Monday, 11 April 2016

Blood of Jesus


Introduction

The Bible is pretty bloody from beginning to end. There is a lot of talk of blood. In today’s squeamish, squeaky clean times it can be hard to relate to this language of blood.   It can seem barbaric archaic and inexplicable.

There are also a lot of terms used in relation to blood in the Bible: atone, sprinkle, sacrifice, ransomed, redeemed, blood of the Lamb, sanctify, cleansed by the blood, plead the blood…there are many more. But it is so important to understand: the Old Testament is full of it, Jesus talks about it and the apostles referred to it in their letters.

Why Blood?

From the beginning blood has been regarded by God as a most precious thing. From Genesis (Gen 9:4) onward, God said that “The life is in the blood”. This is true medically as well as spiritually. In the human body the blood carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells and organs that need it. Blood carries life around the body, as one website put it, 'Blood truly is the river of life'.   So we breathe in air and the blood carries the oxygen which brings life to the body.

In Genesis 2:7 we read:

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Can you imagine that, the very breath of God actually zooming around in your blood? Yes, blood is precious.

Things were great, man walked with God as a friend in the Garden.  But then things went a bit pear-shaped.  You know the story of the two special trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve could eat from any tree – except the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned them that if they did so they would die. Despite knowing God, Who is pure goodness, they wanted to know good and evil.  They ate of the fruit.

Now, knowing evil, their lives were darkened by evil desires and intents.

Adam and Eve were now under the sentence of death.  Not just physical death (it was never really about just physical death), but eternal death - separation from the source of life - God.  This was symbolised by Adam's banishment from the Garden of Eden and access to the Tree of Life.

So, our first need for blood shed is because we:

Need a Substitute: something or someone to die in our place

In the Garden of Eden God sacrificed an animal and covered them with its skin. God was beginning to paint His picture through the history of man, showing mankind that the “wages of sin is death” (as Paul puts it in Romans 6:23), and that in order to prevent them being put to death for their sins, something has to die in their place (and also they needed a spiritual covering - which I'll look at later)

This is why the Old Testament can seem so bloody. Each time the lifeblood of an animal was shed it was as a substitution – an instead of - for the shedding of man’s lifeblood.

The need for a substitute is prophetically shown in the story of when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.  This is Abraham's longed for, only son, the son through whom God promised Abraham would have countless descendants. So how could God meet that promise if the progenitor is to be put to death!?

As they travelled up towards Mount Moriah, Isaac asked Abraham, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”
Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Abraham knew that somehow Isaac would live (Hebrews 11:19), but he didn't fully understand the prophetic truth he spoke as they walked, because God did provide Abraham with a lamb - a substitute for Isaac - for the offering. Abraham named the place “The Lord Will Provide.” (Gen 22:14).

The truth is, God never intended Abraham to sacrifice his only son, but He did always intend to sacrifice His only Son.  Abraham's faith revealed God's faithfulness and was a beautiful prophetic act. Over 2000 years later on that very same mountain, Mount Moriah, Jesus Christ was sacrificed – the LORD did provide a lamb as a substitute for us: Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.

A few hundred years after Abraham, the Law was given by God to Moses, this Law involved the codified sacrifice of animals for sin.  Again, this is God painting us a picture through the story of Israel's history, to show us that the wages of sin is death - but equally that God didn't ever want our death (He is our Father after all).

The law was a picture though of a deeper truth.  The lifeblood of animals would never be enough. In fact the prophets point this over and over in the Old Testament - it's not about the sacrifice, the sacrifice is never enough.  The law shows our sin and the sacrifice points to our need.  What God really wants is changed hearts and lives.

As the writer of Hebrews says in Chapter 10:1-3:

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.”

The sacrifices of the Old Testament were a shadow – a picture - of the reality found in Christ – they didn’t take away the sin, they just reminded the worshippers that the wages of sin is death and that they needed a substitute to die in their place. The perfect, holy Son of God became flesh and blood. As both God and Man, his blood was not ordinary blood, but was infused with the life of God – the breath of life zoomed around in His blood! Eternal Man, Eternal blood. This sacrifice was big enough for an eternity of sin and big enough to conquer the curse of eternal death.  Eternal life always trumps eternal death: we now have access to the Tree of Life.

Covers and Preserves

I also mentioned that the first sacrifice in the Garden of Eden was used as a covering for Adam and Eve, this symbolised that we need a covering to protect us from God. This might sound surprising, you may question why we would need protection from such a good and loving God.  He is our Father after all. Yes, but He is also utterly Holy and Righteous and Glorious and He is a consuming fire. In our sins we are, as Paul puts it in Romans, enemies of God.

