August 25th, 2020 @ 10:24 AM
THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 1: 18-19
10-14-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the services of our dear First Baptist Church and we welcome you. At these morning hours, the pastor is preaching through the epistles of Simon Peter, and we are now in the middle of the first chapter, and the text is verses 18, 19, and 20 [1 Peter 1:18-20]. The apostle writes, 1 Peter 1:18:
Forasmuch as you know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation—
anastrophe, manner of life, behavior, the former way you used to live—
But you are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish…without spot:
Who verily was fore ordained before the foundation of the world, but now is manifest…unto you.
We are redeemed, bought back to God; not with corruptible things, not with worldly things as silver and gold, perishable things, but with the eternal preciousness—timē, of enduring cost of incomparable value—with the timē blood, with the precious blood of Christ [1 Peter 1:18-20]. .
It is very easy to fall into the habit of preaching about the gospel, but not the gospel itself; the habit of preaching about the Bible, but not the Bible itself; the habit of preaching about salvation, but not salvation itself. And when we speak and expound a text like this, you are riveted to—you are brought back to the very heart of the gospel message of Christ. This is one sure touchstone of the message of the pulpit, whether it is of God or of men.
In so many areas of the modern liberal Christian world, the preaching of the blood is offensive. I have been in churches where songs, hymns on the blood have been purged from all of the hymnbooks. And the liberal theologian looks upon it as a religion of the shambles, of the butcher shop. But the presentation of the whole revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures is ever the same: there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22]. And from the beginning in Genesis to the final revelation of “Worthy is the Lamb” [Revelation 5:12], the whole gospel story is that: that Christ is to come into the world to die for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].
We are redeemed not with earthly things, temporal things, corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 1:18-19]. In these Holy Scriptures, God looks upon blood as always being timē, “precious.” Even the blood of beasts, of animals, is precious in His sight. In the ninth chapter the of the Book of Genesis, God says that you are not to eat the flesh with the life, and then it explains, “for the life is the blood” [Genesis 9:4]. You are not to eat flesh with the life—with the blood—for the blood is precious to God. It is given on the altar as an atonement for our souls [Leviticus 17:11].
In the Mosaic legislation, the people were interdicted from eating things strangled because the blood was still in the flesh [Leviticus 3:17]. In God’s sight, even the blood of animals was precious. It was used upon the altar, poured out at the base of the altar for an atonement for our sins [Leviticus 1:4-5]. “The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul” [Leviticus 17:11].
And when the Lord looked upon the red crimson of life poured out—even though it was that of a bullock or of a lamb—yet in God’s sight it was precious. The blood of the man is precious in God’s sight, this crimson flow in our veins. In the ninth chapter of that same Book of Genesis, God says that if a man’s life is taken, the man who took his life must pay for it with his own blood [Genesis 9:6]. And in the Book of Numbers God says the shedding of blood by violence, by murder, defiles the land [Numbers 35:33]. It cries unto God, as the blood of Abel cried to the Lord of heaven [Genesis 4:10]: the blood of a man is precious in God’s sight.
If the blood of animals and the blood of men are dear and precious to God, what shall we say about the blood of God’s Son, our redeeming Savior? In Acts 20:28, the apostle Paul says that our church was purchased by the blood of God. That is an amazing and astonishing expression; it is purchased by the blood of God!
I took a course one time in my doctoral work on the atonement; it was one of the minors of the study. We studied the atonement for two years, at the end of which I had to take an oral examination upon it, and I tell you verily that at the end of two years of graduate study on the atonement, the cross of Christ; at the end of the two years and after the oral examination, I seemed to understand less and to be able to enter into the mysteries unfathomable of God less, than at the time when I began.
If there is anything that defies delineation, and description, and evaluation, it is the atoning death of Christ. How does the blood wash away our sins? And what are the sufferings of Christ into which we can hardly enter?
For none of the ransomed knew
The deep waters crossed,
Nor how dark the night that our Savior went through
When He won the lamb that was lost.
[“The Ninety and Nine,” Elizabeth C. Clephane]
As I read this text, I am most ready to confess that my finite mind cannot enter into the mysteries of the atoning grace of God in Christ Jesus. How blood, the crimson of life, washes sin away [Revelation 1:5]. But as I read the Bible and study it, and pray over its pages, there are some things that come to my heart about the blood of our Lord; and I named three of them this morning.
One, and first: the blood of Christ brings to us God’s atoning grace. The law says, “This do, and thou shalt live” [Deuteronomy 4:1, Luke 10:28]. Obey this commandment and thou shall have eternal life [Leviticus 18:5]. But how does a man keep the law of God? And how can a man learn to be perfect in all of his ways, for his every effort is characterized by mistake, and sin, and falling short [Romans 3:20,23].
