The Blood of Jesus Christ
March 25th, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
1 John 1:3-7
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1John 1:1- 7
3-25-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television 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. In these days past, I have been preaching through the Book of Galatians, and those sermons are now done. And last Friday, Zondervan Publishing Company called me and they ought to be published and in your hands within these next several months. Now, we are going to begin preaching through the first epistle of John. And it starts like this:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked
upon, and our hands have handled, God, the Word of life;
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,
that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our
fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Now, the text:
If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship
one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
[1 John 1:1, 3, 7]
The text, “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin;” I have three affirmations, as avowals to make about the text. One: this is actual blood, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” it is actual blood. This is no figure of speech, it is no simile, it is no metaphor, and least of all, is it a spiritualization. I do not know of anything that personally I like less than spiritualizing. I wrote a book some time ago entitled, Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True, and one of those chapters deals with the sorriest kind of preaching, which to me is “spiritualizing.” That is, taking the Word of God and avowing that it does not mean what it says and spiritualizing on it, making it mean whatever a man’s imagination might lead him to make it mean.
To me real preaching, and I would to God that I were a better preacher than I am, to me real preaching is taking the Word of the Lord and declaring it just as God said it. I may not understand it, and many times I don’t. I may stagger at its promises, and many times I do; but my appointment and my heavenly mandate is to declare it, to exegete it, to expound it, whether I understand it or not, or whether personally I might stagger before some of the promises that God has made.
So, this is a good instance of that factual, literal, presentation of the Word of God, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” this is first literal blood, actual blood. In the days of the apostle John, as in our day – as in all of the centuries of Christian history – the faith in Christ has been confronted by the metaphysician and the philosopher; they challenge every tenant of the faith, and every advancement that is made in any man’s heart is made over the violent opposition of the metaphysician, the philosopher, and the unbelieving theologian.
For example, in the days of this sainted John, there was a gnostic, there was a sophist by the name of Cerinthus, who lived in Ephesus. And John’s Gospel, the Fourth Gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – John’s Gospel was written in answer, among other things, to Cerinthian Gnosticism; Cerinthus said, as so much of this unbelieving world, this academic and philosophic world says today, Cerinthus said Jesus was a man and only a man; He was not deity, He was not God. And in answer to that gnostic heresy, the apostle John wrote his Fourth Gospel, that Jesus is God:
In the beginning was the Word – the Logos –
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not
anything made that was made.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men,
And the Word was made flesh.
[John 1:1-4, 14]
A Man incarnate, fleshly, “and the Word was made flesh,and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” – that which was from the beginning, the Word, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, the Word of life” [1 John 1:1]. John wrote his Gospel against Cerinthian gnosticism that would make Jesus just a man.
Now, the first epistle of John is written against “docetic Gnosticism.” There’s no angle at which the mind of Satan does not contrive its confrontation. He does it in your head, in your heart, in your life, in your reading, in your schooling. You’ll never go beyond it. It’s always there. The first epistle was written against docetic Gnosticism – dokeo, a simple Greek word meaning, “It appears”, “it seems.” So the docetic Gnostics, the docetic sophists as I like to call them, the docetic sophists said that Jesus only “appeared” to be a man; actually, He was not a man at all. He was super, divine, one of those eons, one of those angels of – and an emanation coming down from the highest angel of all, and He just appeared to be a man but He wasn’t a man at all. And against that docetic heresy, the apostle John wrote this first epistle. A Man among men, as He was God of very God; God as though He were not man, man as though he were not God. The God-Man Christ Jesus, and never did hyphen mean so much. And in that manhood, the blood of Jesus Christ is actual blood, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. It is tangible, red crimson that you could touch; you could put your hand in the pool of it. At the foot of the cross, you could have wiped it with a handkerchief from His brow, from His face, from His hands, from His feet. You could have caught it in a basin, as it flowed from His side.
Do you believe that? Ask John 19:34-35, the passage that you read, “And one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into His side” – plunged it into His heart, and when he pulled it out – “forthwith, there followed blood and water. He that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that you might believe.” It is actual blood.
Ask His mother and John standing by her side, and she beholding the agony of her Son, the Lord on the cross said to John, “Your mother, take her away” [John 19:25-27]. No woman, no mother, ought to be subjected to such sorrow and tears and agony, as to see her son die like this. “John, take her away.” John writes, from that moment, he took her to his own home [John 19:26-27]. Ask His mother, “Was that literal, actual blood?”
Ask the centurion, he presided over the execution. Ask the soldiers, they nailed His hands and His feet to the tree. Ask the thieves who were crucified on either side of Him, “Was it real blood, actual blood? Was it?” Ask the witnesses of heaven in the fifth chapter of this first epistle:
This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ;
not by water only, but by water and blood. These are three
that bear witnesseth in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and
the blood: these three agree in one.
