Blood plays an important part in scripture. In the Old Testament, it speaks of death and is symbolic and typical. In the New Testament, it speaks of life and is real and powerful. Christians today have failed to grasp the full importance of the Blood of Christ, its power in making us holy, being satisfied instead with its power to cleanse us from our sins.
Blood is the life principle in all living creatures. Until the seventeenth century, little was understood about its function in relation to the body until studies showed how its circulation throughout the body was the key to the functioning of the body’s organs, muscles and tissue and the one essential in the continuation of life for the whole. Nonetheless, a sense of mystery has been associated with blood since the earliest times and it was the centre of many primitive rituals. Today, amongst primitive peoples, there still are blood feuds, blood rites, blood brotherhood and blood sacrifices, including ritual self-mutilation of the body to draw blood and develop impressive scars.
Even in modern society, where the study of blood and its properties has produced its own branch of science known as haematology, blood still carries with it an aura of mystery and awe. One might be said, for example, to “be of bad blood”, signifying an inherent weakness or predisposition to evil. Of course, that is true of the whole human race but when people use the expression they mean to convey that a particular person is outside the boundaries of acceptable human behaviour. Similarly, blood can be used in racial stereotyping, as in “he is of Italian (or Welsh, or Scandinavian, etc.) blood”. “Hot-blooded” and “cold-blooded” convey meanings that are readily recognised by most people.
Blood in the Old Testament
In the Bible, blood first appears obliquely. When Adam and Eve sinned they covered themselves with fig leaves because they recognised their nakedness. Not their nudity, but the sudden exposure caused by their sin. Later on, in Genesis 3:21, God came and clothed them with animal skins, signifying that blood had been shed, thereby establishing the principle that was later enunciated by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews; “…….and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
When God made a covenant with Abraham, He required that Abraham be circumcised, which is a form of blood rite that became entrenched in the Jewish Law. The shedding of blood in this way allowed the one circumcised to claim the benefits and protection of that covenant bond that God made with Abraham. Subsequently, under the Law, blood became an important part of the sacrificial ritual and service to God by His people. Blood was used in the annual offering for atonement and in ritual cleansing and, throughout the history of the Old Covenant, blood was steeped in deeply reverent and symbolic attributes.
All of these things, of course, were allegorical and pointed to a fulfillment in future times. The writer to the Hebrews draws the right conclusion;
“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and a heifer’s ashes sprinkling the defiled, sanctifies for the sake of the purification of the flesh, how much more the blood of the Christ, who by means of the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, will purify your conscience from dead works in order to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
We see here a comparison of the efficacy of the blood of slaughtered animals under the Old Covenant and the blood of Christ under the New Covenant. The former was an outward efficacy only for the removal of ceremonial impurity and a restoration of their external cleanliness. The inner man was unaffected by these rituals prescribed under the Law. For example, the blood of goats and bulls was used regularly throughout the Jewish calendar in offerings of different types and on different occasions for different purposes, as prescribed in the Law, and most particularly on the annual Day of Atonement.
As to the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes, this refers to a ritual prescribed under the Old Covenant for dealing with ceremonial impurity. This condition occurred where one had touched or approached a dead body and was considered ceremonially unclean. The practice was that a perfect red heifer, which had never borne the yoke, was to be slaughtered outside Israel’s camp, its blood sprinkled seven times in front of the tabernacle, its body burned with cedar and hyssop and the ashes stored for use in the preparation of the ne middah, or “water for the removal of impurity”. Anyone ceremonially defiled was to be cleansed by being sprinkled with water containing some of the ashes of the heifer.
These Old Covenant sacrifices were token only, in the sense that they involved the sacrifice of animals, but they also had a purpose in pointing to a forthcoming self-sacrifice that would achieve all that the Law could not.
The Shed Blood of Christ
In Christ’s shedding of His blood upon the Cross, He fulfilled the sacrificial types of the Old Covenant, including those mentioned above, as well as the type of the Passover lamb, the spotless lamb without blemish whose blood marked the deliverance of Israel from bondage to Egypt, a type of sin. In His self-sacrifice, the Blood of Christ serves to do what the blood of goats and bulls symbolised under the Old Covenant could never do- erase the sins of the people. But the cleansing offered by the blood of Christ is no mere ceremonial ritual, as it was with the blood of bulls and goats, there being another aspect to the self-sacrifice of Christ, as we shall see, that has to do with the inadequacy of the Law when it came to making the people holy and obedient.
