'And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.' ( Hebrews 9:22 )
The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus' blood 'cleanses us from all sin' ( I John 1:7 ), through the 'sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ' ( I Peter 1:2 ), but is/was it His actual blood that saved us/them, or was it simply the fulfillment of ritual, or copy ( shadow-Hebrews 9:23 ) from the old, or 'first' covenant ( Hebrews 8:7-13 )?
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, time and again, 'blood' is mentioned in relation to 'covenant' ( Genesis 8:20, Genesis 15, 17:9-14, Exodus 12:1-28, Exodus 29, Exodus 24:18, Leviticus 3, Leviticus 4, Leviticus 16, Numbers 18:17, Deuteronomy 12:27, II Kings 23:21, II Chronicles 30:16, 35:11, Psalm 50:5, Jeremiah 34:18-20, Ezekiel 16:1-14, Zechariah 9:11 ), and it is true that these blood sacrifices were commanded by God for the 'children' of Israel to follow, but, as we have seen, through the eyes of the new covenant, it is the spirit, not the letter, of the law, that makes alive ( 'for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life' ( II Corinthians 3:6 ( Romans 7:6 ). As Moses traveled back to Egypt with his wife and two son; Exodus 4:24 records that 'the LORD met him and sought to kill him'; there is some disagreement on whom the Lord ( God ) sought to kill, here, but it is clear why He sought to kill him; because he had not been circumcised, as the commanded sign of the covenant. To prevent his death, either that of the child or Moses; his wife Zipporah circumcised her son on the spot, and said 'Surely you [ are ] a husband of blood to me!'. Scripture does not tell us which son Moses wife circumcised in a hurried manner, and we are only given the name here, of one of his sons ( Exodus 2:21 ), but, relative to the context of this event, I believe that we can safely assume that it occurred, and was placed in Scripture record where it was, to accentuate, to emblazon in the mind of Moses what he was to relay to the Pharaoh; 'Thus says the LORD: “Israel [ is ] My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.'
As Moses neared the end of his biological life; he reiterated to the 'children' of Israel the Law that God had given them through him. In Deuteronomy 10:16; Moses revealed to his people God's intent for, or the principle behind, the act of circumcision; 'Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.' We know, today, and for the past few centuries, probably even millenia,that circumcision has a good medical purpose, as well, which, just like refraining from consuming the meat of a pig, could well be the reason for God's command concerning both. ( I am not saying that we should or should not consider changing our habit of eating, or of circumcising our children! ) The main purpose, though, for God's command of circumcision, besides the fact that it was the sign of the covenant, was that, as Jeremiah said much later, 'Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench [ it] , because of the evil of your doings' ( 4:4 ); to metaphorically turn their hearts to God, to cut away ( remove ) any idol, real or imagined, that would detract from His worship ( Deuteronomy 30:6 ).
History will tell us, particularly ancient history, I believe, that 'covenant' is inextricably linked with 'blood'; not only did ( many still do ) pagan religious ritual often involve blood-shed, whether of an animal, or a virgin, but there has been much blood shed over the centuries, all over the world, because of covenant, and often because of misunderstanding of what the requirements of the covenant really were! Take the Passover lamb, for instance, and all the other blood sacrifices instituted throughout the Hebrew Scriptures; there is no doubt that these were commanded by God, but we know, looking back over time, that they were instituted as typical of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, which itself was metaphorical for our 'entrance' into covenant with God, and with that, into His Presence and Kingdom. This is not to say that Christ's sacrifice was merely a metaphor, but we know that His sacrifice was symbolic and significant of a greater spiritual truth, as those others instituted under the first covenant were typical pictures of His!
Reading through the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the 'Pentateuch' ( Genesis-Deuteronomy ); it is plain to see that, as above, these animal ( blood ) sacrifices were a requirement, but, as we read in the book of Hebrews, 'Christ came [ as ] High Priest of the good things to come,[a] with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?' ( Hebrews 9:11-14 ), they were only significant, typical ( physical ) 'pictures' ( foreshadows ) of the sacrifice ( blood ) of Christ. This is not to say that Christ's blood, or the shedding of it, was merely a metaphor; far from it! I believe that Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, became fully human ( yet without sin ), and dwelt among us, was most cruelly persecuted, and shed actual human blood upon the cross, but the point that the writer above made, and the point that I am making is that though Jesus shed His blood upon that cruel cross, it was not that blood that He presented before the Father! The writer painstakingly makes the point, again and again, throughout his letter, but particularly in chapters 7-9, that the earthly ( physical ) ordinances, and the concrete Temple ( that was made with hands ) were but copies, mere shadows, of the true ordinances, the true Temple, in 'Heaven' ( God's Presence ). Later in this chapter ( verses 23 & 24 ) we read that it was 'necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.' This term 'better', is used throughout the book, to describe how Christ was a better High Priest ( Hebrews 7:20-28 ) since He had a perpetual ( living ) priesthood, a better sacrifice ( Hebrews 9:23 ), and was ( is? ) the Mediator of a better covenant ( Hebrews 8:6 ). I would venture to say, as some have postulated, that His human blood, as His human body, was special, and somehow 'better' than ours, or a normal human body, but it was not the biological perfection of Jesus that won the salvation of His people; it was ultimately the fact that He was God!
