Fuller

Washed in the Blood? Really?

January 25, 2018 • Life for Leaders

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.

Ephesians 1:7-8

 

Years ago, my friend Nick shared with me his frustration about the Christian preoccupation with blood. His four-year-old daughter was attending preschool at a local church. One day, out of the blue, she announced to Nick, “Daddy, I have been washed in the blood.”

A feet being washed in flowing water.“Where did you learn that?” he asked.

“At school,” she said.

When Nick tried to get his daughter to explain what it meant to be washed in the blood, she had no idea. Nick was bugged, not because he didn’t want his daughter to be a Christian, but because he wasn’t sure it was healthy for a four-year-old to think so much about blood.

“Why do we always have to talk about blood?” Nick complained to me. “Aren’t there better ways to help children learn about Jesus and what he did for us?”

Nick is not alone in his complaint. Many Christians feel as he does. And many opponents of the faith accuse Christianity of a peculiar and grotesque preoccupation with blood. Yet, blood figures prominently in the Christian story. As it says in Ephesians 1:7, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” There it is, front and center: the blood of Christ. How are we to understand what it means and why it is so important?

In my commentary on Ephesians I explain:

Redemption (apolutrōsis in Greek) referred to “manumission” (the technical term for freeing slaves) or setting someone free by paying a ransom. In the New Testament, it functions metaphorically for our redemption or deliverance from sin, guilt, and death, thus bringing us forgiveness. The relationship of redemption and forgiveness to “blood” draws upon the Old Testament practice of sacrificing animals to signify God’s forgiveness. Yet unlike the priests in the temple, Christ offered not “the blood of goats and calves” but rather “his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12).

Redemption in the New Testament also points back to redemption in the Old Testament book of Exodus. There, the children of Israel were redeemed (brought out of slavery) by God. The shed blood of the Passover lambs enabled the Israelites to escape God’s judgment on Egypt so they might be set free from their bondage.

So, though I’m not necessarily suggesting that you run out and tell four-year-old children that they should be “washed in the blood,” I do believe that we cannot set aside the central role of blood in the Christian gospel. Moreover, as the classic gospel song reminds us, “There is Power in the Blood.” The shed blood of Jesus sets us free from sin and death. It guarantees our forgiveness and the assurance of new life. This is good news indeed.

Something to Think About:

In what ways have you experienced the reality of redemption?

Why do you think God associated redemption with sacrifice, even with the shedding of blood?

When you think of the blood of Jesus shed for you, what comes to mind? What difference does it make?

Something to Do:

I never really appreciated the song, “There is Power in the Blood,” until I heard it performed by Ashley Cleveland at Laity Lodge, where I used to work. You can hear Ashley bring this song to life on YouTube.

Prayer:

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life-giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb. Amen.

“There is Power in the Blood,” by Lewis E. Jones, 1899. Public Domain.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Christ’s Intercession Empowers Our Life and Work (Hebrews 7:1–10:18)

Tags

Ephesians

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.