Vivid among memories of my years of medical practice is the recollection of an emergency call to see the victim of a ghastly accident. One minute this man was the picture of health; two minutes later he was dead, drained of blood by a laceration of the aorta.
A massive hemorrhage always presents a problem of the first magnitude for a physician. If it is not stopped, death invariably ensues; as the Scriptures say, “the life is in the blood.”
From some, the mention of our Lord’s shed blood brings the retort that “this is a slaughterhouse religion, a concept of God that the modern mind cannot accept.” I have heard this remark, and it sends a chill down my spine. I am reminded of Hebrews 10:28: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy [ordinary] thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
It is not for man to question the blood atonement; what he is to do is humbly accept this mysterious evidence of God’s love.
What does the Bible have to say about blood in general, and about the shed blood of Christ in particular?
Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:11, 14 state that the life is in the blood, and this connection between blood and life carries over into the spiritual realm. Without the redeeming blood of Christ, blood shed for the remission of sins, there can be no spiritual life. The minister who in his teaching and preaching denies or ignores the blood of Christ does so at deadly peril to all concerned.
We are familiar with the story of the delivery of the children of Israel from Egypt. Commanded to sprinkle blood on the door posts and lintels of their houses, they were comforted with these words: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” for “the blood shall be to you a token” (Exod. 12:13). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says of Moses: “Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them” (Heb. 11:28).
That there is a symbolic or prophetic note in this incident is evident. Mankind stands in judgment before God, and in the midst of judgment God offers mercy and forgiveness. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you”—this reminds a sinful world that God poured out his judgment upon his Son on Calvary because he loves us so much. “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). To what purpose? That by faith the blood of the murdered Son of God might stand between us and the righteous judgment of a Holy God.
The blood of the Lamb of God fulfilled what the blood of bulls and goats could not, for the Old Covenant was superseded by the New. Jesus “took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:27, 28).
Later the risen Lord revealed to the Apostle Paul the significance of this sacrament: “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25).
Writing to Jewish Christians, men and women deeply aware of sacrificial significance, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews shows the significance of the blood atonement of our Lord: “Into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.… But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:7, 8, 11, 12).
And then to crown this glorious truth the writer adds: “For if the blood of bulls and goats … sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (vs. 13, 14).
Placing the blood of Christ in perfect perspective the author concludes: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesusp Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20, 21).
The Apostle Peter writes: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2). Peter goes on: “Redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (vs. 18, 19).
John takes up the theme: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
In the Revelation the elders sing: “Thou art worthy … for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (5:9). The final victory is foretold in these words: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death” (12:11).
Mysterious though it may be, the blood of the Son of God, shed on Calvary, is the agent of man’s redemption—“whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:25). “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9). “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
Man may reject or discredit the blood of Christ but he does so to his own eternal undoing. Much as a bloodless religion may appeal to the esthetic sense, it is as dead as an exsanguinated corpse!
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