The Blood of the New Covenant
July 5th, 1981 @ 7:30 PM
THE BLOOD OF THE NEW COVENANT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-5-81 7:30 p.m.
We invite you who are sharing this hour on radio to turn in your Bible to the twentieth chapter, to the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John; John, chapter 19. We are going to read out loud together verses 28 through 37. John, the Fourth Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—John, the Fourth Gospel, chapter 19, beginning at verse 28 and reading through verse 37.
And on radio with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, we invite you to turn in your Bible and read it out loud with us. John 19, verses 28 to 37, now all of us, out loud, reading it together:
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.
But 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.
For 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.
The title of the message concerns the atoning blood of the New Covenant, the New Testament, and it is delivered and prepared especially as we partake, as we share the loaf. All of us, being many, are one loaf [1 Corinthians 10:17]. We are one body in Christ [Romans 12:5], and as we share the cup, the fruit of the vine, the crimson of His life.
The events of this day of the cross, as the Lord died, went something like this. Usually, it would take two to three or four days for a man who was crucified to die. No vital organ was ever touched in a crucifixion. The culprit, the malefactor died of agonizing exhaustion. Gangrene would set in the wounds in his hands and in his feet, and the thirst and the burning fever would finally snuff out his tragic life. When, therefore, the Jews came to Pilate and asked that they might be dispatched, with wooden mallets, they beat them, broke their bones in their bodies because the next day was a high day. Not only was it a Sabbath day, but it also was a day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Jews therefore, that the land might not be defiled on that high and holy day, asked that they be dispatched and that they be taken down from the cross [John 19:31].
About that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and a member of the Sanhedrin, and Nicodemus, who had come to Him at first by night [John 3:1-2], who also was a member of that same high court, the Sanhedrin; they came to Pilate together and asked if they might have the body of the Lord Jesus [John 19:38-40]. Pilate was amazed that He was dead already, for as I said, one who was crucified usually lingered in agony on the cross two or three or more days. Pilate, the Roman procurator, sent for the centurion and ascertained from the leader of the quaternion of the soldiers who nailed Jesus to the tree, asked of the centurion if the Lord were already dead. And when the centurion affirmed that He was, Pilate was amazed and acquiesced in the request of Joseph and Nicodemus that they have the body [Mark 15:44-45].
The soldiers, however, to make doubly sure that the Lord Jesus was dead—they were men accustomed to execution. They knew death when they saw it. He was not in a swoon, as some of the unbelieving readers of the story would avow. He was dead. They beat the others on either side with their wooden mallets and broke up their bones, and they expired, of course, under that cruel torment. But when they looked at Jesus, so certainly dead, they break not His bones. They didn’t beat Him, but one of the soldiers took a spear and thrust it into His heart, and when he pulled out the spear from the heart of the Lord, there followed that steel head blood and water [John 19:32-34].
And when John saw it, it was a miraculous sign to him, and he mentions it emphatically and unusually. When one of the soldiers with the spear pierced His side, and there came out blood and water, “He that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” [John 19:35]. As John saw that blood and water flowing out of the wound created by the spear, he was astonished, and he wrote it down in an unusually emphatic way [John 19:35-37].
Now what was that—before we proceed with the message—that blood and water that poured out of the side of our Lord when He was pierced with the Roman spear? It was, it was miraculous. But doctors sometimes will explain it in an anatomical way. The heart beats in a sac, in a pericardium, in the cavity of the chest. It is held in a sac, a cardiac sac, and it beats in that sac. And when the Roman spear pierced that sac—the blood is made up of about fifty-five percent limpid serum and about forty-five percent of coagulum that’s red—and when the Roman soldier thrust his spear into that pericardium and pulled it out, the blood that followed after had separated between serum and red coagulum.
What it shows is that our Lord had died of a ruptured, broken heart, and the blood had poured out into that pericardium and had separated. And when the spear thrust opened His side, the serum that looked like water and the coagulum that was red followed after, blood and water. That the Lord should have died of a broken heart is in keeping with the sixty-ninth Psalm:
Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: They that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty.
Verse 19, Psalm 69, verse 19:
Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor. Mine adversaries are all before Thee.
Reproach hath broken my heart
Isn’t that what I said, the Lord died of a broken heart?
Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; And for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me sour wine, called vinegar, to drink.
Apparently, it is not an exaggeration or a misunderstanding to say that our Lord literally died of a broken heart.
Returning to this phenomenon that John saw in amazement and commented on so stringently and vividly; when the heart was ruptured by the spear, there poured out of the side of our Lord blood and water [John 19:34]. John saw in that a remarkable sign, a remarkable sēmeion. A hundred years old, sixty-five years later, he wrote in 1 John, chapter 5, verses 6 and , “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” [1 John 5:6]. “There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one” [1 John 5:8].
