The Life Is in the Blood


The Life Is in the Blood

March 17th, 1957 @ 8:15 AM

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Leviticus 17:11

3-17-57    8:15 a.m.



You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the early morning hour, the 8:15 o’clock service, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message.  For these last several months, we have been preaching in the first chapter of Genesis; the revelation of the creation of the world, of the beasts of the field, and finally, of the creation of man [Genesis 1:1-31].

Especially in these last immediate Sundays, we have been speaking of the creation of man, having come to the twenty-sixth verse of the first chapter of Genesis: “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness . . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” [Genesis 1:26-27].  And in the seventh verse of the second chapter: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” [Genesis 2:7].

Last Sunday morning, I had thought to conclude whatever I might have been able to present concerning the creation of man.  But there is one other thing about the marvelous, miraculous creation of this man that I want speak of before we leave this text and then continue on through the story in Genesis.

Over in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, the eleventh verse, this is one of the tremendous verses of the Word of God.  Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”

That could be a text for the whole Book of Hebrews in the New Testament.  The author of the Book of Hebrews says: “For without blood there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22].  And the Book of Leviticus says, Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.”  And I say, before we leave this story of God’s creation of man, I wanted this morning to speak of this one other thing: how God made the man.  “The life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

In 1657, that’s exactly three hundred years ago, William Harvey died.  William Harvey was the illustrious English physician and anatomist who discovered the circulation of the blood.  Until his day, 1657, nobody knew what the bloodstream was or for what purpose it had been created.  Back there in the long, and long ago, you can imagine, you can easily surmise all of the fantastic and far-fetched and ridiculous things that were supposed, concerning the blood in the human body.

It was not, I say, until 1657, one thousand six hundred fifty-seven years after Christ, in the day of William Harvey, that the purpose of the bloodstream became somewhat known.  In fact, that’s where you get the name “artery.”  The Latin word for “windpipe” is arteria; the Greek word for “windpipe” is exactly the same, arteria, and the reason they call the arteries in the body arteria, “arteries,” is because when they were examined after death, they were always empty, they were always full of air.  There was no blood in them.  The reason why there is no blood in the arteries upon death is apparent; the last contraction of the muscular wall of the artery forces the blood out into the veins.  Consequently, in any autopsy, the artery will be empty, filled with air.

So the ancients thought they were air tubes, they were air spaces, and called them arteria, arteries, windpipes.  They had no conception of an idea what the blood was for.  But one thousand five hundred years before Christ, in the Word of God, in Leviticus 17:11, by inspiration, Moses wrote: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.”  And we’re going to see that this morning.  The life of the flesh is in the blood.  The bloodstream of life is like the river of life, it bears upon its bosom the processes and the burden of life.

Alexis Carrel, the late eminent and famous physician, said that most of the causes of death are due to some alteration in the combination of the blood.  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Revelation 17:11].  It is just now within these comparatively recent days, that men are beginning to see that the fountain stream of life is in the blood.  But God knew it in the beginning when He created the man.  And Moses, by inspiration, wrote it down in 1500 years BC, when he said, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Revelation 17:11].

Now this human body of ours must have certain ministries if it is to live.  One: it must have food and air.  There are several hundreds of trillions of cells, living cells, that make up the body; millions of them making up all the tissues of the body; millions and billions.  And all of those multiplied millions of cells have to live.  They must be ministered to; they must be fed.  They must breathe; oxygen must be given to each one of them.  And for that food and air to be brought to those little uncounted numbers of cells, it must be dissolved into some kind of a medium, and brought to the little cell itself; and that medium is a bloodstream.  “The life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Not only must the food and the air be dissolved in a liquid medium and so carried to the cell, but, in combustion, in the oxidation of fuel, in the combination of food and air, there is a waste material, there is a carbon dioxide, there is an ash left in the furnace.  And for the cells to live, that waste material must be carried away, or else the cells would immediately die.  And the bloodstream carries away the waste, the ash out of the furnace, in order that the cells might live.  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Not only that, but there must be messages sent to these different organs and tissues in the body, that they might be regulated and that they might respond to all the needs of life.  And those little messengers, little hormones, are sent to the different organs of the body through the stream of the blood.

