The Lamb of God (1)


Introduction: why a Lamb?


Contents     part 1    part 2     part 3    part 4  


One of the most precious titles of the Lord Jesus Christ is that of  ‘The Lamb of God”. On closer consideration two thoughts come to mind. Firstly, although Jesus is referred to as the Lamb thirty  times in the NT, only four of these are outside the book of Revelation! And of these only  two  are outside of John’s writings. The second observation is that, in spite of the fact that all of the OT sacrificial system speaks of the work of Christ, Jesus is only directly referred   to as a Lamb and not as  any other animal that was used under the Old Covenant rituals.  What then are we to make of all this? What can we learn?

This is the first of seven  proposed studies considering Jesus as the Lamb of God. This first one will look at why Christ is referred to as the Lamb of God; the second as the Lamb on the throne; thirdly the Lamb on Mount Sion, fourthly the blood of the Lamb, then the  Shepherd Lamb,  next the worthy  Lamb,  seventhly the wrath of the  Lamb, and finally the Lamb's wife. Since  most references are found in the book of the Revelation the studies will be based in this last book of Scripture, but this first study is a look at why Jesus is called the Lamb of God. We shall consider this  under the following headings.



1.1 The Acceptable Lamb

Although the word lamb doesn’t appear in Gen. 4, we certainly have the strongest indication that a Lamb does make its first appearance in this chapter.

And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.  And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
Gen.4:2-7


Abel was a shepherd, and he brought the firstlings of the flock, this can only be lambs by definition. God accepted Abel but not so Cain, why? Let us consider the passage in more detail. Cain only brought the fruit of the ground, whereas Abel brought a lamb also. Note that word also, it implies that Abel brought fruit of the ground too, but the difference was the lamb, it was on this that God accepted Abel. God said to Cain that if he did well he too would be accepted. We have to conclude then that God could only be approached by the shedding of blood and  here it was the blood of  lambs. Indeed the idea of shedding blood was known to Adam:  after the Fall God had slain animals to cloth Adam and Eve (Gen.2: 21), it was as if God were saying that  He was covering  (in the OT sense)  sin and there had to be the shedding of blood; it is interesting to note that the animals  God slew are not identified. With Abel it is clear that it was a lamb that had to be used to approach God, how significant this is when we refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Turning to the New Testament we can see how this fits in with the Lord Jesus.

 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

Heb.10: 19-20

The Fall had the  immediate  consequence of man’s expulsion from God’s presence. The coming of the Lord Jesus and His death/resurrection was to undo all that, and restore us to full fellowship with God. Through His death Jesus accomplished many things, and one of them was to remove the spiritual veil between mankind and the Godhead. Jesus allowed His body to be broken, allowed the human race to torture Him and put Him on one of the most barbaric instruments of execution ever  devised by the human mind. He allowed God to smite Him, and  cut Him off from the Divine fellowship for a period of time. Why?  On that cross, nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus was paying the price of sin; not His own, for He had none, but rather taking the punishment for the whole of the human race. The result of which is that we can now approach God. We can enter the holiest of all  because of what Jesus did at Calvary, His broken body opened up the way for us to approach God. We are made accepted in Him, note we are not accepted by what we are or do,  it is because of JESUS and Him alone. Eph.1:6

Jesus the Lamb  is the one alone by whom we can approach  and be accepted by God.



1.2 The Provided Lamb


And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, my son, God will provide [ or look out for -Newberry ] himself a [Heb. the ] lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 
 
Gen 22:7-8
 



By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Heb.11:17-19


This incident is to do with Abraham’s test in obedience to God.. The story is well known: God commands Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering . Abraham  fulfils the order to the letter and as he is about to kill his only son, and heir, Isaac when  God stops him and a ram is provided in his place. Thus God proved Abraham’s heart in the matter of complete obedience.  Now this incident in itself is full of teaching, but for our present purpose we  want to see how the lamb fits into it all.

