THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Ephesians 1: 6-7
Colossians 1: 19-22
Revelation 1: 5-6
I want to speak about the blood of Christ. Nothing is calculated to stir the heart of the lover of the Lord Jesus more than the consideration of His shed blood. The moment when His blood was poured out stands out in the history of time and eternity. What a moment! The Lord Jesus already dead, the work given Him to do finished, the three golden words, “It is finished,” uttered, and in supreme dignity and majesty He had delivered up His spirit to His Father.
What more was needed? All had been done. What was needed was that there should be a witness, an eternal witness, to that completed work. That witness would testify to the fact that the righteousness and holiness of God had been fully vindicated, and that every claim of His throne had been upheld. Moreover, God’s heart of love could now righteously be told out. Where was that witness to be found? That eternal witness was to be found in the blood of Christ.
John, the Gospel writer, was a witness to the blood-shedding (John 19:34‑35). John does not tell us everything that occurred in the area of the cross. He does not tell us about the winning of the dying thief. He does not tell us about that awful darkness that shrouded the land for three hours. He does not tell us about the forsaking, nor about the centurion’s confession. We might ask, ‘John, did you miss all these vital happenings at the scene of the cross?’ But are we not all thankful that he lets us into that scene in which he describes the wonder of the blood flowing from the side of Christ? What a moment, indeed!
In his Gospel, John portrays it as an answer to the soldier’s hateful spear‑thrust. I think at some stage he might have had a conversation with Peter, because, in his epistle, Peter tells us that the basis of our redemption was the blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:18‑20). He also tells us that the blood was foreknown before the foundation of the world. What a marvellous consideration, that the way in which the eternal counsels of God were to be effected was thought of in eternity, and that that consideration involved the blood of Christ! Little wonder that Peter calls it “precious blood!”
Let me say that whatever appreciation we may have of the blood of Christ, there is an eye that rests on that blood with an infinitely greater appreciation, and that is the eye of God. So let us begin in Leviticus 16 by considering what the blood means to God. The Day of Atonement was the divinely prescribed way by which sin in God’s sight would be dealt with each year, and God would be appeased and go on in patience with His people for another year. On this day, the sins of the people had also to be confessed. What a contrast to the basis of our blessing!
Let us look at the detail of this section. The bullock has been taken as a sin‑offering for Aaron and his house, and two goats are taken, one being for Jehovah’s lot, the other for Azazel. The goat taken for Jehovah’s lot is slain. Aaron moves through the tabernacle, taking the censer full of burning coals from off the altar, and with his hands full of fragrant incense, beaten small, which speaks of the perfections of Christ. He moves through the inner veil to where the mercy‑seat is located. The book of Exodus shows us the details of these fragrant drugs. There were four of them – stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense (Exodus 30:34). They all had to be blended together in like proportions, not one dominating over another, speaking of the beauties and perfections of the Lord Jesus. The tiniest portion of this blended incense would be representative of the whole.
As Aaron goes in to the holy of holies, he takes that fragrant incense and sprinkles it on the coals of fire. What is then released is a cloud of fragrant incense to delight and satisfy God Himself. It has been said that ‘a cloud met a cloud’ (Fundamental Truths of Christianity and The Kingdom of God, GRC, p28), the presence of God being indicated in the cloud upon the mercy‑seat (v2). The glory of God hidden in the cloud over the mercy‑seat is met by the cloud of fragrant incense which is released. Aaron also has the blood of the sin‑offering with him, and this he sprinkles once on the mercy‑seat, and seven times before the mercy‑seat. Whose eye does the blood have to meet? It has to meet the eye of God. What gives efficacy to the blood is the preciousness and beauty and glory of the person of Christ, of Whom the fragrant incense speaks.
