The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus) - Lesson 13

By Glen Pemberton

The Book of Leviticus

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will discuss four key themes from the book ofLeviticus:
    1. God calls people for a purpose.
    2. God calls people to intimate relationship.
    3. God always provides a way for relationship.
    4. A relationship with God demands holiness.
  2. The student will identify these same themes in the NewTestament.
  3. The student will define the significance of these themes for contemporary Christians.
  4. The student will accept the challenge to pursue holiness in every aspect of life.


  1. A Bible for each Student.
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #13 ("Leviticus - The Pursuit ofHoliness")


We have seen four key themes in our study of Leviticus. First,God calls people for a purpose, not simply for their own benefit.Second, God intensely desires relationship with people. This desire, however, comes into direct conflict with humanity's sinfulness and uncleanness. Third, God always provides a way for relationship. Despite the obstacles, God reaches out in grace and makes a way for people to live in his presence. Fourth, the call to relationship with God demands holiness. To be sure, God's people cannot be perfectly holy or justify themselves.Nonetheless, the only appropriate response to God's overtures of love is grateful obedience - holiness. This lesson summarizes each of these themes from Leviticus and then traces each one into the New Testament. The church has been called by God to reach out to the world. God intensely desires relationship with us and the world. Despite our sinfulness, God has made a way for us to live in his presence through his grace. Now, we are challenged to respond to God's love by pursuing holiness.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences

