The shed blood of Christ is a cardinal element of the gospel. Much of the modern church has long since abandoned Christ insofar as making Him and His death the one essential for salvation. The social gospel that they preach emphasizes man’s human needs and the church’s responsibility to meet them. In so doing, they recognize symptoms—poverty, hunger, disease, family disintegration, etc.—and try to treat the symptoms without addressing the root cause: man’s depravity and consequent sin and rebellion against God. While the real church still preaches Christ and Him crucified, there seems to be a de-emphasis on the blood of Christ. But the Word of God (and consequently its message) has not changed. A church that abandons the doctrine of the blood has become too sophisticated for its own good. A church that will not emphasize the blood of Christ will all-too-soon find itself “sanitizing” other doctrines repugnant to the flesh; their love for the truth and for the Lord Himself will chill, and Christ will take away their candlestick. To counter such potential loss, we must stay upon the truth of the Word.
“Justified by his blood.” Last week we noted that Paul’s first reference (as the books are arranged in our Bible) to the blood of Christ announced that God had set forth Jesus Christ “to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:25). It is of the utmost moment, to realize first and foremost that it was God alone who required the shedding of blood and that the shed blood of Christ alone propitiates (“satisfies”) God’s holy demands with respect to the penalty for sin. To dismiss the blood for whatever reason, then, is not simply to set aside some irrelevant doctrine dusty with age. It is an unforgivable affront to the high and holy character of God and the perfect and righteous work of redemption that He has provided. Paul tells us that we have faith in the blood of Christ for the very reason that it satisfies God. As with every aspect of redemption, the doctrine of the blood originates with God and has in view first the fulfillment and vindication of His will.
Having established the God-ward aspect of this doctrine, that God first required and now has been satisfied by the shed blood of His Son, Paul then is free to point out the man-ward aspect of the shed blood, namely, that “being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him [Christ]” (Rom. 5:9). Justification is the judicial act whereby God declares to be just (“righteous”) the sinner who believes the gospel message that Christ died to deliver him from his sins. Nothing short of justification cleanses a sinner from sin. Nothing other than justification provides a sinner with a passport to heaven. No amount of good works, church membership, baptism, giving, self-abnegation, or a combination of all of them will obtain for a sinner entrance to heaven. God must justify him. And the sole basis upon which God justifies a sinner is “by his blood.” Ink will not do—not even indelible ink. A believer’s documents must be signed in blood. Nor will the blood of a sinner suffice, nor the blood of a saint, not even the blood of a martyr. No amount of human suffering, whether personal or vicarious, will open the door of heaven to us. We are declared just, made citizens of heaven, and brought into the family of God through justification by Christ’s blood.
This message, so offensive to the flesh, reveals the depth of the love and grace of God. It was no antiseptic death in a sterilized hospital room that brought us life, but the outpoured blood of the Innocent, suffering and dying as a common criminal, paying completely and perfectly the awful price for the sins of mankind. Have you been justified by his blood? There is no other recourse.
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