So the man brings for his sin, a sacrifice. He comes before God with a bullock [Leviticus 8:14, 16:27], but then he comes back again with another. And he offers before God an atonement, and he comes back with yet another. The nation offers at the morning sacrifice a lamb. But the nation has to offer another lamb in the evening [Numbers 28:4]. And so his life is one of continuous and perpetual memory of his sin and shortcoming; he offers the sacrifice, then he offers it again. The high priest goes into the Holy of Holies with blood of expiation [Hebrews 9:25; Leviticus 16:14-16], and then he returns again; there is no end! There is no limit!
What does the blood of Christ do for us? The apostle Paul writes in Roman’s 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” And he writes again in Romans 5:9, we are now justified by His blood and saved from wrath through Him. Christ is the end of the law to those who look in faith to Him, and His blood has redeemed us from the wrath and judgment of God upon our sins.
Outside of Christ, all our lives we are slaves to the tyrant of the law. The law threatens us, and the law curses us, and the law judges us. There is no man righteous before the law [Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:11]. We all have sinned, and come short of the expectation of God [Romans 3:23]. What does a man do therefore, who finds himself always a sinner? The blood of Christ brings to us the grace of God [Ephesians 1:7].
Under the shelter of God’s love, and God’s mercy, and God’s grace, the thunders of Sinai have ceased and the fury of its lightning judgments have been placated. The sinner now, in the presence of God, is like the suppliant who bows in the court. And the priest enters the Holy of Holies and there is the ark of the covenant in the sanctuary [2 Chronicles 5:10]. In that ark, at the heart of that covenant, are the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:2-17] written on tables of stone [Exodus 25:17-21]. How many of them do we break? How many of them do we break every day, the judgments of God upon our sin?
But to the one who has trusted in Christ, the commandments on the inside of that ark are covered over by the hilastērion, the mercy seat. And the cherubim—always signs and symbols of God’s grace—look full upon it [Exodus 25:17-20]. And there does the high priest sprinkle blood of expiation, appropriation, of atonement [Leviticus 16:14], of grace, and forgiveness. Our victim has been slain and the blood has been offered; and God’s mercy, and grace, and forgiveness have been poured out and we need no longer fear the judgments and the penalty of our sin [Ephesians 2:8].
How was this done? By things earthy? Even by silver and gold? No! For these corruptible things could only redeem corruptible things; but we were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, by a spiritual intervention of God from heaven [1 Peter 1:18-19].
I do not deny, nor would you, that silver and gold can redeem some things. If a man in distress pawned his watch, or if a man in great need of money pawned a diamond or anything precious, he can redeem it with money; he can buy it back with gold or silver. There are some things that corruptible things can redeem. If a man placed his home under mortgage—and what he possesses has against it a lien—he can buy back the mortgage, or he can take away the lien with money. But how would you redeem a destroyed soul? And how would you redeem a ruined life with gold and silver? They can only redeem corruptible things.
But a man had as well measure love by the yard, or weigh the Holy Spirit in pounds, as to try to redeem his soul or his life with things that are possessed. Yet we try to do that: we try to the further ourselves by affluence. We try to commend ourselves to God by our own righteousnesses. And the man thinks for the most part, that if he has money, if he has gold and silver and stocks and bonds, he has secured himself. The man will say, “By my wealth, by my possessions, by my money…” but God says, “by My grace” [Ephesians 2:8]. The man says “…with money and with price.” God says “…without money and without price” [Isaiah 55:1]. The man says, “Look on the pages of Dun & Bradstreet!” But God says, “Look through the pages of the Lamb’s Book of Life” [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. For God does not look for stocks, and bonds, and lands, and possessions; God looks for the blood [Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. And when a man is saved, he is saved by being under the blood [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5].
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.
[“Nothing but the Blood,” Robert Lowry]
What does the blood of Christ do for us? First: it brings to us God’s atoning grace. That is, the man cannot be saved by his self-righteousness; he cannot keep the law. But in God’s grace, we have forgiveness and entrée into the presence of our Lord [Ephesians 2:8].
And that leads me to the second thing: it is in the blood of Christ that our sins are washed away [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Not by His miraculous birth are we saved; not by His beautiful life are we saved. Not by His miracles, that can change the course of nature, are we saved. Not even by His words of wisdom—“though never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]—are we saved: but we are saved by the blood of the cross [1 Peter 1:18-19].
