The Crimson Flow
April 2nd, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-2-89 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled The Crimson Flow.
In one of those coincidences as I am preaching through the Gospel of John, we are at the exact passage in the nineteenth chapter of that Fourth Gospel that describes the outpouring of the life of our Lord for the sins of the world. And it is a beautiful text and passage in keeping with the memorial of the Lord’s Supper. The text is in John chapter 19, verses 31 to 37. John 19:31-37:
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 a 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.
He that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that you 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.
In the Old Testament sacrifices, the blood was always separated from the sacrificial victim. It was caught in a basin and offered as an atonement before God. As Leviticus 17:11 writes, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have offered it upon the altar as a sacrifice, as an atonement for sins: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul."
The blood upon the awesome Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, was brought beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies and was offered there before God as expiation for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:15]. The body of the sacrificial victim for the most part was burned [Leviticus 16:24, 27]. But the blood was sacred and holy. And what was not poured out before God, was poured out [on the horns] of the altar [Leviticus 16:18-19]. And from the beginning of the Bible to the end, from Genesis to Revelation, always it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul [Leviticus 17:11].
That Roman soldier who thrust that spear into the side of our Lord and pierced His heart, that Roman soldier [John 19:34] – crude, rude, uneducated – had no idea that he was fulfilling the Holy Scripture of God and the purpose of our Lord in making atonement for the sins of the people. He had no idea of the prophecy he was fulfilling. And least of all, did he have any idea that as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam [Genesis 2:21-23], so the church is taken out of the side of our Lord [Ephesians 5:29-30]. She is born in His blood, in His suffering, and in His tears. But God, but God has deepest respect for His Holy Word. "A bone of Him shall not be broken" [John 19:36], saith the Lord, and no syllable of Scripture can be broken.
God wrote, "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced" [Zechariah 12:10]. And that Roman soldier, unknowing, thrust that iron spear into the heart and side of our Lord. And there poured out the atoning blood and water [John 19:34]. No blood, no Calvary, no Golgotha, no Pentecost, then no church and no gospel and no redemption and atonement for our sins. When he withdrew his spear, thrusting into it the heart of our Savior, there poured forth blood and water.
To begin with, it looks like a miracle to me; for a cadaver, a dead corpse, cannot bleed. The blood coagulates in every capillary and every vein and every artery. It doesn’t flow forth. Yet, it says here when he withdrew that spear from the heart of our Savior, there poured out blood and water [John 19:34]. The only physiology explanation that would even attempt to say, to describe, to portray what happened: the heart beats in a pericardium, in a cardiac sac. And if the heart ruptured and collapsed, the blood would flow into that extended pericardium. And it was thus, that when he thrust that spear into the heart of our Savior, he punctured, he opened that pericardium. And the blood had separated.
The blood is fifty-five percent limpid serum and forty-five percent red coagulum. And it had separated and flowed out in the form of blood and water, which would mean that our Lord – who was already dead by the time the soldiers came to Him – our Lord had died of a ruptured heart, of a broken heart. And in the breaking of that heart, the blood had flowed out into that cardiac sac, and having time to settle, when it flowed out on the ground, it looked like blood and water. That was in keeping with the Psalm number 69 that He would die of a broken heart [Psalm 69:20].
In any event, John, who was present and looked upon it [John 19:26], could never forget it. It made an indelible, unerasable impression upon his mind and his heart, his soul and his memory. These words that I have read this morning from the fourth gospel were almost certainly written when John was about ninety-five years of age. And after the passing of those days and scores of years, that was as vivid in his memory as the day they looked upon it. And when he writes in his old age this epistle to the church, 1 John, chapter 5, verse 6 and verse 8:
This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness…
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]
John writes in an unusual way. For example, he never uses the word miracle; never. He uses the word semeion, sign, sign. For example, when he writes the Apocalypse, the Revelation, the last book in the Bible, he starts it off, apokalupsis. That’s the first word: apokalupsis, the revelation, the unveiling of Jesus Christ, the coming of our Lord. Then he says, He sent, and you have it pronounced signified. It’s sign-ified actually. He sent and sign-ified it to his servant John [Revelation 1:1]; the same word semeion, sign; verbal, semaino, to signify, to sign. And the wonderful Apocalypse that follows after is presented to us in symbol and in sign.
There will be the Lamb of God; that’s our Lord. There will be the four zoa, the four living ones representing the four corners of the creation. There will be the four-and-twenty elders representing the saints of the Old Testament and the saints of the New Testament. And when John saw that, standing by the cross, in that open wound blood and water flowing out [John 19:34-35], to him it was a sign of the gospel of the Son of God; the water, that is a figure and a sign of His cleansing power.
