The Blood of Jesus Christ
March 25th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 1: 7
3-25-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Blood of Christ. And the text is in 1 John 1:7, "And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin." I have three or four affirmations to make about the text.
And the first is this: that it is actual blood. The text refers to actual blood. It is not spiritualizing. I do not like spiritualizing anywhere, and least of all do I like it in a sermon or in the pulpit or in the exegetical presentation of the Word of God. My own heart is blessed if a man will take the Scriptures, and just let them say what they say. Now I may not be able to understand what God is saying, and I may have difficulty sometimes just believing that it will come to pass, I may stagger sometimes at the promises of God; but I like for the minister to say it just the same: what it is in the Scriptures, not spiritualize; that is, take what the Scriptures say, and then that it isn’t actually that, it is something else. We haven’t time to illustrate it. But this is not simile, this is not figure of speech, this is not hyperbole, this is not metaphor; this is actual blood. "And the blood," the blood that coursed in the veins of Jesus our Lord, "And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7].
The Christian faith has always had to battle against philosophical and metaphysical odds. It does today, it always has. And in the days of the apostle John, he wrote his Gospel, the Fourth Gospel, he wrote his Gospel against the Cerinthian Gnostics. There was a sophist by the name of Cerinthus, and he said that Jesus is not deity; He is not God, Jesus is just another man. And it is known as Cerinthian Gnosticism. And John wrote his Gospel against that philosophical rejection of Christ as the Son of God. And the Fourth Gospel presents Jesus as God in the flesh, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory as of the only begotten of God" [John 1:14]. He starts this epistle in the same way:
That which was from the beginning –
starting, no beginning –
that which was from the forever, which we have heard, which we have seen, which we have looked upon, which our hands have handled, the Word of life.
[1 John 1:1]
John’s Gospel was written against the Cerinthian Gnostics.
Now, there was another tact that Gnosticism took in the days of John. These intellectuals, these Greek philosophers, it is called Docetic Gnosticism, docetic. Dokeō is a Greek word that means "to seem," to appear, not to be but to seem to be, to appear to be, dokeō. So Docetic Gnosticism is that aberration of intellectual attack against the Christianity that says Jesus was not a man, He was just seeming a man; not an actual man, He just appeared to be a man. And against that Gnosticism the apostle wrote this letter called 1 John. Jesus is man as though He were not God, as He is God as though He were not man. He was a man among men; very man, a very man, as He was very God, a very God. And the blood referred to in the text is actual blood; "The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin," actual blood [1 John 1:7].
Ask John 19:34-35 that you just read; is that actual blood? And one of the soldiers took a spear, and pierced His side, thrust it into His heart, just to be sure He was dead, nailed there with His head bowed, so apparently dead. One of the soldiers took a spear and thrust the head of that spear into His heart, and when the Roman soldier withdrew it, there followed the iron blood and water. "He that saw it bare record, and we know that his record is true. And he saith true, in order that ye might believe" [John 19:35]. Blood, actual blood; ask Mary, His mother. Jesus, seeing her, knowing of the awfulness of that sight, said to the apostle John, "Take her to your own home"; and from that moment John took her away, that she might not see the agony of her Son [John 19:25-27]. Ask the centurion if that was actual blood; he stood by the cross and supervised the execution [Matthew 27:54]. Ask the scribes and the elders who wagged their heads, walking up and down in front of His tears, and His sorrow, and His agony, and finally His death [Matthew 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-31], ask them if that was actual blood. Ask the two thieves, – one crucified on one side, and one crucified on the other side [Luke 23:32-33] – ask them if that was actual blood; let them witness with their own hands and feet. Ask heaven, ask heaven; let the witnesses of heaven come. In the fifth chapter of this same book:
This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth . . . And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.
[1 John 5:6-8]
That will be a great text when we come to the fifth chapter of this letter of John; actual blood.
A second affirmation, "And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7], it is not only actual blood; second: it is actually applied in atonement [Romans 5:9, 11]. This is no figure of speech, it is actually offered before God in atonement [1 John 1:7]. You all cannot remember this, there’s been too many things that press upon our hearts, but when I was preaching through the Bible, I preached a year in the ninth chapter of Hebrews, in that one chapter alone, in the ninth chapter of Hebrews:
Christ came a High Priest of good things to come. . .
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once, into the Holy Place, up there in glory, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works?
When Moses had spoken the precepts of the law to the people, he took the blood and sprinkled the book and the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant, the old covenant; He sprinkled likewise the tabernacle, the vessels of the ministry.
Almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. . .
Now Christ is not entered into a place made with hands, like a tabernacle, or like a temple; they are figures of the things that were true in heaven; but He has entered into the true sanctuary, there to appear in the presence of God for us, with blood, with atoning blood, blood of expiation, blood of cleansing.
Not that he should appear again and again, as the high priest did year after year with the blood of others.
