*WHAT IS SALVATION?*
*THE ROLE OF CHRIST’S BLOOD in the Atonement*
The exact role of Christ’s blood has been no small source of controversy within Christian circles. Some have contended that the blood is a symbol for Christ’s suffering and death and that the literal physical blood played a comparatively insignificant role. Christ’s death, they say, provided salvation, not so much His physical blood. Several questions must be considered. Is blood symbolic for Christ’s suffering and death, or does it refer to literal blood? Was the actual physical blood of Christ necessary to provide salvation? If so, did it constitute all that was necessary, or are there other aspects to His sacrifice?
*A. Observations about BLOOD in the Bible*
The word *blood* occurs approximately 99 times in the New Testament. There are approximately 38 references to Christ’s blood. The rest refer to human or animal blood. Here are texts that teach about Christ’s blood in providing salvation.
”And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My *blood* of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” Matt.26:27,28
“…to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” Acts20:28
Also: Rom3:25;5:9; Eph1:7;2:13; Heb10:19;13:12to21; 1Jn1:7; Rev1:5b;5:9;7:14;12:11 1Pet1:2,18,19; 1Jn5:6,8; Col1:20; Heb;9:12; 1Cor10:16a;1Cor11:25,27; Heb12:24a; Mark14:24; Luke22:20; Jn6:53; Jn6:55,56
*B. Conclusions about the Role of Christ’s Blood in the Atonement*
*1. The blood is more than a symbol*. It is understandable to conclude that there was more to Christ’s agony than bleeding. Nevertheless, this truth should not relegate the literal blood to an insignificant factor in making salvation possible. The shedding of blood may not have been the only sacrifice/cost to the Savior. Yet, it was one necessary aspect to Christ’s sacrifice. Salvation could not have been offered without the shed blood. The New Testament clearly stresses the blood of Christ and relates it to all major aspects of the atonement (forgiveness of sins – Matt26:28, Eph1:7; justification – Rom5:9; redemption – Eph1:7, Heb9:12, 1Pet1:19, Rev5:9; reconciliation – Co11:20; and propitiation – Rom3:25).
One of the penalties for sin is physical death. Without the shedding of physical blood, an essential requirement for man’s salvation, there would have been no forgiveness, redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, and justification for mankind (Heb9:22). The “blood” of Christ should not be viewed as just a symbol or as a minor component in providing salvation. However, this is not the same as denying that Christ made additional sacrifices and endured additional pains that were equally vital. Also, it is probable that when the New Testament authors used the word blood, they meant both literal blood and also all other aspects of his suffering and death. Blood means blood, but it also has a deeper meaning: it speaks of a greater death, agony, and sacrifice.
2. Factors other than Christ’s blood are at work in providing salvation. The cross will never be totally understood. We can be sure that there are other factors than the blood at work on the cross. Being a human physically, Jesus bled at His circumcision and when His baby teeth fell out. He perhaps bled in the carpenter’s shop or from traveling on rough roads. He bled when Pilate’s men whipped Him and when the thorns pierced His head. Yet, these drops of blood were, alone, not sufficient for the atonement.
We should first consider that the statement “the wages of sin is death” refers primarily to spiritual death (temporary separation from the Father on the cross Matt27:46). Christ paid the penalty of physical death. It was both literal and absolutely necessary. However, He must have also paid the pain of spiritual death and eternal death. He must have endured not the identical punishment in eternal hell but rather an equivalent punishment. Somehow Christ felt the agony of eternal hell multiplied by billions to pay for the sin of billions, and He did so during those short hours on the cross. Bleeding was necessary, but the difference between Christ bleeding at His circumcision and Christ bleeding as He hung on the cross is that Christ was the sin-bearer at the time He hung on the cross. The flow of blood was necessary, but it had to be the flow of blood at the precise time He was the sin-bearer or else the blood in and of itself would not have accomplished God’s goal.
*The Meaning and Extent of the ATONEMENT*
A. The Old Testament Term Atonement
As a Biblical word, atonement is strictly an Old Testament term concerning animal sacrifice. The verb kapar (Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement) occurs approximately 102 times, and 3 various noun forms have a total of about 52 uses. Atonement seems to be a complex idea with many aspects.
1. One aspect of atonement is the *COVERING OF SIN OR EXPIATION OF SIN* (i.e., to remove or wipe out sin’s guilt and obligation). The priests covered the mercy seat (Hebrew: atonement seat) with blood. Rom.3:25 and Heb.9-10 seems to teach that sins were temporarily covered under the Old Testament system but were not permanently removed. Christ’s sacrifice definitely expiated (removed) sin. It is probably wise to view Old Testament atonement as the covering of sins, the temporary removal of sin’s obligation, until Christ could come.
2. A second aspect of atonement is propitiation or the *DIVERSION OF WRATH*. If a Bible student had to choose one New Testament concept that is most closely related to the Old Testament term atonement, it would have to be propitiation. The most common translation used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew kapar is the Greek term for propitiation. Furthermore, Heb2:17 is a key text that relates the work of a priest (in the context Christ) to making propitiation by sacrifice.
”Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make *propitiation* for the sins of the people” Heb2:17
”For he said, “I will appease (Hebrew, atone) him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me” Gen32:20
Prov16:14 refers to a wise man who seeks to atone (appease or pacify) the wrath of a king. The idea of propitiate needs to be included in the definition of atonement.
*C. The Extent of the Atonement*
“Five-point” Calvinists assert Christ died for only the elect. While acknowledging that many fine Christians believe in this “limited atonement,” the Bible teaches an unlimited atonement. There is a sense in which redemption (2Pet2:1), reconciliation (2Cor5:19;Col1:20), and propitiation (1Jn2:2) occur for the whole world. Texts that teach unlimited atonement include the following:
“…Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jn1:29
“For God so loved the *world*…” Jn3:16; Jn4:42
”…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the *whole world*”1Jn2:2
…also Jn6:51;12:32,47;Acts17:30;2Cor5:19;1Tim2:4,6;4:10; Titus2:11;Heb2:9;2Pet2:1