We sometimes speak of the ‘work of propitiation.’ God looks on the blood on the mercy‑seat, and all His attributes are satisfied. His eye rests complacently on the blood, and He can now say, ‘I am favourable towards you.’ God is propitious. The other part of the work of Christ is that of substitution. That involves the confession of sins on the head of the live goat, but I want to concentrate on what the blood means to God. It is wonderful that, even in this provisional setting in Leviticus 16, it was on the basis of shed blood, and that of an unblemished victim, that God rested His eye, and was appeased as far as the matter of sin was concerned.
How far greater has been the offering of Christ! He has gone into the presence of God in the power of His own blood, not on the basis of a sacrifice repeated year after year, but on that of one sacrifice and one blood-shedding! All God’s glory is completely satisfied by that one shedding of Christ’s blood, and He is favourable towards His creature. That is an amazing matter. Our blessing is wonderful because of that blood, which is the basis of that blessing. However, without God’s eye resting upon that blood, without His presence being filled with the infinite delightfulness of Christ’s fragrance, there would be no propitiation, and hence no blessing for us. But on the basis of that blood on the mercy‑seat we can approach God in the full assurance of faith. How wonderful is the way that God has not only made His heart known, but also opened up a way into His presence for all who put their faith in that blood! The high priest went into God’s presence only once a year. Think of the magnitude of the blessing that is ours, that we can go in there at any time, because of the blood of Christ!
We may ask about what happened to the victim itself. The carcass of the burnt‑offering is offered on the altar of burnt‑offering. What about the carcass of the sin‑offering? Is it burnt there? No! The carcass of the sin‑offering is taken outside the camp, and is burnt there. “Wherefore also Jesus … suffered without the gate” (Heb 13:12). Oh, the ignominy of the sufferings of Christ! If we were to approach God by the new and living way into the liberty of His own presence, the Lord Jesus had to endure the ignominious sufferings of Calvary.
For the moment, just rest your eye on the scene inside the veil. In the tabernacle, if you had started at the altar of burnt‑offering and proceeded inwards, you would have found blood, blood, blood. On the altar it is there; on the laver it is there; on the golden altar it is there; on the veil separating the holy place from the most holy place it is there. Yet nothing is more affecting than to view that scene in the most holy place, where, on the mercy‑seat, God’s throne, there is the blood that fully satisfies His eye. The mercy‑seat was hidden in that inner location, but the wonder of this dispensation is that God has taken the mercy‑seat out into public view, not now as a material item, but He has shown it forth in the Person of Christ (Rom 3:25), that we might have redemption through His blood. That takes us to Ephesians 1.
Ephesians 1 indicates the height of the Christian’s calling. We answer to the call of God’s grace in the gospel, we come to appreciate the blood, and our sins are forgiven. That is not the fullness of our calling! The fullness of that calling is set out in Ephesians 1, and there we discover that in a past eternity God chose us for blessing. Is that not wonderful? When He made this plan that would involve our blessing, He built into that plan a basis on which we might be redeemed and brought to knowledge of Himself. That basis was “redemption through His blood.” It should thrill our hearts that, on the one hand, God’s eye rests on the blood, and on the other, we can have full forgiveness because of that blood. Further, on that same basis, we can stand in righteousness before God in the full enjoyment of the blessings which He purposed in eternity. It is with point that Paul refers to the blood in this chapter. He would remind the Ephesians, and us, that the grandeur of the believer’s calling, and the entrance into it practically, is on the basis of our redemption. The price has been paid by Christ.
We could not pay that price, because it was too great. Jesus paid that price when His blood was shed. As we put our faith in that blood our redemption is secure. We are brought back to God in the same way that every sinner who has put their trust in the blood has been brought back, not at our own cost, but at the cost of the One Who shed His precious blood.
These two verses which I read are encased within “the glory of His grace” and “the riches of His grace.” Paul says, “wherein He has taken us into favour in the Beloved: in Whom we have redemption through His blood.” Not now the confession of the people’s sins on the head of the goat that was sent away into the land of forgetfulness by the hand of a man standing by. No, the same work that satisfied God has met my need, so that my sins are forgiven through His blood. Here is Paul, the great apostle, and we can join him as standing on the same basis, resting on the finished work of Christ and on His shed blood.