But in the meantime, let us consider the value of the Blood of Christ.
“For the life of every creature is in its blood….” (Leviticus 17:11).
And so it was with Christ. Ah, the Blood of Christ! It carries with it and in it the life of Him whose Blood it was and who Himself is God! Its precious and inestimable value comes from this divine quality and from the perfection and holiness of the life that its owner lived while upon the earth. That life was a divine life, part of the eternal spirit that is God. His humanity was a manifestation of what God meant man to be when He created him – perfect in obedience and holiness, pleasing to the Father. The life of God dwelt in the blood of Christ. The eternal spirit was in the life of that blood. It is this infinite worth of His blood that gives it its power; not only in atoning once and for all for sin, but in opening heaven to those who take hold of the offer of His blood and draw nigh to God.
But it is not only in the perfect quality of the life of Jesus that the Blood can be valued. Blood in scripture is primarily towards God; that is, in the first instance it satisfies God’s requirement that sin can only be washed away with blood. Now whereas the under the Law, ritual cleansing from defilement could be obtained through the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes, it was powerless to cleanse internally and to make holy or perfect. It was ritualistic and symbolic only. All of the sins under the Old Covenant had, in fact, been stored up and were finally dealt with by the Blood of Christ.
“And for this reason He is the mediator of a New Covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
So despite the sacrificial rituals under the Old Covenant, it wasn’t until Jesus arose from the dead that the sins of those under the Old Covenant were finally swept away. The value that God places on the Blood of Christ therefore, is apparent. It is able to cleanse from all sins, both past and present, since the beginning of time. So if we cannot truly understand the power that is in His Blood because of the perfection and obedience of the Son, we can at least take it at the value that God Himself places on it. Understanding about the Blood and its power and efficacy cannot be arrived at by reason, but only by faith. As we accept what the Word says, we enter in to take hold of the power that is in the Blood to cleanse us from dead works so as to serve the Living God.
The Sprinkled Blood of Christ
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the Living God……..and to God the Judge of all…………….and to Jesus, mediator of a New Covenant and to the Blood of sprinkling…….” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
“…….elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ……” (1 Peter 1:2).
His offering of Himself not only addresses the problem of atoning for sin, but also does what the writer to the Hebrews said the Law could never do; it was “……unable to perfect as to conscience, him that worshipped” (Hebrews 9:9). This is the unique claim of the blood of Jesus; it is not only efficacious for atonement, but also for perfection and holiness of the believer. The cleansing referred to here is not of the soul or the mind or the flesh, but of the “conscience” and this contrasts with the ritual purification under the Law which made the Jews outwardly clean only. Under the New Covenant and its offering of the blood of Christ, the cleansing is internal. Conscience is the internal faculty or principle that recognises the moral quality of one’s motives and actions. It was Adam’s conscience that led him to hide from God when his eyes were opened to his guilt of sin. The conscience is not a separate part of our inner nature, which is isolated from the reality of the whole. The conscience is the sense that pervades the whole nature and reflects our true inner spiritual state. To cleanse the conscience is to cleanse the whole man and that is what is offered in the blood of Christ.
The only way we can have the life of Christ is to take hold of His Blood with which we are sprinkled and let it live in us. It is a sort of spiritual blood transfusion. If life is in the blood, then we must replace our life’s blood with His so that it becomes His life coursing through our veins, bringing with it our regeneration to His nature, His character, His obedience, His holiness and His perfection.
That inner cleansing is essential if we are to truly worship Him in spirit and in truth. “How much more the Blood of Christ…………..will purify (cleanse, purge) your conscience from dead works in order to worship (or serve) the Living God” (Hebrews 9:14). That is the two-fold purpose of the Blood – that we may have our consciences cleansed from dead works and that we can worship and serve the Living God. If the former condition has not been fulfilled, then the latter is not possible.
