people have to God and others with all their actions. Notice that the confession is specific, not for a general unnamed sin but a tangible behavior.

Restitution (5:14–16; 6:1–7)
This passage specifies the restitution needed for committing unintentional sins. “Holy things” refers to sacred objects set apart for service to the Lord. Most of these objects were found in the tabernacle and were part of the sacrificial system and worship. God’s holiness is absolute and He expects us to mimic His holiness (Lev. 11:44–45). Modern statements that “nobody’s perfect” or casual dismissal of sinful actions is foreign to a biblical worldview. Jesus admonished His listeners to be “perfect” as God is “perfect” (Matt. 5:48). God’s expectation has always been holiness and moral perfection for people made in His image. God’s holiness, however, is balanced by His love for us that compels Him to forgive. The price of forgiveness is blood as evidenced in these verses. The ultimate sacrifice, Jesus’ death, was necessary to fulfill both God’s demand for holiness and God’s love for us (John 3:16). The “guilt offering,” also called the “trespass offering,” was very similar to the “sin offering.” The Hebrew words for the two were apparently interchangeable. The major difference between them was that the guilt offering was brought in cases in which restitution for the sin was possible (i.e., replacing stolen property), while the sin offering was brought in cases in which restitution was not possible. The animal sacrificed as a guilt offering was always a ram.

Verses 1–7 in Chapter 6 continues instruction concerning the manner of restitution when one has sinned. Most of these verses involve ill-gained property through theft or deceit. They provide more examples of making things right when one has wronged another. The return of the property plus additional payment was required once one confessed his or her sin. Though “confession” is a principle frequently cited in church services, the concept of “restitution” is a seldom-heard topic. Forgiveness is indeed found through Christ, but God often calls us, when feasible, to make amends for intentional or even unintentional sins. Restoring broken relationships and making wrongs right are just a few examples of restitution found in both testaments. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). This characteristic of a follower of Christ implies individuals who actively restore broken relationships that may occur because of intentional or unintentional sin. Restitution completes the cycle of confession, repentance and forgiveness.

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