The Blood of the Cross

Hebrews

The Blood of the Cross

May 12th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM

Hebrews 9:22

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
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THE BLOOD OF THE CROSS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Hebrews 9:11-22

5-12-68    7:30 p.m.

 

On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message, the closing message of this week of revival, and the message is entitled The Blood of the Cross, a sermon on the atonement of the Lord for our sins, and we are going to read out loud one of the great passages in God’s Book.  Turn to the Book of Hebrews, the Book of Hebrews, chapter 9, Hebrews chapter 9.  We shall begin reading at verse 11 and read through verse 22.  And the text is verse 22:  "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins."

            Hebrews, toward the last of your Bible, Hebrews chapter 9 beginning at verse 11 and reading through verse 22, if we all have it, verse 11 in chapter 9 through verse 22.  Now sharing your Bible with your neighbor, all of us reading out loud together:

 

But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  

For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.  For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,

Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

[Hebrews 9:11-22]

 

            And that is the text.  And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.  Christianity is of all things first and foremost a message and a religion of redemption.  It has to do with the deliverance of the human soul from our sins, and its purpose is to deliver us from the slavery and bondage of sin into the liberty and likeness of the children of God.

            The Christian faith is not primarily an ethic, although it is ethical.  It is not primarily a theology, although it is theological.  It is not primarily reformational, although it has cultural and social and political overtones.  The Christian faith is first and foremost and above all things a religion of redemption.  Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was raised the third day for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].

            This can be poignantly seen and illustrated in the sign of the church.  The sign of the Christian faith is not a burning bush.  The sign of the Christian religion is not a table of stone engraved by the finger of God, the Ten Commandments.  The Christian faith is not a seven-branched lampstand.  The Christian religion is not symbolized by a submissive head with a halo above.  The Christian faith is not symbolized even by a golden crown.  But the sign and the symbol of the Christian religion is a cross; a cross, in all of its naked hideousness, as the Roman would have it; a cross, in all of it philosophical irrationality as the Greek would have it: but a cross, symbolizing the redemptive power of God, as Paul preached it.

 

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are your fully trusting in His grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? 

["Are You Washed in the Blood," Elisha Hoffman]

 

            The heart of the Christian faith, and the most significantly dramatic event in all God’s story, is the descent of Christ from heaven to die on the cross, for He being in the form of God, in the morphos, in the form of God, whatever God is like, Jesus was that.  "For He being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped, to be held onto, to be equal with God: but poured Himself out, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man!  And being found in fashion of a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" [Philippians 2:6-8].

            Our imagination, our highest imagination cannot enter into that descent: its height in glory and its depth in suffering.  He who was God Himself in the form of God was made in the likeness of a man, made out of the dust of the ground.  And being found in fashion as a man, He became poor among the poor; a slave, a servant, and was executed as a criminal.  He was raised between heaven and earth, as though both refused Him; rejected by men and by God.

And as though abuse were not vile enough, they covered Him with spittle.  And as though spittle were not contentious enough, they plucked out His beard.  And as though plucking out His beard were not brutal enough, they crowned Him with thorns.  And as though thorns were not sharp enough, they thrust through great iron nails.  And as though nails could not pierce deeply enough, He was broken with the thrust of a Roman spear, and the crimson of his life stained the ground.  No wonder that the sun refused to shine on so tragic a dramatic incident in God’s story of human life. 

 

Well might the sun in darkness hide, and shut His glories in,

When Christ the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin.

["At the Cross," Isaac Watts]

 

What is this?  Jesus, God in the flesh, dying as a criminal on the cross: what is that?  Is it some dramatic play, like the Agamemnon of Aeschylus or like Shakespeare’s Macbeth or King Lear?  Or like Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude

What is this, the death of Christ on the cross?  Is it some historical tragedy as Socrates drinking the hemlock?  Or as Julius Caesar murdered at the foot of the statue of Pompey?  Or as Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theater?  What is this, the death of Christ on the cross?  Is it a story of frustration, and failure, and defeat, and despair?