And the death of Christ is not exemplary: He did not die to teach us an example. He did not die for our inspiration, but He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And the heart of God does not seek in us a response of example or of inspiration in the death of His Son; but what God seeks in us is a response of humility, and contrition, and confession, and repentance, and acceptance, that through the blood of the Son of God, we might have remission of sins [Colossians 1:14], that we might be cleansed, that we might be acceptable in His sight, that we might stand in His presence some day, and live!
And this is no accident in history, nor is it something ephemeral or peripheral in the plan of God; for the prophet says with the precious blood of Christ, “who verily was ordained before the foundation of the world” [1 Peter 1:19-20], before God flung the stars and planets out into space and before He created this earth, Christ died for our sins according to the foreknowledge and sovereign, elective grace of God [1 Peter 1:2]. It is in the blood of Christ that we are justified [Romans 5:9]. It is in the blood of Christ that the church is born [Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25]; it is in the blood of Christ that we have hope of the forgiveness of sins [Ephesians 1:7].
And by the blood of Christ, He has quenched all of the altar fires of the earth. You know, it is difficult for us in this modern day to realize that when you read history—back in the day of the Egyptian, of the Babylonian, of the Assyrian, of the Greek and of the Roman—when you read of the civilizations of that day, the entire earth was covered with altars and the smoke of the fires ascending up to the heaven. There’s not one that burns, that I know of, in the earth today. Why? The atoning grace of God in Christ Jesus quenched all of the altar fires of the earth. It was in Christ’s goodness, and purity, and love, and forgiveness, and mercy, that all of the judgments of God against us have been taken away. There are no more priestly orders, for He is our High Priest [Hebrews 4:14], making intercession for us in the sanctuary of God [Romans 8:34].
By the life of our Lord, He was obedient to the law for us [Matthew 5:17]. In the death of Christ our Lord, He paid the penalty of sin for us [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25]. In the death of our Lord, He was buried and He is the scapegoat that carried away the sins of His people [Leviticus 16:10]. In the resurrection of our Lord, He was not only thus declared the Son of God [Romans 1:4]—deity—but He also brought justification to declare us righteous in the presence of the great throne [Romans 4:25; Hebrews 7:25]. And in His coming again, in His return—apart from sin [Hebrews 9:27-28], He is to bring to us a full-orbed salvation: the complete redemption of the purchased possession, a resurrected immortalized body [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], as well as a redeemed and blood-bought soul [1 Peter 1:18-19].
What has the blood of Christ done for us? It has brought to us not only God’s grace [Ephesians 2:8], and not only the forgiveness of our sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Colossians 1:14], but third: the blood of Christ brings to us the promise and the power of a new, glorious, redeemed and regenerated life [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is a marvelous thing that in the poured-out blood of our Lord, we have the poured-out blessings of God and of heaven upon us.
In the red crimson that flowed from His veins, His face, His hands, His side, His feet, and the earth drank it up, in the crimson of His life that was poured out, all of the blessings of heaven were poured out upon us. The life of our Lord was literally poured out into this world and that love and grace comes even to us.
When they smote the Son of God [Matthew 27:30; Luke 22:63-64; John 19:3], they struck the Rock from which flows the fountain waters of life [Exodus 17:6; 1 Corinthians 10:4]. When they pierced His hands and His feet [Psalm 22:16, Luke 23:33, 24:39, John 20:20], they opened therein the resources of grace, and power, and glory from heaven. And when they pierced His side with that Roman spear [John 19:34], they opened the fountain of God’s love, and grace, and mercy. When the blood of our Lord poured out into the earth, God’s fountain of love and mercy was poured out with it—by it, through it. Not only that, but in that gift of the love and mercy of God in the life of His Son, poured out upon us, there came with it that cleansing, regenerating power that makes us new men, new women, a new creation in God’s sight [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Last Friday night, I was speaking to a national convocation in Arlington, Virginia. It was a meeting of prison chaplains and the people who support them; I was surprised at the luster and beauty of the occasion. It was convened in a beautiful hall. And there were present about six hundred men and women who were resplendently dressed. It is an organization supporting prison chaplains in America. And seated at the speaker’s table, I was beside the side of the executive leader of the group. And as I sat by him, he would tell me about this man who is speaking; and about that man who was seated immediately in front of me; and about that man who is standing up to witness; and this one who is testifying.