Not only that, but if the body is to live, then it must be protected against hurt and against wounds, and it must fight triumphantly, victoriously, against the invasion of microorganisms, bacteria, germs of every kind.  And the great agent for supporting the life of the body, fighting against these invaders, healing the hurts and wounds of the flesh is found in the bloodstream.  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11]. 

Now to do this wonderful thing, of supporting the life in the body, there are several things in the blood that make possible that life support.  One thing, the blood has in it plasma, and this plasma carries the food to the different cells in the body.  The plasma picks up by process of osmosis, the plasma picks up those foods, the carbohydrates, and other foods from the digestive tract—the fats go into the lymphatic system—all the other foods go into the bloodstream; and even the lymphatic system feeds the fats into the bloodstream as it is needed.  And that plasma, that colorless fluid— maybe a little straw-colored fluid in the blood—the plasma carries to all of those unimaginable trillions of cells, the food supply, that takes care of it and feeds it and nourishes it.

Then there is a second thing on the inside of the blood; there are in the blood, little pieces of red cells called erythrocytes, red corpuscles.  The Greek word for red is eruthros, and erythrocyte, erythrocytes, little red things, red corpuscles.  They’re not living, they do not have a nucleus, but each little corpuscle cell has on the inside of it a little bit of marvelously compounded protein called hemoglobin.  And that miraculous red protein, hemoglobin, has a marvelous affinity for oxygen.  One little bit of hemoglobin can carry four times its own weight in oxygen.  And when the bloodstream carries those little cells, those little red corpuscles to the lungs, there in the sacs of the lungs where we breathe in oxygen, those little red corpuscles immediately seize upon it, and carry it in the bloodstream throughout all of the parts of the body, and the many cells can breathe. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Then there is another thing in the bloodstream that makes possible the life of the cells of the body; there is in the bloodstream, another kind of little cells called leukocytes.  The Greek word for white is leukos.  So leukocytes are white cells, they are living cells.  They have the necessary, vital, essential nucleus, and they have power of movement, independent movement; they can even move against the bloodstream itself.  And these leukocytes, these little white blood corpuscles—in a little pinhead of blood, one cubic millimeter, you will have about five million erythrocytes, red corpuscles; in that same amount of blood, the little speck, one cubic millimeter, the little pinhead, in that same amount, you will have about seven thousand five hundred leukocytes, white blood cells.  If the number is increased greatly above that, then there is infection in the body because the purpose of the white cell, the leukocytes, is to war against any foreign intruder; war against germs, war against microorganisms that would destroy the body.  They are called sometimes, phagocytes, those little leukocytes, those little white blood corpuscles.  The Greek word for “to eat,” is phagō.  And they’re called “phagocytes” because those little white blood corpuscles boldly attack their enemies and engulf them, and digest them, and destroy them: phagocytes, “eating up” their enemies.

Always and everywhere we are surrounded by innumerable, uncounted millions and billions of these microorganisms; they are everywhere.   They’re on everything.  They’re on everything; they’re on your skin by the millions and uncounted billions.  They’re on every hair of your head.  They’re on every piece of your body.  They’re on everything that you touch.  They’re by the billions in the air.  If you could think of a little piece of dust as a balloon, on every little old piece of dust, invisible even, there are riding on it hundreds of germs.  And every time you breathe, you breathe into your body uncounted numbers of microbes; they are everywhere.  And the purpose of the bloodstream is to fight against any invasion of these bacteria.  That same bacteria, if the little microorganism is round, it is called a coccus.  If it is rod-like, it is called a bacillus.  If it is spiral, it is called a spirillum.  They’re all forms of bacteria, and they constantly seek entrance into the body and to war against it.  The difference between life and death is a razor edge; we walk on the very edge of that gulf, that abyss, all of the time.