Albert Schweitzer so wrote – the great humanitarian, and physician, and philosopher, and musician, the altruistic doctor who worked for the years of the latter part of his life in the French cameroons, that’s what he said.  And with all of the wonderful philanthropies of that man, isn’t it strange his idea of the cross?  For Albert Schweitzer said that the Lord Jesus was expecting the apocalyptic descent of the kingdom of God from heaven, and when it never happened and when it didn’t come, that Jesus died in frustration and in defeat and in despair.  Is that right?  Is that correct?

What is this, the death of the Son of God on the cross?  It is first, according to God’s Book – the death of Christ is first the judgment of God upon our sins.  What is sin like and what is humanity like?  If you would see, look at Jesus, God’s pure, holy, righteous Son taken by the violence of sinful men and crucified like a malefactor, like a criminal, that is the exhibition before the world of our sin and God’s judgment upon it.  It is heinous.  It is dark.  It is black.  It is tragic.  Who did that, crucified the Lord Jesus?  Whose guilt is that?  Whose fault is that?

There are many who say, "Why, that is God’s fault.  God did it."  They say He runs this universe, and He does.  Then if God runs this universe, and He does, then God did it.  And there are very many, many who lay to God all of the sorrows and the darknesses of life; they blame it on God.

Who did that?  Who crucified Jesus?  There are those that say, "Well, it’s His own fault.  He should have been a better manager," and there are those by the uncounted millions who lay at the door of human weakness itself all of the wrong and sin of human life.  "These who fall into trouble and into error and into sorrow, they should have been better managers, they should have made better choices, and they deserve what they get.  They made their own bed, let them lie in it!"

Who did that?  There are those who say Judas did it: "He sold Him for thirty pieces of silver."  There are those who say Pontius Pilate did it: "Weak, vacillating governor, procurator of Judea.  When he should have stood up for justice and right, he delivered Him to be crucified like a criminal.  Pilate did it!  It was his fault!"

There are those who say the Jews did it: "They delivered Him to death" – and anti-Semitism is one of the scourges of the whole world, yesterday, today and apparently until Jesus comes again.  "The Jews did it.  It is their fault."  And there are those who say the Roman soldiers did it: "Who planted that crown of thorns?  Who nailed Him to that tree?  The Roman soldiers did it.  It was their fault."

But the Jews say, "Would you bring this Man’s blood upon us and our children?  We did it not."  And Pontius Pilate, still washing his hands, avows, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person" [Mathew 27:24].  And the Roman soldiers say, "We were men under authority carrying out the orders of our Roman government.  We did it not."

Who did that?  Whose fault is that?  Who crucified the Son of God?  It must have been that we all had a part, all of us did it.  My sins pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns and my sin nailed Him to the cross. 

 

Was it for crimes that I have done He groaned upon the tree? 

Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree.

 ["At the Cross," Isaac Watts]

 

We did it.  We crucified the Prince of glory.  Our sins nailed Him to the cross.  What is this?  The crucifixion, the death of the Son of God?  It is first the judgment of God upon our sins, our sins.  It is second the great provision of God for our atonement, for our salvation, that our sins might be washed away, and that the stain of our wrong and transgressions might be taken out of our souls, that we might stand someday in the presence of God, pure, holy, without spot and without blemish.  This is God’s great atoning act for our salvation.

This is the answer to Job’s ancient cry, "I have sinned, what shall I do?"  How does a man rid himself of the sin and the wrong in his life?  How?  If you were to live perfectly from this moment onward, what would you do to wash the stain out of the life that we have already lived?  How does a man get rid of sin?  The cry of Job, "I have sinned, what shall I do?" 

It is the answer to the cry of Macbeth, the thane of Scotland, who in Shakespeare’s tragedy slew his own king, who was a guest in his own castle.  And when Macbeth, plunging the dagger into the king’s heart, pulled it out, the blood followed the dagger and stained his hands.  And as Macbeth looked at the blood dropping from his hands, he cried, "Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?  No, rather this my hand will the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red."

How does a man wash the stain of sin from his life and out of his soul?  This is God’s answer.  This is God’s atonement.  This is God’s great provision for our sin.  This is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world.  This is the blood of the Passover.  "When I see the blood I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:23].  This is the suffering Servant of Isaiah; "All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6].  This is God’s great redemptive plan through the centuries and the generations.

