The Blood of Jesus Christ
April 15th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 1:7
4-15-79 7:30 p.m.
So once again, all of us express to choir and orchestra, soloists, the young people who so magnify the Lord, our deepest love and gratitude.
On the radio, the great radio of the Southwest, KRLD, and on the beautiful stereo station of KCBI, we welcome the uncounted thousands of you who share this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message chosen by our College and Career division. It is entitled The Blood of Jesus Christ, and the text is in the first chapter of 1 John.
So wherever you are, if you have a Bible, turn to 1 John, almost at the end of the New Testament, almost at the end of the Bible, 1 John. And we shall begin reading at verse 4 and read to verse 10, the end of the chapter. All of us reading out loud together 1 John 1:4. Now, all of us out loud together:
And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth,
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
[1 John 1:4-10]
The John who wrote these three epistles toward the end of the Bible [1 John, 2 John, 3 John], is the same John who wrote the Fourth Gospel.
It is hard for us to realize how, almost in the beginning, the Christian faith battled Gnosticism. That is a Greek philosophical system that had, as its basic tenet, that whoever the gods were, were so removed from the sin and iniquity of matter, of the world, that God in His perfection could never touch the world. So they postulated angelic orders between God, down, lower order, down, lower order, down lower order, until finally one of them was removed far enough from the perfection of God that he could touch the sinful and iniquitous world of matter.
It was a doctrine of the Greek philosophers, so many of them, that evil lay in matter, and so God could not touch it. Well, in Gnosticism, in the system of Gnosticism, it took many, many, many forms and fashions and shapes. Why, in many of those systems, Jesus was one of those aeons, one of those angelic beings, down and down and down. And usually they put Him the last one. He was the one that finally was able to touch the world.
Now there were two kind of Gnosticism that especially the Christian faith encountered in the days of John. All the other disciples of the Lord long since had been dead. All of them had been martyred. But John lived to be about 100 AD—he lived to be about a hundred years old, and at 100 AD. And the letters that we have from him, and the Gospel we have from him, is written in the day when that Gnostic confrontation had grown very real and very bitter.
Now there was a type of Gnosticism called Cerinthian, Cerinthian Gnosticism, named after a Gnostic philosopher named Cerinthus in Ephesus. And Cerinthus said that Jesus was just a man. So John wrote his Gospel in defense of the deity of Christ. And he begins it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. And thereafter, all that you read in the Gospel of John will be purposely chosen and said in order that we might believe that He is the Son of God, deity [John 20:30-31].
Now the first epistle of John is written against the Docetic Gnostics. Dokeō is the Greek word that means to seem, to appear. So they said that He is an angelic being and just appeared to have a real human body. Actually, He wasn’t human at all.” And 1 John is written against the Docetic Gnostics.
For example, he will write in the epistle, “Every one that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: this is that spirit of unbelief and Antichrist, whereas you have heard that it should be; and is already now here in the world” [1 John 4:3]—these that refuse to confess that Jesus has come in the flesh; that God has not manifested Himself in human form.
And that is the purpose of the epistle of John. When, therefore—and this is the substance of the sermon—when, therefore, the apostle John writes, “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7], I have three doctrinal propositions.
Number one: this is actual blood. It is not a symbol that John refers to or a type. It is not a figure of speech, such as the blood of the nation expiating the indifference and sloth of the people. There are many, many figures of speech, metaphors, but this is not one of them. When John writes, “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin,” he is referring to, first, actual blood [1 John 1:7].
You could ask His mother who stood at the cross and watched Him die, to whom the Lord said to John, “Take her away that she might not stand to look upon such sufferings and agony.” John took her away [John 19:25-27]. Ask Mary if that were real blood, real suffering, actual crucifixion [John 19:25].
Or, ask the Roman centurion who supervised the execution of the Lord under the orders of the Roman procurator. Ask him, “Is that real and actual blood? Is that real and actual suffering, crucifixion, sobs, and cries, and agonies?” Ask the Roman centurion [Mark 15:39].
Ask the scorning elders, the Sadducees and the Pharisees and the scribes who walked up and down in front of His cross and derided Him in His claim to be a Savior, “He saved others; Himself, look, He cannot save [Matthew 27:39-42]. Look at the blood, the crimson of His life pouring out, and look at Him bow His head in death” [John 19:30]. Ask them if it were real blood, and real suffering, and real agony, and real death.
