The Precious Blood of Christ
October 14th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
1 Peter 1:18-19
THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 1:18-20
10-14-73 8:15 A.M.
We welcome you who have joined our service by radio, sharing the worship and praise of our redeeming Lord, with the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Precious Blood of Christ. In our preaching through the First Epistle of Simon Peter, the message is an exposition of the eighteenth and nineteenth and twentieth verses of the first chapter. And the reading of the inspired text is this: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold. . . but with the precious blood of Christ. . .who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, and was manifest in these last times for you" [1 Peter 1:18-20].
The precious, the timē, the unbelievably dear, and costly, and precious blood of Christ, and to preach a message like this brings us back to the very heart of the gospel message. It is easy to fall into the habit of preaching about the gospel but not the gospel itself; a preaching about the Bible, but not the Bible itself; a preaching about salvation, but not salvation itself. When we read a text like this and speak of it, we are brought back to the very heart of the revelation and message of God in Christ Jesus. "Redeemed, not with silver and gold, corruptible things, earthly things, but with the heavenly, precious, timē, costly, dear, above price, blood of God" [1 Peter 1:18-19].
You know, when you read through the Bible, it is so impressive how God thinks about blood. The blood of beasts in God’s sight is precious. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis, by commandment the Lord said, "You are not to eat flesh with the life in it." Then it explains, "For the blood is the life thereof" [Genesis 9:4]. In the Levitical law we’re not to eat things strangled because the blood is still in it [Acts 15:29]. In the Levitical law, in the Mosaic legislation, the blood of victims – atoning sacrifices – was poured out at the base of the altar [Leviticus 5:9]. For the Lord said, "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 blood that maketh atonement for the soul" [Leviticus 17:11]. And all of those passages refer to the blood of beasts.
How much more precious in the sight of God the blood of man? In that same ninth chapter of Genesis, we are told that it is the blood of man that must be somehow atoned for, and if it is by murder it must be atoned for by the blood of the murderer himself [Genesis 9:5-6]. In the Book of Numbers, God says, "The shedding of blood defiles the land" [Numbers 35:33]. And in one of those strange things that the Bible reveals, it is the blood of the one who shed it that is used for the cleansing and the atoning of the blood that was shed that defiled the land [Numbers 35:33]. That is such a strange thing in the mind and character of God. It was the serpents that destroyed the people, those sinuous, little vipers of fire, and poison, and death, ravaging the people of the Lord. It is a serpent raised in the midst of the camp toward which the people look for healing and for health [Numbers 21:6-9]. So it is blood that defiles the land, the blood shed in murder; it is the blood of the murderer that cleanses the land [Numbers 35:33].
If the blood of beasts is precious in God’s sight, if the blood of men is precious in God’s sight, how could one in language or song or verse or sermon describe the timē blood, the precious blood of our Lord? [1 Peter 1:19]. If there is anything in God that defies delineation and description, it is the worth and the merit of the atoning blood of Christ. In Acts 20:28, the apostle Paul calls the blood of Christ "the blood of God that purchases His church." When we seek to enter into the depths of God’s meaning in the atoning sacrifice, in the poured out blood of our Lord, we do not know. I took a course in a doctoral degree on atonement for two years; and at the end of the two years, it seemed to me I knew less about the depths of the infinite meaning of God in the death of Christ than when I began the study.
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Or how dark the night the Lord passed through
E’er He found the sheep that was lost.
["The Ninety and Nine"; Elizabeth C. Clephane]
But as I study the Book, there are three things that come to my heart that the blood of Christ brings to us. Even though I cannot fathom or plumb the depths of the meaning of the sacrifice, the atoning cross, death of our Savior, there are three things that as I read the Book come to me.
