Signed in Blood

God’s covenants are ratified, signed, sealed, and delivered with blood.

Pilate could not have his way with his lions on a leash, the Pilate-appointed High Priests and their bought and paid for mob at the front porch of Pilate’s governor’s mansion in Jerusalem.  Pilate found no fault with Jesus yet the crowd was demanding blood.  So, blood Pilate sought to give them; he had Jesus flogged, the soldiers twisted together a crown of thrones, and scrunched it down on Jesus’ brow. Blood was everywhere.

Paul the Apostle wrote to the Hebrews and did not sign the letter, so that in spite of their prejudice against him, they would read it, a reminder from their history.

Hebrews 9:11-28 is all about the blood, selected sections here: verse 12, “He (Christ) did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” Then later in the chapter, verse 14, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so we may serve the living God!” Then Paul adds the eternal truth that comes from God in verse 22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Just in case you did not understand why Pilate, at the prompting of God, sent Jesus to be whipped with a cat of nine tails woven together with bits of glass and metal in the strands so when the whip was laid across the back, legs, arms, buttocks, the one whipping would pull the whip toward them as it struck the body, ripping the flesh from the bones and muscles.  Many men died from just this whipping. The crown of thorns added to the flow of blood down his face and body. The whipping in the movie, The Passion of the Christ, was toned down so as to be able to be shown to even an R audience. The beating spattered the blood of Jesus all over the temple courtyard. This was the blood to cleanse the pagan-controlled Jewish temple. The crown of thorns flowed blood down the face and body of Jesus. Then nailing his body to the cross increased the flood of blood down the old rugged cross, so that day the blood of Christ was shed for the Jews, the Greek-Romans and all the gentiles of the world.  As a last act to just make sure, after his death, the Roman guard jabbed a spear into his side and blood and what appeared to be water flowed down his body. He was a bloody mess in death.

With his own blood he signed our redemption papers, and with the shedding of his blood, our forgiveness of sin was established as by the grace of God that provided the sacrifice and our full response to him in faith that incorporated our confession that we were the sinner that he died for, repentance for our past life of sin, the changing of our mind, the changing of our heart and the changing of our direction of life. Then as a dead man, being buried by one of the saints, to be resurrected as Romans 6 says, to a new life here (born again) and as Christ was raised from the dead, to a new life eternally in a heaven with Jesus for ever and ever. 

To the secularist, skeptic and atheist, this does not make sense. Paul mentions that in I Corinthians 1:18ff, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

For those of us that have been called by the gospel message, and have responded to the grace of God by faith, the preaching of the cross, the blood of Christ, and the redemption of mankind is precious indeed.

How long has God had this fascination with blood and the demand for blood to be redemptive? Remember how God looks at the blood.  He has commanded that we do not eat the blood in anyway as food. “For the life is in the blood.”  To get a good view of that command we have to go clear back to Genesis 9:4, “You shall not eat the meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting.”  Moses added to this post-flood ordinance in Leviticus 17:14, “Because the life of every creature is its blood…You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone that eats it will be cut off.” Of course for the church, the Jerusalem elders restated this restriction in Acts 15:19,20 as they added to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from meat of strangled animals, and from blood.” God is cranky about the blood, for the blood belongs to life, and life belongs to him.  Even when he finally gave permission to eat meat, it was to be meat that was properly drained of the life blood. This was true in the Patriarch age, the Mosaic age, and the Christian age. God repeated it to all time and all mankind.

As we are medically aware, if we lose so much blood, we die.  The great benefit to the battlefield was the transfusion of blood from one person to another to allow the wounded to be refreshed with new blood of their type, so as to keep the body functioning while they are being repaired so that the bleeding stopped.  Life is in the blood, and transfusions are a life-saving tool of using blood to preserve life.  There are religious groups that refuse to have a blood transfusion.  They claim it is eating blood. God’s restriction is about using blood as food, not about transferring life from one person to another to save life. This is an incorrect interpretation of God’s law and ordinances.

God has used blood as the offering for forgiveness. The very first sin, when man and woman broke the restrictions of God almighty, and transgressed the boundary that God had established about the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil, needed a blood sacrifice. You will find in the first three chapters of Genesis that Adam and Eve fell prey to Satan dressed as a walking, talking serpent, and went over the line and sinned. They covered themselves with insufficient fig leaves, and God had to kill animals, shedding blood, so their sin would be rolled forward and they did not have to die at once, and they could be clothed with the skins.