For then must He have suffered often since the foundation of the world, dying over and over and over again: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin, by the sacrifice of Himself.
And then that glorious conclusion:
As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for Him shall He appear a second time
apart from sin unto salvation.
It is actual blood, it is actually offered as an atonement for our sins.
Could I take time, just for the moment, to say, to describe the background of this passage in Hebrews of the offering of the blood of Christ? Every celebration of the Jewish people in the Old Testament is a feast day. Passover is a feast [Exodus 12:1-28, 43-; Deuteronomy 16:1-8]; unleavened bread, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the seven days of unleavened bread is a feast [Exodus 12:15-20, 13:3-10]. Pentecost is a feast [Leviticus 23:15-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12]; Tabernacles is a feast [Leviticus 23:33-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-17]; Dedication is a feast [John 10:22]; Purim is a feast [Esther 9:26-32]; all of them are feasts except one. There is one fast day, and that is Yom Kippur, they call it in modern nomenclature, the Day of Atonement it is called in the Bible; one fast day [Leviticus 16:1-34, 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11]. And on that day, the high priest takes two goats, and casts lots, one for Jehovah, and one for Azazel, one for a scapegoat. And the lot that falls upon the one for Jehovah, he takes that goat and slays it, and takes its blood and goes that one time in the year in the Holy of Holies; and he sprinkles the blood on the mercy seat, the hilastērion, the covering, the atoning seat [Leviticus 16:1-19]. Then he comes back, and on the head of the second goat he places both of his hands and confesses his own sins and the sins of all the people. And they take that goat out in the wilderness and drive it away; a sign, a type, a picture that in the blood expiation, cleansing, sending away of our sins is made [Leviticus 16:20-34, 23:26-32]. Against the background, Christ is presented as our blood sacrifice.
The Christian also has a day of atonement, not one that is repeated again and again, but one day for all: when the Lord was offered once forever, and when the blood was poured out, and it was brought before the sanctuary of God in heaven. Maybe, in His ascension [Acts 1:9-10] – one of those mysteries that is hard for us to enter into – and in the true sanctuary in heaven, the blood of Christ was offered for the sins of all God’s people. It is actually applied, actual blood, "The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7].
Third avowal: it provides an actual salvation; actual blood, actually applied, actually offered unto God, and it provides a viable, living, experiential salvation. There is an actual substitution in it. He took the place of the sinner, and that’s we. He took our place, actually. There is an actual substitution [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. All of the judgment that should fall upon me fell upon Him [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The stripes that should have stained crimson my back lacerated Him. All of the death that He suffered, I should have suffered. There is an actual substitution made: He took my place and died in my stead [Hebrews 10:4-14].
I have often thought there is no one who could ever live who could have had such a clear understanding of the substitutionary, vicarious death of Christ as Barabbas. Barabbas was a condemned insurrectionist, murderer. He was set apart to die, to be crucified by the Roman army. And upon a day, upon a day, at nine o’clock in the morning on that day, a Friday’s day, there came Roman legionnaires to the cell where Barabbas was incarcerated, and opened the door. I can just hear them clanking that iron door now. Open the door, and his name is called, "Barabbas!" And the murderer and the insurrectionist comes before the Roman soldiers expecting to be executed, to be crucified. And the Roman soldiers say, "You are free! You are free! Walk out, you’re free" [Matthew 27:15-26]. And when Barabbas walks out free, just beyond he sees Someone, seemingly so humble and without ostentation, or bitterness, or rebellion; no insurrectionist or murderer, but a humble, meek, and lowly Man. He sees Him bearing a cross, his cross. And when the mob stands around the hill called Calvary, Golgotha, to watch Him die, I can just see Barabbas elbow his way through the throng and stand there and look. And that is why I say I don’t think there is anybody that could ever have such a view of the substitutionary death of Christ like him.
Yet Barabbas is a picture and a type of all of us sinners, all of us. In Christ there was an actual substitution; He took our sins, He paid the penalty for our transgressions. There was an actual substitution made. He died for me, in my stead [1 Corinthians 15:3; John 12:27; 2 Corinthians 5:21; John 3:16]. And as such, there is an actual deliverance. Oh, how wonderfully! And that’s why it is called the euaggelion, the good news, the gospel. There is an actual deliverance [Galatians 1:4], and how gloriously does the Scriptures present that message of salvation. For example Paul, in Romans, will say:
When we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly –
that’s we –
For a good man some would dare to die, for a righteous man, maybe, some would offer their lives; but God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; that through His blood, we might have peace with God.
Or as he would write in the Book of Ephesians
We who were sometimes far off, strangers from the covenant and the promise, without God and without hope in the earth, we who were far off have been made nigh, brought into the very presence of God by the blood of Jesus Christ.