CS Lewis wrote:

“God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger - according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.”

God is our Father, and longs for us to draw near.  But we are steeped in sinfulness and sin cannot survive in the presence of the pure good holy fire of God's presence.  To bring us near to God sin needs destroying, but that sin is IN us.  So, in order to destroy sin and not us, Christ who is sinless became sin for us [all our sin was put on/in Him]. We who believe are hidden in Christ. He is our covering and it is His blood that covers us and preserves us.

This is prefigured in the story of the Passover in Exodus. This is another picture God shows us prophetically through the history of Israel. In the story, Israel are God's children, Egypt (as in other places in the Old Testament) represents the world without God.  In the final plague sent on Egypt God said He would pass through Egypt and kill the firstborn of both people and animals as a judgement. But in order that the Israelites didn’t die in the plague, God gave them a covering. They were to sacrifice a year-old male lamb without defect and sprinkle its blood over the door-posts of the house.

God said:

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” (Ex 12:13)

God didn’t look in those houses to see who or what was in there, He just saw the blood and passed over. We are covered by the blood of Christ, we may be still sinful, we may be still wayward, but under His blood we are safe while the wrath of God against sin passes over. We talk about being ‘saved from our sins’ and we are grateful, BUT let’s be utterly grateful that we are saved from the wrath of God – by the sacrifice of His own Son - because of His great love for us!

As Paul said:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from [God’s] wrath through Him. (Rom 5:8,9)

Those who belong to Christ are covered by His blood. He doesn’t check to see if you’re good enough or holy enough or anything, He sees the blood and we are saved.

Jesus is our Passover Lamb – the lamb of God.

But, God’s bountiful generosity and love doesn’t stop there. Oh yes, because of Christ we are saved from destruction – He died in our place and His blood covers us. We are utterly safe in Him. But God wants more than that. He wants us to have EVERYTHING. And so, this is where Christ’s blood achieves even that with a new covenant:

New Covenant

For us, covenant probably just means an agreement or a treaty. In Hebrew the word covenant is בְּרִית 'berith' – and it has a root meaning of cutting. A blood covenant signifies that it is a covenant through sacrifice until death.

The old covenant was the covenant God gave through Moses; Israel would keep the Law and God would bless Israel, that is, God's blessing was dependent upon Israel's obedience. It was then ratified by the sprinkling of blood.

This kind of covenant only ends when one of the parties dies. God could have ended the covenant by the death of mankind (the eternal separation of mankind from God) and started again. But, instead God sent His only Son, Jesus, who as the second person of the Trinity is God, to die instead. A mystery of which the great reformer Martin Luther said:

“God forsaking God, who can understand it?”

So the old covenant was begun by sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood, and it was ended by Christ’s death.  The new covenant was begun by Jesus' sacrifice and the sprinkling of His blood.

This new covenant confirms a promise God gave to Abraham before the Law of Moses was given. It talks of an inheritance given through faith. For an inheritance to pass to the inheritor, the owner of the estate has to die (rather like a will: you can read about this in Hebrews 9). So for God's promise (the 'will') to be passed on to the inheritors the 'owner' of God's estate (the Kingdom of God) had to die: Jesus.  So Christ died so we could really live a glorious life as inheritors of the Kingdom of God!

As I have already shown, for the covenant to be ratified blood had to be shed. Jesus said:

"For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt 26:28). 

His death and blood shed means we inherit the Kingdom – through grace, by faith alone. It’s a free gift.

This new covenant is a million times better than the old.  I mentioned that under the old covenant God's blessing was dependent upon Israel's obedience?  Now, our blessing in the new covenant is dependent upon Christ's obedience not our own!!  Isn't this unbelievable freedom?  Not a licence to sin of course - sin does no-one any good...but for those of us who regularly trip up (i.e. me! haha) it means a great deal.  This is why the new covenant is such good news.

But even better! Christ rose from the dead, so we get to worship and adore the One Who saved us forever…AND we get to be CO-HEIRS of the Kingdom WITH Him - that is His brothers and sisters!  His friends.  Friends with God!  Wow.

Redeems and Ransoms

And there's more...