I had a wonderful young man, a superintendent of my Sunday school, one day so strong and well, and the next time I saw him just a few days later, he was dying of a spinal meningitis.  Those tubercular germs, those diphtheria germs, those coccus, those bacilli, those spirilla, those cocci, they are everywhere.  And the difference between us and the death they cause is a razor’s edge.  And the great purpose of those white corpuscles is to fight against the intrusion of these alien microbes that would destroy the body, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Then there’s one other thing in the blood: in the bloodstream are little, tiny bits of little flat, round, plate-like objects called platelets.  And the purposes of those platelets: wherever there is a break in the bloodstream, those little platelets gather there.  And they contain on the inside of them a marvelous protein, a miraculous chemical, and wherever there is a break in that body, they gather there.  They break open and they, discharging that chemical into the bloodstream there, it creates a marvelous thing.  The blood coagulates into indissoluble fibers, and those fibers entangle the platelets and the white corpuscles and the red corpuscles.  And it isn’t long until the place, the hole, is plugged up, and the wound has a chance to heal without bleeding to death.  Were it not for those little platelets, any wound in the body would be finally fatal.  But that’s the purpose of the bloodstream, is to keep the body alive; and, “the life of the flesh is in the blood.”

Now the circulatory system: you had an article some time ago, recently in the Readers Digest.  The pulse that you feel with your hand on your wrist is the pulse of the wonder of life in the universe.  This marvelous system of the bloodstream in the body is one of the most unusual and exact and intricate of all of the things that God has created in this earth.

This pumping station, and that vast system that goes with it for the distribution of the blood, is a miracle of God.  When the blood is brought by the great vein to the heart, first, it enters on the right upper side, it enters the right auricle.  And there is a valve at the top of the right auricle that keeps the blood from going back up into the vein, and when that right auricle contracts, receiving the blood, it squeezes it, it contracts.  There is a valve in the lower part of the right auricle that opens when the right upper auricle contracts and the blood enters the right ventricle.  The ventricle, the lower part, the right side of the heart, the right ventricle is built stronger and more muscular than the auricle, and when it squeezes, when it contracts, it forces the blood into a tube that enters the lungs.

At any one time, one fourth of the bloodstream is in the lungs, one fourth is in the liver, half of your bloodstream always is in those two organs.  The heart forces the blood into the lungs, and there all of those millions and trillions of little red corpuscles unloose their cargo, dump their cargo of waste material, and carbon dioxide, and vapor, and ammonia, and it is breathed out when you exhale.  Then in those millions and millions of little air sacs in your lungs, when you breathe in, you take in oxygen, and those little red corpuscles, having dumped their cargo of carbon dioxide and other waste materials, they seize that oxygen and they turn scarlet red, then they pass through the lungs, having been purified and cleansed, and they come back to the heart, and this time they enter the left side of the heart, the left auricle.

And there the same thing happens.  The left auricle contracts and the blood, through the little trap door, the little valve, enters the left ventricle; and the left ventricle is the strongest pump in the human body, and the strongest pump you’ll ever find in this earth.  And that left ventricle squeezes the blood and thrusts it into the farthermost parts of the organism.  That is a marvelous thing, that four-chambered heart, the way it beats: systolic, diastolic, systolic, diastolic, systolic, diastolic, systolic when it squeezes, diastolic when it opens and fills with blood.  And it beats—systolic, diastolic, systolic, diastolic, systolic, diastolic, and in one day—that little instrument of the heart, which weighs not three fourths of a pound, in one day—it will pass through, force through enough blood to equal the removal of ten solid tons.  Can you imagine each day, facing the proposition of shoveling away ten tons of earth or rock?  That little heart of yours pulsates through itself ten tons of blood every day.  It does it in an energy that would be equal to raising a two-pound hammer twelve miles up into the air; the enormous energy of the heart, as it pulsates, feeding all of the cells of the body.

And the pipes through which the bloodstream runs are exact and immeasurable, almost beyond imagination.  If you could lay a little pipe from Dallas to Miami, from Miami, Florida, clear across the Atlantic to Casablanca; from Casablanca, clear across Africa and clear across the Middle East to Karachi; and from Karachi clear across India, and clear across Burma, and clear across China to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong clear across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands; then from the Hawaiian Islands clear across the rest of the Pacific to Los Angeles, and then from Los Angeles clear across continental America back to Dallas; if you could lay a little pipe all the way around the earth, and when you’ve laid it one time around the earth, start again, and lay the little pipe all the way around the earth the second time, then when you’ve gone all the way around the earth a second time, then lay it all the way around the earth a third time—that’s how long the blood vessels are if you were to join them end to end in your body.