For the Passover sacrifice, which was quite possibly the best 'picture' of Christ's, in the Old Covenant Scriptures; God, through Moses, told the people, 'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year' ( Exodus 12:5 ). God told them, in Leviticus 1:3, 'If his offering [ is ] a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD'; and in Leviticus 3:1, 'When his offering [ is ] a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD.' It is interesting that God told the people that, 'When a ruler has sinned, and done [ something ] unintentionally [ against ] any of the commandments of the LORD his God [ in anything ] which should not be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish.' ( Leviticus 4:22 & 23 ), but, 'If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing [ something against ] any of the commandments of the LORD [ in anything ] which ought not to be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.' ( Leviticus 4:27 & 28 ). A couple chapters over, in Leviticus 6:6, in the case of a man who has wronged his neighbor, and thus committed trespass against God; 'And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest.' There are many more examples throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, although mostly in the Pentateuch, that show that God's strict ordinance concerning sacrifice, whatever sort of animal, whether it be male or female, was that it be 'without blemish'. ( For other examples outside the Pentateuch, see Ezekiel 43:22-25, 45:18-23, 46:4-13, Malachi 1:13 ( Ephesians 5:27, I Peter 1:19 )
John 19:31-37 records that, as was the Jewish custom, the soldiers were commanded to break the legs of those who had been crucified ( ostensibly, to bring on a quicker expiration, if they were not dead already ), but when they came to break Jesus' legs ( interesting, too, that He was left till last ), they found that there was no need to, for He had already 'given up the ghost' ( John 19:30 ), and so fulfilled the prophecy that 'He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken' ( Psalm 34:20 ). Several verses later, in John 19:34, the chronicler recorded that one of the soldiers pierced His side, and 'immediately blood and water came out'. Much more could be written here, speculation on what the significance of the blood and the water signified, but for now, and the purposes of this article, suffice it to say that the normal human body does consist largely of blood and water, and by this significant event, God showed that Jesus was truly a Man ( though true God, as well ), and that, by shedding His blood; He very literally fulfilled the role of High Priest, symbolically presenting the blood before the Presence. Although the High Priest was to offer the blood of an animal ( usually a lamb ) before the Ark, in the Holy of Holies; Jesus, as the better High Priest, and Mediator of the better Covenant, presented His own blood before, not the earthly ( picture/shadow ) Presence, but before the heavenly ( true ) reality, to God Himself ( Hebrews 12:18-24 ).
The question then, is 'was it the actual blood of Christ that saved us, or was it His obedience?'
'Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.' As we saw above, in circumcision, the physical act was merely significant, symbolic, and metaphorical of a greater spiritual truth, and so is the case, I believe, with the shedding of blood, as well as water baptism and the 'Lord's Supper'. Paul wrote, in Romans 5:19, 'For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.' Through the prophet Isaiah; God told His errant 'children', 'You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; but you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities.' ( Isaiah 43:24 ). Because of their covenant ( and corporate ) disobedience, the physical 'children' of Israel, and of Adam, were condemned. Although they did not bring their sacrifices and offerings as they were commanded; it was ultimately their disobedience that brought about their final demise ( Romans 6:23 ( Genesis 2:17 ). When Jesus quoted from the prophecy of Hosea ( 6:6 ), in Matthew 9:13, and 12:7, saying 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice'; He reminded the Pharisees that He was interested more in their obedience to the command to 'love one another' ( I John 3:23 ( Genesis 20:12-17 ), than in the blood sacrifices, which only pictured the True Sacrifice, and fore-shadowed our redemption.
We must remember Who the 'Power in the Blood' is, and why it can be said that there is 'power in the blood': God is that Power, and it is only because He revealed Himself in the form of a Man, that that Blood had any power ( to save ) at all! His Blood was only symbolic of His obedience to the Covenant, and it was His fulfillment of that Covenant that brought about our reconciliation to God, and brought us into the blessed Presence, once again. May God bless you with these words.
Charles Haddon Shank