Jesus mentioned the ‘remission of sins’ in His statement about the New Covenant. Remission is the cancelling of a debt and Christ’s blood has paid for our debt. Because we sinned we owe God. Under the Old Covenant God showed through Israel and the law that trying to make up for sin through works and sacrifice was slavery.  And yet try as they might this slavery to the Law made sin stronger! (We all know that once something is forbidden or 'bad for us' it seems to waken temptation in us).  God used the law to reveal hidden sin.  Thus anyone under the law is not only a slave to the law but the law reveals we are slaves to sin too. But Christ has ransomed us, and redeemed us!

1. Ransomed: A ransom is an amount paid to release someone kidnapped and imprisoned. Jesus called his life a ransom given for many in Matthew 20: 28 and the payment was His precious blood.

2. Redeemed: Redeem and redemption means to ‘buy-out’. In the Old Testament it was generally applied to purchasing a slave’s freedom from their master. We are redeemed – set-free - from having to follow the law [the old covenant] and from the power of sin. Through the shedding of blood we no longer live under the curse of death for disobedience! We are set free and given the Holy Spirit to enable us to resist temptation and walk in a new life.

Jesus’ blood sets us free!

Forgives our sins

We are not only redeemed from the power of sin by His blood, but our sin is entirely forgiven!

As Paul wrote to the church at Colossus:

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13,14 )

But we are not only forgiven of our sins! We are cleansed too…

Cleanses and sanctifies

In the human body, blood is cleansing, it carries waste such as urea to the kidneys to be expelled as urine, lactic acid to the liver to be broken down and carries carbon dioxide to the lungs to be expelled; blood also has cells that detect and destroy viruses and bacteria and suchlike. Similarly, blood has a spiritually cleansing symbolism in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, the priests and the Tabernacle, had to be sprinkled with blood for symbolic sanctification. Sanctification is the making of something holy – something set-apart for God’s use. We are defiled by sin and Jesus’ blood cleanses us. We are made clean and sanctified – a saint means one who is sanctified, therefore we are saints!

The Bible also tells us that Jesus’ blood washes our conscience clean (1 John 1:7; Heb 10:22). We are no longer guilty, we no longer need to work and sacrifice to pay for our guilt (old covenant), and no longer need to feel guilty. We stand before God completely clean!

Justification

This cleansing is part of justification – in the scripture I mentioned earlier Paul says we are justified by Christ’s blood. God’s justice is satisfied (death for sin has taken place), and now by Jesus' blood we are made the righteousness of God in Christ.  You may remember in the section about how Jesus' blood covers and preserves us I said that Christ became sin for us so that we wouldn't be destroyed in our sin.  Well, the full truth is that Christ became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ.  What a swap!  He gets our sin, we get His righteousness!  We are justified by His blood – a good way to remember this is to say: JUST-AS IF-I’D never sinned. Justified.

Now, there is nothing to separate us from God, in the Bible this is known as atonement.

Atonement

In modern usage atonement means simply ‘making amends’ – making up for some misdemeanour. But the original meaning and the Biblical meaning is reconciliation. The best way to remember this is as a Jewish website put it – AT-ONE-MENT. Being ‘at one’ with someone means to be in close connection with and at peace with them. Atonement reconciles us, brings us back to, and draws us close to, God. And this is God’s greatest longing, the Father wants His children back.

We are told in Leviticus that “it is the blood which makes atonement for the soul”. We have been separated from God by our sin, we need to reconcile our soul, who we are, with God. And as a picture of this God instituted a feast for Israel called The Day of Atonement.

In the Jewish Tabernacle, and after that the Temple, there was an inner part called the Holy of Holies separated from the Holy place by a huge thick curtain. This was where God’s presence rested. It was so holy that only the high priest could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement with sacrificial blood to make atonement for himself and for the people for their sins.

The Temple and the feast was a picture of a beautiful future in the New Covenant. Christ has entered the heavenly sanctuary as an eternal High Priest, with eternal blood, once for all. If we sin now we don’t need to sacrifice, His sacrifice was once for all – if we confess our sins He will forgive them simply because we ask! That separating curtain was symbolically torn in two when Christ died on the cross. The way to God is opened up forever. We don’t need to grovel or sacrifice or do penance – we can come boldly to the throne of God to find grace (Heb 4:16) to help us in our time of need always. In fact, because we are 'at one' with our Father and now true children as heirs of the Kingdom we can not only come boldly to the throne, but we can run to our Father with every need and every care - He in turn has promised to never forsake us and to never leave us.

Nothing we do can make us ‘at one’ with God, it is all achieved by the precious blood of Christ.

