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The Perfect Blood of Christ

There is a very prominent teacher within the ranks of the organized Christendom that teaches that the blood of Jesus had no intrinsic value in and of itself, that the term “the blood of Christ” is only a metaphor, or figure of speech, for the death of Christ on the Cross. He claims that Christ’s blood was merely the fluid that flowed through His veins, although it had to be shed, but that it was only His resulting death, by asphyxiation/suffocation, that the term, “the blood of Christ” points to. Is this an important issue? I think so, since “blood” is given such an elevated place in Scriptures. Dr. John MacArthur said,

"It was His death that was efficacious. . not His blood. . . Christ did not bleed to death. The shedding of blood had nothing to do with bleeding. . . it simply means death. . . Nothing in His human blood saves…It is not His blood that I love. . . it is Him. It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying."

John, in his book, The Truth War, make this accurate statement:

The war against truth is nothing new, of course. It began in the garden when the serpent said to the woman, “Has God indeed said . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1). A relentless battle has raged ever since between truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and dark­ness, assurance and doubt, belief and scepticism, righteousness and sin. It is a savage spiritual conflict that literally spans all of human history. But the ferocity and irrationality of this present onslaught seems quite unprecedented. ‘The Truth War,’ John MacArthur

The Bible says, Lev. 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."

John, God has not said what you are claiming.

All men have holes in their theology. Some of these holes make little difference to the overall integrity of an otherwise safe vessel. But, other holes are of such consequence that if they are not addressed harbor great and serious results.

John has more than a few leaking seals in his theology, that have gotten the attention of quite a number of people. I do not bother myself with these that I call noncritical controversies. But, when the integrity of a weight bearing seam or wall is discovered to be faulty and dangerous by those whose job it is to look for such things, a warning needs to be sounded, even though the problem has lain dormant for three decades. Regardless of how much dust this issue has gathered, it is still alive, and is just one more gaping hole allowing the Church to take on water.

To call into question the very foundation of our forgiveness by reducing that foundation, the blood of Jesus, to a mere symbol is serious heresy. He has not retracted this belief, and in my opinion, stands in a very precarious position as a teacher, as do his followers. Can we have faith in a symbol or a metaphor? If so, maybe there is a Santa Clause; I'm just being silly here. Is reducing the very thing that God requires to a metaphor equate to having faith in the blood of Jesus?

In times past this question may not have gotten the attention that it deserves, and only barely appears on the radar at this late hour, and then only by those who thirst for truth and not the acceptance of men. Today a few are beginning to examine the statements of all the self appointed leaders who profess great wisdom by way of their institutionalized learning. This particular individual even mocks those kitchen table theologians who do not render the proper respect to schooled doctors of religion, “There is a vast difference, by the way, between the whimsical ‘kitchen table’ interpretations of laymen, and the teaching of skilled men who work very hard to rightly divide the Word.” It is primarily by way of these “gifted” teachers that we have now a dissected Body of Christ. The Church has been torn into a thousand sects and every doctrine reduced to gossamer shavings, and now, at the end of the age, is faced with this great apostasy. The revelation of Scripture is not enough for these highly educated types, they must have their opinions too. It is my guess that it is at least as much the fault of academia as it is the ignorant layman, but scholarship always trumps the un-schooled layman, who must rely on mere “revelation.”  The pride of education doesn’t stop at the pulpit.

If the blood is as important as the Bible seems to make it, then to trivialize it may spell disaster worse than the Gulf oil spill; the consequences may be eternal.

I think his error is that he has confused the blood with the Cross and made them into a single thing; it is to combine forgiveness of sins with deliverance from sin, the atonement with sanctification, and propitiation and the purging of a guilty conscience with emancipation from the sin nature. The purpose of Christ’s death had a dual result. The blood of Jesus, the perfect blood of Jesus, was the atonement for our sins. It was that perfect blood, offered to God, of which, He was wholly and completely satisfied. It is this blood that is on the door post of our hearts, that when God sees the blood, He passes over. The blood was for God.

But, something else is needed. Although the blood of Jesus achieves the entrance into the throne room of God by faith in the power of the blood, and washes away all the sins, past and present, God still has to deal with His sinner children. The death of Christ accomplished two things. His death not only atoned for our sins through the shedding of blood, it provided us with the solution to deliver us from the power of sin in our present lives, our sinful nature. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. We were born with a sin nature, and it is our nature to sin, we cannot not sin, unless and until we change our nature, but we will never be completely free from sin as long as we are clothed with this flesh. We have gotten forgiveness for our sins through the blood, but how can we get deliverance from our predisposition to want to sin? Rom. 3:25,26 "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. The cross is the answer. Rom. 5:9 "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" The blood was for God, but the Cross is for us, Rom 6:6,7 "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 no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.." Jesus did not go just half way. His death satisfied God’s need for absolute justice, and it provided us with the tool to defeat Satan’s goal to keep us sinning.

