Vol. 1 - No. 7
How Does Blood Redeem Sinners?
by Darwin Chandler
(This is one of several articles by Darwin, who I considered to be one of my best friends, which indicated to brethren that he was on the road to apostasy. This article and others by him are offered only for historical value and cannot be endorsed as representative of truth.)
Most of us would admit that many of our concepts of even very basic doctrines, is often superficial. Consequently, in those areas where we must apply those doctrines, such application would be superficial. And if that application involves corresponding spiritual benefit, we can see that the benefit received must be superficial. For example, the Lord's Supper cannot impart to us the blessings it is designed for, if the terms and doctrines on which it is based are not clearly understood. As an illustration: "What are we to think of when we drink the 'cup'?" The answer to this question is the foundation of this study. In order to get to the heart of the matter, we must begin approximately 7,000 years ago.
The Origin and Meaning of Sacrifice
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die," (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) is a statement in brief of the great complexity brought into human existence because of sin. It is a reminder of the original sentence proclaimed against Adam's transgression (Genesis 2:7). Because sin is a violation of God's nature, man's nature, and of man's relationship to God, it must be punished. Yet literal punishment of the sinner would kill him. The only way to punish sin without destroying the sinner, is to punish a substitute. Something of this concept must have prompted the practice of appointing a "whipping boy," in royal families. When the young prince or princess misbehaved, the misdeed would be punished, but a substitute‑‑the "whipping boy"‑‑would bear the actual, physical punishment.
The necessity of providing a substitute sin‑bearer, in order that man might be spared destruction, accounts for the origin of "sacrifice." It had its beginning in Eden, and was perpetuated throughout history, up to the very present. We thus find Adam's sons (Genesis 4:1ff), Noah (Genesis 8:20), Abraham (Genesis 22:6‑13) and others engaged in sacrifice from the beginning. We are left to discover the real meaning of this act from Moses.
When God first allowed human consumption of animal flesh, He took great pains to impress man with the necessity of refusing to eat the blood (Genesis 9:4,5; Deuteronomy 12:16,23). The reason for this prohibition is not revealed until Moses is led to write that blood is that specific element in sacrifice which would provide atonement for sin. In the statement of Leviticus 17:1016, we are impressed with the truth that it was not the blood itself that made atonement, but rather, blood as the vehicle of life. Since the blood contained the life of the animal, God appointed the blood for the altar as the medium of atonement. It is said specifically that the blood atones by reason of the life (verse 11). The simple concept is‑‑the sinner's life is required, but the animal's life is given as a substitute.
It is interesting to note the exact wording of our passage. Verse 11 read literally, would say: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make atonement by reason of the life." (Here, the word "for" equals "instead; in place of." The word "Nephesh" is used in all three places where "life" appears in the above rendering.) In the prophetic passage of Isaiah 53:10, referring to the consummation of the sacrificial system, in the death of the Messiah, the word "Nephesh," meaning "life," is again used. Thus it is said "...Thou shalt make his life an offering for sin..." The significance of Christ's death would be that He gave up His life in order that our own life might be spared.
As long as the "soul" or "life" is in the body, the body remains alive. Physical life is sustained by the blood, thus blood sustains the connection between soul and body. When one dies by shedding his blood, his soul or "life" leaves his body. When Christ shed His blood, His life was made an offering for sin, and transferred to all of us who were "dead in ...sin" (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13).
These considerations lead us to understand that the real significance in the act of sacrifice, was not in merely killing an animal, but in taking the blood. Sacrificial victims could have been killed and burned on the altar without shedding any blood (e.g., strangling, poisoning, breaking the neck, etc., would be effective means of killing the animal, if its death was all that mattered). The important thing about sacrifice then, was not the death, as much as it was the taking away of the life, and the use of the life of that sacrifice. The blood flowing out represented the life leaving the victim. When the blood was sprinkled on the sinner, it represented the giving of life to him.
Scripture teaches that the sinner who would make a covenant with God must die (Hebrews 9:16,17; Colossians 2:13). But giving the life of the sacrificial victim to the sinner, enables the sinner's death to be represented in the death of his substitute, since it is the sinner's death which is inflicted on the sacrificial victim. The sinner "dies," but he does so "through his appointed substitute." For as long as merely animal blood was used, the whole routine had to be repeated endlessly, for, as Hebrews 10:4 says it is "impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin." Human life could not be adequately represented by animal life. To fully atone for sin, human life is required.
Thus Christ "Laid Down His Life" For Us
He Is Our Life.