In Ephesians 5:26, "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; and cleansed it and sanctified it with the washing of water by the word" [Ephesians 5:25-26] – the cleansing word of Christ. Again in John 15:3, "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." That is the meaning of John 3:5, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." We are born by the word of the Lord."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [John 1:1]. That’s the way he begins his Fourth Gospel. And when John saw water pouring out of the side of our Lord [John 19:34], he saw a sign of the cleansing word of our Savior. We are born in the word of God: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" [Romans 10:17].
"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [1 Corinthians 1:21] saved by the word of the crucified One. Then, he saw pouring out of the side of our Savior the blood [John 19:34]. And that is the atoning expiation for our sins [1 John 1:7]. "This is My blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. When Cain brought to God a vegetable offering, it could not suffice. His brother Abel brought to God a lamb, sacrificed [Genesis 4:2-5]. It is in the blood, it is in the atoning grace of the expiation of sin in the offering of death, that we find hope in God.
Now let me make three observations. Number one: this is actual blood. This is no figure of speech. It is no simile. It is no metaphor. It is no spiritualization. This is actual blood. Had you been at the foot of the cross, you could have caught it in a basin. You could have put your hand in it. You could have wiped it from His face with your handkerchief. It was blood, actual blood. That is why doubting Thomas was invited, "You do not believe, reach thither your finger, and put it into the nail prints in My hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless but believing’ [John 20:27]. It is an actual body. And this is actual blood poured out on the earth [John 19:34].
Number two: it provided an actual substitution. God said in His Holy Word, "The soul that sins shall die." [Ezekiel 18:20]. And again, "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. And because we are sinners, all of us, we face the ultimate penalty of everlasting death. And who can pay it for us? Who can substitute in our behalf? Substitution, like a debt at the bank: either you have to pay it or someone could pay it for you – so with the sentence of death, the judgment that we face because we are sinners; substitution, Somebody dying in our stead, paying our debt, the penalty of our sins [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21].
You know, I have often thought that of all of the men who ever lived, the one who would have the clearest picture of substitution is Barabbas [Matthew 27:16-26]. I can well think of the Roman legionnaire who goes to the dungeon and says, "Do you have a prisoner here named Barabbas?"
"Well, hale him forth." And they go into the dungeon and lay hands on Barabbas and bring him out screaming and cursing and blaspheming and damning, thinking he was being lead to crucifixion and to death. And the Roman legionnaire announces to that criminal, that murderer, that insurrectionist, announces to him, "You are free. You are free." And as Barabbas walks through the street of the city, he sees a throng and a mob. And at the head of it, a sweet gentle Somebody bearing a cross.
And he follows the throng and the mob to a hill called Golgotha. And there he sees his two companions, one on one side and one on the other, crucified. And he looks at the One in the middle. That was his cross; he was the one condemned to die on it. And standing there, he sees somebody else dying in his stead: that’s Jesus, for us.
"Well, pastor, how could our Lord die for me and all of the world?" There are three reasons. One; because of who He is, "He shall be called Immanuel; with us God" [Matthew 1:23]. He is God; infinite God. And as such, He could bear the sins of us all because of who He is. A second reason: He was appointed of God to bear our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:8]. He came into this world from heaven for that one purpose, that He might bear away the sins of the world [Hebrews 10:5-14, John 12:27]. And third: God sent an angel down from heaven and rolled the stone away that He might point out to us, "This is My Son, who died for the sins of the world [John 3:16, 1 John 2:2] and is raised for our justification" [Romans 4:25]. We die, and until that final consummating resurrection, we are in the grave. No man you’ve ever known rises from the dead.
Romans 1:4, Jesus horizo, horizo – your word horizon comes from it – was declared, pointed out, the Son of God,by the resurrection from the dead. This is God’s appointed Substitute. And my sweet friend, the doctrine of substitution is the heart, and the soul, and the life, and the essence, and the summation of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. He died in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He took my place. He bore my sins on the cross [1 Peter 2:24]. And because of His death, I am free. Death now is but an open door into heaven, trading this old mortal body for a glorious resurrected, immortalized transfigured body, such as He has raised from the dead.
And last: not only is this actual blood and not only is this an actual substitution, but it brings to us an actual salvation. In the 1 Corinthians letter Paul says, Christ our Savior is the Paschal Lamb in our Passover. "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" [1 Corinthians 5:7]. He is our Passover Lamb. Then it is as us as it was in the Book of Exodus. God said, "My judgment falls upon this nation. And this night my death angel will pass over. And in every house and in every home and in every family, the firstborn shall die." But said our Lord, "If you will offer before God the blood of a Paschal lamb and sprinkle it on the front of the house in the form of a cross, here at the top in the middle on the lintel and there on either side, the doorposts, in the form of a cross; sprinkle the blood of the Paschal lamb on the front of the house in the form of a cross, when I see the blood, I will pass over you." And there will be no more death nor sorrow nor crying, but life and glory and thanksgiving to God [Exodus 12: 12-13, 22-23].