A hundred years or so later, we are told in the next chapter of the sacrifice given by Abel and by Cain. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because it followed the Biblical plan of forgiveness that comes by the shedding of blood. We are not told the instructions given to these family men at the time of their sacrifices. We are just told that God accepted Abel’s blood sacrifice, and did not accept Cain’s produce of the ground sacrifice. There are those that claim that Abel was sincere or given with a worship attitude in the offering and Cain didn’t. There is no indication that that is true. Cain was wrath that his was not accepted, it perhaps was the best produce that his ground had produced. God just told him, “if you get it right, I will accept your offering as well.” To really understand the sin offering we must go to the Hebrew law and the Passover lamb that came for the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

I am sure you remember the tenth plague against Pharaoh, the death of the first born in every house unless there was the blood of a Passover lamb on the door lintels and posts of their house.  Go to chapter 12 of Exodus to get the full story. This night death’s angel passed over Egypt and the first born was doomed to die that night unless there was the obedience to God, and death’s angel could see the blood of a lamb over the door of the house.  This was the night that Pharaoh let God’s people go. Some months later, the law of Moses for the Hebrew people was given; and the law of the blood offering’s for the first born, for sin, for many other reasons are covered in the 1st through the 7th chapters of Leviticus. As Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians, nearly everything was cleansed by, blessed by, or forgiven by the blood sacrifice.

Now, this offering of blood sacrifices for sin was not just a Hebrew thing; Job that was not a relation to Abraham, just a peer of his sons that lived a long ways away, offered burnt sacrifices for his children regularly as recorded in Job 1:4,5, “His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.  This was Job’s regular custom.”

In cultural anthropology, you can go around the world for many ages and find the cultural custom of blood sacrifices. Many cultures elevated the severity of the blood sacrifice by making the important sacrifices, human sacrifices. Blood was always the center point of the sacrifice, be it a burnt offering, or openly lay to rot on the alter.  This is typical of how ancient practices, that were ordained by God, have continued in straying peoples, and have taken on the meaning and so-called redemptive power of that tribe or family of humans in their new culture.

God also used blood to make a covenant with an individual and with a family and with a nation.  The shedding of blood became the sign of the ratification of a covenant between man and God, and between man and man and between man and woman.

God had called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and they had settled in the land that God had shown him. Abram is in his senior years, and getting worried about the promised son and heirs of the wealth that Abram has and the land that God promised. Abram asks of God if Eliezer of Damascus was to be his heir, and God took him outside to look at the stars. God told him, “So shall your descendents be.” God then made a covenant with Abram over the eventual ownership of the land, and his children. He told him to take a “heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. Cut them in two, and arrange the halves opposite of each other; the birds however, he did not cut in half… As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him. ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years…your descendants will come back here…’ when the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch  appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—“(Genesis 15:1ff).

God used blood to ratify covenants between individuals, between nations, and between husband and wives at their wedding night.  God also gave a covenant to Abram when he changed his and Sarai’s names, at 99 years of age for Abraham. This was the personal covenant for men to be a part of the family of God. This was circumcision to be done on the eighth day.  This was to be a personal sign between God and his nation of Israel. On the eighth day, the foreskin of the p**** was to be cut back, and this was for every male either born of your household, or bought as a slave or your offspring. The medical profession tells me that by the eighth day, the blood of a baby is able to collegiate and in circumcision there would be just a drop of blood to ratify the covenant between that baby boy and God almighty. The boy will be in his family from that day on.  This was a Jewish custom and sign of their covenant and not carried over into Christianity (see Acts 15 and Col.2:9-14). Baptism becomes the sign of the covenant for Christians and it is for males and females since both are equal members of the universal kingdom of God today.

Again, cultural descendents of God’s people have carried over circumcision into their religion as a sign of their covenant with their god. The Muslims not only circumcise every male, they attempt to circumcise every female with the most cruel and sexually damaging act of physical mutilation known to mankind.  This act has even brought anger from more enlightened  Muslim countries of the world.  In Africa where the Muslims were the major slave traders, and had no real competition from Christianity (to our shame) for a thousand years, there are nations that are a majority Christian now; they still circumcise both male and female Christians. Cultural distinctions are hard to replace.

In our culture, circumcision is recommended by many doctors, since it is a fast way to make a buck.  It helps the male to keep clean in this area. And they claim it prevents cervical cancer in female sex partners.  All the evidence is that cervical cancer is caused by multi sex partners where men and women have a number of exchanges of the living organisms that thrive under the foreskin and in the vagina.  Just as in sexually transmitted diseases, there are no cases where this happens where the male and female are virgins at first intercourse and remain faithful to each other. Cervical cancer and STDs are a problem when everyone does not follow God’s plan for sexual purity (this is in the vast majority of cases; there are exceptions).

In like manner, God planned the marriage covenant to be sealed and consecrated with blood.

Our first most important covenant with God as a Christian is the forgiveness of sin, adoptions, and becoming family with God by the blood of Christ. This we will discuss in a moment. The second most important covenant that God allows us to partake in is marriage.  This is not a business or property contract or agreement; it is designed to be a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman.  God gave his image bearers a gift that he did not give to angels, or heavenly beings. Here on earth we are given the gift of procreation. This was given to the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom and the sea life kingdom as well as his image bearers. This was a gift given to populate the earth with like kind creatures.  For men and women, this is a gift that allows us to build a dynasty or to become a perpetual motion machine gone berserk.  This is a gift that allows us to see ourselves projected into the future for many generations. To allow us to have a sense on this earth of perpetual family life.  This is why God is so serious about the marriage covenant and about sex in particular.