John, when he writes in the Gospel, will never use the word miracle. He will use the word sēmeion, sign. When John wrote the Apocalypse, the Revelation, in the [first] verse he says—it starts off with apokalupsis. That’s the first word, apokalupsis, a tremendous word, unveiling, the uncovering of Jesus Christ. “And He sent and,” we pronounce the word signified. It is spelled sign-ified, “And He sent and sign-ified it unto His servant John by His holy angel” [Revelation 1:1]. There is the verbal form of that same word sēmeion, the verbal form sēmainō. He saw it in signs, like the Lamb of God is a sign, a figure of Jesus, our Lord.
The things that the blessed Savior did in the Gospel of John are all called signs, sēmeia; signs plural. “Many other sēmeia, many other signs did Jesus . . . which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life in His name” [John 20:30-31]. When John followed the life our blessed Lord, what He did, John saw it in a sign of a great spiritual truth. And when you study the Gospel of John, he picks out seven of those signs, and each, followed by a discourse, make up the Gospel.
He will say in the marriage of the Cana of Galilee that the Jewish people had six waterpots there [John 2:6]. They held about a hundred eighty gallons, and they were for the bathing of the feet of the guests who came to the wedding. And when the Lord performed His first sēmeion, His first sign, Johns calls it, the Lord told the servants to fill up those six waterpots, then draw out and bear to the governor of the feast, and on the way to the governor of the feast, it was turned into new wine [John 2:7-9]. Not the kind that makes us drunk, the kind we shall drink with our Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:6-9]. The emcee of the wedding said, “I have never tasted wine like this” [John 2:9-10].
It was created as God only could create it. Now, John says, “This is the first sign, the first sēmeion that our Lord did, and the disciples believed on Him” [John 2:11]. Well, what kind of a sign is that? The six waterpots, six is a number of incompleteness.
The six waterpots, the six big stone basins [John 2:6], represented the old covenant, the old ritual, the old law. And it was filled up to the brim, filled up [John 2:7]. Like our Lord Jesus filled, fulfilled, filled full the requirements of the law [Matthew 5:17]. And now they bear to the governor of the feast the covenant that is new [John 2:8]. The new wine, not an old patch sewed on an old garment [Matthew 9:16], but a new faith, a new promise, a new testament. It’s a new thing that Jesus has brought to us who have found faith and refuge and salvation in Him [2 Corinthians 5:17].
John saw that and he saw it a sign, a sēmeion, so the whole Gospel proceeds, the feeding of the five thousand [John 6:1-14], then follows the long discourse, Jesus is the bread of life, the loaf of heaven, angels’ food, the manna from above [John 6:31-65]. He heals the blind man [John 9:1-7], then follows the long discourse [John 9:8-41], Jesus is the light of the world [John 8:12]. Each one is a sēmeion. It’s a sign. It’s a great spiritual truth that is revealed in what Jesus did, as well as what Jesus said.
Now, the same thing obtains in this amazing development that John witnessed from the cross, “He that saw it bare record, and his record is true” [John 19:35], and he writes, “that ye might believe,” for there followed after the spear, blood and water [John 19:34]. Well, what is that the sign of? Historically, it is something that John saw in the death of our Lord, and experientially, it brings to us the fullness of the saving gospel of Jesus.
I’m going to quote the first chapter, the first stanza of “Rock of Ages,” and you listen to the words:
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin a double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
[“Rock of Ages,” Augustus M. Toplady]
“Blood and water, a sign of what, pastor?” The water is a sign, and a token, and a symbol of the cleansing, of the grace and love of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. In John 15:3, the Lord Jesus said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Isn’t that an amazing pronouncement? “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
Or again, the apostle Paul will write in Ephesians 5:26, “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25]. Now, the verse, “That He might cleanse and sanctify it with the washing of water by the word” [Ephesians 5:26]. There is a cleansing. There is a washing. There is a regeneration. There is a making new. There is a sanctification in the gospel that is undeniable. When a man hears it, it does something to his heart. When people listen to the Word of God, it does something to their souls, the cleansing of the message of Christ. “There flowed out water” [John 19:34].
And the blood, the blood is the atoning grace of our Lord, the crimson of His life poured out into the earth [John 19:34]. It was no accident that that Roman soldier thrust his spear into the heart of our Lord, and His blood poured out on the ground. Always, from the beginning, the blood was separated in sacrifice from the body, and it was the blood that made atonement for the soul.
One of the most dynamic and meaningful of all of the verses in the Old Covenant is this, 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 atonement for the soul.” Always, the blood in the sacrifice was separated from the body. In the many sacrifices that were offered to the Lord, the blood first was caught in a basin, and it was poured out at the base of the altar [Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7, 34]. Then the body, sometimes if it were a sin offering, was completely burned [Leviticus 1:9]. Most of the time, it was roasted and eaten by the priest and by the family of the sacrificial offerer [Leviticus 6:26].
In the story of the Passover lamb, the blood of the lamb was caught in a basin [Exodus 12:22], separate from the sacrificial animal, and the blood was sprinkled in the form of a cross on the lintel and on the doorposts on either side [Exodus 12:7, 22]. In the story of Yom Kippur, of the holy Day of Atonement, the animal was slain. When the priest had confessed over the head of the animal the sins of the people, then the animal was slain, and the blood was caught in a basin; and with the blood, the high priest went into the Holy of Holies and there sprinkled the blood of expiation, of atonement, on the mercy seat, on the propitiatory between the two overarching cherubim [Leviticus 16:11-17]. Always, the blood was separated from the sacrifice.