Sweet people, I can easily imagine that night, that awesome night, when one of those families of God had sprinkled the blood on the lintel and on either side the doorposts, and with the family was there beneath the blood, under the blood, and that awesome night, when the death angel passed over. You know while thinking of that and how we are, I have thought of them and how we would have been there, cringing beneath that awesome night, then we begin to think, "I wonder if I did it right. I wonder if I repented right. I wonder if I believed right. I wonder if I’m really saved right. I just wonder if I’ve done this thing right."
Did God say, "When I pass over, I will examine your repentance to see if you repented right? I’ll examine your faith to see if you believed right. And I’ll examine your life and works to see if you have done it right." Is that what God did? God said, "When I pass over, I will look for the blood. I will look for the blood." And if I am under the blood, however my repentance may be at fault and however my faith may lack perfection, and however my works may come short of the glory of God, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:13].
Saved by the blood
Of the crucified One.
All praise to the Father,
All praise to the Son!
[S.J. Henderson, "Saved By The Blood"]
Did you ever think of this? When you get to heaven, tell me, when you get to heaven, are you going to say, "All glory to me in my repentance, in my faith, and to the Son? I’m saved. I’m here in heaven." Are you going do that? Or are you going to say, "All glory to Jesus, who cleansed us, and washed us in His own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God our Father; to Him who redeemed us and washed us from our sins in His own blood?" [Revelation 1:5-6].
My sweet friend, I could never repent perfectly. I could never believe without stumbling and all kinds of things that make you human in this pilgrimage. But I can look to Jesus. And I can believe in His saving grace and in His efficacious blood; ’tis a marvelous thing.
Those Israelites were no better than the sons of Ham. They were no more skilled. They were no richer. They were no finer. They were no nobler. The difference was they were under the blood. They were under the blood. And that is our hope and our salvation.
Lord, I am never good enough to stand in Thy presence. Certainly never perfected enough to walk Thy golden streets and enter Thy gates of pearl [Revelation 21:21]. But I plead the blood.
What can wash away my sins?
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.
[Robert Lowry, "Nothing But The Blood"]
An actual salvation under the blood.
And to the throngs of you and the multitudes of you who have shared this hour with us and our dear church, this is God’s way of salvation; not our good works, we could never be good enough; not anything that we are capable of doing, we cannot save ourselves. All we can do is face the inevitable penalty of death. But there is Someone who died for us. There is a Substitute who pays the penalty in our behalf. And if we will but accept Him, but believe in Him, but trust Him, He will bring to us new life, new hope in the days of this earthly pilgrimage and will someday open for us the gates of heaven.
Today, would you accept the Lord as your Savior? Right where you are; that is a wonderful shrine and a wonderful place to open your heart and your house and your home to the Lord Jesus. And now is the most marvelous time in the world to accept the Lord and be saved. And sweet people, if there is further that you would like to know how to be saved, you will find a telephone number on your screen. Call us. There will be a godly somebody there to answer, and we will show you how you can be saved now and forever.
And to the great throng in God’s sanctuary this holy Lord’s Day morning, a family you coming to Jesus, coming to us; a couple you or just one somebody you, "Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life." On the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way and God bless, down one of these stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles on this lower floor, "Pastor, God has spoken to me today and here I stand, here I come, here I am." On the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CRIMSON FLOW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Old Testament sacrifice
A. The blood separated (Leviticus 17:11)
B. The spear in the side was no mere accident (John 19:36, Zechariah 12:10)
C. No Calvary, no blood, no atonement, no redemption
II. The blood and water
A. A cadaver does not bleed
B. When heart ruptured, blood poured into cardiac sac
C. He died of a broken heart (Psalm 69:20)
III. The sign
A. Deeply impressed John (1 John 5:6, 8)
C. So here the sign of water and blood
1. The cleansing water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26, John 15:3, 3:5, John 1:1, Romans 10:17, 1 Corinthians 1:21)
2. The atoning blood (Matthew 26:28)
IV. Three observations
A. Actual blood (John 20:27)
B. Actual substitution
1. Wages of sin is death (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23)
2. Barabbas has a clear picture of substitution
3. Doctrine of substitution (Romans 1:4)
C. Actual salvation
1. Christ is the paschal Lamb in our Passover (Exodus 12:13)
2. "When I see the bloodâ€¦"
3. All glory to Jesus