Our sin and rebellion against God has put distance between us and him. In his old-covenant grace, he drew near to his covenant people called Israel. But now, in the new covenant, he draws near not to a particular ethnic people, but to all who receive his Son in faith, no matter who they are or how far they had run. In fact, the phrase “brought near by the blood of Christ” gets at the heart of what each of these divine gifts in Jesus’s blood does for us: it brings us to God.
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.
Happy memories flood my mind when I hear these words. We sang them often in church when I was young — bobbing up and down on our toes. The best church songs in the South were toe-bobbers. And my father seemed to love “Power in the Blood” most of all. I could tell he would sing louder than normal on this one, and I’d follow suit. I think the whole congregation sang with more gusto than usual, but I couldn’t hear them well with the two of us both raising our voices.
Christians of all stripes and leaning affirm there is indeed power in the blood of Jesus. Word- and Spirit-shaped souls feel that intuitively, but have you ever paused to ask how? Is the magic blood? If there is power in his blood, how do we explain the reality? What truths operate under the surface when we celebrate, in shorthand, this wonder-working pow’r?
What Does the Blood Do?
The New Testament epistle to the Hebrews builds the bridge from the Old Testament sacrificial system (and its blood) to the new covenant and Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:7, 12). Throughout the Bible, blood represents life (for instance, Genesis 9:4), and the spilling or shedding of blood, in turn, depicts death (Leviticus 17:11, 14; Deuteronomy 12:23). Because the just penalty of human sin against God is death (Romans 6:23), the death of sanctioned animal sacrifices, through the presentation of their blood, stood in temporarily for the requirement of death for sinners. Yet the high priest had to return year after year, “repeatedly” (Hebrews 9:7; 9:25), because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The repeated animal sacrifices were delaying the inevitable, waiting on God’s fullness of times. One day a final reckoning for sin must come.
Christians, of course, believe and celebrate that now in Christ, and under the terms of a new covenant, the reckoning has come. Jesus willingly “offered himself” (Hebrews 9:14) by “once for all” shedding “his own blood” (Hebrews 9:12), bringing to its intended completion the temporary covenant that came before (the old covenant) and inaugurating in its place an “eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:30), which we call the new covenant.