Christianity 201

January 6, 2017

Nothing But the Blood

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!


 

March 12, 2013

What Christ’s Blood Did and Didn’t Accomplish

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18 NIV)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Readers here at C201 are likely to encounter writing from the widest variety of sources.  I was intrigued by this post for a variety of reasons. First, its relevance to the season of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday we are approaching. Second,  Horace E. Smith is a bishop in the Apostolic Faith Church, a denomination we’ve never included here. Third, the article is about the blood of Christ and the author is, by trade a hematologist.  Here is the link for you to read this at source.  Note: This is part of a continuing series; if you wish to do a complete study on the blood of Christ, start with the link at the bottom.

Two Mistakes

People often make one of two mistakes when they think about the gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice of blood to redeem us. They are either romantic existentialists or religious moralists.

Existentialists live by their feelings, and they believe they deserve for God to give them a happy, prosperous life. The expectation of immediate gratification has crept into a few corners of the church. Some preachers proclaim a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that God’s chief purpose is to make his children happy and wealthy. People who buy what these preachers are selling have incredibly high expectations, and in fact, unrealistic expectations of God, and they become deeply disillusioned when God doesn’t dance to their tune.

The blood of Jesus promises us many things, but not health and wealth. It guarantees us entrance into the kingdom, and it provides peace during times of heartache and confusion. Jesus promises his presence in the midst of struggles, but he never promises the elimination of those struggles. Quite the opposite. When a man announced his loyalty to him, Jesus quickly saw that the man was an existentialist, and he needed a dose of reality. The man promised naively, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:57-58). Jesus always asks us to count the cost.

The second error, the mistake of religious moralism, is a very different problem. Some of us begin our Christian lives by trusting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but poor teaching, bad models, or indwelling sin causes us to think we can now earn God’s approval by doing enough right things. We live by the law, feeling powerful and righteous because we’ve done this or that good deed, and we’ve avoided this or that sin, so we can puff out our chests and prove that we’re acceptable.

To illustrate the damage done by moralistic rule keeping, Jesus told a story of a hated tax collector and a rule keeping Pharisee going to the temple to pray. He said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’ ” (Luke 18:10-12).

Tax collectors weren’t like our IRS agents. They were traitors. They were Jews who collaborated with the Romans to extort extra taxes from their own people. They were the most hated people in the land. It was easy for a Pharisee, who kept hundreds of extra laws every week in addition to the laws of the Bible, to feel superior to a despised tax collector. But the parable doesn’t end here.

Jesus said that a few feet away, the tax collector looked down in shame and beat his chest. He pleaded, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). To the astonishment of the people listening to Jesus that day, he concluded, “I tell you that this man [the repentant tax collector], rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Question:

What are some negative evidences of romantic existentialism in spiritual life?
What are some evidences of rule keeping moralism?
Is either of these a struggle for you?
If so, explain you answer

Read another article by Bishop Smith.  (Ten to choose from in this series, click each month to open the menu of weekly articles.)