Each one of us has from 60 to 100 thousand miles of blood vessels in our bodies, and that heart pumps, pumps this life stream throughout those thousands and thousands of miles.  Not only that, but you have a lymphatic system for the lymph that is just as long and just as ramified as the blood vessels.  And right by the side your blood system, there is a lymphatic system, and its vessels are just as long and just as ramified.  There are from 60 to 100 thousand miles of them in the human body.  The amazement of it is one of the marvelous, miraculous, intricate creations of God.  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Now, for just a little moment, let us see how the body is fed.  After digestion, we sit down at a fine meal, and after digestion, the little cells on the inside of the digestive tract, through a process of osmosis—the peculiar, miraculous way of God, of fluids passing through cell walls from one cell into the other—through that miraculous process, there is fed into the bloodstream all of these foods from the digestive tract; the carbohydrates and the proteins and other foods entering the bloodstream, and the fatty foods entering the lymphatic stream.

Now the first thing that the bloodstream does in picking up all of those foods is not to pour it into the great arterial system, where it is fed to the organs and tissues of the body, but it carries it first to the liver.  Now the liver is one of the most miraculous of all of the little multiplied pieces of living protoplasm that you could ever imagine in this world.  It is a regular chemical factory in itself.  The liver will take all of those little molecules of food, and it will carefully examine the molecular structure of each one of them.  It will carefully look at everything that is passing by in the bloodstream.  And it will take those foods, and some of them it will break them down and remake them, reassemble them.  And some of them it will purify, and some of them it will cast out altogether.  And if it sees any kind of foreign matter or bacteria, it will immediately seize upon it and take it out, so that when the blood passes through the liver into the bloodstream and thus to the heart, and then through the arterial system, finally, to feed all of the cells of the body; it is a pure food.  It has been carefully examined.  It has been meticulously looked at.  And if there is any change that needs to be made, if there is any molecular structure that needs to be reconstructed, why, the liver cells will carefully do it.  There’s just no thing in this world that has the chemical sense and know-how of those little cells in the liver.  Yet, they are so small that a hundred thousand of them would make just a little tiny, teensy-weensy speck that you can hardly look at; a marvelous thing.

There are about seventy-two million of these red cells that break up and are destroyed in any one minute.  And there are little police cells on the inside of the liver, and when they see an old worn-out red cell come along, they seize it, just like a policeman would pick up a vagrant, they seize it.  And they decompose it into its chemical parts, put it back into the bloodstream and send it to the little factories in the marrow of the bone where those little red corpuscles are remade.

The spleen, which is located near the liver, has that same marvelous ability.  The spleen seems to be, among other things, a shop for the reclamation of scrap iron.  It seizes those destroyed and broken red corpuscles, and takes out of them that vital and necessary iron, puts it back into the bloodstream, where it is carried to these little mints that coin those red cells deep in the marrow of the bone; the marvelous creation of God when He made the man, “for the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

So this bloodstream is carried to all of the cells of the body; but if it were carried as the heart pumps it, the little cells would starve.  Blood would go by so fast, they couldn’t choose what they needed for their nutrition for that day.  When the blood leaves that left ventricle, it enters the great artery called the aorta; and when it goes into the aorta, it goes by spurts—spurts!—that systolic, diastolic, systolic, diastolic, systolic.  And it will travel about twelve inches a second—twelve inches, twelve inches a second.  For the little old cells here in your body couldn’t eat if the food was passing by them twelve inches, twelve inches, twelve inches.  By the time they reach that far, it would be five feet down the way; so the body has a marvelous, wonderful creative genius for that.  As those big tubes come down to the little tubes, and these little arteries come down to smaller arteries, and those smaller arteries come down to smaller arteries, and those smaller arteries come down finally—between the arterial system and the veinal system, there is an infinite interconnection of little bitty passages, little bitty tubes called capillaries.

