What is the fiducial (i.e., with respect to faith, not literal) significance of the blood of Christ? Why is it the most centrally articulated of all soteriological (i.e., related to salvation) terms in the Bible? How does it work on our consciences? The answer comes quickly if we remember that blood, used fiducially, signifies life poured out in death. Blood is the vital sap of earthly, bodily existence (psuche); “the existence (nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11). So the “active ingredient,” so to speak, in blood is “bodily existence” (traditionally construed somewhat askew as “disembodied soul,” due to the influence of ancient Greek philosophy and religion). Hence the words of Jesus: “For even the Son of Mankind came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his existence a ransom in exchange for (anti) many” (Mk 10:45; cf. Mt. 20:28). This term is virtually synonymous with blood in all those many passages that speak of the shedding of Christ’s blood for us and our sins.
This connection must be linked, in turn, to those historic moments in the history of redemption where the criminal shedding of blood is said to evoke avenging. The Old Covenant allowed for an “avenger of blood” in the case of murder. But more primally, Genesis sets the conceptual precedent in the narrative about Cain and Abel. “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground, which opens its mouth wide to take your brother’s blood from your hand. As you are serving the ground, it will not continue to give its vigor to you” (Gen. 4:10-12). But Jesus is “the Mediator of a fresh covenant,” whose “blood of sprinkling” is “speaking better than Abel” (Heb 12:24). That is, Jesus’ blood called to God for just avenging better than that of the just Abel (Mt. 23:35; cf. Lk 11:51). And we know of Abel’s uprightness: “By trust Abel offers to God more of a sacrifice than Cain, through which he was testified to that he is just at God’s testifying [by fire from heaven?] to his approach present [of a slain lamb?], and through it, dying, he is still speaking [for vindication, justification!].
The picture is clear. A just God must avenge the unjust death of the just. This is even clearer in Rev. 6:9-11.
“…I perceived underneath the altar the existences of those who have been slain because of the Explanation of God and because of the testimony which they had [i.e., what they had witnessed of God’s salvation through Christ]. And they cry with a loud voice, saying, ‘Till when, O Owner, holy and true, are You not judging and avenging our blood on those dwelling on the earth? And to each of them was given a white robe and it was declared to them that they should be resting still a little time, till [their number] should be completed by their fellow slaves also, and their brethren, who are about to be killed even as they were.”
Now if we keep in mind that Satan accuses the saints of God for their sins, using also innuendoes (think of Job!), we are prepared for the amazing mechanism whereby our conscience–consciousness of sins–is cleansed by the blood of Christ:
Satan’s arranged murder–publicly!–of God’s beloved and sinless Son, the heir of the universe, i.e. his shedding of Christ’s blood on the Cross, is the agelong witness of Satan’s supreme crime. The blood of Christ is the standing witness, the unanswerable proof par excellence of Satan’s sin, the token of his complete disqualification to accuse any human being of sin! In comparison with this heinous enormity of wickedness, nothing we have ever done or can ever do counts in the least! The ‘sign of the Cross’, Satan’s instrument of choice for execution, accuses the Accuser! Christ’s blood indicts him! It is exhibit ‘A’ concerning his own treacherous crime of slaying the heir apparent to the throne of the created universe! It seals his doom and he knows it! For when God heard the derelict cry of His beloved Son–obedient even to the undeserved death on a cross–He avenged by the expenditure of a power never before fully demonstrated since the creation of the world: the power of the Resurrection. Hereby God exalted His Son not only beyond Satan’s reach forever, but places that old Serpent under his heel irreversibly.
“Now, still my flesh also shall be camped down on expectation,
For You will not be forsaking my existence in the unseen,
Nor will You be giving Your Benign One to be acquainted with decay.
You make known to me the paths of life.
You will be filling me with gladness with Your face.” [Acts 2:26b-28; Psalm 16:9-11]
Being then inherently a prophet, and having perceived this before, [David] speaks concerning the Resurrection of the Messiah/Christ, that he was neither forsaken in the unseen, nor was his flesh acquainted with decay. This Jesus God raises, of whom we all are witnesses. Being, then, to the right hand of God exalted, besides obtaining the promise of the Holy Spirit alongside the Father, he pours out this which you are observing and hearing [i.e., what you are witnessing!] (Acts 2:30-33).
In God’s almighty hand, the treacherous outpouring of Christ’s lifeblood was transformed into the greatest good ever to grace humankind by fully justifying God in raising and exalting His Christ, giving him the promised outpouring of the Spirit’s lifeflood, which he, in turn, gives us gratuitously on the mere condition of faith alone! “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [of Wholesome Spirit!]” (2 Cor. 9:15).
And a battle occurred in heaven. Michael and his messengers battle with the Dragon, and the Dragon battles, and its messengers. And they are not strong enough for him, neither was their place still found in heaven.
And the great Dragon was cast out, the ancient Serpent called ‘Adversary’ and ‘Satan’, who is deceiving the whole inhabited earth. It was cast into the earth, and its messengers were cast with it. And I hear a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Just now occurred the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and authority of His Christ, for the Accuser of our brethren [Rev. 6:11] was cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night. And they conquer him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the explanation of their testimony and they love not their existence until death [Rev. 12:7-11].
The spattering of the blood of the sinless Lamb of God evokes God’s just avenging wherever it happens to land. When applied to the core (kardia) of a human personality, by faith, it provokes the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, the promise of the covenant which Christ’s obedience fulfilled. The fact that God historically, phenomenally, gave this witness of the Holy Spirit to any who would trust Christ is proof positive that God regards faith as righteousness, pure and simple. For He treats the believer as if he were a flawlessly righteous person, giving him the Holy Spirit that can be obtained only by impeccable covenant obedience.
It was God’s historical deeds, recorded in the Book of Acts, that provided Paul this freedom and authority to argue that righteousness was itself imputed to mere trust. No “exchange of merits” ever entered Paul’s mind as he put pen to paper. [02/12/95]