Now may I repeat it? It was no accident that that Roman thrust that spear into the heart of our Lord, and the crimson of His life poured out on the earth [John 19:34]. The blood of atonement was always separated from the sacrifice, and the atoning blood of our Lord was poured out, spilled out for us [John 19:34]. Another thing, one other, about what John saw in that amazing phenomenon of blood and water pouring out, the spear thrust: it is blood, it is life, and that alone, that makes atonement for our sins, nothing else; nothing else [Leviticus 17:11].
When Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, came before God, he came with a vegetable offering. He offered before the Lord God for the sins of his soul, Cain offered a gift, a mincha, a gift of vegetables. He brought beans, and cucumbers, and squash, and lentils, and onions, and all of the things of the ground. Cain brought a vegetable offering [Genesis 4:1, 3].
When Abel came before the Lord, he brought a lamb and poured out its blood, and the sacrifice was offered before the Lord in heaven [Genesis 4:2, 4]. Where did Abel learn that? He was taught that as his parents were by the cherubim on the eastern side at the gate of Eden [Genesis 3:24]. For the Lord had taught the man and his wife that fig leaves, the fruit of the soil, vegetables, trees; fig leaves do not suffice to cover the nakedness of our sin. And somewhere in the garden of Eden, the Lord God slew an innocent animal, poured out its blood on the ground, and took the skins and covered the nakedness of our first parents [Genesis 3:7-13, 21].
And those cherubim at the east gate of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:24] taught Adam, and Eve, and Abel, and Cain and the first family that when they came before God, they were to come with blood, atoning blood, the crimson of life poured out for the covering of sin. And when Cain came before the Lord, he said, “Not so. I will come with my cucumbers, and with my squash, and with my beans, and with my lentils,” and he offered a vegetable offering unto the Lord [Genesis 4:3]. And Abel, when he came, he came as he had been so faithfully and carefully taught, by the cherubim who were keeping the way of life. He came with blood of atonement [Genesis 4:4].
And all of us are one or the other. We can come before God with our good works, our vegetable offering. “You see, Lord, how good I am or how faithfully I have worked? I deserve a place in heaven. See, Lord?” We can come before God like that. Why, I’ve had men world without end tell me, “Preacher, I’ll take my own chances. I’ll stand on my own record. I haven’t killed anybody. I haven’t robbed a bank. I haven’t been a murderer. I haven’t been a vile sinner. I’m a moral, good man. And I’ll stand on my own record.”
Cain, with a vegetable offering unto God, and he didn’t realize in the presence of the purity and perfection, and holiness of God, all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. But when Abel came before the Lord, he came with an offering of atoning blood, and the Lord accepted Abel and his offering [Genesis 4:4]. And we can be that also.
May I quote another stanza from “Rock of Ages”?
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These, for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross, I cling.
[from “Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady]
Blood and water, the cleansing of the proclamation and preaching of the gospel, pointing to Jesus and the atoning blood that washes our sins away [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]; it’s too good to be true. It is too simple to believe.
Lord, Lord, You mean without self-recommendation and without striving for good works, You mean that my sin is covered and my soul is saved just by trusting the atoning grace and the loving mercy of our crucified and risen Lord? [Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9] That’s it. I’ve learned it. We’ve heard it, and God honors it. “In my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[“Nothing But the Blood,” Robert Lowry]
May we stand? Our Lord, with all of the tears of rivers of waters, and with all of the mountains that we might be able to move, none of these can wash the stain of sin out of our lives. It is the atoning blood of our Lord that makes us white as snow. These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14]. O God in heaven, how deeply and everlastingly do we praise Thy name for the blessed Savior; came into the world to die [Hebrews 10:4-14], crucified for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], poured out the crimson of His life in atoning grace [Matthew 27:32-50]; and for us who accept the free gift of salvation [Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8] God for Christ’s sake forgives us [Ephesians 4:32], writes our name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], saves us now and forever [John 10:27-30]. Oh, blessed be the name of our wonderful Lord!
And in this moment when we stand in the presence of Jesus and we pray for you, and in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, “Pastor, today, I have decided to accept that free gift of eternal life. I’ll not strive any longer. I’ll not try to make myself worthy. I’ll ask God to make me worthy in the blood of the Lamb. I’ll ask Jesus to be my mediator, and my attorney, and my High Priest, and my counselor. I’ll ask Jesus to save me and see me through. I believe He will, and I’m coming.” Down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, tonight, I’ve decided for God.” A family you; a couple you; just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart while we pray. And when we sing this song, come. I’ll be standing to . . . to that side of the communion table. Come and give me your hand. “Pastor, this is God’s night for us, and here we are.” Thank Thee, Lord, for the precious harvest You will give us, in Thy saving name, amen. While we sing, come.