BIBLE STUDY: Is The Blood of Jesus Enough?
BIBLE STUDY: Is The Blood of Jesus Enough?
by Brett Burrowes
Most, if not all, Christians are familiar with the atoning blood of Christ. It is, after all foundational to everything else, for until we are reconciled to God, and our sins forgiven, the message of Christ living His life through us is either meaningless or outright dangerous. To begin believing that Christ is living through us without going through the cross is like slapping a label over our Satan-run selves and living according to the worlds false gospel of self-acceptance and self-esteem. The peril of this false gospel cannot be underestimated. As Christians, we should banish those words from our vocabulary, or at least radically revise what we mean by them. Far from being a gospel of self-acceptance, our gospel is one of transformation: as Paul says, to open eyes of people so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus (Acts 26:18).
So far from accepting ourselves, our gospel as believers consists first of rejecting ourselves as we have been. It means taking a good hard look at our lives, acknowledging that we have been children of wrath and recognizing the spirit that has been operating us, the spirit no what work in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). It is not by proclaiming our basic human goodness to ourselves that will help us, nor for that matter focusing on our worthlessness (another Satanic trap). Instead it is looking at how the spirit of error has misused us, for human beings are only ever operated by one of two spirits, and never operate themselves. As the apostle John states, Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (1John 4:4).We like the greater is He that is in you and would prefer not to deal with the he that is in the world. Neither I nor John is talking about the activity of Satan in some unspecified location, as if the devil were floating around in the air someplace. The devil is, after all, the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).No, both John and Paul means that the devil is actually in people, that they breathe Satan in and out as their spiritual atmosphere. He is the life-breath of their spiritual being, though in this case, it might be better to say that he is the breath of death, than the breath of life. Christians, let alone unbelievers, do not like to focus on that uncomfortable truth of Satans indwelling of our very selves and lives. We do not want to give up the illusion that we are in control of our lives, especially us self-sufficient Americans! And to accept the idea that Satan has run our lives that just goes against the grain! But paying close and rigorous attention to this truth and applying it to ourselves will be our deliverance.
The blood of Christ, however, does not deliver us from Satan. What I am saying might shock you, but the purpose of the blood was never designed to deliver us from Satans power. Wait a minute! Arent you denying the power of the atoning blood of Jesus?, someone might ask. By no means. But let us explore what it is that the blood actually does accomplish.
The poured out blood of Jesus on the cross accomplished two things. First of all, it cleanses us of our guilt. This is in fact is its primary purpose. In the old covenant system of sacrifices, the priests would cleanse the temple by pouring out the blood of the animal sacrifices on the altar, and once a year the innermost sanctuary of the temple would be cleansed by blood, as Leviticus 16 makes clear. This chapter, one of the most important in the Old Testament, prefigures Christs sacrifice of Himself on the cross. Now why would it be important to cleanse the temple? If it was just dirty, I imagine that some soap and water and a rigorous spring cleaning would do. No, the problem is not dirt, at least not in the literal sense. The problem was that the sins of the people spiritually collected in the temple and threatened to drive the Spirit and glorious presence of God, the Shekinah, out of the inner sanctuary of the temple, the holy of holies. In the Old Covenant Era, God dwelt above the ark, and the blood poured out on the day of atonement was like a once a year spring cleaning that at least temporarily took care of the sins of the people for another year. By cleansing the temple from the guilt of the people, Gods presence could remain in their midst as a people. The blood functioned like a detergent, to remove all the guilty stains of the people from the temple, but didnt actually remove the guilt of the people from them as individuals. In other words, the sacrifices only guaranteed that God would bless Israel as a whole, not that He would dwell in them as individuals.
The second thing that the blood did was to avert or turn away the wrath of God and therefore bring forgiveness. Sin produces a response in God, a response of hatred and utter rejection. As the author of Hebrews has stated, our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). If you have read the account of Israel before Mount Sinai (Exod. 19-20), then you will know that the purpose of that awesome and terrifying display was to make sure that the fear of God would be with them to keep them from sinning (Exod. 20:20). The author of Hebrews warns us of the terrifying expectation of judgment and furious fire that will consume the enemies of God (Heb 10:27). Such unpleasant yet absolutely crucial ideas! So by cleansing our guilt, the blood removes the offense to Gods justice, and thereby turns away the wrath of God from the people and from the temple. In this way God is able to justly forgive our sins, without compromising Himself in anyway.
