"It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." Leviticus 17:11.
The blood of Christ is the true ground of peace. When nothing else could save, God spared not His own Son. The death of Christ both satisfies the demands of law and justice, and saves the sinner that believes. It is only in the finished work of the cross that we see salvation for the lost. When Jesus shed His blood for the remission of sins, He glorified God, and opened a fountain for sin and for uncleanness. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Therefore it is written, that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
The salvation of sinners has always been connected with blood-shedding and death. The reason is obvious. Sin's wages is death. The law of holiness and truth is, that the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Death, then, is God's just appointment to man, because he is a sinner. Man dies only because of sin. Death entered into the world by sin. The only way, therefore, of justly putting away sin was by death; and that no sinful man could die for the sin of another is clear, because he must die for himself. The Son of God, on whom death had no claim (because He knew no sin), was able to die for others. Nothing less than His death could save us, because we deserved death. Therefore, in matchless grace, Christ died for us — the just for the unjust. "He died for our sins;" and as the life of the flesh is in the blood, so the shedding of blood is spoken of, in Scripture language, as the laying down of life. Hence we are told that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
The atoning blood God only provides. His love presents it to us; and the virtue of the blood is carefully recorded in the word of God from the earliest time of sin's entrance into the world. No sooner had Adam sinned than he had an evil conscience, and got away from God. He tried all he could to cover his nakedness, and to hide himself from the presence of his Maker. But God searched him out, and, instead of condemning him, promised a Redeemer to deliver him by having his heel bruised; and showed him that He could clothe him and his wife, though sinners, with coats, and bring them into the place of life and blessing by sacrifice. Thus God taught our first parents, and thus they learned that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
Abel is next presented to us in the Scripture, as offering unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous. It was a life that he offered. He took of the firstlings of the flock. His sacrifice prefigured the blood-shedding and death of Jesus. Abel thus acknowledged that he was a sinner before God, justly exposed to death and judgment, but that he rested only in the blood-shedding and death of the promised Redeemer, and thus "obtained witness that he was righteous."
In Noah's time, we also see that the blessing of God came down upon the earth because of the sweet savour of the clean beasts, which the patriarch offered in sacrifice to Jehovah. Judgment had been poured out by the windows of heaven being opened, and the fountains of the great deep being broken up; but when the clean sacrifices were offered, we are told that "the Lord smelled a sweet savour — a savour of rest; and the Lord said, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake," etc. Thus showing us that God can only find rest, since sin entered the world, in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and that in this way only can He bless us. Here again we see the value of the blood.
The well-known story of the paschal lamb tells out also most strikingly, that there is safety only beneath the shelter of the blood. The sentence of judgment had gone forth upon Egypt. All the first-born were to be destroyed in one night. Neither rich nor poor, moral nor immoral, were excepted. God's word had gone forth, "All the first-born in Egypt shall die." But was there no way of escape for any from such terrible judgments? Yes, there was a way, one way, one way only — the blood of the lamb. The children of Israel were told to take an unblemished lamb, kill it, and sprinkle the blood upon the lintel and doorposts of their houses; and God's promise to such as thus used the blood was, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you!" And it came to pass that every house marked with the blood was passed over by the destroying angel, and every house that was not marked with blood He entered, and executed the threatened judgment; so that "there was not a house where there was not one dead." The difference consisted simply in the shelter of the blood. Not in their seeing the blood, but in God's seeing it. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." Their safety was not in what they thought of the value of the blood, but in what God thought of it. The only question was, as to whether they, in the knowledge that judgment was coming, were under the shelter of the blood. It was not a question as to their being in a great house or small, or whether they where ignorant or learned, young or old, high or low; the only question as to safety was, whether they were trusting in the blood. Those who accepted God's remedy in the blood, sprinkled their lintel and door-posts, and remained in their houses, under cover of that blood, until the destroying angel had passed over. Safety alone was in the blood. Thus showing us again that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
The ordinance of cleansing the leper also remarkably sets forth the value of the blood. The leprosy might be much or little, many spots or few, old standing or recent, still the leper was unclean — utterly unclean — unfit for the camp of Israel, until he was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice. All other washings were in vain — every other remedy was useless. He might go here or there, do this or that, cover up his spots, and hide his sores, still he was utterly unclean. But the moment he was sprinkled with the blood he was pronounced clean. It was the blood that made the difference. It was the blood that cleansed the unclean. We are told, "Then shall the priest sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from his leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean." How blessed this is! How clearly it illustrates that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." Let me only add on this point, that directly the leper was pronounced clean, the living bird, having been identified with the dead bird by being dipped in its blood, was "let loose into the open field;" so the resurrection of Christ from the dead is God's public proof that Christ had by Himself purged our sins with His own blood. (Lev. 14:7.)