Ask the thief on the cross by His side who suffered a like execution [Luke 23:42-43]. Ask him if it is real, this blood that cleanses us from all sin [1 John 1:7]. Ask him if it was a real agony, a real crucifixion, real blood poured out upon the ground.
The answer from all of the spectators, from all of those present, from the apostles who watched Him die from afar, from the Roman soldiers, without exception, a unanimous verdict, the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son is actual and real, and the suffering was intense and agonizing. That’s the first thing from the text. He’s not speaking symbolically, or metaphorically, or figuratively, but he is speaking actually and really. “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7].
Corollary number two: the blood that John refers to provides an actual atonement [Romans 5:11]. It was offered before God in actual expiation, propitiation for our sins [1 John 2:2]. That is a magnificent presentation of the author of Hebrews in chapter 9. Most of you are not old enough to remember that I preached for a year on the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews—let me read most of it. Then we’ll see what the author is saying in the actual blood of Christ providing an actual atonement. Beginning at verse 11:
Christ being come an High Priest of good things . . . by a greater and more perfect tabernacle—one in heaven…
And not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the Holy Place, to obtain 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 to God. . . purge our consciences from dead works to serve God? . . .
When Moses spoke every precept of the law . . . the book, and the people were sprinkled with blood . . .
The tabernacle, the vessels, all was consecrated by blood.
Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins . . .
Now He is not entered into the holy places made with hands. They are just types and figures of the Holy Place in heaven itself where Jesus is in the presence of God appearing for us:
And not that He goes once a year as in the tabernacle…
For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered . . . for the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation.
This is an actual atonement made with actual blood for our remission of sins [Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:2]. Now the background of the ninth chapter of Hebrews is very apparent. Once a year on, on Yom Kippur they call it today, on the Day of Atonement, once a year, the high priest bowed over a sacrificial animal, put his hands upon his head and confessed over the animal all the sins of the people [Leviticus 17:21]. Then the animal was sacrificed and its blood caught in a basin, the high priest divesting himself of his garments of glory because he himself was a suppliant and a sinner [Leviticus 16:6, 11]. He went beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies and there offered the blood as an expiation, a propitiation, an atonement for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:15-16]. This, says the author of Hebrews, is what Jesus did. He poured out the crimson of His life and entered into the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary of heaven itself, there to present the blood of atonement in behalf of the sins of the people; an actual sacrifice, an actual death, pouring out before God actual blood, and it brings to us an actual atonement [Romans 5:11]. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:7, 13].
And that leads to the third doctrinal avowal from the text, “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. The third doctrinal avowal: it effects for us, brings to us, an actual deliverance, an actual salvation, an actual, real regeneration [Titus 3:5], the power of the blood of God’s Son that cleanseth us from all sin [1 John 1:7].
You know, there is a phrase in the New Testament that is repeated over and over again. And the Greek word is huper, for, in behalf of. And so many times do you read it in the Bible. Jesus died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], huper. Jesus died for me [Galatians 2:20], huper, in my behalf, in my stead [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. He took my place. I should have suffered those stripes. I should have been crucified. I should have paid the penalty for my sins, but He died, huper, in my behalf, in my stead; that is, He is the real and actual Substitute for me. And the penalty that I should have borne, He bore in His own body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. It is an actual substitution.
I have often thought that of all of the men in the world who could understand the doctrine of substitution the best, I think it must have been Barabbas [Matthew 27:15-26]. That awesome Friday morning when they flung the door of the prison open and these malefactors were to be executed, what should have come out of that door was one of those criminals, another of those criminals, and the third one, Barabbas. But when the doors of the prison were flung open, it was not Barabbas who came out. It was Jesus the Nazarene.
And it was not Barabbas carrying that cross, it was Jesus. And it was not Barabbas who was nailed to that center tree, it was Jesus. And as Barabbas stood there in the throng that crowded Calvary that day [Luke 23:32-33], as he stood there and watched that Man die on the center cross, he had the best idea of the doctrine of substitution of any man who ever lived. “He died in my place. He paid the penalty for my malfeasance” [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14].
How is it in the doctrine, how is it that Jesus could be a substitute for me, and you, and all of the sin-cursed, dying people of the world? How could it be?
