Reading: Heb. 10:19-20; Gen. 8:20-21; 1 Pet. 3:18-21; Matt. 3:13-17.
In the previous chapter we were seeking to come into the realm
where the Lord could speak to us through His Word in a new way
regarding the mighty efficacy of the blood of Jesus, and that in
the light of the increasing spiritual pressure from the forces of
evil which the Word of God reveals to be the state of things at
the end. We referred to Revelation 12, the end-time condition,
where the great dragon, that old serpent the devil, and Satan the
accuser of the brethren, is seen to be on full stretch to devour
that which is being formed, to be caught up to God and to His
throne. And as we, I think, are right in concluding: to fulfil the
promise made to overcomers in a Laodicean period, to sit with Him
in His throne, and to fulfil that word, "to rule the nations
with a rod of iron". Against the bringing forth and
translating of that company, all the pressure of satanic animosity
is put forth and we believe that we are knowing something of that
This is a time when that very thing is going on spiritually, and
true spiritual people of God are aware of the pressing in of the
forces of evil and of death spiritually, so that the maintaining
and getting out of the testimony of Jesus is an increasingly
difficult thing. There is little way for it, it is being shut in
and shut down. And every bit of spiritual progress, real genuine
spiritual progress, every bit of real gain of a true spiritual
character is fraught with a very great deal of conflict and cost
in these times. We are not speaking about great movements, but we
are speaking about real spiritual gain.
There are many great organised movements which seem to be doing something, but we have learned to look deeper. Experience has taught us that that kind of activity does not always indicate real spiritual gain. Very often the afterward finds very little indeed of solid spiritual value. What is really an increase of Christ is something which is always met by the forces of evil in a most intense way. The taking of the smallest bit of ground in a true way is very costly, and the Word indicates that it will be increasingly so towards the end, and that the people of God will need to know their ground very thoroughly and their weapons very truly. If we are aware that such conditions of spiritual stress exist and of the difficulty of maintaining a true living testimony in our own lives and in this world, we need to have a constantly renewed spiritual apprehension of the means which God has provided for victory, and the first and comprehensive means of victory is the blood of the Lord Jesus. We need, therefore, to come back continually afresh to an apprehension of the tremendous significance and value of the blood of the Lord Jesus.
We saw with just a glance that Abel was the first of the witnesses of the Lord in the earth to meet the full force of Satanic antagonism in terms of death, and although in his body he was destroyed and murdered, in his spirit he triumphed and was the first of the overcomer line of testimony, and he overcame because of the blood. It was by his blood testimony that he overcame. We are going to touch a little more fully upon the nature of his overcoming. We just state the fact for the moment. Right along from Abel onwards through all the ages, that has been the means of overcoming, for the same antagonism has been met by all the true children of God in every age at all times. And right on to the end it is so, as this chapter in Revelation makes clear, the company called "the man-child", "they overcame because of the blood of the Lamb, because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life even unto death". The blood has been the basis of overcoming all the way through and overcoming has been no small thing. It has been a terrific battle.
We have only to glance at some of these instances to see how great a thing it was. We mention here, just by the way, the matter of the extricating of Israel from Egypt - that mighty Passover night in Egypt. What a tremendous thing it was! God there had extended the powers of evil to the last degree. You may have wondered, if you have read the story thoughtfully, why it was that God did not, right at the beginning of His dealings with Pharaoh, just come right in with His full force and smash the situation and get His people out; why it was that He took it in a kind of graduated way. The first round with the rod of Moses - and the rods of the magicians seem to be equal to God. Yes, that is the first round; their only difference in degree is that Moses' rod swallows up all the other rods - or Moses' serpent into which the rod had been turned. That is supremacy, but not final by any means. And then other things similar where they seem able to be equal. God is drawing them on... the plagues one after another, extending. And when you remember that the word is "against all the gods of Egypt" (Ex. 12:12), and recognise that what was taking place was registering in the spiritual realm, God was dealing with the gods of Egypt and putting them out of action. He turned the very object of worship upon the worshippers. The river is worshipped; He turned it into blood. There is a god behind it. God is dealing with the spiritual background, gradually drawing out until at last He has the whole thing fully extended to the very question of life and death, and that is final.
My point is this, that all the power of spiritual evil is being gradually drawn out, and then God smites it as a whole and He smites in the blood of the Lamb. On the Passover night, the blood is the sign of the covenant and the means of victory, and the fully extended power of evil is met on the ground of the blood and overthrown, and the people are out. I only mention that by way of indicating that this blood of the Lord Jesus represents the basis of victory which is something greater, mightier, than the fully extended power of evil.
