And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which
is shed for many for the remission of sins.
In order to understand what shedding the blood of Christ or just the blood of Christ means, we must look at other scripture. In Genesis 9:4,5, God gives his reason for prohibiting the taking of blood as a food:
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
Of course, it would be very difficult to remove all of the blood from animal flesh
before using it for food, so the purpose of the rule against eating flesh that contains
blood must be to draw attention to a spiritual concept. There is more to say about that
later, but for now we can concentrate on equating life with blood; or, to state
the matter another way, a mortal body without blood is dead.
The word blood occurs for the first time in Genesis 4:10:
And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Of course, God is speaking figuratively to Cain when he says that Abel's blood is
crying from the ground. He is saying how seriously he considers the unlawful taking
of a human life. But, he also is equating Abel's loss of blood with death because the
figure emphasizes the fact that a fatal amount of his blood has left his body and
some of it has been absorbed into the accursed ground.
Note that God had not yet passed a law against murder when Cain killed Abel. Also, consider the fact that God delivered his law against shedding blood in Gen. 9:6, long before the time of Moses:
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
Are we to believe that God intended for the death penalty be applied only in cases where the taking of
a life is done by the murderer's causing his victim to bleed to death? That is, for
instance, should it not be applicable in case of murder by strangulation? If so, laws
against murder that were passed when laws made sense could not have been based
on that scripture. The truth, of course, is that God passed his own law that stipulated
the penalty for the unlawful taking of a human life; and shedding of blood is synonymous
with unlawfully causing death.
After Paul had preached the gospel to the Jews at Corinth, he made a statement that shows beyond doubt that blood means death when it is used in a context dealing with death:
And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia,
Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that
Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and
blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your
blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth
I will go unto the Gentiles.
Unless we make the assumption that Paul was saying that they would not die physically
if they repented and believed in Christ, he obviously was speaking of spiritual death.
Furthermore, since spiritual death, if it occurs, follows physical death for everyone
except Jesus, loss of blood does not cause spiritual death. Therefore, since Paul
used blood in reference to spiritual death, we can say that the expression blood of
Christ refers to both the physical and spiritual deaths that Jesus suffered for us.
This is a very important concept. An unsaved person can be saved by knowing only of
the physical death of Jesus and putting his faith in God's promises based on that death.
It could be some time after he experiences salvation that he realizes that Christ
has died for him spiritually in order vicariously to suffer the righteous requirements of
Although God promises salvation to anyone that has faith in the physical death of Christ, we should learn that Jesus paid the price of spiritual death while he was hanging on the cross. We can imagine how horrible the physical suffering must have been; but, according to the record, Jesus didn't cry out until he died spiritually. That sudden crying out when he was already in horrific pain should give us some idea as to what spiritual death is like. The difference between Christ's spiritual death and that which unbelievers face is that spiritual death will be permanent for them. He tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2,9) and God returned him from that death for his sake and ours.
There are at least a few scriptural songs that praise God for the saving power of the blood of Christ. Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians have carried the imagery of those songs, and the scriptures from which they were taken, way too far in their man-made theology. For instance, some groups proclaim a version of salvation that requires a mystical involvement of blood from the Lord's mortal body.
The book of Hebrews says much about the blood of sacrificial animals and the blood of Christ. A good example is:
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?
If we look only at verses such as this and let our imaginations run wild, we can come up with all sorts of weird doctrine. But, notice the very next verse:
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.
If we keep verse 15 in mind when reading the other verses in that passage, we must conclude that all the references to blood are meant to represent death; and, the blood of Christ is the same as the death of Christ in such context. God's promises to believers are based on the sacrificial death of his dear son and Jesus gave up his spirit voluntarily. He didn't bleed to death. In fact, it appears from scripture that he bled more after he said It is finished than before.he died. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, some Christians would insist that Christ had to suffer a bloody death rather than acknowledge that the law does not go beyond demanding death. Consider:
Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall
he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations;
he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
I Corinthians 15:3.
