Our Bloody Religion
It has been said that Christianity is a bloody religion. This reference is usually made by critics who point to the wars, inquisitions, trials, and executions carried out over the years in the name of Christianity. While we must admit that blood has been wrongly shed in the name of so-called christianity, the fact of the matter is that Christianity is indeed a bloody religion. However, this is true not because of the blood shed by humanity in wars and inquisitions, but because of the blood shed by Jesus Christ.
In the preface to the book Precious Blood, Richard Phillips writes, “At the very heart of our Christian faith is a precious red substance; the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To read the Bible with any seriousness and sober discernment is to see that the shedding of blood or the implications of it is on practically every page. If the history of redemption is a story told in pictures, the blood of Christ is the paint with which that story is told.
Christianity is filled with blood. More than anything else, the blood of Christ is spoken of as accomplishing for us the grand benefits that belong to salvation: We have been purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28). We have propitiation by His blood (Rom. 3:25). We have been justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9). We have redemption through His blood (Eph. 1:7). We who were afar off have been brought near by His blood (Eph. 2:13). We have peace through His blood (Col. 1:20). Our consciences are purified by His blood (Heb. 9:13). We are sanctified through His blood (Heb. 13:12). We are ransomed by His blood (1 Peter 1:19). We have been set free from sin by His blood (Rev. 1:5). These and many other benefits remind us that the blood of Christ is central to all we are as a redeemed people. Therefore, it should not be surprising that as recipients of God’s gracious salvation through the person and work of Christ, we preach, pray, and even sing of the wonderful power of the blood. As the songwriter wrote:
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s vein, Where sinners plunged beneath its flood, lose all their guilty stain.
Even in coming to the Lord’s Table and receiving Communion, the Bible reminds us that the cup we receive is the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:19).
The inevitable question is, why so much blood? The answer is because there is so much sin. The shedding of blood is the result of sin. Yet the shedding of blood is the only means by which sin is removed. In other words, without sin there would be no shedding of blood, but likewise the Bible reminds us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22). Consequently, in the Scriptures blood speaks to the need for both retribution and redemption.
Consider the death of Abel. After his brother Cain rose up with anger and envy and murdered him, the Bible tells us that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Gen. 4:10). It cried out for revenge. It cried out for retribution. It indicted the heart and actions of Cain. It provided the damning testimony for his condemnation. Cain was guilty of the sin of murder. The blood of Abel stood against him, a stain that Cain could not remove.
The New Testament tells us, however, that the blood of Christ speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24). While Abel’s blood cried out for revenge and retribution, the blood of Christ cries out for redemption. It cries out with a louder and more penetrating voice. And yet the blood of Christ does more than just cry out — it accomplishes the redemption it proclaims. In the Old Testament, blood spoke loudly. From the murder of Abel to the red-washed doorposts of Israelite homes in Egypt to the sacrificial offerings of bulls and goats by the priests, blood shouted the need for a redeemer from the penalty of sin and the pangs of death. In the person and work of Christ, that redeemer has come. Through the shedding of His own blood, Christ has redeemed, once and for all, those who trust and call upon Him for salvation. Once and for all the word of His blood, the word of redemption, speaks on our behalf and declares us free from sin and death. No word in the Scriptures is as loud. No word is as clear. No word is as sweet. No wonder we sing, “Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!”
Over this coming year, each month we’ll take a look at the marvelous benefits the blood of Christ brings to His people. We will discover where and how the Bible proclaims the efficacy of Christ’s blood. We will see the way God is pleased to accomplish salvation and eternal life through Christ’s blood. And we will come to realize all the more why the apostle Peter declared the blood of Christ to be precious — without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:19).