One time remember, I went down in the Amazon jungle to see the Auca Indians: men who, all their lives had bathed their hands in human blood, and who had been won to Christ, and were now in the services seated before me at which I was to preach, who were now humble faithful disciples of the blessed Jesus. I had that same wonderful sense of the mercy and grace of God last Friday night as I sat there and looked upon and listened to those men. Here is a man, as fine a looking man as you could ever see, and the director will say to me: “This is the chairman of our board. He was convicted of embezzling in a bank; sent to prison for a long, long sentence. But in the prison, the grace of God found his heart, changed his life, and he is now not only a fine businessman, but he’s a deacon in his church. And he’s the treasurer of the congregation, this man who had been in prison for years for embezzlement.”
“And then this man, do you see him? This man has been convicted time and again: he’s written over forty thousand dollars in bogus checks. This man is a fine leader, an officer in a national corporation.”
“And this man who is standing up to speak, this man has been a murderer and sent to the penitentiary for shedding man’s blood; but there in the pen, did God’s grace change his heart and life, and the governor has bestowed upon him a full pardon. And this man, this man is the hit man, first time I ever heard it called that, hit man for the Mafia.” And that had to be explained to me: the hit man of the Mafia is the man who is hired to kill for them; “this man is the hit man of the Mafia, and sentenced for life in the penitentiary. The grace of God reached his heart, cleansed his soul, and he now has a full pardon from the government. And this man, see him? That man is a man who lost his mind, deranged over a tragedy that overwhelmed the world in the Second World War, for you remember”—the man says to me—“the Nuremberg trial in Germany for the Nazi criminals, the war criminals? There were four men, from four different nations assigned for the execution, and this man was the American representative of the four: he himself hanged 22 men.” And he said, “As the days passed, the oppression of that assignment unbalanced his mind, and he turned to alcohol and finally to drugs. And as such, was sent to the penitentiary. But there, through a prison chaplain of Jesus Christ, did the Lord heal his mind and heal his soul, and make him a new man. And here he is, a stalwart Christian of the faith. And this man, right in front of you, do you see him? Sentenced to forty years; this man has not only been pardoned, not only is he a great Christian, but he speaks to groups all over this eastern part of the United States, warning young men in schools and colleges of the terror of the evil way of life and the blessings and glory of the life in Christ.”
Why, when you sit, and look, and see, and hear, the marvelous grace of God that has come down from heaven in Christ, you think, “O dear God, how could such a thing be?” The marvelous, incomparable, indescribable blessings that God hath shed out upon us, poured out upon us, in the atoning grace of our blessed Lord [Ephesians 2:8]; the precious blood that buys us, redeems us from judgment [1 Peter 1:18-19].
Then you know, coming back yesterday afternoon, I began to think about us and of course, about the service today. And you know, it was pressed upon my heart again and anew—we categorize sins. “You see that man over there? He’s a violent sinner. You see that one over there? He’s the dregs and drugs of the earth. And you see this one here? He’s the dirt, and the mud, and the filth.” And then we have a tendency to gather our righteous skirts around us and say, “These are so sinful, and these are so vile, and these are so wicked, but I…” And then we think, “Do you suppose he’s a sinner and I’m not? Do you suppose he is vile and I’m not? Do you suppose he needs God and I need Him not?” And then we remember the Word of the Lord, “For all have sinned” all! [Romans 3:23]. All of us have sinned, all of us; all of us are alike, God hath concluded, under judgment—all of us [Galatians 3:22]. “There is not one of us righteous, no, not one!” [Romans 3:10]. And this man may have sinned in this category; and this one has sinned in that category; and this one in another—but I have also sinned in my categories. My life is full of blemish and wrong, and I need to be saved just as he does. I need to cast myself upon the mercies of God, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!” [Luke 18:13].
And praise God, the same loving grace that was extended to these men is extended to me; under the blood we all are saved—all of us. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you [Exodus 12:13] and the avenging angel will sheath his sword [Exodus 12:23]; “There is no more condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1]. We are free! We are washed! [Revelation 1:5]. We are redeemed! [1 Peter 1:18-19]. We are justified by the blood of the Crucified One! [Romans 4:25]. And that is the invitation we make to your heart and to your soul today. “For they overcame him—God’s saints—by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].
“And in loving gratitude to God, in believing His grace and mercy can extend even to me, I come openly, publicly, unashamedly, confessing my faith in the Son of glory”; overcoming by the blood of the Lamb, by the atoning grace of Christ and by the word of their testimony, by my public confession of acceptance, of opening my heart to the presence, and the power, and the promise of God” [Revelation 12:11].
Will you do that? A family to come, a couple you, or just one somebody you, on the first note of that first stanza, “Here I am, pastor, I make the decision now and I am walking down that stairway.” Or, “I am coming down that aisle, I give you my hand. I have given my heart to the Lord.” Putting your life in the church or opening your heart to the grace, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus; come. Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.