The Blood is the Life
Now for a little while we want to get more inward into the nature of this victory because of the nature of the blood. It is necessary then, right at the outset, to make a discrimination or to define this term 'blood'. We must dismiss from our minds the symbolism, if that symbolism causes us mentally to misunderstand or fail to understand the real significance of the blood, for the term 'blood' is a symbolic term. The Lord Jesus in resurrection has no blood. The resurrection body is a bloodless body. It is actuated and energised by another principle. He said "Handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having" (Luke 24:39). If that had been before the resurrection, it would have been "flesh and blood", but all the mighty power of the blood is still spoken of after His resurrection and ascension and right on to the end - and there is no blood literally. Therefore 'the blood' is a symbolic term, and we must grasp the significance of the thing symbolised.
Simply, the blood is the nature. Sometimes it is "soul" - it is the same thing. Sometimes it is "life" - life and blood are synonymous terms. Sometimes it is even "heart", but a symbolic term "heart", not literally. If you like, it is the life, the very kind of life or nature, so that it is the nature or life of the Lord Jesus - the kind of life, the kind of nature that is in Him. That is the power. When we speak of the blood, we must always remember that we are speaking not of the red fluid in His veins, but of the life which He poured out and the nature which was in Him.
Then, when you come back to all your symbolism of the Old Testament in the offerings that were to be offered to God, it is always something without blemish and without spot. A lamb without blemish, without spot (Ex. 12:5). Noah, we have read, took of the clean beasts and offered them unto the Lord. It is always like that. They were scrupulous as to the purity, the cleanness of a sacrifice which was offered to God. The great thing that God laid to the charge of people in the days of Malachi was that they were offering maimed and blind things upon God's altar. The crime, the iniquitous crime of such a thing was that that altar and that sacrifice were supposed to represent the Lord Jesus. A blind and maimed offering was a blind and maimed Christ; intolerable to God. "Away, I will have nothing! 'Ye are cursed with a curse'" (Mal. 3:9); not recognising the meaning of the sacrifice. All those sacrifices were intended to symbolise the utter perfection, sinlessness, incorruption and incorruptibility of the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is in that moral nature that there is the mighty power over which Satan has no authority, where he has no place, "The prince of this world comes and he has nothing in Me" (John 14:30), says Jesus.
That is the great problem and enigma for Satan with the Lord Jesus. He goes round and round trying to find a way in, to get something that will give him a foothold of right, a standing of authority to destroy Him. It is this nature which is Satan's undoing. All the temptations of the Lord Jesus were Satan's efforts to get something in that was not there, to get Him to let something in. "If thou be the Sonů" (Matt. 4:3 e.v.); to let something in that was not there in order that Satan might be able to dethrone this One from His place of spiritual supremacy, to undo all the meaning of that Sonship, the Son of God with a perfect nature, God's own nature, God's own mind. That is where Christ's supremacy is. It is in His sinless nature.
Now you see that sinlessness, holiness, purity, incorruption, is the undoing of Satan, is the worsting of Satan, and it all resolves itself into one word through the Scriptures - righteousness. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts" (Heb. 11:4). God bearing witness that he was righteous; that was his victory - a righteousness by faith, a righteousness which is of God through faith. And he overcame even in the presence of the murderous onslaught of the power of evil. He being dead physically, yet speaks. Which, interpreted in the light of other Old Testament words, means this: that the blood, when it is severed from its vessel, is still living. We know that today. There has been a tremendous development in recent years of the transfusion of blood, stored blood, stored for weeks, and still living, still vivifying, vitalizing. Blood is a living thing.
Now Abel's blood, after having been shed and the ground having opened her mouth to receive it, is spoken of as still speaking, still energetic, still vital, still appealing. "The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto Me". It is symbolic language.
The Lord Jesus has released His own life through His cross. We say He shed His blood. Yes, that is the symbolic language, but He has released His life, poured it out, and He has said, "Take, drink. Except ye drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have not life in yourselves (John 6:53). This cup is the new covenant in My blood (1 Cor. 11:25). Drink ye all of it" (Matt. 26:27). He has released His nature, His Divine nature, His sinless nature, and by His Spirit has given it to us. Peter says, "Exceeding great and precious promises whereby we may become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). We have received His life. Symbolically, we have drunk of His blood, received His life. Within our renewed, regenerated, born again spirits there has been deposited something which is sinless and incorruptible by the Spirit of God. We are not that, but He is that, "the witness that God has borne concerning his Son. And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has the life; he that has not the Son of God has not the life" (1 John 5:10-12). We are two beings; outwardly we still remain what we were, inwardly we are another: partakers of Christ, sharers of His Divine life, His nature. We have drunk of His blood.