The answer is most obvious. It is because of who He was. If I were to be nailed to the cross, I would die for my sins, just mine. And if any other man were crucified, he would experience death just for his sins; he could not die for somebody else. But the great, moving, eternal truth of the doctrine of substitution and atonement in Christ is, His life was so virtuous, and His person was so omnipotent, infinitely precious, God Himself, that there is in Him, because of who He is, there is grace, and atonement, and expiation, and propitiation, and forgiveness for the whole world and to spare [1 John 2:2].
And the second part of that doctrine: it is because of what God thinks of it that we are forgiven in Him. All that a Hebrew had to do in the land of Egypt, when the angel of death passed over, was to sprinkle the blood on the lintel and on the doorposts [Exodus 12:22-23] and then rest in the promise of God who had said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:7, 13].
There might be many philosophical discussions concerning the merit of that blood. There might be many forensic confrontations concerning that way of salvation. I can just listen to the people as they wonder, “Why does God do this?” But the Book doesn’t say, “When they see the blood,” or “what they think of the blood”; the Bible says God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13].
And it is thus with the atonement of our Lord. God so values the blood of Jesus Christ that any man, anywhere, in any generation, in any hour, in any moment, in any service, at anytime, anywhere, that a man will plead the blood of Christ, under the blood of the Lord, God forgives him, and God saves him [Ephesians 1:7], and God regenerates him [Titus 3:5], and God makes a new creation out of him [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is God’s actual response to the atoning grace of our Lord [Ephesians 2:8], that He gives to us, for His sake, eternal life, forgiveness of sin [John 3:16]. That’s what God thinks of the sacrifice of His Son [Hebrews 10:14].
You know, I can illustrate that exactly. There was the son of a very rich man drafted into the army. And when you’re marching in the army, dressed up in khaki out there on some front line, whether you’re rich, whether you’re poor, doesn’t make any difference. They all look alike, with their hair cut just so and their khaki uniforms just so, and with a gun in their hands and marching out there into no man’s land. They’re all alike.
This son of a rich man made friends with a soldier marching by his side, a boy who had no home, no parents, an orphan lad, poor. But they became good friends. And the boy from the affluent family placed in the hands of his friend a letter. And on the outside was the name and the address. And the lad said to his friend. “If I don’t come back, will you promise me if you come back, that when you go home to America you will go to this address and give this letter to this man here whose name is on that envelope?” And the lad replied, “Why, yes, yes.” So he took the sealed letter.
The other boy didn’t come back—the rich boy didn’t come back. And in keeping with the promise, when the war was over, the poor orphan lad returned to America, looked at the address, went to the city, looked at the address, went to the house, and knocked at the door of a beautiful, palatial home.
When the man of the house came to the door, the boy told him that he had faithfully promised to deliver to this man and to this address this letter. The father opened it. It was from his son who had been killed in the war.
And the letter said, “Dear Father, if I don’t come back, if I don’t come back, will you receive this boy as your own and take him in to the house and the home and the heart of the family and let him be your son in my stead?”
The father read it, and looked at that poor, ragged soldier boy, opened wide the door, opened wide his arms, and said, “For my son’s sake, come in, come in, come in.”
That’s what God means, when for Jesus’ sake, and how many times do we hear the phrase, do we pray, do we plead; that’s what it means, “for Jesus’ sake,” God says, “Welcome, welcome. Give you all the blessings of heaven for My Son’s sake. Open the doors of the kingdom for My Son’s sake. Every sin of your life washed away for My Son’s sake.”
No wonder Paul says that the issue of life is to the praise and glory of the Son, what He has done for us, opening the floodgates of grace and glory [Ephesians 1:12]. And God, for His sake, welcomes us, loves us, forgives us, remakes us, takes care of us, and some day shall present us faultless in the presence of the grace of God [Jude 24-25]. That’s the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Acts 20:24]. That’s what we mean when we say, “Jesus is my Savior and my Lord” [John 20:28-29].
In a moment, we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song, a somebody you, to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; a family you, a couple you, to answer God’s call with your life; make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down one of those stairways, walking down one of those aisles, “Here I am, pastor. I have decided for God, and I am on the way.”
May the angels of heaven attend you. May the Spirit of God encourage you. What a beautiful hour, and what a precious moment to give your life in faith to Christ, “I accept Him in all that He promised, in all that He is able. I believe in Jesus my Lord, and I am here to be baptized as He commanded in the Book” [Matthew 28:19-20]. To put your life with us in this dear church, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Stand up taking that first step, the most meaningful you’ll ever make in your life. Do it now. God bless you, while we stand and while we sing.