And when that bloodstream gets down to those little capillaries, it’s not moving twelve inches a second, but it’s moving about an inch a minute.  And some of those capillaries are so small, that those little corpuscles in the blood can barely squeak by, and sometimes they pass through in single file.  And so, as that bloodstream finally comes down to those little tiny capillaries, it moves by at the rate of about one inch a minute so every cell can look at the conveyor belt.  It can look at the moving cafeteria, and if it needs a little protein out there, it gets a little protein.  If it needs a little carbohydrate, a little blood sugar, reach out there and get a little molecule of blood sugar.  If it needs some oxygen, reach out there from that hemoglobin and get a little oxygen.  And if it needs to dump anything—any waste, any ash—there it does, on the conveyor belt; and so all of its trillions of cells in the body are bathed by the gradual movement of that bloodstream, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

We didn’t know any of this until just comparatively recent days, but God knew it, and Moses wrote it down fifteen hundred years before Christ [Leviticus 17:11].  Now how does the little cell reach out and do that?  And what is the miraculous arrangement of God, whereby the Lord made it possible for that thing to come to pass?  Well, this is it.  This brings us to the lymphatic system.

You see, there is, on the inside of the bloodstream, there is a straw-colored colorless sort of liquid in which these red corpuscles, and white corpuscles, and hormones, and enzymes, in which they are circulating.  Now when that blood gets down to those little tiny capillaries; they are so small, they’re unimaginable.  And there are so many thousands of miles of them until you couldn’t describe it.  When the bloodstream gets down to those little tiny capillaries, why, there goes through the wall of those little capillaries this plasma, and when it gets out there we call it “lymph.”  There goes through the walls of those little capillaries, that white colorless fluid going through those walls, and then it surrounds the wall of the cell.  And then, it exchanges with the cell there, bathing each one of the cells in those little, infinitesimally small spaces between those cells.  In those cell walls there will be this lymph, and the little cell bathed in that.  Isn’t that hard to realize?  All of the trillions of cells of your body are bathed in that plasma, in that lymph.  And bathing around, all around that, by the process of osmosis again; how it enters the cell wall and comes back to the cell wall, there will be an exchange.  And that little bit of cytoplasm on the inside of the cell wall, that little bit of protoplasm, through that cell wall, it will draw to itself oxygen, and protein, and blood sugar, and what it needs.  And then through that cell wall, it will put back out there the waste material, the ashes in the furnace, the combustion material.  Then you get all of that in the lymph.

Then the lymph: gradually those little capillaries, they all gather back, they all work back, and they all work in the same way that the venous system works, that the veins work.  They all work back to those little lymph vessels, and the little lymph vessels; and they get into bigger ones, and they into larger, and they into larger, until finally one of them pours back into the bloodstream in the subclavian vein on the left side of the neck.  And the other lymph duct, smaller, enters the great vein on the right side of the neck.  But those little lymph vessels, with that lymph have all kinds of waste material and maybe bacteria, and maybe disease, and germs, and all kinds of things.  So all through your body are little police stations, millions and millions of them.  They’re called lymph nodes.  And that lymph is taken through those little police stations; you could call them frontier guards.  And all of that lymph is carefully looked at, and carefully watched.  And anything in it that is of a foreign nature or of a bacteria-like, disease-causing germ—immediately starts working on it.  And then finally, those lymph vessels will get larger and larger and finally, enter big quarantine stations called lymph glands.  If you’ve ever had a knot under your arm, you know what one of them that’s overworked can be like.  And then those quarantine stations look at all of that lymph, and they war against any foreign matter that might be in it.  And they carefully scrutinize every little piece that is passed by, before finally it is returned into the bloodstream.  In that way, your body is kept strong and clean; in that way, you have life. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Now I haven’t time to continue; we’ve just started this: the marvelous, marvelous creative hand of God in the creation of the man.  “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for an atonement for your souls” [Leviticus 17:11].

And when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs:

But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.

These things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken.

And again another Scripture saith: They shall look on Him whom they pierced.

[John 19:33-37]


All John is saying is this: that when they pierced the side of our Lord, and opened the heart that beat and the blood poured out, he means the life of our Savior was poured out into the earth and the ground drank it up. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11].

Now let’s sing a stanza of a hymn.  If there’s somebody here this morning to give his heart in faith to our Lord [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8], somebody to put his life with us in the church, while we stand and sing the hymn, you come and stand by me.