We sang that hymn, ‘Full atonement – Can it be?’ (Hymn 426). Yes, it is! Full atonement is not seen in Leviticus 16 but at Calvary’s cross, where we can witness all that was transacted there and the completeness of what He finished. We can say, ‘Full atonement.’ Nothing can stand out against the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ; everything has been met by the blood of Christ.
Then, God has in mind not only our redemption, but that, as bought by Him, we become available to Him for service. That is, we are available to Him for service God-ward, but also service man-ward.
The section read in Leviticus 8 is very interesting, as it deals with the hallowing and the consecration of the priests. What I am particularly interested in is the blood being put on Aaron and his sons; on their right ears, right thumbs, and right toes. Earlier in the chapter we see that Aaron was anointed without blood, but with the holy anointing oil. The Lord Jesus must ever stand out as unique. Look at Him coming out of the Jordan, and witness the Father’s delight expressed in Him, and the Spirit coming as a dove and abiding on Him. There was nothing in Him that had to be removed, no stain. God’s pleasure in Him was full, it was perfect.
As we move on in the chapter we come to the consecration of the priests. This word ‘consecration’ is literally ‘a filling of the hands.’ It means full devotion, full committal: as being redeemed by that precious blood and as indwelt by the Spirit of God, God expects me to be here as part of a consecrated company, devoted to His service, whatever that may be. And so we come to the ram of consecration, which speaks of the Lord Jesus. Think of how His hands were filled for His God. Every step of that blessed pathway here: His mornings, His evenings, and all through the day. He was truly the Ram of consecration. We see Him in His unflagging energy. We see Him in His weariness at the well, yet not so weary that He would not be in service for His God. All was part of the full devotion of Christ to His God. As priests, as having been redeemed and having a desire to be serviceable to God, our service must take character from the service which was seen in the Lord Jesus. What a challenge that is!
Here, the blood of the slain ram is taken and put on the ear, the thumb and the toe. You also find this in the cleansing of the leper in Leviticus, although it is different there because communion, in a sense, is under question. Here there is no failure yet, because this is the formal setting up of the tabernacle system involving the priests in their service to God. Failure comes in shortly when strange fire is offered, but at this point, there is the inauguration of the priesthood. Persons are claimed totally for God, and the basis is the blood.
As we appreciate that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, do we pause and consider what claims Christ has upon us? For instance, what claim has He on our ears? We can think of that in the committal of the Lord Jesus, in His listening and His obedience: “He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the instructed” (Isa 50:4). Think of the claim of love that the Lord Jesus has on the ear of each one of us.
Then there is the hand: the claim for service; what are our hands engaged in? Our hands are busy many times in our own things. How are they engaged in the things of God? He would claim us for service under Himself.
The blood also was to be put on the toe of the foot. He claims the whole person.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
I have read this Scripture to raise a challenge with us all as to whether the claim of divine love, as witnessed by the blood, finds a practical answer in all our lives. In the Gospels, the Lord took that deaf man aside and He cured his hearing (Mark 7:32-35). That was the occasion when He groaned. Under His touch the man was not only able to hear, but also able to speak right. There was the case of the man with the withered hand, and He healed that hand as well (Luke 6:6‑10). Then there were the crippled and lame, and He healed them so that they could walk (Matt 15:30).
So He claims us totally for Himself, for the testimony. Paul speaks in Romans of presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). It is all done in the light of His offering, when He offered Himself totally: ear, hand, foot – everything – was all for God. What a challenge to us all, as to whether we hold ourselves in that way, available in totality for the things of God! We are still in the flesh and we fall short, but let us be reminded to have a look at our ears, our hands, and our feet, and see whether we are in keeping with what should mark a consecrated person, a person whose hands are going to be filled in view of what is for the pleasure of God. As the chapter goes on, things are put into the hands of Aaron and his sons, and they are filled. All is to be waved as a wave‑offering before God. That is what God is looking for in our lives, what speaks to Him of Christ.