In the verses quoted above  we see that Abraham said that God will provide a Lamb. Now let us think very carefully about this. Firstly Abraham expected that he had to kill Isaac, in fact the writer to the Hebrews says as much, it says that  Abraham was expecting a resurrection for Isaac, not a substitute! Secondly Abraham was a prophet (Gen.20:7), God called him one!  At the mount God provided a ram   and not a lamb , the two Hebrew words are different,  so when Abraham uttered the words above it could not be directly relate to the  offering of Isaac, otherwise he would  have proved a false prophet. Bearing in mind that God provided a ram (Gen.22: 13),  it would suggest that Abraham was speaking prophetically concerning Christ. It is  as though Abraham had some insight into what God was to do further down the ages;  Abraham saw Christ's day and rejoiced ( Jn.8:56). Was it at this time  that Abraham saw the Lord's day?

It was to be  a burnt offering; in the first section above we saw that the using  a lamb was the way Abel  approached  God. The burnt offering as seen in the Levitical code. (Lev.1:4) was concerned with approaching and being accepted by God. With Abel's offering we  concluded that Jesus was the one alone by whom we approach God, here we learn that  it is God who provides  that burnt offering.  From the very outset of human history God promised a Saviour  Gen.3:15, for we can not provide one ourselves. From before creation God, seeing the fall and its consequences, had the provision in hand. His provision is JESUS, no one else was acceptable to God.


Jesus the Lamb is God's  provision and was so  from  the beginning.
 
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1.3  The Redeeming Lamb

However,  there is a deeper reason why Christ is referred to as the Lamb of God. We now turn to Ex. 6:6.

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.   Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth and I will put a division [= redemption] between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.

Ex .8:20-23


We have now moved on  to the account of the Exodus,  where the Israelites were brought out of Egypt. The word division in the above passage can be translated as redeemed. So we see that the exodus was to do with redemption. This was to be a division between God’s people and the Egyptians. God was to take Israel out of Goshen into the land He had previously promised to Abraham. Redemption was to be the way God performed this separation. 

God was telling Moses that the bondage that Israel was enduring in Egypt was about to come to an end: God was about to redeem them from the Egyptians. This word redeem also means to buy back, especially  the purchasing of a slave with a view to their freedom. So it was with the Israelites. For many years they were slaves in Egypt and now God was to buy them back from their owners in order to belong to Him. But how did God redeem them?

Turning to the twelfth chapter of Exodus we see this


And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.  Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:  And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ...... And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.  .........And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover.  For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.  And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.  And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

Ex.12:1-14


The Passover was God’s way. Each household was to take a lamb, slay it,  eat it and put the blood on the doorposts and lintels. That night God would pass through the land and smite the firstborn if they were not inside a house where the lamb's blood was not on the door post.  As we move through Exodus we see further that:


And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,  That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’S.  And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.  And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.
Ex.13:11-15


The whole Passover was to do with redemption, that is ownership.  God bought Israel from the Egyptians, and He used the LAMB to do  so; later we see that  when the firstlings are to be redeemed a lamb is used. The use of the lamb in redemption is too clear to miss. We only need to turn to the NT and see the clear teaching. Firstly Christ is our Passover, and has been sacrificed for us.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:

I Cor.5:7

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:


I Pet.1: 18-19

Secondly, Peter refers to Christ as the Lamb here in the context of redemption. We are redeemed by the blood of Christ, not with silver or gold etc. If we had stayed in Exodus and looked at Numbers too we would have seen that the firstborn were redeemed by silver. (Num.3: 40-51; 18:15-16). The value of a ransom is, of course what is paid, Peter tells us we are redeemed with Christ’s blood! God values us so much, that only the blood of His Son would do. In fact there was no other price that could redeem us!  Just think of it that we are bought with God’s own blood!(Acts 20:28)

Putting the two meanings of the word redemption together, we see that God by using a lamb bought Israel from the ownership of Pharaoh and thus separated them unto Himself.  In the New Covenant God bought us with The LAMB that is Christ, and separated us unto Himself, from slavery.

