The atoning blood of Christ is mentioned repeatedly in the Scriptures. Jesus instructed His disciples to engage in a special service (the Communion), and to observe it at intervals down through the centuries so that we might not forget the blood that was shed for us on Calvary.
Throughout the entire Bible there are dozens of references to sacrifices and to blood. Some say that the Christian religion is a gory religion (a religion that finds its delight in the shedding of blood), but the Cross of Christ and the shedding of His blood are the means by which we who were “sometimes afar off” are now “made nigh” unto God. It is the blood of Christ that brings a reconciliation between the sinner and God. This is the heart of the Christian message. It is the foundation of our Christian faith. If we are not clear about the blood of Christ, we cannot be right anywhere. Our gospel is a gospel related to blood.
1. The Necessity for Blood Atonement
It was our sin that made the crucifixion of Jesus a necessity. Paul says (in Romans 1) that the mind of man is filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, envy, strife, malignity, etc. Jesus says (in Mark 7) that from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, slander, pride, and foolishness. When measured by the Bible’s standard of right and wrong, every human being is found wanting. If we once see ourselves as God sees us, we will say with Moses, “I am unworthy,” and with Isaiah, “Woe is me for I am undone.”
Your sins may not be exactly like my sins because there are hundreds of varieties of sin—cheating and swearing and envy and adultery—but whatever they are, they put a separation between us and God, and God’s holiness demands that sin be punished. Even John 3:16 has a dark side to it. We must never forget the word “perish.” Human beings are in danger of perishing. There is something awful from which we need to be saved. Our sins have put a separation between us and God, and so the crucial question is: “How can God and man become reconciled again?”
In the minds of many, salvation is a kind of do-the-best-you-can sort of thing. They look at it as a stack of good deeds set up alongside a stack of bad deeds, and hope that when life is over, the good deeds will outweigh the bad. Thus salvation to such persons is a cheap religious exchange, in which for our goodness, we ask God to forget our badness. Others are foolish enough to believe that all one has to do in order to get reconciled with God is to practice the Golden Rule. They say that the Golden Rule is the only religion any person needs. The problem is that no person has ever kept the Golden Rule continually and perfectly, and therefore instead of saving us, it only adds to our condemnation.
The gulf between man and God is so wide and the separation is so great that no man by his own efforts is able to bridge it. And so God himself (moved by love and mercy), acted on behalf of man—and He himself provided a means of atonement. He sent His own Son into the world, who was crucified at the hands of wicked men, and whose blood was shed from a Cross—in order that He might justly secure a reconciliation between God and man. You see, Jesus is God—and when Jesus died, God himself was dying. And thus God himself paid the penalty that we should have paid. The Bible speaks of the “church of God” which He “purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Years ago there was a guerilla leader named Shamel, who was fighting against the Czars in Russia. A number of men and their families camped together in the same area. One day stealing broke out in the camp and Shamel laid down the law. He said the penalty for anyone caught stealing would be 100 lashes with a whip. Before long the thief was caught, and it turned out to be Shamel’s own mother! Shamel had a problem. Stealing just couldn’t be tolerated, and yet he loved his own mother. The punishment was carried out, but after several blows of the whip, Shamel removed his mother from the place of punishment and ordered that the lashes be put upon his own back. He took the punishment in his own body so that his mother could go free. That is what Jesus did for us. It was our sin that required punishment, but it was God’s love that provided the incentive which caused Him to pay the penalty in His own body.
2. The Nature of the Blood Atonement
The New Testament repeatedly says that it was the blood of Jesus that made a perfect atonement for man’s sin. Jesus says, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Paul says, “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). Peter says, “You were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). John says, “God is light . . . and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:5, 7). The last book of the Bible says, “Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). The Scriptures teach over and over again that the blood of Jesus Christ has made satisfaction for sins, and that in His death, the penalty for our sins has been paid.
The blood atonement is described in the Scriptures by the use of a number of phrases and figures of speech:
One of the words is propitiation. The word “propitiate” means “to turn away wrath.” God’s wrath is heavy upon us because of our sins. It is not that God storms around in the heavens like a man who has lost his temper, but He has a fixed attitude of displeasure with sin. Sin offends God, and God is displeased—but Jesus died to “propitiate” (to “turn away”) the displeasure of God. Romans 3:25 says that God set Jesus forth to be the propitiation for our sins through faith in his blood.