We find the Holy Ghost again putting honour upon the blood, and showing its vital importance in the beautiful action of the high priest entering into the holy place. (Lev. 16.) The apostle Paul, commenting on this, tells us in Heb. 9, that into the holiest of all "went the high priest alone, once every year, not without blood." And why not without blood? Because nothing else shelters sinful man from the wrath of God but the blood; for nothing else remits sin. It would have been death to Aaron to enter into the holiest of all without blood. Moses was thus commanded: "Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times within the veil before the mercy-seat, that he die not; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place, with a bullock for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering and he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and shall sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy-seat eastward; and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times." Thus we see another witness to the value of the blood, as being the way of access into God's presence, and showing us again that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." And I ask the reader to mark these various testimonies of Scripture to the efficacy of the blood, and to consider whether the evidence is not conclusive, that those only are on the true ground of peace and blessing whose confidence is in the blood — the precious blood of Christ. Nothing less than the blood could shelter Israel, cleanse the leper, or enable the high priest to stand in God's presence; neither can anything but the blood of Christ cleanse the conscience, give peace in God's presence, or shelter any from the wrath to come.
By the light of New Testament Scriptures, under the Spirit's teaching, we are able to see that all the various sacrifices for sin, etc., under the law, pointed to the one offering of Christ; consequently, since the death of Christ, the sacrifices of bulls and of goats have ceased to be offered. They served a good purpose in shadowing forth the one all-efficacious sacrifice that was coming, and in showing the power of His blood, not only to give us eternal safety, but to answer every question of conscience, as well as every requirement of God's holiness. Therefore the apostle Paul tells us, that in those many sacrifices under the law there was remembrance of sins, but no remission; they could not purge the conscience, because they could not take away sin; but that Christ, by His one offering, which He once offered, put away sin; therefore the blood of Christ purges the conscience to serve the living God. The apostle Peter also says, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold....... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Hence, when we read that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul," we are to understand that reference is made to the blood of Jesus.
It is blessed to notice, in the words immediately preceding the text we are considering, the grace of God as the provider of this atoning blood. "The life of all flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement (reconciliation) for your souls." This at once opens up to us the blessed truth, that God Himself is the source of our redemption; that He gave His Son — sent forth His Son — sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world; so that our faith and hope might be in God, and that we might find access with confidence in His presence. And surely it is in the cross that God sets forth the atoning blood. There He shows that He loves us. There it was, by the death of His Son, that God reconciled us unto Himself. Surely it is the blood, the blood of Christ, that makes atonement for our souls. And in comparing our text with New Testament Scriptures, we shall see that we have remission of sins by the blood, justification by the blood, peace by the blood, nearness to God in Christ and by His blood, that we worship on the ground of the blood, and shall enter into glory because of the value of blood. May the Lord help us to consider each of these points a little!
1. Remission of Sins by the Blood. The Divine testimony, that "without shedding of blood is no remission," is enough to show the utter impossibility of obtaining forgiveness of sins but through the blood. God cleanses us on the ground of sin having been judged and put away. This Christ has done. He declares that His blood was shed for many for the remission of sins. Had He stopped a hair's-breadth short of death, we could not have had forgiveness. But He bare our sins in His own body on the tree; thus justice was satisfied, and sins were purged. Hence all those who are trusting in the blood of Christ are forgiven. In Him we have redemption through His blood — the forgiveness of sins. The blood, then, is that which gives remission of sins. All the priests and cardinals in the world may pronounce pardon, but "without shedding of blood is no remission." Some persons say, "I think my sins are forgiven, because I feel so different;" or, "I think they will be forgiven, if I live differently;" but it is all wrong; such people are deceived, because they are not trusting in the blood; for "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
"Joyful truth! He bore transgression
In His body on the cross!
Through His blood there's full remission
For the vilest, e'en for us.
Jesus for the sinner bleeds;
Nothing more the sinner needs."
2. Justification by the Blood. Men may try to justify themselves before their fellow-men, and sometimes succeed in doing so, but we cannot justify ourselves before God. He knows that we are all guilty and unrighteous, and we cannot truthfully take any other ground. But the Scriptures teach us that those only who believe in the Lord Jesus are justified, and that they are justified from all things by Him. In the blood, God declares that He is just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. God justifies us through the blood; for the blood of Jesus not only tells us of sin put away, but also of One who was perfectly obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; so that, by the obedience of One, many are made righteous. Therefore we are also told, that "being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." We have, then, present justification, not by our own devotedness, or good intentions, but by the blood; so that all who believe in Christ are justified, now justified, by the blood of Jesus. How clear it is, then, that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul!"