Of course we dont have any temple any longer, or dont we? We are, after all, the temple of the Holy Spirit, according to Paul (1Cor. 3:16), both individually and collectively as his people. So there had to be a more effective way of dealing with human guilt than animal sacrifices, which is why Christ himself, the eternal Son became a human and died in our place. The infinite and eternal value of his blood purified us and our bodies, the true temple and true place in and through which God had always planned to live and walk (2 Cor. 6:16).The blood of Christ now removes the twin barriers of our guilt and Gods wrath that stood between us and our redemption. The goal, of course, is that we would be indwelt by God Himself, just as He dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the old temple. The poured out blood of Christ and our trusting in that blood poured out for us is thus the essential first step of being redeemed and transformed. It is the essential pre-condition of the gospel.
Pre-condition? Isnt that the gospel itself? No, for a massive difficulty remains. Unfortunately many presentations of the gospel stop with the blood. Our guilt is not the only problem: not only has the temple of bodies been dirtied by the stains of guilt, but a false usurper spirit has taken up residence within us and is in fact ultimately the source of all the evil desires and actions that we performed under his direction and operation of us. Note that I am not just blaming Satan for the sin we have done. God holds us fully responsible for everything we do: that is why Christ had to die in our place and bear our punishment (Isa 53:7), taking the curse upon himself (Gal. 3:10-13).
The blood, however, does not drive the false usurper, Satan, out of the human self. If all Christ accomplished was to deliver us from guilt, he would be leaving us in our miserable condition, hijacked by the spirit of error, condemned to repeat the same sins over and over until we die, when we will be delivered. Of course some Christians think this is what Paul is saying in Romans 7:14-25, that we are condemned to struggle along by our own efforts, maybe with a little help from the Holy Spirit, so that continual sinning is not only a possibility, but an inevitability. And so Christians invent the idea of sinful human nature which is only gradually being sanctified or made more holy in order to justify the fact that their lives dont work as they should and to justify why the New Testaments glorious gospel of transformation is not manifested in heaven. They may say: complete victory over sin is not possible until heaven. If the relatively hopeless struggle of Romans 7 is the best for which we can hope, one wonders what the big difference is between the old and new covenants?
The truth is that Christians have allowed the devil to steal the truth away from them, to conceal himself inside a false conception of sinful human nature, hide out there, and thereby get to express himself and his lusts through them (see John 8:44). All the while we are deceived into thinking that is just our old sinful selves: what can we expect; were not perfect!
The devils real scheme, however, of which Paul warns us not to be unaware (2 Cor. 2:11, see Eph. 6:11), is to hide the second aspect of the atoning sacrifice of Christ: his body-death. Have you ever wondered why there are two elements at the communion table: the wine and the bread? It is not just that these are two common elements of the dinner table, nor are they just two ways of signifying the same thing. Rather they signify different aspects of the atonement. Just as the blood cleanses us from guilt, and turns away the wrath of God, the body-death of Jesus deals with the other problem created by the fall: the indwelling spirit of error. Just as with the blood, the Day of Atonement prefigures this aspect of the sacrifice of Christ as well. There were, in fact, two sacrifices of goats on the Day of Atonement, and only one of them involved the pouring out of blood; He shall take two goats and present them before the Lord (Lev. 16:7). One goat is made into a guilt-offering, and its blood is poured out on the mercy-seat in the holy of holies (Lev. 16:15-16).
But the second goat is the scapegoat, over which the high priest confesses all the sins of the people of Israel and transfers, not the guilt, but the sin itself, to the goat, which is then driven out into the wilderness, where it presumably dies. In the time of Jesus, the goat was driven off a cliff to make sure it died. What this prefigures is the transfer of the Satanic spirit of sin to the body of Jesus on the cross. Note that I say body, and not spirit. Jesus is never spiritually united with Satan at any point, nor does he die spiritually. He is not born again in the resurrection as some have falsely maintained. No, it is it is his body that he bears the spirit of sin away, so that the false usurper may be expelled from those who believe in him: He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). As John states: now is the prince of this world will be driven out (John 12:31), the verb being the same as used for the expulsion of demons. No wonder Satan wishes to hide this truth from us! He will lose his hiding place: no shadows of his will remain in the full light of Christ living His life through us. Without any foothold, Satan will be unable to continue using and expressing his desires though us as his vessels.
Without teaching this deliverance from the indwelling Satanic spirit of sin, the church teaches a truncated and abbreviated gospel. I can only speculate why this has happened, whether through ignorance or through a desire to justify their failure to live up to the high calling of the gospel. Of course we know that it is and always has been Satans desire to conceal the riches of the gospel from believers, and it may appear that he has largely succeeded. But we must recall that when Jesus faced the cross, the number of the faithful was reduced to one, as everyone abandoned him and even his best friend deserted and denied him. And yet the gospel of his blood has borne fruit all over the world for the past 2000 years! How many countless have been saved! Now it is time for the gospel of his body-death to be proclaimed so that the false usurper will be driven out of peoples lives, even if the number who believe this truth are presently few. The words of Jesus are as applicable today as when he first uttered them: Now the prince of this world will be driven out! (John 12:31).