The blood of Christ brings to us, first, redeeming grace [Colossians 1:14]. For in the law, in the Mosaic legislation, in the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], in moral obedience, in keeping rites and rituals and ceremonies, there is nothing other than a bringing to remembrance again and again of our incapacity, our ineptness, our mistakes, our unrighteousness, our sins [Hebrews 10:3]. When a man sins under the law, under the government of moral righteousness, he brings a bullock and he offers it in expiation of his sin. Then he comes back and offers another bullock, then returns and offers still another [Hebrews 10:1]. And it is repeated again and again and again; for the man sins again and again and again [Hebrews 10:11]. The law is a tyrant and a curse [Galatians 3:10]. In the morning the nation offered a lamb on the altar; but in the afternoon the nation must offer another lamb. And the next day, the same ritual is repeated [Exodus 29:39]. The high priest, representing the people, goes into the Holy of Holies with blood of expiation. But he must come again, and he must return, and he must go back again [Hebrews 9:25]. The law is a tyrant, and under it we know nothing but the repeated condemnation of our weaknesses and of our sins [Romans 3:20].
But what does the grace of God in Christ do for us? Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." It stops in Jesus. There is not any other sacrifice, and there is not any other priest, there is not any other offering; it stops in Jesus. And the curse of the law that is so terrible for us, a tyrant that we are trying to serve, the curse of the law is taken away in our Lord [Galatians 3:13]. And under the umbrella and under the shelter of His love and grace, the thunders of Sinai lose their terror, and the lightning of judgment loses its fury [Hebrews 12:18-24]. To the child of God that looks to Christ, the law with all of its condemnation and terror and judgment and hell and damnation, the law, to the child of God that looks in faith to Christ, is as though he were looking upon the ark of the covenant. There in the heart of the ark are those Ten Commandments [2 Chronicles 5:10] that no man can keep, and without keeping them he dies [Hebrews 10:28]. But the child of God looks at those commandments and those laws inside the ark of God, and it is covered over by the hilastērion, the judgment seat, the mercy seat – looked full upon by the cherubim who are always emblems of God’s grace [Exodus 25:16-21] – and covered over with the sprinkling of the blood [Leviticus 16:14]. Our victim and our atonement and our expiation and our propitiation and our reconciliation to God is in Christ [Romans 5:8-11; 1 John 2:2]. "We are redeemed to God, not by corruptible things as silver and gold, but by the timē blood of Christ, the precious blood of Christ" [1 Peter 1:18-19].
Now, he makes a comparison there: the silver and gold and the blood. Silver and gold can redeem some things. Silver and gold can redeem a precious object that was pawned: a diamond ring, a beautiful watch, a precious gift. Silver and gold can redeem an article that is pawned; but silver and gold cannot redeem a doomed soul [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Silver and gold can buy back, can redeem a mortgage, a lend, a debt; but it cannot redeem a destroyed life. Silver and gold belong to the world that is corruptible; therefore it could only redeem corruptible things. But you had might as well try to measure love by the yard, or weight the Holy Spirit by the pound, as to seek to answer how the spiritual depths and meaning of the blood of Christ can wash us and redeem us from the judgments and the slavery of sin and unrighteousness. We move into another world when we come to the Lord with our sins: for silver and gold cannot buy righteousness.
Now the man says, "I bring legal tender. Look at what I can do, and look at what I possess." But silver, and gold, and our personal righteousness are not legal tender in heaven; they don’t redeem or buy anything. The man says, "I would buy with money and with price," but God says, "Without money and without price" [Isaiah 55:1]. The man says, "By my wealth, and by my goodness, and by my righteousness"; but God says, "By My grace" [Ephesians 2:8-9]. The man says, "Look through the pages of Dunn and Bradstreet; but God says, "Look through the pages of the Lamb’s Book of Life" [Revelation 20:12, 15]. God does not look at birth certificates, or tradition, or our achievements, or our affluence; but God looks to see if we are under the blood.
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Christ.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Christ.
[adapted from "Nothing But the Blood"; Robert Lowry]
Redeemed with the precious blood of our Lord [1 Peter 1:18-19].