3. Peace by the Blood. Every one who has peace with God knows that it is only through the precious blood of Christ. Nothing quenches the burning of a guilty conscience but the blood. It was nothing less than the death of Christ that satisfied God's justice; therefore that only pacifies the conscience. This is why the Holy Ghost so often uses those texts which refer to the blood of Christ to give peace to anxious souls. It is an already accomplished peace. He hath made peace by the blood of His cross, and God is now preaching peace by Jesus Christ; not peace by ordinances, duties, and the like, but peace by Jesus Christ; and all who simply look to Christ, and know that they are justified by His blood, have peace with God; not shall have, but "have peace with God." How is it that many anxious souls have not peace? Because they do not believe what God says about the value of the sacrifice of Christ. They look to themselves, to see if their experience is good enough, bad enough, or religious enough; so that, as frames and feelings change, they alter their judgment of safety. The end of looking to experience for peace must be disappointing; but when, driven out of self and its wretchedness, they look simply to the Lord Jesus, who shed His blood to save sinners, they find peace.
Others are greatly distressed with the fear of death. They do not see that Christ has died in their stead, that He was brought into the dust of death, and tasted death, with all its terrors and judgments, for them; and forget that Jesus said, "If any man keep my saying, he shall never see death." It is true, we may fall asleep in Jesus, but it is a stingless death; and death is so far behind us, and we have been so judicially delivered from it by our Substitute on the cross, that we shall not all sleep; for when Christ descends from heaven, redemption-work will be applied to the bodies of those who are alive, and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be eternally in the presence and likeness of Jesus.
The full peace of others is hindered by the thought of coming judgment. They think that Christ must have us before Him as the Judge, before we can be sure of being saved. This is not true. Christ has been judged for us; our sins have been already condemned in Him, removed from us, borne, suffered for, and put away by Him on the cross: so that, instead of our sins being judged again, God declares, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more;" that they are cast behind His back, etc. Therefore it is clear that Christ hath borne death and judgment for us according as it is written, "as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered." Thus we see that, death and judgment having been settled for us by Christ, we are called to rejoice in hope of glory; not to be looking for Christ as the Judge, but as our Bridegroom. Not to be expecting to be tried at a general assize, but to be looking for God's Son from heaven, when we shall be caught up to meet Him in the air. Saved ones giving an account of their stewardship at the tribunal of Christ is another thing; but that will not take place until we have glorified bodies, and are like Christ, and with Him for ever.
Again, there are some who have not peace, because they look to the work of the Spirit in them for peace, instead of the work of Christ for them. They see clearly and rightly that it is only by the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost that any one can enter into the kingdom of God, and they look into themselves for the movings and actings of the Spirit for peace instead of the blood. They do not know that the Spirit's office is not to testify of Himself, but of Christ; that He shows us the beauty and glory of Christ, and the blessedness and suitability of His finished work. The Holy Ghost does not say that He has made peace, but that Christ has made peace. He points us to Christ and His blood for forgiveness, peace, righteousness, justification, and redemption. The Spirit comforts us by ministering Christ and His truth to our souls. Therefore we know we are born again, and have the Spirit, because we find peace with God through Christ's blood. The Spirit writes God's law (or truth) in our minds and in our hearts; so that we not only remember it, but feel it, and have our affections kindled by it, because He testifies to us of God's love. "Christ is our peace," not the Spirit, because "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." But I must pass on, and can only briefly notice the three remaining points.
4. We have Nearness to God by the Blood. Our sins separated us from God. Naturally, we were far from God, but now in Christ, and through His blood, we are made nigh — brought to the Father's bosom. Thus the believer stands forgiven and blest in God's holy presence; thus he is sanctified by the blood of Christ, reconciled unto God, and stands in happy confidence and grace before Him in love.
5. We Worship on the Ground of the Blood. We enter into the holiest "by the blood of Jesus," and worship the Father. In ourselves there is no ground of praise and thanksgiving, but everything to make us abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes; but the blood so fully witnesses to us of the Father's love, and of our eternal redemption and peace, that we praise and magnify the unsearchable riches of Divine grace. Our consciences are purged, our hearts gladdened, our minds in peace, our souls lifted up; so that we are ready to say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
"The Saviour's precious blood
Has made our title sure;
He pass'd through death's dark raging flood
To make our rest secure."
6. We Shall Enter Glory Because of the Blood. We are purchased by the blood of Jesus. Our hope of glory is Christ, not self. Had not the corn of wheat fallen into the ground and died, it would have been alone; but having died, it brings forth much fruit. All believers are the fruit of Christ's death, are washed in His blood, and will be around the throne of God in heaven, as brought there solely on the ground of the blood of the Lamb. Then we shall sing more sweetly (but not more truly than we can now), "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Then it will be fully known that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."