When it comes to worship, one cannot rightly worship God when there is sin in his life that has not been dealt with. Therefore, in order to come into the presence of God, one must face the reality of his sin and seek forgiveness and cleansing. When it comes to our worship in the church, we must all work together to hold one another accountable. God cannot bless a mess. He cannot bless a church that is full of unconfessed and undealt with sin.
In Leviticus chapter 4, we see how an offering of sin had to be made in order for the congregation to worship freely and to function adequately. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary points out, these sin offerings are “broad enough to include all sins not done in a spirit of rebellion against the Lord and His covenant stipulations—whether sins of ignorance (Lev. 4), sins without conscious intent (chap. 5), or intentional but nondefiant sins (Num. 15:22–29). It was for such sins that the sin offering was prescribed.” You see, there is a difference between general sins and willful rebellion against God. We may even commit a sin intentionally; but, not in the spirit of blatant defiance against God. It could be simply giving into the flesh, but yet, not turning against God or willfully rebelling against Him. There are four sacrifices described in this chapter, each sacrificed dealt with the sins of various people within in the congregation. This serves for us as an example of how we should deal with sin in the life of the church.
When the Pastor sins. In Leviticus 4:2-12, we see instructions on how the priest is to present a sacrifice for his own sins. This is a picture of what we may think of today as the sins of a pastor or church leader. When we think of the sins of the pastor, there are a few things to understand. First of all, the reality of a pastor’s sins. It needs to be understood that the pastor is just as sinful as everyone else in the congregation. It was common for the priests to sin just as it was common for the people. Therefore, there was a sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the priest. Sometimes people get the impression that a pastor has somehow mastered the sin problem and is some super spiritual giant who rarely ever sins. However, when a congregation has such an unrealistic view of their pastor, they are setting themselves up for severe disappointment. It is imperative that the congregation prays for their pastor that God would keep him from temptation and keep him focused and disciplined. If you think about, a pastor may be even more likely to be tempted due to the constant attacks from Satan. The devil knows that if he can get the pastor to fall, he can bring many others down with him. Therefore, a pastor is constantly dealing with attacks from Satan whether that be problems in the church, the general struggles of life, and also temptations to sin. Secondly, the sin of the pastor has a greater affect. It mentions in verse three about the priest sinning “according to the sin of the people.” In most all other versions of scripture it reads, “bringing guilt upon the people.” The thought here is that when the priest sinned, it not only brought guilt upon himself, but also on the whole congregation. A pastor has the awesome responsibility of being a representative of all the people in the church. He is not only God’s mouth-piece to the people, but also the representative for the people to God. A pastor will one day stand before God and give an account for the flock that he shepherd. Therefore, when a pastor sins it brings guilt upon the whole congregation. When the pastor sins, the whole church has sinned because the pastor is the representative of the church. Finally, when it comes to the sins of the pastor, forgiveness and cleansing is available. A pastor is human and struggles with sin just like everyone else. The weight of responsibility does not diminish the pastor’s humanity and sin nature. Therefore, when the pastor sins, it is not necessarily the end and does not necessarily bring a curse upon the church. Knowing the sin nature of the pastor, God gives grace upon grace and offers continual forgiveness. There was a sacrifice to be made that was designed specifically for the priest to have their sins forgiven and to relieve the guilt that was placed upon the congregation because of his sins. As a pastor, I spend a good portion of my prayer time everyday confessing sins and asking God to forgive. A pastor should always be confessed up. Constantly making sure his heart is pure and clean before the Lord.
When the congregation sins. In verses 13-21, we see the sacrifice that is to be made when the congregation sins. Most of the time a congregation sin’s unknowingly. The cooperate sins of a congregation may often go undetected or unrealized. Yet, it is still sin and should be dealt with as we see in Leviticus chapter four. What are some of the sins a congregation may commit? First of all, there is the sin of no vision. When a congregation has no vision for fulfilling their God-called mission, they are sinning against the Lord. When we lose sight of our purpose and we do not move forward to fulfill that purpose we are no longer being the church that God has called us to be. Secondly, there is the sin of rebellion. When a congregation fails to follow the leaders that God has given them, they have sinned against the Lord. God has place pastors and other leaders within the church to lead the church in fulfilling its mission. God gives those leaders a vision for the church and calls upon them to lead the church to carry out that vision. When a congregation does not listen to their leaders and follow their leadership, they are not just rebelling against the leaders, but they are also rebelling against God. When this takes place, God will not bless the church. Third, there is the sin of complacency. Sometimes, a congregation can get to a place where they just don’t care anymore. This is a dangerous state for the church to be in. God can never use us and bless us when we become complacent. As the old preacher would say, “God did not save us to sit on a pew.” Finally, there is the sin of unfaithfulness. When we are unfaithful in our attendance, participation, giving, personal Bible study, prayer, and so forth; we are sinning as a congregation. God wants us to be faithful to Him and to the local church that we attend. These are just a few of the sins that a congregation may commit. However, just like the sins of the pastor, there is forgiveness and cleansing available. God stands ready to forgive our sins when we confess those sins to Him. He also has a storehouse of blessings waiting to pour out upon the church when we repent of our sins and turn to Him.
When a ruler sins. In verses 22-26, we see provisions are also made to deal with the sins of a ruler. We all know that those in government are not perfect. There are many occasions when those with authority over us will sin. Those rulers should also seek forgiveness so that they may rule well with integrity. We should also take it upon ourselves as good citizens to hold our rulers accountable and to pray for them and encourage them.
When an individual sins. Verses 27-35 gives instructions for the sacrifices to be made when an individual sins. The truth of the matter is that all of us are sinners and we are all in need of God’s grace. Thankfully, God has provided a way for all of our sins to be forgiven. Jesus came to make the ultimate and complete sacrifice for our sins. When we place our faith in Him, that payment that Jesus made for our sins becomes a reality for us. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we stand before God as a pure vessel.
As we consider these sin offerings, we are reminded of the fact of our sin nature. All of us are sinners. We are all in need of God’s grace. As part of our worship, we must constantly confess our sins and repent of our sins. We must allow God to convict us and as we respond to that conviction, God will forgive us and will heal us and will heal our land.