Why Is Blood Necessary For Redemption? – A Bible Study On Blood Atonement
A friend recently asked me, “Why is blood necessary for redemption?”
It is a good question. A newcomer to church is likely to walk in and hear Christians singing phrases like, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Or, “Are you washed in the blood of lamb?”
Put yourselves in their shoes for a moment. You would likely feel it is strange to witness hundreds of people cheerfully singing about blood, and using it for washing! And for many Christians, we grew up singing these songs. We grew up hearing prayers like, “cover me with your blood, Jesus.” But what is the meaning behind it? What is the actual significance of blood? Why is blood so important in the Bible?
We are going to take a journey through the Bible examining this question.
The First Death (First Blood Spilled)
When God created the world, the phrase “God saw that it was good” is repeated over and over. The earth was good, perfect. People were perfect. There was no sin and no sickness and no death. Adam and Eve were made to be stewards over creation. Man was given the task to name animals. All of creation experienced a harmonious relationship.
All of that changed when Adam and Eve sinned. Immediately their perspectives changed. Sin, guilt, and shame entered and their minds themselves were fundamentally altered for the worse.
Genesis 3:7 – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Adam and Eve covered themselves attempting to hide their sin and shame. Symbolically, it represents their own attempts to solve the problem of their sin. But their solution was inadequate. It did not solve the problem of sin and did not even cover their own nakedness very well.
Have you ever tried to run around wearing leaves as a covering? I can’t imagine it was that effective!
Their solution was inadequate. So God stepped in.
Genesis 3:21 – The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Something unprecedented is happening in this verse. It records the very first death. Now we are used to death. Death is everywhere. People have become de-sensitized to death. But Adam and Eve had never seen it. They had no concept of it. Here is an animal that Adam was charged to protect and even name. Here is a life that God had created. Now it was gone. How horrifying it must have been for them.
Death was foreign to them. It was ugly, disgusting, revolting. And worst of all, this death came about because of them. What they were charged to protect died because of them. The world had been changed forever, but not for the better.
This animal had to die for them to cover in part their sin. Although the passage does not mention it, blood must have been shed. The animal was killed as a substitute.
The first death gives us an important glimpse into why blood is so significant in the Bible.
Blood is life
Leviticus 17:11 – For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Blood is our life. Without it, we cannot live. And in the Old Testament we see clearly God setting up the system of substitutionary atonement. What do those long words mean?
Romans 6:23a – For the wages of sin is death.
It is simple. Because of sin, someone must die. Either you die and face the consequences for your sin yourself. Or someone else dies in your place. That is substitutionary atonement.
Put another way, either your blood is shed or someone else’s.
In the Old Testament God commanded the Jews to establish a sacrificial system. Much like in the first death in the Garden of Eden, these animal sacrifices were meant to teach important lessons about salvation.
1. Sin must be punished – This system taught God’s justice. It shows us that God cannot just overlook sin. Someone must pay the consequences. Why? Because God is just.
2. Sin is serious and the consequences are ugly – People had to take animals to the temple to sacrifice them for their sin. Think about that for a moment. That is a horrible thing. Have you ever witnessed animals being killed? It makes me a bit queasy. How would it effect you if after sinning you had to go get an animal and then take it to be killed?
It would certainly be a strong dis-incentive to sin! Every sacrifice would be a reminder about the terrible consequences of sin. These sacrifices should make you think twice before breaking God’s law. Thus animal sacrifices were a visible reminder about the horrible consequences of sin.
3. They foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross – Animals were never intended as a long term solution.
Hebrews 10:4 – For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Animal sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice. They did not take away sin, but instead covered it. Think of it as a temporary stay of judgement.
An animal dying could not take away our sin. So God sent what was most precious to Him, His very own Son. In Genesis, the creation had to die because of people’s sin. But sin is so insidious, so powerful, that to fully deal with it the Creator Himself had to die for sin. His death was shameful and ugly. And worst of all, he died because of our sin. He had die there because of me, because of you.
Jesus blood initiates a new covenant
Mark 14:24 – And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
Hebrews 13:20 – Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant.
In the Old Testament, blood of animals taught us the ugliness of sin, the justice of God, and the need for someone to help us solve the problem of sin. Jesus did this once for all on the cross. His sacrifice was final. Unlike with animals, it was not necessary to repeat it. Because Jesus’ blood has infinite worth, His death can effectively be a substitute for an infinite number of people and cover an infinite number of sins.
The New Covenant is one of grace and forgiveness. If you repent of your sins, He will forgive you and cleanse you.
Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Jesus died on the cross because there was no other way (if there was another way, He would have taken it.) His blood is the only thing that could give us redemption. His blood is the only thing that could really wash away our sins forever.
I once heard a story of a young girl and her brother. The girl had leukemia and needed a blood transfusion. The doctor asked her little brother if he would be willing to give his blood for his sister. The boy thought for sometime and finally soberly answered, “yes.” When the doctor inserted the needle and was taking the blood the boy meekly looked up and asked, “when am I going to die?” The precious boy had believed that giving his blood meant he was going to die to save his sister. Although the doctors then assured him it would not cost his life, they were amazed at the boy’s sacrificial love.
Jesus faced the same situation as the boy, but He actually had to give His life. And He chose to because of His love for you.
What does this mean for us? I would suggest two simple applications.
1. Thank Him. Next time you sing worship songs about the blood of Jesus, I hope you will have a deeper understanding and appreciation of His sacrifice for you.
2. Don’t trample on the blood. Just as the animal sacrifices motivated people to live holy lives, so Christ’s sacrifice should motivate us to live a holy life. All of our sins had to be paid for in full. Do not take that sacrifice for granted.
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