First: the atoning grace of Christ brings to us redeeming grace [Colossians 1:14]. Second: in the shed blood of our Lord, the poured out blood of our Lord, we find forgiveness for our sins [1 John 1:7]. Not by His miraculous birth [Matthew 1:20-25] and beautiful life are we saved, not by His glorious works that could control and turn the course of nature [Luke 8:22-25], not by His words of wisdom, "For never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46], but by His stripes, His sufferings, we are healed [Isaiah 53:5]. The life of our Lord and the death of our Lord are not those of a martyr or of a hero. He did not die to inspire us, nor did He die as an example for us, nor did He die to teach us a lesson; but "He died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And this is not an accident in history, but He was "verily foreordained for that atoning death before the foundation of the world" [1 Peter 1:20].
The blood of Christ justifies us [Romans 5:9]. The blood of Christ cleanses us [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. The blood of Christ presents us without spot and stain before God [Ephesians 5:27]. In His life He was obedient, perfectly to the law [Matthew 5:17]. In His death He justified us, being our righteousness and our goodness [1 Corinthians 1:30]. In His burial He was the scapegoat, taking our sins away [Leviticus 16:10; 1 John 2:2]. In His resurrection He is our great High Priest to defend us at the bar, the judgment bar of Almighty God [Hebrews 3:1]. And in His return He is bringing to us a full salvation apart from sin [Hebrews 9:28].
First: the atoning blood of Christ brings to us redeeming grace. We are liberated from the slavery of the law; we are free in our Lord [Galatians 3:13]. Second: in the blood of Christ we have forgiveness of sins; our unrighteousnesses, the stain of wrong, the judgments of God upon our sins, all of it is washed away [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Third: in the blood of Christ we are brought to the promise and the power of a new life [John 6:56-57]. In Him, in the poured out life of our Lord, we have God’s power Himself to recreate us and to regenerate us [Titus 3:5]. When they struck the Lord Christ [Matthew 26:67, Luke 22:64], they struck the Rock from which flows out the fountain of living waters [Exodus 17:6; Isaiah 8:14]. When they drove great nails through His hands and feet [Luke 23:33, 24:39], they pierced and opened the source of heaven’s resources and power [Matthew 28:18]. And when they thrust that spear into His side and opened His heart [John 19:34], they opened the floodgates of God’s loving grace and glory and forgiveness [Ephesians 1:7]. In the poured-out blood of our Lord are poured out all the heavenly benedictory blessings of the love and mercy of God upon men.
Another thing: in the sanctifying, redeeming blood and grace of our Lord, we have the power of regeneration [2 Corinthians 5:17]; the new creation, the cleansing, the great open door of a marvelous new and incomparable life.
Friday night, this last Friday night, I was speaking in Arlington, Virginia. The occasion was a convocation of prison chaplains, and the men and the people who support them. It is a national organization seeking to place in all of the prisons and jails of our country a chaplain, telling men and women about the Lord and the grace of God in Christ Jesus. I was very surprised at the luster of the occasion. It was a beautiful gathering. There were about six hundred present in a beautifully decorated room, and the people beautifully dressed. I was very surprised. And as I sat there before time for me to speak, the man who heads that national organization was seated to my left. And, of course, being unknown to them and they unknown to me, he was telling me about this man who is speaking, and that man over there who is standing to give his testimony, and this man who is seated immediately in front of the speaker’s table, and this man who is over here at the speaker’s table on the rostrum to my left and to my right.
And as I sat there and listened, both to those who were speaking and to the leader who was describing the men to me, I had that same feeling that I had when I was down there in the Amazon jungle looking at those Auca Indians, who all of their lives had dipped their hands in human blood. And now in a church service to which I am to preach, are seated there before me sweet, precious, humble, God-redeemed, Christ-forgiven disciples of our blessed Lord. Here is a man, last Friday night, standing up to speak, a tall, fine-looking, well dressed man; he is the chairman of the directors, the trustees. And the head of the organization whispers to me and says: "This man was an embezzler, and for years sentenced to prison for embezzlement. Now, he is not only a fine Christian, but he is a deacon in his church. He is the leader in his congregation and the treasurer of the house of God," this man standing there, redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One. Here is a man, he has written more than forty thousand dollars of bogus checks, sent to prison time and again; and now, redeemed by the blood of Christ, he is an officer in a great national corporation.