Brings Life

So, being close to God the source of life brings us life.  We are not only in His presence but He is in us and we are in Him through Jesus. Remember in the beginning I mentioned that God breathed His life into Adam so that the breath of God – spiritual oxygen – coursed around His veins? Well, Christ has restored that – and more! His blood brings life.

Jesus said in John 6:53:

“…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

This totally freaked out some of his followers and they left Him. But Jesus didn’t mean a literal drinking of blood – as Jesus says later in that same discourse (v.63) “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing”. And God is Spirit. To drink something in metaphorically you mean really taking something deeply to heart.

So, in the beginning, God breathed His life into Adam and the life of God coursed around His veins, and in John 20:21,22 we read that Jesus breathed that life again into the disciples:

“Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit..."

Jesus breathed his breath of life into the disciples, eternal life coursing around their blood.  This is showing us what happens when we truly receive Jesus, we receive His life breath - His spiritual oxygen in our blood. We receive - drink in - His life.  God’s life is now in us, His very DNA in our spiritual veins bringing life to our souls.

But we are in an even better place than Adam, because Christ rose from the dead, returned to the Father and sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. The Holy Spirit connects us to this life with power.  It's not just in us hidden, we can live it out too.

Pleads

As I hinted at in the part about atonement, we are still subject to temptation to sin, and we sometimes do sin. The tempter is the devil, who appeals to our flesh weaknesses. One of the devil’s names is Satan which means accuser. When we sin Satan points his finger at us and accuses us before God and whispers that same condemnation in our ears.

This is where we might “plead the blood of Christ”. This is rather like a legal plea. If you were accused and taken to court you might plead guilty, not guilty or make a plea of insanity or whatever. If we sin, we can turn from the sin (repentance) and run to our loving Father with boldness and plead the blood of Christ. Instant forgiveness, instant acquittal. Not a desperate pleading with a distant God, but a simple grateful pointing to the blood of Christ: "I am not guilty, but I am not innocent by my own goodness – I can only plead the blood of Christ".

But even better, the blood of Christ pleads for us! Some Christians fear that they might die in their sin, before they have chance to repent. Well, in Hebrews 12:24 it says:

“to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” 

This is referring to Abel’s murder by his brother Cain in Genesis. Abel’s blood cried out to God, a cry of death, condemnation and of vengeance. But Christ’s blood cries out life, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation every minute of every day. Jesus' blood pleads for us eternally, we have no need to fear anything.

Overcomes

We also have the victory by the blood of Christ. Revelation tells us we overcome Satan by the blood of Christ! (Revelation 12: 11 ). We are overcomers by the power of the blood! We don’t need to fear anything the devil can throw at us, we are sons and daughters of the living God, His very DNA courses around our veins.

Summing up

So, to sum up:

• We don’t need to fear death because Christ died and His blood was shed instead of ours – He is our substitute;
• We don’t need to fear God’s wrath because in love Christ’s blood covers us and preserves us;
• We have eternal life in God’s glory as heirs of the kingdom of Heaven through Jesus’ blood of the New Covenant;
• We can live in freedom and grace and not under law and condemnation because Christ’s blood was paid as our ransom and our redemption;
• We can live guilt free because Christ’s blood bought us forgiveness and cleansed us from all our sins;
• We are ‘at one’ with the Holy Living God Who loves and offers us grace and mercy daily because of the blood of Christ’s atonement;
• We have the very life of God within us because we spiritually drink in the blood of Christ, empowered by His Holy Spirit;
• We don’t need to fear condemnation or judgement because Christ’s blood pleads for us eternally; and,
• We have the victory because we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb.

Conclusion

I’ll finish with the words of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon: “The blood of Jesus! sin dies at its presence, death ceases to be death: hell itself would be dried up if that blood could operate there. The blood of Jesus! heaven’s gates are opened; bars of iron are pushed back. The blood of Jesus! my doubts and fears flee, my troubles and disasters disappear. The blood of Jesus! shall I not go on conquering and to conquer so long as I can plead that! In heaven this shall be the choice jewel which shall glitter upon the head of Jesus—that He gives to His people "Victory, victory, through the blood of the Lamb."

And now, is this blood to be had? Can it be got at? Yes, it is free, as well as full of virtue,—free to every soul that believes. Whosoever cares to come and trust in Jesus shall find the virtue of this blood in his case this very morning. Away from your own works and doings. Turn those eyes of yours to the full atonement made, to the utmost ransom paid; and if God enables you, poor soul, this morning to say, "I take that precious blood to be my only hope," you are saved!”

-The Precious Blood of Christ, Charles Spurgeon

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