Thus, the Word identifies two ways in which the Blood of Christ is effective – firstly, in dealing with our sins, which is the work of justification. Secondly, in dealing with the sin principle at work in our lives, which is the work of sanctification. The first cleanses us from what is done, the second from the power of the flesh to make us sin. No matter how many sins a man commits, it is always the sin principle at work in him that leads him to sin. So every person needs not only forgiveness from sins, but deliverance from the power of this sin principle that has been established in the corrupted flesh of man since Adam. To put it another way, when the light of God first shines in our hearts we are able to see our sins and we cry out to God for forgiveness. But as time goes on and we constantly fall back into sinful ways, we recognise that there is something at work in us that leads us inevitably to commit sins. It is then that we realise that we need not only forgiveness from our sins but deliverance from the power within us that makes us sin.
It is the shed Blood that atones for our sins. This is the work of justification that reflects and fulfills the Old Covenant sacrifices.
It is the sprinkled Blood that is able to deliver us from the power of sin. This is the work of sanctification that does what the Old Covenant sacrifices could not do; make us holy and perfect.
It is only the Blood of Christ that has the power to overcome the sinful nature. And that is the promise of the New Covenant – that we can be internally transformed by receiving, by faith, the sprinkled Blood of Christ from Him who ministers to us directly from the true heavenly tabernacle. Our imaginations cannot conceive how this might be, but we must accept it by faith and act on it in faith. Christ is sprinkling His Blood upon those who seek it from heaven. He waits for us to take hold of it and allow it to do its sanctifying work in us. In His Blood is His life in all its divine quality and power, its holiness, perfection and obedience. As we allow it to work in us, it will bring that life that is in His Blood into our veins and gradually transfuse our blood with His, effecting that internal cleansing and divine empowerment that only the Blood can bring.
Blood and Defence Against Satan
But apart from its work in achieving forgiveness for our sins and delivering us from the power of the sin principle, the Blood of Christ is effective in another most important way; it is in dealing with the guilt brought on by the accusations of the enemy. Satan accuses us in our consciences, driving a barrier between God and ourselves. The accusations of the enemy make us believe that we are unfit for fellowship with God, that somehow we just can’t make it. And, in a sense, he is right. But the mistake we make is to endeavour to justify ourselves by looking within and finding something redeeming in our human nature, our behaviour or values to deal with Satan’s attack. Or, on the other hand, we might just give up, as many have done, and admit that it is all too hard for us, and yield to despairing unbelief. Many, alas, do this.
But this is the wrong way to handle the accuser of the brethren because, fundamentally, he is quite right in saying that we are unfit for fellowship with God. He should know because it is the proud work of Satan in the flesh of man that cut him off from God in the first instance. In bringing his accusations against us, Satan is depending on us reacting out of our humanity. We only give any considerations to his charges and search within our hearts because we hope to defend ourselves on the basis of some righteousness of our own. Thus, Satan succeeds in directing our attention in the wrong way, making us unable to truly deal with his accusations.
The fact is, as Paul said; “…….I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell…..” (Romans 7:18) and “…….they that are in flesh cannot please God” Romans 8:8).
Knowing this, therefore, we should not be deceived into answering Satan’s accusations except by pointing to the Blood of Christ. There is no other way of dealing with it. We cannot run to God for help because He has already provided it – in the Blood of Christ. So if a man comes to God under accusation, he is not able to be helped because he is not trusting in the Blood. We should never try and answer Satan’s accusations by trying harder in our flesh and seeking to be better than we are. We must point to the Blood and the Blood alone. We are sinners, without exception and without doubt. But the Blood cleanses us from every sin, past and present and we should not allow ourselves to be reminded or tormented by past transgressions that the enemy seeks to bring into our consciousness. We can answer Satan thus;
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:33,34).
In summary then, the precious Blood of Christ serves us in three ways; firstly, in the work of justification, or atoning for our sins; secondly, in the work of sanctification, or giving us power over sin; and thirdly, in rebutting the accusations of him who hates us with an unimaginable violence and hatred.
The efficacy of the Blood depends upon our making use of it, of taking God at His Word, in faith, and applying it in our lives. If we do that, we will find that there is indeed, “power in the Blood”.