Here is a man, he was one of the four hangmen at Nuremberg; the trials of the Nazis, the war criminals. There was a man from each of the four countries, and this man represented America. And he, in his assignment, personally hung twenty-two men. And as the days passed, somehow what he had done became oppressive, and brooding over the death of those men gone by his hand, his mind became partly deranged, and he became an alcoholic and a drug addict. And now, redeemed by the blood of Christ, his mind is healed, and his heart is sound, and his life flows out in testimony to the grace of God.
Here is a man who is a murderer, and was sentenced for life; but found Christ under the hands of a godly chaplain, and was so exemplary that the governor pardoned him, and he is now a free citizen.
And here is a man immediately in front of me who, sentence after sentence, was forty years to be in the penitentiary; found grace in the sight of God, and is now a popular speaker in the churches with young people, guiding them away from the judgments of sin, and violence, and crime, and wrong, and pointing their young lives to the blessed Lord.
Why, when you sit in a meeting like that and look at those men, and the marvelous, glorious change in their lives, you kind of walk away feeling, "This must be what it was all about. This must be what God meant." And yet, when I think of the marvelous turn in the life of those men of violence and crime – one of those men was what they call "the hit man of the mafia" – he was the killer of the mafia. When they decided that a man ought to be wiped out, it was his assignment to wipe him out. And yet as I look at the grace of God in those lives, I start thinking about us, about us. We categorize sin, "This man is a criminal, this man has done violence; I haven’t been violent, I haven’t been a criminal. I have never taken a man’s life, nor have I murdered for money. I haven’t been embezzling in a bank, and I haven’t served out a sentence in a federal penitentiary." That’s the way we think, but actually in God’s sight we are all sinners alike; all of us, all of us [Romans 3:23]. It isn’t that he is vile and I am righteous, or he is a sinner and I am clean and pure. When I began thinking about them and us, I come to see that we are all sinners alike, all of us, and all of us alike need the grace and mercy of God, all of us [Romans 3:23, 6:23].
Lord, I bow in Thy presence. Lord, be merciful to me a sinner [Luke 18:13]. And may the blood that cleansed those men, and may that wonderful grace that reached down and touched their lives, Lord, may the same loving grace touch my life. May God be merciful to me, and save me. Write my name in the Book of Life, as those who have looked in love and in faith and acceptance to the precious, blessed Lord Jesus [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27].
And when I do that, immediately I am sheltered by the atoning mercy of God. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you [Exodus 12:7, 13]. When I see the blood, the avenging angel will sheath his sword" [Exodus 12:22-23]. There is no judgment, there is no penalty, there is no foreboding, there is no cringing, there is no dread. Under the blood, under the blood, I am safe and secure and saved, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" [Revelation 12:11]. When I give my life to Jesus [Acts 3:19]; pleading His wounds, and His mercy, and His tears, and His love, and His grace, and His forgiveness, and His blood, God says, "For His sake I wash away all the stains; for His sake I forgive all the sins [Ephesians 4:32]; for His sake I adopt you into the family of God" [2 Corinthians 5:19] – saved, saved, secure by the blood of the Crucified One [Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19].
My sweet friend, not looking to yourself but looking to God, would you accept Him as your Savior today? Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, looking to God to forgive us [Titus 3:5]. My sweet friend, turning aside from your own righteousnesses and looking to Jesus, would you open your heart to the fountain of grace, and love, and healing that comes from His gracious hands? This is the gospel; this is what it is to be saved. This is what it is to be a Christian: coming in humble faith, in contrition and repentance, in confession and acceptance [Romans 10:9-10].
Would you this morning stand by me? On the first note of this hymn of appeal, out of the balcony, you; in the press of people on this lower floor, you; down a stairway, down an aisle, "Here I am, pastor, I give my heart to God. I open my heart to the grace, and love, and mercy that comes to the soul from Jesus. I am coming today." Would you make it now? A family, a couple, or just you, on the first note of that first stanza, take that first step. When we stand up in a moment to sing, stand up walking down that aisle, or walking down that stairway. "Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand; I have opened my heart and given my soul to God." Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.