I read one time one of the most unusual things. A missionary was traveling through northern India, and there by the side of the road was a man that a caravan had left behind to die. Being sick and unable to continue the journey, they just left him by the side of the road to die. And the missionary bent over the dying man and said to him, "Sir, do you have any hope?" And the man in his last gasping breath said, "The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7], and died. The missionary was amazed; he was astonished, as you would be. And it was then that he noticed in the hand of a dying man, a leaf of a book was grasped. And he undid the cold fingers, and took the leaf out of the hand of the dead man; and it was this leaf from the first chapter of the letter of John, "And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin." There is an actual salvation. There is an actual deliverance.
May I comment just once again? It is experiential; it is something we can know. For you see, the Scriptures say, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you – when I see the blood" [Exodus 12:13]. There’s something in God, He so prizes His Son, so loves His Son, so honors His Son, that those who find refuge in Him, God blesses [John 3:16-18; 1 Corinthians 1:30]. That night of the darkness of the judgment upon Egypt, all a man had to do was to be under the blood that was all. Didn’t say anything about his doubtings, didn’t say anything about his unbeliefs, didn’t say anything about his metaphysical or philosophical reservations; there is nothing of that in the story. He just said, God just said, "You put that blood on the front of the house, in the form of a cross, on the lintel, and the doorposts on either side, in the form of a cross, above on the lintel, and either side on the doorposts, just put that blood, just put that blood" [Exodus 12:7]. Didn’t I tell you actual blood? "Just put that blood on the lintel and on the doorposts, and when the hour of judgment comes, and the death angel visits the land, when he sees the blood, he will pass over you. There will be life instead of death; when I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:13, 22-23].
O God, how thankful I am that my salvation does not depend upon my understanding; for so much of this I don’t understand. Thank God it does not depend upon my righteousness. O Lord, how far, far do I fall short of the glory of God? [Romans 3:23]. Thank God it does not depend upon my perfect perseverance; for I might be good to the final day of my life and then fall into error, and hell.
He never said that it depended upon you. All He said was, "Under the blood, under the blood, and when I see the blood I will pass over you. The death angel will not come, and you will live and not die" [Exodus 12:13, 22-23].
"For the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7]. And that is an actual deliverance, and an actual salvation; I feel it in my soul. I love all of the things that pertain to the praising of Jesus.
O God, thank Thee for my Savior. Thank Thee, Lord, for the privilege of praying through Him, to Him, beyond Him, my Mediator and Advocate. Thank You, Lord, for the assembly of God’s people who likewise have trusted in the atoning grace of the Son of God. Thank You, Lord, for the blessings upon the home and the family, as well as my heart.
It is an actual salvation, it is an actual deliverance. It is an experiential fact. It is witnessed to in heaven, it is witnessed to by tens thousands times tens thousands of God’s redeemed in the earth; and it is yours for the asking, it is yours for the having. It is yours for the accepting, under the blood, under the blood; pleading, "Not my righteousness, but the blood of the Son of God" [1 John 1:7]. Not our worth, or merit, or loveliness, but pleading the grace and mercy of Jesus. For His sake, Lord, answer prayer. For Jesus’ sake, Lord, bless us. For Jesus’ sake, God remember us. For Jesus’ sake, see us through [Ephesians 4:32].
And that is it. Every prayer, for Jesus’ sake, in His dear name, and God honors it, God blesses that prayer of appeal; and God blesses that soul that gives himself to the faith and the trust of the blessed Lord Jesus.
In a moment we are going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, or a couple you, or a one somebody you, in that balcony round, down one of those stairways and time to spare, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, come. "Pastor, today I open my heart to Jesus, and I’m coming." A child, "I’ve been saved, and I want to be baptized." As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, come now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 1:7
I. This is actual blood
A. Not a symbol or a type, not spiritualizing
B. Gnosticism encountered during days of John
1. Cerinthian Gnosticism – said Jesus was just a man
a. John wrote his gospel in defense of the deity of Christ (John 1:1-4, 14)
2. Docetic Gnosticism – said Jesus was angelic being that just appeared to have a real body, but not human at all
a. First John is written against the doceticgnostics(1 John 1:7, 4:3)
C. Blood of Jesus Christ is actual blood
1. Ask John (John 19:34-35)
2. Ask His mother, Mary(John 19:25-27)
3. Ask the Roman centurion and the soldiers
4. Ask the thieves crucifiedon either side of Him
5. Ask the witnesses of heaven(1 John 5:6-8)
II. The blood provides an actual atonement(Hebrews 9:11-28)
A. Jewish Day of Atonement(Leviticus 16)
B. Christian day of atonement – when our Lord died on Calvary
III. The blood provides an actual salvation
A. Jesus died for us, an actual substitution(2 Corinthians 5:21)
1. Barabbas must have understood substitution the best(Matthew 27:16-26)
B. The Lord God receives it as an actual deliverance for our souls(Romans 5:8-10, Ephesians 2:12-13)
2. Not because of anything of us, but because of the blood(Exodus 12:7, 13, 23, Revelation 1:5-6)