When did you last hear a message on the blood of Christ? Have you even heard more than a passing allusion to it in recent memory? The truth is that even in some fundamental circles the theme of the blood of Christ has become passé. A devotional I read this morning on the blood of Christ reminded me by contrast of how seldom the modern church broaches the subject. To speak of the blood of Christ today is to be labeled old-fashioned, out-of-touch, unnecessarily gruesome, or some equally pejorative term. We have bowdlerized the gospel, seeming to think that it needs to be cleansed, rather than the sinner. But we ignore the blood to our jeopardy. It is a major theme that runs from the first chapters of Genesis clear to the last chapters of Revelation. The writer of Hebrews has rightly announced that “without shedding of blood [there] is no remission” (forgiveness of sins) (Heb. 9:22). Over the next several weeks, we will consider from a devotional standpoint a little of what the New Testament reveals concerning the doctrine of the blood of Christ.
“Set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:25). As our Bible is arranged, the phrase above is Paul’s first mention of the blood of Christ. Paul doesn’t mince words, going right to the heart of the doctrine as it relates to salvation. Olshausen has called the passage in Romans containing this verse the “Acropolis of the Christian faith,” by which he means to suggest that God’s truth concerning man’s salvation is established and secured in this verse and the surrounding text. Several things are abundantly clear from this verse.
First, it is God who required a bloody sacrifice as a satisfaction for sin, specifically and exclusively the spilled blood of His son: propitiation and blood are indelibly linked. Nothing else would meet the demands of God’s ineffable holiness or satisfy the requirements of His perfect justice. To skirt the doctrine of the blood or to skimp on it demeans the holiness of God and debauches His perfect provision for saving man from sin.
At the very dawn of time, Cain tried to bring an offering other than of blood. He brought an exceptional one, one that probably cost him much more than did the one his brother Abel had brought. After all, Abel brought a lamb. Its mother had done most of the work in bearing and raising it. Abel had merely to choose and slay it. Cain, however, had toiled in his garden—planting, watering, cultivating, all over the course of several labor-intensive months, then finally harvesting the crop to present it to God. Had God been impressed with man’s work, He would have preferred Cain’s offering to that of Abel. But God demanded the death and shed blood of an innocent sacrifice. “Abel,” declares the Epistle to the Hebrews, “offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts” (11:4).
Second, it is faith in propitiation through His blood that saves: faith in propitiation by blood is God’s irreducible minimum. In order to be saved, we must believe that God’s holy demands concerning man’s sin were completely satisfied by the blood shed by the Son of God when He took on human flesh in order to suffer and die. Faith in anything else is false faith; faith in anything else is failed faith. Christ’s sinless nature did not save us; His perfect walk did not save us. His wonderful example did not save us. His unparalleled teaching did not save us. God required Christ to shed His blood and requires man to have faith in the efficacy of the shed blood. Nothing else is salvation.
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