Paul's departing words to the Jews that had rejected Jesus as Messiah might have been
from his memory of Ezekiel 18:13. In each of the two cases, blood refers to spiritual
death because the condemned had refused to put their faith in God's way of salvation at the
time. Jesus did lose some blood before he dismissed his spirit, but the bleeding before
he died was incidental to the torture and subsequent crucifixion that he endured.
continued at top of next column
Why is the blood of Christ mentioned frequently when the writers refer to his death?
Hebrews and the Gospel Of John both contain examples that demonstrate the reason.
One purpose of the book of Hebrews
is to connect the sacrifice of Christ with the Old Testament sacrifices. Since the blood of
those sacrifices was used to consecrate the priests and the fixtures of the tabernacle and
temple, Jews would naturally associate blood with sacrifice. The killing of the animals was
necessary in order to, in any measure, portray the sacrifice of Christ; but smearing and
sprinkling the animals' blood on the priests and fixtures implied much about the efficacy
of the death of Jesus in saving us. That death is sufficient to save us, consecrate us to
God's service and make our worship acceptable to God in Christ. We also should keep in
mind how the Old Testament sacrifices of worship pictured Christ's death
fulfilling the requirements of the law for condemned sinners because the several classes of Levitical
sacrifice draw attention to the multiple consequences of sinning. By suffering the demands of his
own law, Jesus can take away believers' penalty, guilt and defilement of their sins.
He also prospectively takes away the curse placed on the world because of Adam's
The writer of Hebrews mentions another important aspect of the Old Testament sacrifices:
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. It was
therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens
should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves
with better sacrifices than these.
Notice the reference to heavenly things. God is telling us that the tabernacle was a
physical representation of spiritual entities in heaven and that those entities needed to be
purified because of our sins. That purification pictures how the matter of sin is not an impersonal
matter to God but, figuratively speaking, is an offense in his face. The tabernacle and temple
constituted frameworks upon which Old Testament worship was based and the implication is
that there are spiritual structures in heaven that are necessary in order for the worship of a
church to be acceptable. And, there is no reason to believe that those structures will not be
the eternal basis for our worship when the church is assembled as one body in heaven. In
other words, our worship now and forever will be acceptable only because of the works of
Christ in his life and death
John is the only writer of a Gospel that relates the discourse of Jesus on the bread of life:
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood,
ye have no life in you.
Not only is the thought of cannibalism extremely repulsive to people that haven't had their consciences seared, but Jesus knew that his words would offend the Jews because of the Old Testament prohibition against their consuming any blood as a food (Leviticus 7:26). Apparently, it didn't take long for some of his own disciples to express their thoughts of such a practice:
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said,
This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in
himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them,
Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man
ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth;
the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they
are spirit, and they are life.
With the last sentence in the passage, Jesus has tied the spiritual lives of believers to the spiritual eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. We should also remember that the disciples were at the table with Jesus in his mortal body when he instituted the Lord's Supper and that body looked no different from the way it had before. It definitely was not broken. And, his blood was in his veins, not in a cup. Our spiritual life as believers begins with faith in the shedding of Christ's blood (his death). We learn of that death through the preaching of God's word; and, in the first chapter of John's Gospel we read:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Since the Word was made flesh, it is obvious that Jesus was referring to feeding spiritually on God's word when he said that it was necessary for us to eat his flesh in order to obtain and maintain life. Further, we have to drink his blood by identifying with his death. But, God imputes to us the life that Christ's blood represents, as stated in Genesis 9:4,5, along with all the righteousness that Jesus worked out in his mortal life. This idea of bestowing life by identification with a symbol of his death is repeated by Jesus in John 12:23,24:
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
A corn (grain) of wheat can serve as food or as a seed in planting the next season's crop and the germination (death) of a seed provides a beautiful picture of how God uses the sacrifice of Christ to give life to many believers. This doesn't exhaust the usefulness of the analogy, though, because Jesus is referred to as being of the seed of David in II Timothy 2:8:
Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
Jesus was of the natural seed of David because his mother was of a non-royal line of
King David; and is eligible for the throne of David because he is the legal son of
Joseph who was of the royal line. Jesus is, therefore, the only man eligible to
serve as king and therefore can be referred to as the Seed of David. So, Jesus,
through his death, not only brings forth much fruit through salvation, but will
reign forever in his glorified body.