The way we were designed in creation and birth, and by God’s design and instruction, man and woman were to be virgins on their wedding day. This would mean that after the wedding and all the party and the couple go to bed as it used to be said, to consummate their vows, with their first sexual intercourse there would be a spot of blood.  The first penetration would open the hymen and a drop of blood would consecrate the wedding covenant.  God so designed everything to be cleansed or set apart by blood.

Today, this often is not possible because of sports injury, being a second or more distant marriage, or premarital sex. I often advise that in such a case that the couple get a sterilized needle kit, a bit of gauze, and on their wedding night as they go over the day and the vows, they take time to pray for each other, carefully puncture a finger on each with a simple prick of a needle, mash their bleeding finger ends together and mix their blood spots with each other to make a blood covenant before God to consecrate their marriage vows and covenant.   This is just a way of bringing a new relationship before God in a blood covenant as originally planned by God. It is not required by Bible teaching, just consistent with Biblical planning. It allows our marriage covenant to be signed in blood.

Now to you and I and our eternal life with Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are very aware of the clear teachings of the New Testament that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. In the Old Testament, and during the life of Christ, often the answer to inheriting eternal life, was to love God and love mankind, keep the law, and do good to all people. Those days are over. Christ has now shed his blood for all mankind from the beginning of time to the last child on earth in some future date.  We have been the recipients of grace in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, and shed his blood for us, so that we through faith can come to him.  Now, we have learned that God deals with mankind through covenants.  We have a covenant in the New Testament that is based on the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day. Everything that you read about salvation and inheriting eternal life that you read before Acts the second chapter was for Old Testament times, and not for today. I want to go to Hebrews the ninth chapter again, and let you know that until Jesus Christ died on the cross, the new will or testament was not in force.  Listen to Paul carefully in verses 16 through 18, “In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when someone has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.” The will was written by God and ratified by Jesus on Calvary; it was proclaimed on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2.  Understand that what was told to the Rich Young Ruler, the very intelligent lawyer, or the thief of the cross, have noting to do with our salvation today. The blood was shed for the forgiveness of sin, and the question must be asked, “What must I do?”  Peter preached the first gospel sermon to several hundred thousand Jews that most had been at Passover and knew about and participated in the crucifixion by shouting “crucify him, crucify him.” When Peter preached out at the crowd in the temple, the house of God, “You, by the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death…therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-36). These men, realizing what they had done, cried out for forgiveness and Peter answered with the first gospel call, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (forgiveness) of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38,39).

This is the New Testament pattern; Grace has come through the death burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The response is, “I am guilty of sin, what should I do?”  The answer is to be immersed, baptized, for the remission of sins, and you will be forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The question may arise, “Why here, baptized in the name of Jesus, and in the great commission, baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This group of Jewish believer-sinners already believed in God, and they were to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The stumbling block to stretch their faith was Jesus Christ.  He was the one they crucified. Also, what is done in the name of Christ, is done in the name of the Trinity.

The next question is, “I thought John wrote in first John 1:9 that if we just confessed our sins they would be forgiven. That is true of Christians that sin again. As John said in this letter addressed to the saints in the church, thus he told them, “If you say you have not sinned, the truth is not in you. When you sin, you have an advocate (the Holy Spirit that you got at baptism) to take your confession and bring forgiveness. Read the whole of John’s writtings for a clear understanding.  This passage was never meant for sinners of the world to come to Christ. The reason, they have not been buried with Christ to contact his death, and be raised to a new life, born of the water and the Spirit. But, as Christians, they can be forgiven by confession and repentance.

To clarify, we go to Ephesians the second chapter and we find that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. That the grace of God brings us hope and we receive that salvation through faith and not works of the law. That salvation through faith includes our admitting that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It includes us repenting and  turning our minds, heart and direction around to now be in tune with God the Father, and the Son. We then need to be buried as dead men and women. Romans 6:1 ff. makes this clear: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God the Father, we too may live a new life.  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with. That we should be no longer slaves to sin…” There is the picture that Peter is painting in I Peter 3:20,21, “As in the days of Noah  while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water symbolizing baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ….” Again, salvation is all about Jesus and what he has done for us. We respond in faithful actions, that bring us into the saving grace of Jesus, forgive us, bury the old body or self, and we are resurrected, born again, into a new life that is all about Jesus and ready to go to work in the Ephesians 2:10 things for Jesus.

There are those that attempt to shorten the process, leave out the burial where we contact the death that is the blood, of Jesus Christ. We are told in John 14:23, that if we love and obey Jesus, that the Father will love us, and they will come and dwell in us.  We get the Father God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God all in this above process. We contact the blood of Christ, and we are adopted into the heavenly family. Why would you take a shortcut? This way your contract for heaven is signed in blood.