Conversion by law


Leviticus, one of the Old Testament books of God’s law, seems, for some reason, to be the target for particular mockery both by non-Christians (who will invariably allude to the silliness of the food laws as they attempt to satirize its opposition to homosexual practice) and even some Christians (who will use it to empathize with some who feel that Bible reading is boring).

But Dave Bish over at the Blue Fish project reminded me of the wonderful story of how Charles Simeon, uber-preacher of Cambridge University during the late 18th and early 19th century, became a Christian:

In Passion Week [the week up to and including Easter], as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect—‘That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.’ The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus; and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased; on the Friday and Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday morning, Easter-day, April 4, I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, “Jesus Christ is risen to-day! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul; and at the Lord’s Table in our Chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Saviour.

(HCG Moule, Charles Simeon, Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish, 2008 [1892], p. 25f.)

How wonderful that the guilt of our sin could be transferred to the head of another, yet justice and mercy be satisfied!

And how silly it is when people make jokes about the tedium or silliness of the laws in the book of Leviticus! Apart from the dangers inherent in mocking the Word of God (Jer 36:20-31), the book of Leviticus reveals how we can be reconciled to God. The sacrifice of atonement, described in Leviticus 16, is the way God chooses to forgive our sins. But this sacrifice points to Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins (Heb 10:11-14), where the shed blood of Jesus pays all our debt. Once we accept the truth of God’s law, we find that it compels us to look to the Lord Jesus and accept his death in our place. The law of God forces our conversion from self-centredness and guilt to the acknowledgement of his glory and grace.

(Here are a few more nice posts from the Blue Fish gang about Leviticus.)

6 thoughts on “Conversion by law

  1. Gordo, thanks for this. Just to add that Phil Campbell published his ideas on a 4 week sermon series on Leviticus on the Perspective website.

    Here is a quote about how he broke the series up

    The series was designed to provide an overview of Leviticus, and so does not cover every chapter. The first two talks cover a lot of ground, while the last two talks look at single chapters in detail. In a sense, it’s simply an overview of the book rather than a detailed exposition… but that’s probably the depth most congregations will find most comfortable.

    Talk 1 – Approach with Caution – Lev 1-10
    Talk 2 -The Great Unstainer – Lev 11 to 15
    Talk 3 – How to Get Right with God – Lev 16
    Talk 4 – Party Time – Lev 25

    When I used his idea at my previous parish, we added a fifth talk on Leviticus 19 which addressed the topic of the Law of Moses and how Christians should relate to it (and the various types of material in it) and hence addressed the apologetic question you mentioned people mockingly raise.

    I am inspired by your post to re-work this series here in Wollongong next year!

    (The Perspective website is no longer adding new material but is a very helpful archive of articles from some of our Presbyterian friends on preaching, ideas for sermons series, illustrations, preaching on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

    I would say it is especially good for younger pastors who are working up sermons series rather than just individual sermons for the first time. )

  2. “Leviticus…seems, for some reason, to be the target for particular mockery both by non-Christians (who will invariably allude to the silliness of the food laws as they attempt to satirize its opposition to homosexual practice)”

    You’ve got to love the internet. There is even a website called

  3. Leviticus is full of riches.
    Chapter 1 is a recapitulation of the Creation week -using blood. The ascension offering makes a new world. The head and body of the sacrifice (Adam and Eve) are presented on “Day 6”.

  4. Thank for the links Sandy and Nick. Nick, What is this thing you call ‘shrimp’?

    The sermon series that helped me a great deal in understanding Leviticus was the series by John Woodhouse, now principal of Moore Theological College, at Katoomba in 1986.

    Mike, there is no mention of or allusion to creation in Leviticus 1, neither is there any mention of sacrifice, blood or death in Genesis 1. So there doesn’t seem to be any direct connection between these passages.

  5. You can see a rundown at

    When this was written, Jordan hadn’t figured out Step 5. It concerns swarms, clouds, armies.

    The Tabernacle instructions in Ex. 25-31 follow the same pattern. So do the feasts. You can see the fire put on the Altar at Pentecost (Lampstand), and the armies of God summoned (swarms) as Trumpets (Incense clouds).

    The narrative of Moses to the exodus follows the same pattern, with the plagues as Trumpets of warning on “Day 5.” You also see it many times in Revelation. The 5th Trumpet releases clouds of smoke from the Abyss, the “bad” incense altar of false worship.

    Jesus also used the pattern in the sermon on the mount. The lilies of the field, and grass etc. (multitudes) are at Day 5.

    Sounds strange, but it plays out like clockwork. I wrote a book tracing the pattern through the Bible. It opened up Zechariah and Ezekiel like a can of sardines. Revelation has the pattern going sometimes at three or four levels. It’s the Bible’s DNA, but you have to think ‘visually.’

    I call it systematic typology.  : )

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