"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Blood of Jesus Equals His Death

French philosopher Voltaire criticized Christianity as a “bloody religion,” because of the emphasis on blood, particularly the bloody death of its founder, Jesus Christ. Voltaire, like many who hear the word "blood," envision that this word, as used in the Bible, can only refer to the red internal liquid of the human body. This is just not so. When the Bible uses the word blood, it often is a synonym for life. In addition, the shedding of blood is a synonym for death. For example:

"For the life of a creature is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11)
"Without the shedding of blood (loss of life), there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22).

In the Old Covenant, the blood of the sacrificial animals played a prominent role in Jewish worship. From the priest dipping his fingers into the blood and sprinkling it on the ground and the altar, to the various instructions for the use of the blood according to the kind of sacrifice being offered, blood was a predominate theme. However, there was no magic in the blood of the sacrificial animals, and there is no magic in the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood in both represented their lives and the blood shed by both represented their deaths.

When Christians sing songs like Nothing But the Blood, Are You Washed in the Blood? Oh, the Blood of Jesus, and There Is Power In the Blood, the thought processes of the worshipper should revolve around the death of Jesus Christ, not the red blood cells of Jesus Christ. The shedding of Christ's blood is simply a synonym for His death. God gave His Son to die. It is not the actual blood of Jesus that saves us, it is the death of Jesus that saves us (I Corinthians 15:3).

Christ's death is a voluntary, penal, and substitutionary death. Christ died for us willingly (voluntary). His death was punishment from God. The word penal, as in 'the penal system,' means "punishment." God punished the Son He loves so that He might never punish those who love His Son. God, the righteous Judge, accepted as payment for our sin the death of His Son. Christ's death was substitionary (for us). Because the emphasis in Scripture is on God providing His Son to die for sinners, salvation from God's punishment is called "salvation by grace." Sinners who believe in Christ "gain approval with God by  faith" (Hebrews 11:39). You can't gain approval with God unless you were once in disapproval with God. This is why Jesus Christ cannot be bypassed and anyone expect to have a relationship with God.

Ultimately, the problem skeptics have with Christianity is the notion that God holds people accountable for their sins--or maybe to drill down even further--that there is even such a thing as sin. Yet, it is clear from logic and the logos (the Word) that God, as the righteous Judge of the universe, punishes those who hate Him and harm others. What kind of judge would He be if He didn't?

Yet, God's punishment is not arbitrary or capricious. He is holy and righteous in all His actions. The punishment will always meet the crime. This is why Scripture declares that the punishment of God for sinners (hell) is a punishment of degrees (Matthew 10:15). It's  also one of the reasons John Stott came to the conviction that hell is temporal, not eternal. Stott believed God's righteous punishment is meted out toward sinners in various degrees and lengths, and then there is the end of the sinner. I am not saying I agree with Stott on temporal punishment, but I am absolutely in agreement with him that hell is not the same for every person.

On the other hand, all the riches of God's grace are the possession of every believer in Christ. Christ died for our sins. He rose for our justification. All the rewards of Christ are ours because of His active obedience (His life) and His passive obedience (His death). We are co-heirs with Christ because of our faith in Him.

So....

The next time you sing about the blood, reflect on what it is that you are actually singing.  The emphasis in Scripture is not on the red corpuscles in the body of Jesus as if they  possess some magical powers...

The blood of Jesus Christ is His death.

Why is this important to understand? Because there is a difference between literalism and a belief in the infallible, life-giving Word of God. Wise is the one who understands the difference.

8 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Goodie. I get to climb on my favorite soapbox again.

I am 74, have had nice houses, and lots of cars. Also, we've traveled a lot. I think the list shows 45 states and 22 foreign countries and over 50 automobiles. Not boasting there .. it's just what is and I'd be a lot better off if I hadn't been a car freak. But there's an important lesson:

We get tired of everything. I guess I attribute that to our sinful imperfect human nature, which cannot fully appreciate anything. We've lived in our home for almost 30 years, have had our car (we're a 1-car family for the first time in over 40 years) for 5 years (first time ever), and there's nowhere we want to go badly enough to get on an airplane to go there.

The point is this: it will take a miraculous transformation and a miraculous heaven to actually put believers in a place they won't get tired of. I can recall the thrill of the first time those things were new, and to think of a heaven where every day is new .. well, that thought is something my mind cannot really appropriate, so I'll have to do so by faith.

To the intellect, blood enabling all that is unthinkable. Thank God it's not unfaithable.

Steve Martin said...

"Because there is a difference between literalism and a belief in the infallible, life-giving Word of God. Wise is the one who understands the difference."

Amen!

And it will be wonderful to finally be made into a grateful, satisfied, and fully loving being when we have run the course down here.

Thanks.

gobatt said...

You said the punishment of hell will not be the same for every non-believer, but there will be degrees of punishment. I agree with this because Jesus said the severity of their sentence will be determined by their performance here on earth for doing things they ought not to have done, and for leaving undone things they ought to have done. Sins against children, and blasphemy, are particularly serious. Oh, that people would come to Christ now, and settle out of court before it is too late. However, my main point is that the share in the inheritance of Jesus Christ that believers will receive in Heaven, will also be on a graded scale. While every believer receives salvation and entrance into Heaven through the grace of God alone and not through our works performance, yet the degree of reward given will be related to how closely we have identified ourselves here on earth with our Savior in his service, suffering and sacrifice. If we have built with gold and silver and precious stones, or given a cup of cold water in his name, our gracious, rewarding God will not be unmindful of this. We are but unprofitable servants at the best of times, but the parables of Jesus do teach us that the reward for faithful work and suffering here on earth for the Kingdom , will be more work and glory in Heaven. Our gracious,giving God is no man's debtor: whatever we sow....
Thanks for your great articles, and also for the series on Hebrews which I listen to every Sunday.
Gordon.

Wade Burleson said...

Gordan,

Thanks for the comment! :)

I have preached for years that the rewards of heaven are the same for every believer, rewards based on the obedience of Christ.

There are numerous reasons why I believe we are co-heirs with Christ and our rewards are earned by Him, but this is neither the time nor the place to lay them out. For you to agree with me on this subject is neither a desire of mine nor a concern of mine. Stick to your guns.

I really appreciate you.

gobatt said...

Wade,
I commend you and those whom you teach for the humble and self-sacrificing way in which you serve others. By helping those in abject poverty in Niger, or Jeff Reid in Masi, Cape Town; or in sharing from your weekly offering plate, or supporting the abused in society, or helping the recovery of the addicted , and often having to suffer misunderstanding criticism and misunderstanding in the process.... all this you gladly do through the grace given by Jesus Christ. I recall the prayer of Ignatius of Loyola; "Teach us, good Lord to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost.....to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that we do your will." Yet some believers may be pleasantly surprised when they experience the abundance of God's grace on that great day. Rev.22:22, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to repay every one for what he has done". Could it be that Ignatius and those of like humble mind will be given the great honour of carrying the flag when the saints come marching in ? These servants of and martyrs for Christ will have proved themselves by example to be worthy to lead in the team. I think Enid will have a representative there too !

Debbie Kaufman said...

This is a wonderful and beautiful post Wade, because this is what Christianity is and why it's also so emotional for us. Christ did all of this for us. And not because of what we have done or who we are.

I've been a Christian for 20 plus years and this still causes my heart to skip a beat when I read it. I've discovered recently that nothing else in this life matters to me but Christ crucified, and that this message be given.

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aussie John said...

Wade,

Great truth!

"I have preached for years that the rewards of heaven are the same for every believer, rewards based on the obedience of Christ".

Hear! Hear!