So, do you see why the blood is more than just fluid and why it is important? The blood of bulls and goats would not do, it had to be the perfect, untainted blood of a sinless person, Jesus.

The “blood” was not just a metaphor for the death of Jesus, it had intrinsic value that no other fluid possessed, and it was that very fluid, flowing in the veins of Jesus, His life blood, that alone would be adequate to satisfy His Father and atone for the sins of the whole world. He not only opened the way into the presence of the Father through His blood, but He opened the way to freedom from sin through the Cross.

The big question at present is not, “how does the Cross help us to overcome the sin nature,” (that is a subject for another time), but rather, if we trivialize the blood of Jesus, that God has put such high value on, by the application of our scholarship, and reduce it to just the fluid in the veins of Jesus, of which the only value was to point to His death, can we still appropriate the efficacious qualities of what that blood accomplished? Can we reduce the blood from its atoning value, through the misapplication of words, and still claim to have faith in the blood of Christ? And again, will those who uphold this teacher in this belief and follow him share in the effects of his error?

If the blood is just a metaphor for something else, then maybe we shouldn’t trust anything we read in Scripture, and we should just join the liberal camp of creative, personal interpretations.

Any novice coming to the Bible for the first time, without a doubt, would conclude that “blood” plays an important part of our understanding of the Bible, and our relationship to God. Also, this same novice would not conclude that  “blood” and “death” were synonymous. It is only through critical analysis and scholarship that intelligent doctors of theology have come up with a new view, by way of there fallen ability to “reason” there way to a proper understanding of the mind of God. 1Corinthians 1:20, 2:13: “Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not God shown up the nonsense and the folly of this world's wisdom?”. . . “And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].”

I do not question John MacArthur’s sincerity in wanting to deliver truth to those who follow him, but on this point of the blood of Jesus he is wrong, and it is a serious error. I have no personal axe to grind with JM, only that he has trivialized the very thing that effects our forgiveness, and I cannot be a part of that. It is the duty of the watchman to expose error wherever it presents itself, even if it comes from the camp of the watchman himself. We are to be seekers of truth, not followers of men.

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5 replies on “The Perfect Blood of Christ”

I think we are getting a bit worked up over semantics.  What if Jesus had cut himself sometime prior to that last week of his life – would that spilled blood have been effective for salvation?  NO.  While the shedding of Christ's blood was necessary, it could not have accomplished salvation in and of itself, because if Jesus didn't die on the cross all the bleeding in the world would not have paid the penalty of sin.    And that is all I understand MacArthur to be saying.
It was the same with the OT sacrifices – cutting an animal and letting him bleed on the altar would not have provided a thing without the death of the animal along with the bleeding.
I think you are making an issue of something that is not what you are making it to be.

Glenn,

You may be correct, but semantics is how we communicate, and as Paul says, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war?” 1 Cor. 14:8. At the very least John is making an uncertain sound.

It really is not a matter of how we juggle words and try to fit the square peg of our reasoning into the round hole of truth, it is a matter of God’s revelation to us and our ability to believe it, period.

We are all susceptible to Satan’s trick of plugging in our own human rational formulations in an attempt to understand a Book that is wholly spiritual. We think God is like us and that He must surely think the same things as us, and come to the same conclusions. The Bible says for a reason that we are not to add to, or take from what is written.

Glenn, I am not chiding you for the conclusion you have reached, because it makes so much sense, even to me, but it is not Biblical; God does not agree. This has been the plague of men from the very beginning. “Lean not unto your own understanding” is the advise of Scripture, which means that we must trust God when we find our human faculty of “reason” under assault by truth.

Of course Jesus had to die. Let’s not muddy the waters with the idea of atonement by way of a cut finger; He is “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world,” and His perfect life was in His perfect blood, of which a perfect God, in His perfect justice, required. Why does God even require blood? Now there’s a good question. But, He does, and we can conjecture all we want, but the fact remains, He requires blood, and only the literal blood of Christ would do.

Is this semantics or faith in the revelation of God?

Let’s look at Paul in regards to some semantic juggling going on in the Corinthian Church.

1Cor. 15:12-17 12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

This argument could be equally applied to the argument of Christ’s atonement, the conclusion being that if Christ’s blood was only symbolic, a metaphor pointing to His death only then , “your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

If Christ be preached that He shed His blood as an atonement for our sins, how say some among you that Christ’s blood can not save, that it was only symbolic, but if there be no literal blood atonement, then there is no forgiveness of sins, and if Christ’s blood has not atoned, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He has accepted Christ’s blood, of whom He did not accept, if so be the blood is only a metaphor, for if the blood atone not, then is not Christ our atonement, and if Christ’s blood is only symbolic, then is your faith vain; ye are yet in your sins.

I have taken some liberty here, but I see no difference in the conclusion.

