I’ve been wanting to find a way to share with C201 readers this video by David Wesley of a virtual choir representing several different countries singing the classic hymn, Nothing But The Blood of Jesus.
Hymnary.org notes that, “When this hymn was first published in 1876, Hebrews 9:22 was quoted underneath the title: ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.'”
At Hymnal.net a reader comments:
…There is a question about whether the Bible itself ever talks of being ‘washed’ in the blood (in Rev 1:5 the verb is better translated ‘loosed’ or ‘freed’). But my point here is a wistful sadness that the word ‘sin’ is so often used in the first line rather than ‘stain’. There is evidence that the latter was Lowry’s choice. Of course it rhymes better with ‘again’ in the third line. But more to the point, it is such a colourful word. How easily we can picture the ugly stain of sin blackening our lives like a huge ink-spill. What a pity the more common but less pointed word ‘sin’ is so often used.
Of course, both terms are theologically correct. But the charm of poetry is largely that it can create images that make us envision things in a new and vivid way. Language is one great gift God has given us that separates us from the rest of creation. It is important to make full use of its marvelous potential…
At the blog Before the Cross, Chris Howard has a longer discussion of the hymn:
Outside of blood drives, I’m sure it’s not common to hear gratitude and blood thrown together in the same sentence… Jesus Christ, being the very Son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified on a cross for all the sins of man past, present and future and was raised again to life so that anyone believing in Him would live an eternity with Him. We are thanking Jesus for His blood spilled on our behalf. Every time we sing it, I wonder what a person unfamiliar with the gospel must think as they give church a try. Here are some of my guesses:
- That’s gross.
- Did I come to the wrong place?
- Why are these people singing about blood?
- Of all things, why are they thankful for blood?
If those are the questions, I hope they don’t leave without getting them answered and I certainly hope they come back.
Let’s face it. The lyrics aren’t exactly “seeker” friendly and some churches might treat this song like any blood-related incident, to keep the lyrics sanitary and removed from the scene, out of mind and out of sight for believer and non-believer alike. Blood evokes a strong mental image and unless you’ve been desensitized by horror movies, it usually isn’t an image someone likes to think about. There are certainly other worship songs we could sing that would bring about more peaceful, calming and relaxing images of God’s saving grace without mentioning blood.
And that’s the very reason why I think we need to sing about it. Without the blood shed by Jesus Christ, there is no cross. If there is no cross, there is no resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is no resurrection, we are doomed.
The Blood Is Necessary
Since the first sin of man in the Garden of Eden, blood was required. Animals were sacrificed for their skins to cover up the nakedness of Adam and Eve. The sacrifice of animals for atonement of sin was still present in the time of Jesus.
And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” – Exodus 24:8
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” – Hebrews 9:22
The Blood Protects
The Israelites are instructed to place animal blood over the door of their dwellings to avoid God’s plague on Egypt.
“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 12:13
Jesus, before His crucifixion refers to his shed blood as that which would forgive sins.
“for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26:28
The Blood Cleanses
Redemption, fellowship and cleansing are benefits we as Christians who believe in Jesus Christ get to enjoy as a result of His shed blood.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.” – Ephesians 1:7-9
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7
We often see what we prize most in light of what we pay for it. In the case of our salvation, it is we who were purchased with blood that ran through the body of our savior, the same body broken on our behalf to allow God and His creation to have a restored relationship. If you are a Christian, you are in this restored relationship.
We can sing it out unashamed. Thank you Jesus. Thank you for the blood!