Talking Blood

Justice

I’d like you to take a moment to consider what I believe to be one of the greatest understatements ever made.  It’s found at the end of Hebrews 12:24, but I will include vv. 22 & 23 for context:

Heb. 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

We “have come… to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than (the blood) of Abel.”  The author of Hebrews tells us that Christ’s blood is speaking, and that it is speaking better things than Abel’s blood spoke.  Such a statement seems strange to our modern ears and may appear to be a great mystery, but the truth conveyed in these few words is gloriously profound and deeply edifying to contemplate.  Let’s take a moment to look at the first instance of blood speaking in the Scriptures:

Gen. 4:10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”

Here God tells Cain that his brother’s blood is not just speaking, but “crying out” to Him from the ground.  There is no mystery as to what that blood was saying.  Righteous Abel had been slain by wicked Cain, and the blood that had been spilled was crying out for justice.  “Justice is Required!” was the cry that Abel’s blood made from the earth.

But the author of Hebrews tells us that Christ’s blood is saying something better than “Justice is required”.  What exactly is it that Christ’s blood is saying?  Quite simply, Christ’s blood is saying “Justice has been Satisfied!”  For every sin of every one of His people, justice has been fully satisfied.  Not a drop of debt remains.  The judge of all the earth has done right.  No one can bring a charge against God’s elect, for they have all been justified (Rom. 8:33).  They have been justified because their Mediator ever lives to make intercession for them, and one primary aspect of that intercession is His blood continually declaring that the justice required against them for the multitude of their sins has been fully satisfied!  Yeah, that’s better than what Abel’s blood said isn’t it?  What a glorious understatement.

Extent of the Atonement

I believe contemplating this truth can shed a great deal of light upon the debate over the extent of the atonement.  Many in our day set forth the idea that Christ died for all men everywhere, but that His death is only made effectual by sinners who choose to believe in Him by their own free will.  Now, even if we set aside the problematic idea of free will for the moment, we can see the difficulty that such an idea raises with regard to Heb. 12:24.  Calvinists often point out that it is unfathomable that Christ would die for one group of people, but intercede for some different group of people.  Both His sacrifice and His intercession are His work as our Great High Priest.  Our salvation is equally dependent upon both (Heb. 7:24-25).  It ought to be beyond dispute that He intercedes for those for whom He died, and that He died for those for whom He intercedes.  But passages such as John 17:9 plainly teach that He does not intercede for every individual in the world.

John 17:9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”

But our passage makes this even more abundantly clear.  His death and intercession cannot be separated, for a primary aspect of His intercession is His blood crying out that justice has been satisfied on behalf of all those for whom He died.

Accuser of the Brethren

Dear Christian, I want this idea to do more than inform your doctrine of Soteriology though.  Contemplation of this blessed truth can be such a great blessing to us as we daily battle against sin.  We all stumble in many things and fail as we struggle to live a holy life (James 3:2, Rom. 7).  We know that should Satan stand before our Lord, he would have no shortage of sins of which he could truthfully accuse us!  But in such an occasion, our dear Lord need not even open His mouth, for an answer to each and every accusation is provided by the intercession of His precious blood.  To every accusation comes the exact same reply:  “Justice has been satisfied.  Justice has been satisfied.  Justice has been satisfied!”

So when the wicked one comes to accuse you, remember that you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 Jn. 2:1).  Remember that Christ’s blood was shed to cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14).  And remember that Christ ever lives to make intercession for you, and that His blood is at this very moment crying out in regard to every one of your sins, “Justice has been satisfied!”

Unbeliever

Oh dear unbeliever.  Don’t scoff at the idea of talking blood.  You know in your conscience that you are guilty, and that when you stand before Jesus Christ on judgement day He will justly condemn you for your life of rebellion against Him.  You spend much of your energy seeking ways to quiet your conscience, but none of your attempts will ever take away the guilty feelings, because none of them can actually remove your guilt.  But here is the good news:  Jesus Christ, who will judge all men on the last day, stands before you today, offering to be your Advocate.  If you will trust in Him, if you will forsake your sins and rely solely upon His mercy for salvation, He will wash you white as snow.  Your conscience will no longer condemn you, because your sins will no longer cry out for justice, it will have been satisfied by Him, the one and only Savior for sinners.  Come to Him today, and He will give you rest.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Covenant Theology Brilliantly Illustrated

In light of the recent discussions triggered by the Oct. 1st Mortification of Spin podcast, I think it would be a good time to share a simple illustration that clarifies what aspects of Covenant theology Reformed Baptists and Reformed Paedobaptists really agree upon as well as demonstrating how and why they differ.

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The following quote is from a present-day Reformed Presbyterian Pastor (One of the finest preachers of our age) explaining covenant theology by the use of an illustration from a Puritan Congregationalist.