Many passages show that the essence of Christ's sacrifice was in giving up His own life, that it might be transferred to us (John 6:53; 10:11; 15:13; Acts 8:33; Romans 5:10; 1 John 1:4; 3:16). Since the "life" we now possess, as saints, is directly due to His sacrifice, it is said that "Christ ...is our life" (Colossians 3:3,4). Behind this statement, is the truth that Christ's life, poured out in His blood, has been transferred to us. Paul remarks that Christ became man in order to die as men die, thereby making the virtue of His life available to us (Hebrews 2:14). Through a life perfectly lived, then willingly given up, He could, in approaching God, provide for us also a means of approach "in His blood" (Hebrews 9:12). So then the life of Christ taken from Him and applied to us, cleanses us and enables us to serve "the living God" acceptably because applying His blood to us removes the defilement of "dead works" (Hebrews 9:14). For these reasons, direct references to His death are less frequent as references to His blood. The important thing was the manner of death, involving the giving up of "life" so that "life" might be transferred to us.
From these considerations, we can see that when Jesus said of His blood, that it was the "blood of the new covenant" which was shed "for remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28), He intended for us to learn that His blood, when applied to the sinner, will wipe away His sins and thus free him from the penalty of death‑‑thus giving him life.
His Blood Applied In Baptism
By now it is obvious that the significance of sacrifice lies in what it represents in behalf of the sinner. If the sacrificial victim is slain in the sinners place ("instead of" him), and if thereby, the death of the sinner is "presented" to God, (This is the real point of Hebrews 9:16. Not that the covenant maker actually die, but that his death be "presented.") THEN we understand that what is done to the sacrificial victims is viewed as having been done to the sinner. That is, the sinner dies through his substitute; the sinner dies symbolically, as his appointed victim dies literally. Thus, it is that when a sinner is joined to Christ's death in baptism, the sinner is viewed by God as having died. (2 Corinthians 5:14. This explains in what sense we "die" with Christ.) Jesus Christ died literally, and as we are joined to the merits of His death, we die symbolically. (Galatians 2:20. Christ was literally crucified; Paul, being joined to Him in faith, was crucified symbolically.) This makes the next question of paramount importance to every living person: "AT what time, and by what means has God determined that one is joined to Christ's death?"
The great passage that speaks plainly to this precise issue, is Romans 6:3‑11. The time and place of this joining of a sinner to the merits of Christ's blood, is at the time the sinner is "baptized into His death." Scripture knows of no other means of linking the dead sinner to the living Christ. It is for this reason that baptism is the vital link between life and death‑‑why no person can be saved who has not been baptized into Christ. We are not so proud of baptism that we declare any inherent virtues for the act itself. As a simple act of immersing a person in water, there is zero significance in it. The whole substance of baptism‑‑its entire significance and value in the scheme of redemption is not in the act itself, but in what the act represents.
On the other hand the act of baptism demonstrates the faith of the sinner in the merits of the dead, buried and resurrected Savior. Not the immersion, but the faith is the means of contacting Christ's blood. On the other hand, baptism, because of its symbolic likeness to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, represents the means of justification. The pageant of baptism is a recreation of Christ's sacrifice in symbolical form, but this time, we sinners participate in the act, and picture our being joined to the life giving merit of the blood of Christ. For this reason we are spoken of as having "died, and our life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3,4). The time at which Christ's blood is applied to us, giving us life, is when we are baptised into His death. Is this not the reason the Scripture continues to say that we are then "raised to walk in newness of life?" (Romans 6:4). Thus we are "dead" before baptism and have "life" afterward.
His Blood and His Supper
The "Cup" Is His "Blood".
In drinking the fruit of the vine, we are said to "commune" with the blood of Christ which has given us life (1 Corinthians 10:16). His blood is His sacrifice, His death, His life‑given up freely, given to us freely. This will help us with the question: "What should I be thinking of when I drink the cup?"
Are we supposed to envision "bloodiness"? Should we try to focus our mind on the fluid that flowed from Christ's wounds? Remember that the essence of this entire drama, is not on the blood itself, but on what the blood represents. We should fill our minds with the beautiful thought of Christ giving up His life, and that life being applied to our souls that we might live. Think of what has happened to you as a result of being joined to Christ's death and thereby being made truly alive.
These truths, believed, would eliminate many silly concepts about what makes the Lord's Supper "scriptural." Such foolish questions as whether the purple juice, red juice, or white juice is scriptural would be seen in their absurdity and abandoned. Such silliness as bickering over juice that "has added vitamin C" would be turned from in haste, and apologies made to brethren for having made a commotion over such inane matters.
The Lord's Supper bears the same significance for us that the act of baptism does. The real and positive thing we act out in baptism, is what actually happens to us when we are joined by faith to Christ's blood. The Lord's Supper is a "participation" in that same sacrificial act, in the same symbolic sense. Yet it is even more personal, in that the symbolism is that of "imbibing" the very life of Christ. The matter of great importance then, is not meditating primarily on the sight of Christ's body, mangled and bloody. We should rather use such scenes to bring our minds to the essence of what the Supper represents. Think of how you personally were joined to Christ's life, and of your present status as alive, free and saved as a result. Thereby, the Lord's Supper will represent to you what it is designed to represent, and the spiritual blessings it is meant to bestow, will be yours.