This is the great confirmation toward which all time and history did move.  And when Jesus died on the cross, He bowed His head and said, "It is finished" [John 19:30].  And the drops of blood that fell at the foot of the cross whispered to the grass, "It is finished."  And the grass whispered to the herbs, "It is finished."  And the herbs whispered to the trees, "It is finished."  And the trees whispered to the birds in the branches, "It is finished."  And the birds in the branches, spiraling upward, whispered to the clouds, "It is finished."  And the clouds whispered to the stars, "It is finished."  And the stars whispered to the angels in glory, "It is finished."  And the angels of glory went up and down the golden streets of heaven and rejoiced, saying, "It is finished": God’s great redemptive plan for our salvation. 

 

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

 Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

 [Elisha Hoffman, "Are You Washed In the Blood?"]

 

What can wash away my sins?

            Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

           What can make me whole again? 

            Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

O, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow. 

No other fount I know,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

[Robert Lowry, "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus"]

 

            This, the death of our Lord, is not only the judgment of God upon our sins, it is not only God’s great plan of atonement and salvation; that cross is the announcement and the sign, the proclamation, the heralding of the good news that all of who turn in faith to Jesus shall find remission of sins, atoning grace, God’s mercy and God’s salvation, "not in the works of righteousness which we have done.  Our works," God says, "are as filthy rags in His sight.  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to God’s grace and God’s mercy does God save us" [Titus 3:5, Isaiah 64:6]. 

            And we are saved in that atoning grace in the death of Christ on the cross.  The arms outstretched, wide as the world is wide, no frontier, as far as the east goes east and the west goes west, so does God’s love and God’s invitation and God’s outreach come even to me, to us: the sign of our salvation and the glorious sign of our hope, our assurance, our glory beyond the days of this life and beyond the grave.  "If in Flanders fields the poppies grow, ‘Twill be between the crosses row on row."  Wherever somebody falls – a missionary on a foreign strand, a soldier boy cut down across the seas – if somebody who is a Christian is standing by, they will erect at the head of the grave the sign of the cross. 

            Our hope in Jesus; there is no other way. 

 

Could my tears forever flow? 

Could my zeal no languor know? 

These for sin could not atone. 

Thou must save and Thou alone. 

In my hands no prize I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

["Rock of Ages," Augustus Toplady]

 

This is God’s invitation of forgiveness and salvation; regeneration to become the children of God through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross.  "Look and live, my brother, live.  Look to Jesus now and live.  ‘Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah! It is only that you look and live."  Do it tonight.  "Lord, the best I know how, I confess to Thee my sins.  The best I know how, I ask Thee to forgive me my sins.  The best I know how, I open my heart in faith to the Lord Jesus, and the best I know how, maybe with stammering lips, I confess Thee as my Lord and my God, and here I come.  Here I am."

               In a moment we shall sing our hymn of appeal.  We are going to sing the hymn they were singing when I was converted.  
 
                               There is a fountain filled with blood, 
                               Drawn from Immanuel's veins,  
                               And sinners plunged beneath the flood 
                               Lose all their guilty stains.  
 
                               E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream 
                               Thy flowing wounds supply, 
                               Redeeming love has been my theme, 
               And shall be till I die. 
                               ["There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," William Cowper]
 
               And while we sing that precious hymn, you, coming to the Lord, down one of these stairways, at the back, at the front, and on either side, make it now.  Come now.  The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: "Here I come, preacher, and here I am."  One somebody you, taking Jesus as your Savior; a couple you; a family you: "Pastor, this is my wife.  These are our children.  All of us are coming tonight, and here I am."  As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now.  Come now.  Do it now.  Where you are, make the decision, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming, down one of these stairways or into the aisle: "Here, pastor, I give you my hand.  I have given my heart to God."  As the Spirit shall lead, come, come.  Taking Jesus as Savior, coming to be baptized in obedience to His word, coming to put your life in the church, as God shall say the word, answer.  Do it now.  On the first note of the first stanza, when you stand up, stand up coming, and God attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.