The trespass offering occupies the section from Leviticus 5:14 through chapter 6:7. The law of the trespass offering is given to us in Leviticus 7:1-7.
There were two spheres in which a man might commit a trespass: it could be against God (5:14-19) or as a result of something done to a neighbor (although still against the Lord, 6:2). Thus both portions of the law were violated – God and his neighbor.
The trespass might involve failure in the “holy things.” It could also involve trespassing against the commandments of the Lord (5:17). This would embrace sins of omission as well as sins of commission.
A question immediately arises as to the distinction between the sin and trespass offerings. The awareness of an act of sin appears to trigger the need for each of them. But in the sin offering, it would appear that it is the awareness of my sin and that it springs from a nature that is sinful. The stress in the trespass offering is upon “the harm that he hath done” (5:16). So it is not so much sin and what it reveals of me and my need before God, as an offering for the consequences of my sin. We shall see this especially in chapter six.
An obvious difference from the sin offering is that, in the case of the trespass offering, there was only one grade of sacrifice. Whether a trespass against God in the holy things or against His law, or if a trespass against God in my relationship with others, in each case, a ram is brought. The trespass is an acknowledgment that I have failed to give God and man what is due to them. As such I have not only trespassed and “gone beyond” what I should have done, but I have fallen short of God’s standard.
The ram is linked with consecration. We see that in Genesis 22 and Exodus 29. Every ram offered as a trespass offering was a reminder that the offerer had come short in being fully set apart to do God’s will and pleasure. He had satisfied self in some way, leading to his trespass. The Lord Jesus in His ram-like consecration to God never failed to give God and man their due. Fully yielded to the will of God, He did not sin in the holy things, or in the human things.
This offering teaches us that God is vitally interested in relationships. He covets the relationship He has with His own; and He desires us to have right relationships with each other. Sin mars all of this. Trespasses hinder right relationships. God is in the repair business. So He begins with repairing the relationship between God and man. The sacrifice provided, the ram of consecration, becomes the means for a right relationship for us to be reconciled to God. We are reminded of the words of Psalm 69:4: “Then I restored that which I took not away.”
The Lord Jesus had no part in the entrance of sin into our world. The sundering of that pristine and blessed relationship between God and man was marred by the awful reality of sin. Christ did not “take it away,” but He did restore it. By virtue of Him, we are “reconciled unto God by the death of His Son.”
God is, however, vitally interested in relationships among believers as well. He, in His triune nature, has dwelt eternally in a relationship. Man was made to enjoy relationships. Having been reconciled to God and brought into the family of God, we are to maintain relationships on the basis of righteousness and love.
Leviticus 6 details what happens when those relationships are broken. Whether by dishonesty, duplicity, defrauding, or deception, trespass against a brother hinders spiritual relationships. Matthew 5:23, 24, and Matthew 18:1-35 are all about “gaining my brother.” Transparent and honest dealings are needed before God and men to heal the breach and maintain fellowship.
God always does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” On the one hand, the adding of the fifth part was to ensure that no one profited from sin. Imagine finding something that your neighbor lost, and not telling him. If discovered, the worst that would ensue is that you would return it to him. You would have had the use of it all the time it was with you, and, perhaps, he might never have discovered that you had it. It might be worth the risk to just keep it. But by adding the fifth part, a man would recognize that a trespass is costly. He could not possibly profit by trifling with the sin.
And yet, God has also suggested that in the adding of the fifth part, something greater has been effected: Adam was lost in innocency, but we are saved and sanctified, holy, beyond a second “temptation and fall.” Eternally secure, brought nigh to God – we are light years ahead of Adam in his relationship with God.
But what of the fifth part to a man against whom one had sinned? While it reminds us of the costliness of sin against our neighbor, we are reminded that the one sinned against has something more than just his property back. As a result of right relationships among believers, he now has his brother back. He has “gained his brother” (Matt 18:15), and his open, honest, and righteous dealing with him, has cemented a closer relationship. Likewise, the brother who has been forgiven, the trespasser, has gained a fresh appreciation of his brother who was so willing to forgive and restore relationships.
Thus the offerings run the gamut of being accepted as a worshiper before God (Lev 1 and the burnt offering) to enjoying restoration to my brother. Every facet of life was answered by what was on the altar. Likewise, every aspect of our lives has found its answer in a Savior Who willingly went to Calvary for us.