When expounding the grand motif of salvation, Paul sounds one note repeatedly: the blood of Jesus Christ. Call it central, call it essential—there is no salvation for sinful men apart from the shed blood of Christ. So critical is this theme that Paul mentions it in almost identical terms in two different epistles. To the Ephesians, speaking of Christ, Paul writes: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (1:7); similarly, to the Colossians Paul writes: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (1:14). These expressions are not examples of first century crudity of doctrine; they are the God-breathed expression of the sole method by which God has been pleased to save us.
“Redemption through his blood.” Though the doctrine of redemption is immense, the word used in our texts means simply “a releasing, for (i.e., on payment of) a ransom” (Vine’s definition). Vine goes on to explain that, in addition to other uses, the term refers to “forgiveness and justification [God judiciously declaring a believing sinner to be righteous in His sight], redemption as the result of expiation [“the removal of guilt by means of an atonement”], deliverance from the guilt of sins.”
The density of these definitions is something of a measure of the magnificent purpose and outworking of our salvation by God. Put in more personal terms, no one will cross the threshold of heaven apart from faith in the shed blood of Christ and cleansing by that blood. We have a bloody gospel. The awful reality of the death and shed blood of the Innocent Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, forms the backdrop for the blessed proclamation of salvation by grace through faith. Nothing other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ would satisfy a holy and just God, and nothing other than the shed blood of Christ will save unholy and sinful men. That which embarrasses the modern “sophisticate,” that which the modern church eschews will be the anthem of heaven: “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9)
“The forgiveness of sins.” As if there could be any doubt about what is meant by “redemption through his blood,” Paul follows both uses of the phrase with an appositive phrase describing the same thing: “the forgiveness of sins.” To forgive means “primarily, to send forth, send away” (Vine). In other words, the doctrine of redemption by blood does not teach that God merely covers our sins, excuses them, or ignores them. The blood of Christ is truly efficacious before God to separate between the sinner and his sin, to remove his sin from him. Vine again explains that to forgive “firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty Divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offence”! Vine’s punctuation did not include the exclamation mark. But surely every blood-washed saint must superimpose one.
As has often been observed, salvation delivers a saved person from the penalty, power, and ultimately, the presence of sin. Because of the blood of Christ, positionally we are holy as He is holy. We are righteous as He is righteous. We are pure as He is pure. “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call . . . [us] brethren” (Heb. 2:11).
We glory in the blood of Christ.
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