One of the most brilliant illustrations of covenant theology is that used by the Puritan divine Thomas Goodwin. In his exposition entitled Christ Set Forth, he explains that “Adam was reckoned as a common public person, not standing singly or alone for himself, but as representing all mankind to come of him’. In this he was a type of Christ, who is also a representative figure. This is why the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:47, speaks of Adam and Christ as ‘the first man’ and ‘the second Man’ respectively ‘He speaks of them’, says Goodwin, ‘as if there had never been any more men in the world, nor were ever to be for time to come, except these two. And why? but because these two between them had all the rest of the sons of men hanging at their girdle.”

Can you visualize the picture which Goodwin draws for us? He imagines two great giants, one called Adam and the other Christ. Each is wearing an enormous leather ‘girdle’ or belt with millions of little hooks on it. You and I, and all humanity, are hanging either at Adam’s belt or at Christ’s belt. There is no third option, no other place for us. And God deals with us only through Adam or through Christ. If you are hanging at Adam’s belt, you share in the experience of sinful, fallen Adam, and your entire relationship with God is through him. But if you are hanging at Christ’s belt, all God’s dealings with you are through Christ. When you received Jesus as your Saviour, you were involved in a massive and momentous transfer. The Almighty himself unhooked you from Adam’s belt and hooked you on to Christ’s. So you now have a different Head, a different Mediator, a new Representative. You have passed from Adam into Christ, and whereas God formerly dealt with you only through Adam, he now deals with you only through his Son. You are in Christ unchangeably and for ever.     [1]

I absolutely concur with Pastor Donnelly that Goodwin’s illustration of covenant theology is brilliant and accurate.  The very heart of covenant theology is painted in such a vivid picture that a child can comprehend it, yet the depth of the richness of the doctrine is not lost.  Here we see clearly what Reformed Baptists and Reformed Paedobaptists agree upon.  You have just read a Reformed Baptist approvingly quoting a Reformed Presbyterian approvingly quoting a Puritan Congregationalist!

All men were in Adam in the garden.  All men fell in Adam when he sinned.  All stood in Adam, all fell in Adam, all died in Adam.  But God chose not to leave His elect in Adam. He unites His elect to Christ in such a way that He took on the guilt of their sins and paid the full penalty for them, and His righteousness is credited as theirs! This is covenant theology.  This we can and must agree upon.

I believe we can use the same illustration to demonstrate how and why Reformed Baptists differ from our paedobaptist brethren as well.  What does the Bible characterize as the chord by which the elect are attached to Christ’s belt?  What does the Bible represent as that by which sinners are united to Jesus Christ?  Faith, as Pastor Donnelly points out, “When you received Jesus as your Saviour, you were involved in a massive and momentous transfer. The Almighty himself unhooked you from Adam’s belt and hooked you on to Christ’s.”  Surely Baptist and Paedobaptists can agree on this as well.  But this is also where the difference becomes patently clear.

If this illustration is an accurate expression of what the Bible teaches, as I think we can agree it is, then it also sheds a great deal of light on the problem we Baptists have with the practice of infant baptism.  Our children, quite frankly, are born in Adam.  Our children remain in Adam until that point in time at which Almighty God transfers them from Adam’s belt to Christ’s belt.  In other words, our children remain in Adam until they are joined to Christ by faith.  (I am not addressing the issue of those who die in infancy etc.)  So we as Baptists simply ask:  Why would I give my children the sign that signifies union with Christ while they are still in Adam?  The Bible specifically tells us who we are to baptize, disciples.  It also represents faith and repentance as prerequisites for baptism and associates baptism with union with Christ, which my children do not have before they are joined to Him by faith.

Make disciples …baptizing them.  Matt 28:18

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized Acts 2:38

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; Acts 2:41

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Gal. 3:27

I’m fully aware of how paedobaptists respond to this type of presentation, but my purpose at this point is simply to make plain that the differences Reformed Baptists have from our paedobaptist brethren are not rooted in a rejection of covenant theology.  They actually spring forth from our understanding of covenant theology.

Let us continue to stand firm on what we believe the Bible teaches about who should be baptized.  But let us always keep in mind: that which unites us with our paedobaptist brethren is far greater and more fundamental than that which divides us.  As God sees us in Christ, let us see one another as in Christ!

     If you have never heard them, you NEED to listen to Edward Donnelly’s sermon series on Heaven and Hell.  Here.

    He has published the essence of these sermons in the book Heaven and Hell.

     For great resources on the Reformed Baptist view of Covenant Theology start here.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex


[1] Edward Donnelly, Heaven and Hell p. 87, citing ‘ Goodwin’s Works, James Nichol edition, 1862, Vol. 4, p. 31.