But what are we enslaved to? Jesus gives us that answer- sin Jn.8: 30-36. We cannot free ourselves, we are held in its grip Jesus  the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world, purchased us.  The word redeem in Peter means to release on receipt of the ransom. Thus when we turn to Christ the debt has already been paid and we are set at liberty from the enemy and the slavery of sin.  One more thought:

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

I Tim.2:6


Paul in Timothy uses a word for ransom, which means ‘ vicarious ransom’  that, is Jesus not only paid the debt, but also was the ransom Himself. Once more we get the same recurring idea that not only has God provided all things necessary for our salvation, but He Himself was the full provision of those things. What a wonderful God we have!

Considering the Passover once more, it was  not only redemption for God’s people but also judgement on their enemies. By being bought with the blood of Christ and redeemed to God, judgement had come upon the enemies of God, Pharoah and his armies were all overthrown in the Red Sea; God's great baptism put them to death!  At the cross Jesus utterly defeated the devil and all his hosts, Jesus stripped   the principalities of darkness of their power and authority, we were freed from their bondage, glory to God! (Col.2: 14-15) 

Jesus  the lamb is the one who redeems us and  frees  us from the enemy

1.4 The Eternal Lamb


Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually.  The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even:  And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering.  And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat offering of the morning, and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD.  This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee.  And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.  And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office.  And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.  And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God.

Ex.29:38-46


Every morning and evening Israel was to offer a lamb  continually.  That is the burnt offering was to be repeated; this would have been a continual reminder to Israel of God’s ways and that He required shed blood so that we could approach Him . But it also reminds us of the inadequacy of the OT sacrificial system, for had it been perfect there would have not been any need for repeated sacrifice, as the writer to the Hebrews has it:


For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.  But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Heb.10: 1-4


So then the sacrifice of animals never took away sin, they were shadows of the reality; but the reality is that of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In the ninth and tenth chapters of Hebrews the writer covers this aspect in some detail. He uses the word  once, the Greek word is much stronger; it is ONCE FOR ALL.
The relevant verses are:


  • Heb. 9:26 …..but now once [for all] in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
  • Heb.9:28… . Christ was once [for all] offered to bear the sins of many;
  • Heb. 10:10 .  By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all


We see that Jesus came once and for all into this world with the intention of putting away sin by His own sacrifice, He was offered once and for all as that sacrifice and through Him we are sanctified once and for all.  There is finality about the phrase:  once and for all. Not to be repeated nor even re-enacted. Jesus’ death and sacrifice was the ONE and ONLY sacrifice that took away sin. Any one who claims to be able to take away sin, or re-enact Jesus’ sacrifice is acting contrary to scripture and is guilty of blasphemy, for such claims negate Christ’s uniqueness in  His person and work.

Finally we see that the continual sacrifice at the Tabernacle shows us that Christ’s death and its efficacy is continually before the throne of God. This is why we can always approach God, Jesus is there still with the scars of Calvary as a reminder of His death and the Father’s acceptance of His work. The blood of Jesus still pleads before the throne, it is eternally effective. This is why we read:


Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

  Rom.8:34

Jesus the Lamb- His sacrificial work is finished, and is eternally effectual .


1.5 Summary


In this introductory study we have seen something of why Christ is referred  to as the Lamb of God, the OT use of lambs shows God’s plan of salvation. We have seen the following:

1.    No one can  approach God except through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ
2.    God has made provision Himself of the sacrifice, and Jesus was that  provision
3.    Jesus redeemed us to God by being the ransom Himself
4.    Jesus’ sacrifice is unique and eternally effectual.

In conclusion: the picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God is correct, for its use in the OT foreshadows Christ in a remarkable way. Whether we fully understand the teaching is one thing, but what is important to the reader is: do you know experientially the effects of Jesus’ death in your life? Have you known God’s redemption; have you known God’s forgiveness, deliverance from Satan unto the kingdom of God? If not you can know it now; where you are just turn to God in repentance and receive the new life that Jesus can offer. His death is effectual for you too if you would just turn to him . For further information contact us by using the link below