That tree of the knowledge of good and evil has totally ruined our ability to use our own “reason” to understand God. We must accept what is written as the foundation, it is our only way out of the deep dark woods of this world. We must reject the intelligence of men in favor of revealed truth.

If the words quoted in the above article our indeed the words of John MacArthur then he is speaking plainly.

It was His death that was efficacious. . not His blood. . . Christ did not bleed to death. The shedding of blood had nothing to do with bleeding. . . it simply means death. . . Nothing in His human blood saves…It is not His blood that I love. . . it is Him. It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying.

Steve,
Thank you for pointing this out.  I must confess that I do not understand completely and must prayerfully study this issue more closely.  I will do so immediately because I use JMac's material quite often as part of my personal Bible study. 
Would you please let me know from what source you have taken the quote, so I may read/listen to the whole lesson?
With a heavy heart,
Yvonne

Yvonne,

I appreciate your willingness to, at least, sense the potential danger of the position John MacArthur takes; a close study of the issue is a prudent approach.

I wrestled with this issue for some time before writing the article, and decided to crawl out on this limb, even though JM is held in high esteem by very many.

A few of the questions I asked myself are:
1. If this position were taken by a teacher of less esteem would the issue have lain virtually dormant for thirty years?
2. Just because it has been thirty years since the article was written, is that reason to let it go?
3. Why does JM take such a position that differs with the overwhelmingly vast majority of Christendom?
4. Could you or I take this position without receiving a scathing rebuke from fellow Christians?
5. From where does such a position originate?
6. What would be the advantage of fostering such a notion? Is there any benefit to the body of Christ?
7. If this were not JM would we tolerate for a minute someone mis-appropriating and mis-using the precious blood of Jesus to simply sound intelligent or make a point?

I too have bought John’s books and still regard him as a person of great Biblical understanding intelligence, but this issue has stopped me in my tracks. I looked in vain for a retraction and found none.

As far as locating the article from which the quote comes, I could not locate it. I don’t know where you can find that article. It was published by Bob Jones University in their publication called Faith for the Family in 1986. It originally showed up as

“remarks MacArthur had originally made in a live Q&A session at Grace Community Church sometime in the early 1970s. MacArthur’s comments had been transcribed and published in the May 1976 issue of the Grace Church newsletter ‘Grace Today,’”

Phil Johnson

attested to by Phil Johnson in his defense letter mentioned below. So if they don’t have a copy somewhere, then it will be very hard to find. But I don’t think it is at all necessary to produce this article because we have MacArthur’s own testimony in a video in which he says things like “We don’t want to get caught into this bizarre notion that somehow in the actual fluid that came out of the body of Jesus there is saving power or saving efficacy.” And, “There is nothing in the fluid in His body that in any way in itself could save us.” This corroborates the 1976 article. At this location there is an article by Phil Johnson defending JM’s position. JM does not deny having said these things that are quoted, he make his position plain in the video, and reinforced by Phil Johnson. Also, JM’s study Bible makes the same claims wherever the blood is mentioned.

Am I over reacting? Maybe, but I don’t think so, and without a retraction or apology JM will have to take his place along side of a growing number of undesirables who have chosen to trample under foot the precious blood of Christ.

Just as the resurrection is the central evidence for the deity of Jesus, so is the “blood” the central testimony of the forgiveness of our sins. To trivialize, change, or symbolize either of these two things is to do great harm, not only to the doctrine, but to the Hope in which we draw comfort. I would expect for these words of John to be coming from the apostate church of today. JM’s words appear to be harmless to his followers, but they only remind me of those words spoken so long ago in the Garden of Eden, “Has God really said. . . .”

To state that the blood is only symbolic is both spiritually and philosophically irresponsible, and both on the same grounds, that no one below the status of god could know, a priori, what He means or what He demands by the term “the blood.” John MacArthur has derived through logic and reasoning, disregarding the facts of Scripture, and in the face of the plain words of God, that the blood of Jesus was only a metaphor and has no power in and of itself to save.

With the death of Christ, He not only conquered the most basic of human enemies, death, by His resurrection, but He likewise turned our most formidable enemy, God, into our friend, through His literal blood atonement.

For JM to succeed in propagating this myth would be to destroy the very foundation on which the salvation of the human race rest. Where are his critics?

If Christ did in fact conquer death and satisfy the just requirements of a perfect God, by His resurrection and atonement, and deliver unto us eternal life and “peace that passes all knowledge” (for those who believe), it would be sheer madness not to take with all seriousness the Biblical claim that the literal blood of Jesus was that very element that achieved for us the peace that our souls so desire. Through the blood of Jesus we have peace with God.

We as Christians must maintain an unshakable conviction that the blood of Jesus, regardless that the world calls it foolish, has accomplished what the Bible says it has accomplished, the way the Bible says it was accomplished, and by the means the Bible says it used, in the face of all unbelievers, and in the face of John MacArthur.

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