Another description from the Scriptures is that the blood of Jesus cleanses from sin. Sin lets a crimson stain upon our lives. Martin Luther once thought he saw Satan coming toward him with a huge book under his arm. “This book,” said Satan, “contains the record of the sins in your life.” Luther replied, “Stop. Here’s another book. It says that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” The fact is that every lie we ever told, and every mean and low-down thing we have ever done, can be cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Then too Jesus died as a Substitute for us. The word “Substitute” means that He died in our place. He bore our penalty. He stood where we should have stood. He suffered for sins, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Substitution means that something happened to Jesus and because it happened to Him it need not happen to us. Do you remember that the Cross Jesus bore really belonged to a criminal named Barabbas? Surely Barabbas dreaded the day of his execution, but when the authorities came to his cell, they came with good news. They said, “Barabbas, you are a fortunate man. Jesus of Nazareth is going to die in your place. We have orders to release you.” And the criminal Barabbas was set free! He was absolved of the charges against him! He was saved from the death he deserved to die! Barabbas went away a free man—not because he was innocent, but because Another took his place. And that is how it can be with us.
3. The Results of Blood Atonement
The atonement is available to anyone, but it only becomes effective for those who believe. If we believe with genuine faith that Christ’s blood satisfies God’s penalty for sin, there are several results:
(a) Our redemption is paid. The word “redeem” means “to buy back.” The sinner is pictured in the Bible as a slave under sin (Romans 7:1-4). He has no power to free himself unless someone takes pity upon him and comes to the slave market and buys him from his master and sets him free. Christ is the One who does this very thing for us. The Bible says that we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Philip Bliss caught the essence of this thought when he wrote, “Sing oh sing of my Redeemer, with His blood He purchased me; on the Cross He sealed my pardon, paid the debt and made me free.”
(b) Our justification is secured. In the book of Romans we read that we are “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). Justification is a beautiful word. It is more than forgiveness. A man may steal from his neighbor, and if he is caught, his neighbor can forgive him—but the man who stole is still guilty of the crime. One who is justified (by way of contrast) is not only forgiven, but he is actually acquitted (declared to be “without guilt”). One who comes to the foot of the Cross and accepts Jesus Christ and meets the conditions of salvation is counted just-as-if he had never sinned. He is declared not guilty. He is justified. His sins are canceled.
(c) Our victory is made possible. Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” The blood of Christ has power to make us victors more and more over sin. There are many blasted and defeated lives. Scarcely an hour goes by that Satan doesn’t bring upon us a fresh attack—and since we are still in the physical body, sometimes we are led into sin. But the power of the Cross is our best defense against evil. We must learn to think often about Calvary and to remember the blood that Jesus shed. When we are thinking about the Cross, and about the price paid for our salvation, and about the lonely Son of God (and His blood-stained hands and feet)—in those moments sin has no power over us! Charles Wesley says in one of his hymns: “O for a heart to love my God, a heart from sin set free, a heart that always feels the blood so freely shed for me.” Each of us should pray often, “Oh God, give me a heart that always feels the blood.”
This has been the core of God’s wonderful plan of salvation. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can guarantee the salvation and safety of your soul. And so we urge today that (if you have never done it) you will say with the hymnwriter: “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me.” Regardless of how many blotches your past life may have seen, the moment you turn to Jesus Christ in sincere repentance and faith, He will blot out every stain, forgive every iniquity, and treat you as if you were an innocent person. We implore you to pray: “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I deserve your wrath. I believe you died to pay for my sins. I am going to receive you today as my Saviour.”
To accept Christ as your Saviour (and to have your sins forgiven) does not mean that you can do as you please and live on in sin—and then walk up to God on the Day of Judgment and demand a share in the eternal reward. Obedience to the commands of God’s Word is going to be a fruit of real faith. In fact, any professed faith in Christ which says nothing about obedience to God is not faith, but mere presumption. To accept Christ as Saviour means we follow Him as Master.