continued at top of next column
In I Cor. 11:26, Paul gives us some insight into the meaning of the Lord's Supper:
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
How could eating unleavened bread and drinking wine demonstrate the reality of the death
of Christ? First, we should note that Paul wrote bread and not body and since he didn't
write cup of blood, we may assume that he meant a cup of wine. But, since Jesus spoke
of the elements as his body and blood, the bread and wine that Paul referred to must
represent the body and blood of Christ. Furthermore, the bread and wine were served
separately and symbolize a body with the blood separated from it, speaking eloquently of the
death of Christ. Even unbelievers should be able to understand the portrayal of Christ's
death in the elements of the Lord's supper just as they can understand the facts of the
Gospel without putting their faith in that Gospel.
In I Corinthians 11:24 we read
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
And, in 1 Corinthians 10:17,
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
The Lord's churches are all one bread and one body; but for now, each is a body of
Christ and is to be separate for practical reasons. Therefore, the separate churches
are representative of a broken body of Christ and will be reassembled at the marriage
supper of the Lamb.
When considering the way the elements of the Lord's Supper are served, we should remember God's prohibition against eating animal flesh that contains an unnecessarily large amount of the animal's blood. The unleavened bread is broken on a platter and the wine is served in a cup, so the two don't mix before or during the time they are being eaten. The bread represents the body of Christ and the eating thereof represents the feeding on God's word that should be by far the largest part of a church's worship. The other ordinance of the church demonstates the identification of individual believers with Christ's death:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ
were baptized into his death?
The eating of the symbols of Christ's body and blood portrays at least one other
spiritual truth. But, first we must notice that Paul wrote ye do show the Lord's death,
not thou do show or we do show. In other words, the statement was made concerning
something done by the church as a body of believers at Corinth. It does not apply to an
activity of an individual or of a universal invisible church. When an individual believer
is baptized into a church, the ceremony depicts his identification with Christ's death, but
the Lord's supper depicts the identification of the church with his life, his death
and all of God's word.
When members of a church eat the unleavened bread and drink the wine they mix the elements in their bodies to symbolize the Holy Spirit's living in individual believers and in the church as a body of Christ. Of course this doesn't mean that a group of people can become a church by claiming to observe the Lord's supper. The group must consist of baptized believers and must have been properly organized to carry out the works to which Christ has commissioned his church.
Use of blood to refer to death in reference to Christl also is a reminder that Christ, in addition to being God, was a man subject to death:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood,
he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death
he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
So, God ordained that through his own death as a man, in the person of Jesus, he
should be the Avenger Of Blood (Deut. 19:11,12) for mankind (partakers of flesh and
blood) and give eternal life to those that put their faith in his promises in Christ.
When we speak of the blood of Christ, we should be reminded that Jesus died a violent death at the hands of sinners:
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked
hands have crucified and slain:
Moreover, we can read ye have slain as we have slain, since the sins of us all made
the death of Christ necessary in order that God might save us. So, we all are under the
penalty of death because of God's decree against murder in Genesis 9:6, but he accepts
that very death for which we are responsible as satisfaction for the law's demands of
us as sinners.
To summarize, the expression blood of Christ refers to the death of Christ (physically and spiritually) and to the spiritual life that God gives to sinners through their faith in the promises of God. When a church observes the Lord's Supper, it glorifies God by showing forth the death of Christ. The observance also should remind the members that all blessings are provided through his life and death. And, we can be assured that our worship will forever be acceptable because Jesus has purified the heavenly framework for worship that our sins have defiled.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God
by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we
shall be saved by his life.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.