There is an example of this at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, where Simeon’s arms are filled with Christ. I do not think that was an isolated incident in his life. When he says, “Now Thou lettest Thy bondman go” (Luke 2:29), I think it shows that he had lived a life that was for God. So it is in the case of Anna. Let us challenge ourselves as to whether there is a real, living response in our practical daily walk and service that in some measure takes character from what was seen so fully in Christ Himself. The appeal to our hearts is the blood. The same blood which was shed at Calvary to redeem us would be the witness to the claim that God would use as leverage in order that our lives are fully devoted to His will.
Now I move on to Colossians – the blood of His cross. The writer has already portrayed in this chapter the glory of Christ. Following the writer’s mention of “the Son of His love,” he gives us line after line of the glory of Christ. He speaks of “Image of the invisible God, Firstborn of all creation,” the Creator of all things, and so on. Then he comes to this verse, “For in Him all the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell.” Our hearts should bow before the One Who is so great! Think of that One in Whom resided the fullness of Godhead in His manhood here.
Then he says, “And by Him.” He was the instrument that God used, is using, and will use “to reconcile all things to itself.” Not just atonement for sin now, which was the work we touched on in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we get reconciliation. Atonement deals with the negative side: the meeting of all that stood out against us before God. Reconciliation not only meets all that negative side, but it brings us near to God in perfect complacency. That is the beauty of reconciliation.
God looks at the heavens and the earth, and He sees the marring of His creation by man’s hand. How was it all going to be reconciled? He looks out on His creature, a sinner in His eyes. How is everything going to be reconciled? There was only one way: by Him, by the Person of Jesus! Let us get an impression of the greatness of the Lord Jesus as the One Who has effected reconciliation, soon to be seen in a universe answering to every thought of God’s heart.
It says, “By Him … having made peace by the blood of His cross.” What a statement! It does not say ‘the blood of Christ,’ although it means that. It is “the blood of His cross.” It shows the extent to which that blessed One had to go, and the cost that had to be borne – the blood of His cross – if reconciliation was to be effected for God’s praise. That peace that was made, that peace is God’s peace. When sin came in, God’s rest was disturbed. How was that rest to find its repose? It has found its repose in Christ, and it has found its repose in the shedding of the blood of His cross. God had to be satisfied first. God is going to look out on a scene where everything is reconciled, and that on the basis of Christ’s blood. We underestimate the effects of man’s fall. Everything has been disturbed by it: the earth, the heavens, and the groaning creation. All, to God’s eye, has been disturbed. The only answer to it all has been what He has found in Christ and in the blood of His cross.
It then says, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in mind by wicked works, yet now has it reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.” What for? “To present you holy and unblamable and irreproachable before it.” That is, that on the basis of the blood, enemies can be drawn near to God in such a way that history is erased – irreproachable, holy, without blame. These words can be attached to all who come by way of the blood of His cross.
That is why I read these last verses in the Revelation. “To Him Who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His blood.” As we have touched on the sufferings of Christ, and what the blood means to God and to us, let it draw out from our hearts a fresh appreciation of an unchanging love. The Jesus of Revelation 1 is the same as the Jesus of chapter 22. He is the same Jesus of today. “To Him Who loves us.” Think of John, in his isolation and loneliness, still having this view of what belonged to God through the blood of Christ.
No matter whether we reach the height of our calling, let us remind ourselves that it all depended on Him washing us from our sins in His blood; “and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” The new and living way is opened up by the blood of Jesus. We can go through the veil, which is His flesh. We can go in to God’s presence in all the liberty of forgiven sinners, but more than that, in all the liberty of sonship, so that we can respond to this God from Whose heart all our blessing has come.
And so let us be with John as we accord our blessed Saviour this doxology, “To Him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen.”
6 March 2004