[1 John 5:6-8]
When we come to the fifth chapter of this epistle – what a message! I pray God will help us preach on that text: real blood:
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there?
Oh! Sometimes it makes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
[“Were You There?”;traditional spiritual hymn}
Second of all: it is not only actual blood, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” It is not only actual blood, it was actually, literally, offered as an atonement for our souls. It’s been a long time ago, most of you would not remember it, but I preached a year from the ninth chapter from the Book of Hebrews, a year. One of the great, great, great revelations of God from heaven: the blood of Jesus Christ. “Our Lord, being a High Priest of good things to come, in a tabernacle, in a sanctuary not made with hands, nor by the blood of bulls and goats, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer sanctify to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God?” [Hebrews 9:11-14]. Cleanse us. Purge us. Wash us. Make us white, like the driven snow.
When Moses had spoken every precept of the law, he sprinkled blood on the people and on the book of the covenant. He sprinkled blood on the sanctuary, on the vessels. ” Almost all things are by the law purged with blood: and without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22]. But Christ is not entered into a holy place made with hands, into an earthly tabernacle, or a temple. They are just figures of the truth that is to come. But He has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should do it year-after-year, as the high priest did but once for all did He appear in that sanctuary to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” [Hebrews 9:19-26].
Then the glorious conclusion, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die; and after that the judgment”: So our Lord was offered to bear the sins of many, one time; and to them that looked for Him to come out of that sanctuary, shall He appear someday, apart from sin, having washed it away – expiated it, taken it away – shall He, apart from sin unto salvation” [Hebrews 9:27-28]. No wonder, I preached a year on it.
The figure that lies back of it is this: all of the high, holy days of the Jewish nation are feast days; the Passover is a feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a feast, Pentecost is a feast, Tabernacles is a feast, Dedication is a feast, Purim is a feast. But there is one fast day, just one, they call it – in modern parlance and nomenclature – Yom Kippur. In the Bible, it’s called, The Day of Atonement. And on that day the high priest divested himself of his garments of beauty and glory, for he himself is a sinner and a suppliant, and he cast lots between two goats; one for Jehovah and one for azazel, a scapegoat [Leviticus 16].
And the lot that he cast for Jehovah is slain, and the high priest takes the blood of the sacrifice, and that one time in the year, goes beyond the veil and there offers it as an expiation before God, sprinkling it on the hilasterion, the mercy seat, the covering. Then he comes back out, and the high priest takes both of his hands and places them above the head of the other goat, the scapegoat, and confesses thereon all the sins of the nation; and that goat is taken into the wilderness and driven away. All of which is a picture and a type, one of God’s pictures: how that in the offering of blood, the sacrifice of blood, our sins are washed away, sent away, expiated, made clean and white.
Whose blood? The author of the ninth chapter of Hebrews says that were it in a human tabernacle, in a human sanctuary, with a human priest, with the blood of goats, it would have to be done again, and again, and again, and again – each time a remembrance of our sins, and each time a picture of the inefficacy that without ableness of the human priest, and the human offering, and the blood of a goat to wash our sins away, every year, just a remembrance of them; but in this sanctuary, which is in heaven, not made with hands, and in this sacrifice which is that of the Son of God, and in this blood, which is the blood of Jesus Christ, there do we have an offering, one time made, and it suffices for the salvation and the cleansing of all our souls [Hebrews 9:23-28].
As the Jews had a day of atonement every year, the Christian has one great day of atonement, once for all, when our Lord died on a hill called Golgotha, or in the Latin, Calvary. “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. It is actual blood, and it was actually offered as an atonement for our souls [Hebrews 9:27-28].
Third avowal: not only is this actual blood, and not only was it actually offered, but it provides an actual salvation, one empirical, experiential, one that you can know and feel and rejoice in forever; it provides a real and an actual salvation. In it there is a real and actual Substitute. He took our place; He died for us, in our stead [2 Corinthians 5:21]. We should have died, we should have received that judgment upon our sins. It is our sins, and we should have died for them, but there is an actual substitution; He took our place. And His suffering, and sorrow, and tears, and sobs, and death are vicarious – they are for us, in our stead.
You know, I have often thought of all of the people who ever lived, there is no one that had the idea of the atonement of Christ, of His substitutionary death, taking our place, like Barabbas [Matthew 27:16-26]. Barabbas was a robber, he was an insurrectionist, and he was a murderer. And he was kept in prison to be executed and according to the Romans, by crucifixion. And upon a day – upon a day – at nine o’clock in the morning, on a Friday’s day, a Roman legionnaire swung open the iron gate to the prison and called, “Barabbas!” And the murderer and the insurrectionist came to the door expecting to be executed, to be crucified.