  1. Review and set the stage for today's study.
    1. Today, our study of Leviticus comes to a conclusion.
    2. While we have not examined every text in Leviticus, we have covered the basic ideas of the book.
    3. Today, as we leave the book, we want to take one more broad view of the basic themes in Leviticus and trace these themes into the NT and into our own lives.
  2. Four key principles from our study of Leviticus
    1. God calls people for a purpose. WKSH God did not call Israel into a special relationship simply for Israel's benefit.
      1. Q. For what purpose did God call the people of Israel? A.
        1. In general, to be God's means of blessing all nations (Gen 12:3).
        2. More specifically: Read Exod 19:6. God calledIsrael to be a "priestly nation" or a "nation of priests." (WKSH ? God's call to Israel ? be a priestly nation) Q. What does this mean? What didGod intend for this priestly nation to do? A. As a priest, Israel was to be God's minister to other nations. This ministry included modeling a holy lifestyle and proclaiming the sovereignty of the Lord to other nations.
        3. Q. In general, did Israel do a very good job of living up to her calling? A. No. Although there are notable instances in which Israel blessed other nations and told them about their God (e.g., Jonah),more often than not Israel was selfish with the good news.
      2. Q. For what purpose has God called the church? A.
        1. Read I Peter 2:4-10. Twice in this text, Peter refers to the church as a "priests" (verse 5 [holy priesthood] and 9 [royal priesthood]). (WKSH ?God's call to the church ? be a holy priesthood)Q. In this text, what is the specific task of a holy priesthood? A. Reread 2:9e ("in order that"). The purpose of our call is to proclaim the might acts of the one who has saved us and called us to be his people.
        2. Most can probably quote Matthew 28:18-20(recite).
        3. Our task, as God's priests, is no less than that of ancient Israel. We are to be a light to the nations(Isa 42:5-7).
        4. Q. Are we, in your opinion, doing a better job at this task than ancient Israel? A. Allow time for discussion. In many ways we are doing a better job(these should be stressed), but in some ways we are still selfish with the good news (these should be identified).
    2. God calls people to intimate relationship. WKSH
      1. The primary issue from which the book of Leviticus springs is God's intense desire to have an intimate relationship with his people.
        1. Soon after the covenant is established at Sinai,God announces his intention to live with his people(Read Exod 25:8). (WKSH ? God wanted to live with Israel) Q. Why do you think God wanted to pitch his tent among the people? A. Possibly to keep their focus upon him, but more because of his desire to live with his people.
        2. Of course, this desire was also the essence of creation (Gen 1-2). God wants a real relationship with his human creation.
      2. There are, however, significant problems for the kind of relationship God desires.
      3. Q. What are the problems? A.
        1. God is divine ? we are human!
        2. God is holy - we are unholy!
      4. Isaiah 59 offers a good summation of the problem: Read Isaiah 59:1-2. Sin separates us from God. (WKSH ? The Problem: Sin)
    3. The seriousness of this problem is illustrated by the events at Mount Sinai. Q. What happened at Sinai? A.
      1. Before Moses could get down from the mountain with the plans for God's tent, the people became impatient and made a golden calf to worship.
      2. Look again at God's assessment of the situation.Read Exod 33:5. Q. What is God's concern? A. His presence among the people would be lethal! He cannot live with them without killing them due to their sinfulness.
      3. How can any human ever have any real relationship with a holy God?
    4. The problem is no less serious for us today.
      1. The presence of God among us is stressed in several NT texts. (WKSH - God wants to live among his church)
        1. Jesus says that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among them(Matt 18:20).
        2. Jesus promised the disciples that he would always be with them (Matt. 28:20).
        3. In I Corinthians 6, Paul calls the church"the temple of the Holy Spirit" (6:19).
        4. In Acts 2:38, Peter speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit who resides in each individualChristian.
      2. Q. While the presence of God in our lives is a tremendous blessing, does it pose any special danger? A. Yes! Q. What is the danger? A. Allow time for discussion. The teacher might make the following points (as time allows)
        1. We are not perfect! We are human.Consequently, like Israel, any approach to God isa dangerous thing.
        2. I Cor 6 stresses that immoral behavior is incompatible with our call to be the temple of theHoly Spirit.
        3. Rebellious behavior in the presence of God is lethal? Just ask Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5)!
  3. God always provides a way for relationship. WKSH The problem is real and severe, but God always makes a way for relationship.
    1. Although there is much said in Leviticus about proper human behavior (holy behavior), it is God who resolves the problem of human sinfulness and uncleanness, not humans.
      1. God's intense desire for relationship is demonstrated by the many ways in which God makes a way for the relationship to work. Q. What are some of the specific things God provided inLeviticus to make relationship possible? A. (WKSH space has been provided for notes)
        1. Atonement Sacrifice to cleanse sin and impurity.
        2. The Day of Atonement to cleanse the most holy place.
        3. A special Priesthood to intercede for the people.
        4. Instructions for identifying what is clean and unclean (what pollutes God's tent and what does not) and a means for making what is unclean clean again.
        5. Ultimately, God sanctifies (make holy) the people. Read Lev 22:31-33.
      2. Leviticus, then, above all else is about God's gracious provision of a way to live in a close relationship with him.
    2. In the New Testament, the same truth finds center stage.
      1. NT writers certainly emphasize our need to live holy lives (we will return to this in a moment).
      2. Nonetheless, we cannot make our relationship with God work. We cannot resolve the problem of human sinfulness.
        1. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the classic expression of this truth in the NT (cite or read if time permits). (WKSH - God's provision for the church: Jesus Christ)
        2. Other texts emphasize the same idea asLev 22: God makes us holy (read as time permits).- Eph 5:25-27; Col 1:21-23
    3. Certainly, the fact that God makes relationship possible through his grace does not mean that we can live as we please!
      1. Such a response to God's initiative is unthinkable; or, as Paul states it "Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means!" (Rom 6:1b-2a).
      2. This leads to our final theme from Leviticus.
  4. A relationship with God demands holiness. WKSH God's presence among us requires holiness in every aspect of our lives.
    1. The call to holiness is clear in Leviticus. (WKSH ? God called Israel to be holy)
      1. Read Lev 19:2; 20:7,26.
      2. As we have seen in this study, holiness cannot be isolated in just one part of life. Holiness must permeate every aspect of our being. Q. What are some of the areas of life in which Leviticus has demanded holiness? A.
        1. Our worship
        2. Our sacrifices
        3. Our sexual behavior
        4. Our relationships with other people
      3. Again, the demand for holiness is not a demand for self-justification! Such an idea is foreign to Leviticus. Nonetheless, Leviticus provides instruction for the person who desires to live in relationship withGod. Such a person must live a holy life.
    2. The call to holiness is equally clear in the NT. (WKSH ?God calls the church to be holy)
      1. Paul tells the Roman church to present their bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2)
      2. Read I Pet 1:13-16.
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        1. Q. Does anyone recognize Peter's words?Where do they come from? A. Peter is quoting Lev 11:44 (with some blending from 19:2; 20:7and 20:26).
        2. Q. Look at the text again; what,specifically, does Peter mean when he says we should be holy? A. Verses 14-15 ? we should not live according to our selfish desires. Later, in 2:1-3 (read if time permits), Peter is even more specific. We must get rid of malice, guile,insincerity, envy and slander.
        3. God's people, past and present, are called to be holy - in all that they do.
        4. Q. What, in your opinion, are the greatest challenges or threats to us living out a holy life today? A. Discuss. Q. What will help us overcome these challenges? A. Discuss. Gratitude for God's provision of relationship through Jesus is certainly a key factor.

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