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.
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.