But instead, the Roman legionnaire says, “Barabbas, you are free! Walk out. You are free!” And amazed, the insurrectionist walks out to freedom. And just beyond he sees the form of a humble, meek and lowly Man, staggering beneath the weight of a heavy cross. And when the cross is lifted high, with two of Barabbas’ companions nailed on either side, when lifted high, I can see Barabbas as he elbows his way through the throng and stands there and looks at Him who is nailed on the center cross and said, “That is my cross, where I should have died. And this Man has taken my place.” No one could ever have as poignant an understanding of the meaning of atonement like Barabbas.
And yet, that is a picture of all of us, all of us under the condemnation of sin; all of us judged by the Lord, all of us. And He died in our stead. He took our place. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is an actual substitution, and the Lord receives it; the Lord God receives it as an actual deliverance for our souls. “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” the Lord receives it as an actual pardon, deliverance, freedom for us; God does it. Of that evangel, that euaggelion, that good news, that gospel, oh, how God’s Book exalts it and describes it and repeats it! As Paul will say, “When we were yet in our sins, did Christ die for us, that in His blood we might have peace with God” [Romans 5:8-10]. Or as He will say, in the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians:
We who sometimes were far off, strangers to the covenant of promise, aliens to the household of faith, without God and without hope in the world, we, who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ.
I read of a missionary in northern India, and as he traveled, he came upon a poor, wretched man, who had been left by the side of the road to die. The caravan that had preceded him, not being able to take care of the sick man, left him there to die. And the missionary bent over him, and said, “Sir, do you have any hope?” And the dying man replied, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.” And when he said that, the man died. The astonished, amazed missionary – as you would be astonished and amazed at a reply like that – the astonished and amazed missionary then noticed that in the closed fist of the dying man was a crumpled leaf. He took his hand and undid the fingers, and took out the leaf, and on it is my text. It was a leaf of the first chapter of the first epistle of John: “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”
Just now I said God accepts it as an atonement. He does, the Lord looks upon it as our deliverance and salvation. He does; God does, however I may be, He does. The Lord says, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. That dark, awesome night of judgment in Egypt, God said to the believing people, not just Israel, anybody, “Take the blood of the lamb and strike it on the front of the house in the form of a cross on the lentils, and the doorposts on either side, in the form of a cross [Exodus 12:7]. And when the death Angel comes to smite the land of Egypt, when I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13, 23]; and there will be life, not death; light, not darkness; joy, not sorrow; salvation, not wrath and judgment – “when I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
You know, I can easily imagine a man seated there in the house under the blood, and I can easily imagine his doing what some of us do all the time. “O Lord God! O God, I wonder if my repentance was repenting enough. And I wonder if my faith was faith enough. And I wonder if my life is good enough, and I wonder if my service is acceptable enough; and I wonder if I will make it.” So many people live in that agony of distress all of their days, and if you were to ask them, “Are you saved?” they would say, “I don’t know, maybe I didn’t repent right, maybe I didn’t believe right, maybe I didn’t confess right, maybe I haven’t lived right.” And then maybe: living pleasing to God as well as you can up to the last day of your life and then fall into some error and miss heaven. Oh, what a wretched, wretched, wretched way to live!
For you see, God says it is not by your righteousness, it is not by your repentance, it is not by your faith, it is not by your goodness, it is not by anything you. God says, “When I see the blood; when I see the blood I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. It is the blood that washes our sins away [1 John 1:7].
Lord, I could never be good enough, never. I could never repent enough, never. I could never have the depth of faith that I ought to have. Lord, Lord, if I am ever saved, it’s by the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, my Lord. And what I must do is to rest in the promise, “and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” So we rest under the blood; under the blood, under the blood:
‘E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love – and redeeming grace – has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
[from “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood”; William Cowper]
“Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, amen and amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. That is the gospel, that is the good news; that in Christ, God hath forgiven us; for His sake He bends down His ear to hear our prayers. For His sake God blesses us, saves us, delivers us, washes us, cleanses us; for Jesus sake, “O Lord, that I might open wide my heart and my life to make room for Him.” And that is our appeal to you, into your heart, let Jesus come. Into your home, invite the blessed Jesus; rearing these children in the love and nurture of the blessed Savior. Walking in the way of glory, loving God in Christ; would you do that? Would you? Does the Holy Spirit press that appeal to your heart? Would you answer with your life? Would you? Today? Now?
In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal. We are going to sing that song, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” While the congregation was singing that song one day, I walked down that aisle, gave my heart publicly to the Lord. Does God bid you here, and thus so, would you answer with your life? A family, a couple, or just you, come now, make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.