The doctrine concerning the blood of Christ is neither archaic nor anachronistic. And one who denies the necessity or the significance of the spilled blood of Christ may call himself a Christian, but he cannot in fact be saved and delivered from his sins. The absolute necessity of redemption by blood is a cardinal doctrine of true faith, and genuine believers everywhere rejoice in its proclamation. Today’s text makes unequivocally clear how utterly hopeless would be our state apart from Christ’s shed blood.
The apostle Paul makes the case to the church at Ephesus that Gentiles naturally have found themselves in a desperately impossible situation. Paul uses five phrases to describe that condition. Historically, we had been (1) “without Christ,” (2) “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” (3) “strangers from the covenants of promise,” (4) “having no hope,” and (5) “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Paul begins with the most devastating of the conditions, for to be without Christ is to have no means of salvation as Christ alone can save. And since all God’s dealings in the Old Testament were with the commonwealth of Israel through whom the Messiah was promised, there was no hope of ceasing to be without Christ. Furthermore, since God’s covenants of blessing were made with Israel and Gentiles were not part of that privileged nation, we had not one promise from God that we might claim. Thus, as Paul continues, we had no hope. But wait—Paul has said we were without Christ, but what about God? Could we do an end around and, despite being without Christ, still find salvation and blessing in God? No, Paul concludes, we were also therefore without God in the world. What a plight! Utterly without any resource from heaven or any hope from God.
“Made nigh by the blood.” But this devastating assessment of our condition does not conclude Paul’s discourse. For he continues: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes [“formerly”] were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (2:13). The awful calamity that Paul has just described is remedied, he assures us by one means and by one means only. Church membership will not rectify our being without Christ. Good works will not bring us into the commonwealth of Israel. Baptism and the performance of other ordinances or sacraments will not provide us with citizenship under the covenants of promise. Nor will all of these together give us any hope, much less bring us to God. John, in his gospel, echoes these truths, when he observes that salvation is “not of blood [i.e., human relationship], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” (1:13). So much for human effort and desire or religious exercises and endeavors.
We are brought to God by one means. We are delivered from sin by one means. We are given eternal life by one means: “by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both [believing Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both [believing Jew and Gentile] unto God in one body [the church] by the cross . . . . For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the house hold of God (Eph. 2:13a-19).
The blood of Christ—and only the blood of Christ—will cleanse us from the sin that separates us from God and bring us nigh to Him. As the great hymnist Charles Wesley wrote: “His Spirit answers to the blood, And tells me I am born of God.”
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