J. Foster Crane, New Zealand
'The life of the flesh is in the blood', Lev. 17. 11.
Some time ago I had the interesting experience of having to lie in a hospital bed for a couple of days and watch the blood of some kind donor drip into the veins of my arm. As I lay there gazing at the red tube under the watchful eyes of the nurse, I let my mind wander freely over the scriptures meditating on the fascinating theme of 'the blood'.
A. The Blood in the Old Testament
When Noah came out of the ark God gave two charges which apply to all time:
a. Blood was not to be eaten, Gen. 9. 4. This was later re-stated to the Hebrews, Lev. 17. 10, and again to the Christians, Acts 15. 20.
b. Blood of man was not to be shed in violence, Gen. 9. 6.
Three reasons are given in Leviticus 17. 11, 14 for these prohibitions:
1. Blood is the life-source of the body. I had a first-class personal proof of this as the infusing blood brought instant strength and energy to my body.
2. It symbolizes the life (soul) of the person made in God's image, hence to shed blood was to take life. Slain by Cain, the voice of Abel's blood still called to God from the ground, Gen. 4. 10.
3. Blood shed in sacrifice makes atonement for the soul, it was something of extreme value in the sight of God.
The sin of Adam placed all men under sentence of death, but God graciously permitted the Hebrews to offer animals as their substitutes, and the blood thus shed He accepted as sufficient atonement or covering of their sin. Under the law almost all things are purged with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin, see Heb. 9. 22.
Blood on the Passover day saved the firstborn from death, Exod. 12. 13.
Blood sprinkled on the people and the book of the covenant assured to Israel all the promises of God concerning them, Heb. 9. 18-19.
Blood shed at the altar atoned for sin.
Blood sprinkled on the mercy seat ensured acceptance and fellowship with God, Exod. 25. 22.
Blood sprinkled on the unclean, cleansed from defilement, Heb. 9. 13.
Blood sprinkled on the priests separated them to service, Lev. 8. 23.
But animal sacrifices had no permanent saving value, Heb. 10. 4 - they were but shadows and types, pointing to God's true sacrifice and substitute - the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the great theme of the New Testament.
B. The Blood in relation to Christ
1. The Blood in His Incarnation (life)
'As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself, likewise took part of the same', Heb. 2. 14.
In partaking of flesh and blood the Son of God fully identified Himself with the human race - with one vital difference - no taint of Adam's sin was communicated to Him in the human blood line, John 1. 13; Acts 17. 26. A true descendant of Adam through Mary, He was the second man and the last Adam, 1 Cor. 15. 45, 47; but, being conceived of the Holy Spirit, He was also the Son of God and the Lord from Heaven.
He became flesh, John 1. 14, and was made in the likeness of men, Phil. 2. 7, but His nature was sinless and holy - a Lamb without blemish and without spot - fitted in every way to take away the sin of the world, John 1. 29.
2. The Blood in His Death
The incarnation of the Lord Jesus, however, was but the first and necessary step in the divine plan for the redemption of a lost world. But there couid be no peace with God, until the barrier of sin was removed - and this required the giving up of the Redeemer's life in the shedding of His blood.
He did this freely and voluntarily - 'I lay it down of myself, John 10. 18; 'This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins', Matt. 26. 28. His blood was precious, 1 Pet. 1. 19, 'speaking better things than that (the blood) of Abel', Heb. 12. 24 - of infinite value in the sight of the Father.
In the shedding of His blood a full propitiation was made, Rom. 3. 25; 1 John 2. 2; 4. 10; Heb. 9. 25. Sin having been imputed to the perfect Substitute, 2 Cor. 5. 21, and the ransom fully paid, God is satisfied with the efficacy of the blood of His Son, and now acts with grace and favour toward men.
3. The Blood in His Ascension
'By his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us', Heb. 9. 12.
Once a year the High Priest of the Hebrews was permitted to draw aside the veil and enter the Most Holy. In his hands he carried the vessel containing blood from the sacrifice slain at the altar, and he sprinkled it seven times before, and on, the golden mercy seat or propitiatory, Heb. 8. 7. But, alas, as he withdrew from the presence of God, the veil was closed again, for the blood of animals had no permanent saving value.
When the perfect, sinless Substitute entered the true tabernacle in heaven, however, He did so on the basis of a better sacrifice, Heb. 9. 23. His own precious blood sprinkled, as it were, in the heavenly sanctuary, satisfied the Father for all time. The ever-living Redeemer remains in that holy place, as the eternal High Priest, and the veil of the Most Holy remains open for all to enter by faith, Heb. 4. 15, 6. 19-20, 7. 25, 10. 19.
C. The Blood as applied to the Believer
'Elect . . . through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ', 1 Pet. 1. 2.
Blood shed at the cross, presented in heaven, is finally sprinkled on the believer. The word is rich in the far-reaching blessings it conveys to all who apply the blood by faith to their souls.
1. As it affects our Personal Relationship with God
We have forgiveness - 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins', Eph. 1. 7. All judgement averted; no condemnation rests on the redeemed: 'Payment, God will not twice demand; first at my bleeding Surety's hand, and then again at mine'.
'We are justified through his blood', Rom. 5. 9, my sin having been imputed to Christ, God in grace now imputes righteousness to me, 2 Cor. 5. 21.
We have peace with God. He 'made peace through the blood of his cross', Col. 1. 20. Through the blood God is propitiated and is able to look with favour towards us, 2 Cor. 5. 15; Heb. 2. 17.
We have access into the presence of God, 'Ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ', Eph. 2. 13. 'Having .. . boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus' we 'draw near' at all times, Heb. 10. 19, 22.
We have cleansing - 'the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin', 1 John 1. 7. Every believer is fully aware of the continued presence of sin in his heart - and is thoroughly ashamed of it; but, at the same time, he lives continually by faith under the cleansing and sanctifying power of the blood, Heb. 13. 12, applied by the heavenly Advocate, 1 John 2. 1, 2, thus keeping him in fellowship with the Father.
2. As it affects our Present Life
The blood imparts life - eternal life. 'Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life ... my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed ... he that ... drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me', John 6. 54-58.
To eat and drink the blood of flesh in Old Testament times was to incur the wrath of God and possible death: but to partake of the blood of Christ -that is, to personally trust him as Saviour - is to share His own divine, eternal life, and to live for ever, John 6. 51. Christ, through the Holy Spirit, takes up residence in the hearts of His own, Gal. 2. 20; Eph. 3. 17; Col. 3. 4.
3. As it affects our Future Life
'And I will raise him up at the last day', John 6. 54.
'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God', 1 Cor. 15. 50-the human mortal body of flesh must be put off when we have finished with it; but because the believer has been redeemed by the incorruptible blood of Christ, 1 Pet. 1. 18-19, and already partakes of His resurrection life, he will receive an incorruptible and immortal body when Christ returns. It will be re-created in the likeness of the Lord Himself, Phil. 1. 21.
In view of all the above, the believer has a two-fold responsibility:
a. To gather with fellow-believers every Lord's day around the table and express anew his gratitude to the Saviour as he partakes of the cup of remembrance, 1 Cor. 11. 23-24.
b. To remember that through the blood of Christ, he has in fact been purchased, Acts 20. 28. Like the redeemed firstborn of Exodus 12 he has been bought with a price, 1 Cor. 6. 20, and it is now his privilege to present his body a living sacrifice, Rom. 12. 1, to the One who set him free.