Now, it is that thing that is the cause, the occasion, of all the conflict. What is that blood? It is His righteousness of nature which, in the innermost truth of our being, makes us as righteous as He is before God. That is the testimony. "As he is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). As righteous as He is. That is a tremendous thing! It is difficult to grasp, and perhaps that difficulty is often the enemy's opportunity; but oh, our whole cry is to lay hold on this. It is not only the matter of our salvation from hell and our getting to heaven, it is the basis of this mighty testimony for the overthrow of Satan, the bringing in of the kingdom of God, and for all God's purpose to be realised. It is not just a part of the simple Gospel of the forgiveness of sins - it is that, but infinitely more. Right up to the end, all the mighty purpose of God in this universe is bound up with that blood and with our faith holding the meaning of that blood in which there is the righteousness which truly satisfies God.
Resurrection Life by the blood
We read, "Noah built an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the sweet savour" (Gen. 8:20,21). Do you see what has happened? It is a new world. It has emerged from judgment; a world that has been judged, gone down into death, been buried; in Peter's language, a world that has been baptised (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Peter says that the flood was the baptism of the world, a baptism into death as something judged, condemned and raised a new world.
But that is not enough. That new world raised has to be vivified, made alive unto God, and Noah sheds blood at the altar, and by the shedding of blood, the offering of that sacrifice on the altar, he presents the new world alive unto God. The blood makes it alive.
If you doubt that that is the true interpretation, come over into the case of the tabernacle and all its furniture and system. Remember what is said about it, that the blood was sprinkled upon everything: the curtains, and the altar, the furniture, and even the book. For what is the blood put upon everything? It is a beautiful system, it is perfect according to pattern, but that is all. You can have things constituted even according to Bible pattern and be as dead as anything; you can have New Testament order, but without Life. The thing has to be vivified, vitalized, made alive, actively alive; and Noah in effect, by the blood of that sacrifice, made this thing alive unto God. How? Well, Peter explains it: "Eight souls were saved through water, which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism". Then he safeguards what he has said, "Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation, the answer, of a good conscience towards God".
What is a good conscience towards God? Well, men may have a good conscience towards themselves because they do not do a lot of things and they do a lot of other things. That is not a good conscience towards God. The only good conscience towards God is a conscience which has been purged. In other words, it is a conscience which answers to God's standard of absolute righteousness; that is, sinless perfection. Now, do not take that out of its context. I have not finished. I am not preaching sinless perfection in ourselves as a doctrine. It does not matter what we are, God never comes down to any lower standard than sinless perfection. That is His demand and He will not for an instant take less than utter sinless perfection. And you have to stand on that ground to have a good conscience towards God.
How can it be? God has provided Himself a Lamb. God has found, has provided Himself with that in His Son. The utter sinlessness of the nature of the Lord Jesus answers to God's requirements. "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). But do you notice how it happened? That testimony happened through baptism. It happened with the Lord Jesus through baptism. Peter says so. "The answer of a good conscience". How? Well, to bring in Paul's way of explaining this, here is a criminal who certainly has no good conscience; the case is all against him, and rightly so. He is condemned to death and he is put to death, he suffers the final penalty of his sin. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). He is dead; all that the law demanded has been exacted. The law has exhausted itself upon him as he is now dead. That man gets up, rises from the dead. Can the law rightly come back and do it all over again? No, the law has satisfied itself; the man is free. Paul calls it being acquitted. He that has suffered, Paul says (and he means this final suffering of death), is justified from sin, is acquitted, is free. We have died in Christ; He has died as us. He has been made a curse for us, and all God's requirements have been satisfied. And He is risen from the dead as us. No more judgement; acquitted, justified!
That is what He meant when He said, "Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). How do you fulfil all righteousness? Well, die to all sin, die as the sinner. Where there is unrighteousness, let all the righteous requirements of God be wrought out, and bring about a place where unrighteousness no longer obtains because it has been dealt with and buried.
The answer of a good conscience towards God is this: that we are in Christ risen, where our sin has been judged forever and our sinful nature, our sinful man, dealt with in Him and put away, and we have received by faith His sinless nature, His sinless life. And I say again, in the innermost reality of our being God is satisfied.
Continuous Cleansing by the Blood
Now that has done something that has brought about a situation where Satan is rendered powerless, where his ground is taken from him, his authority is destroyed, but he does not give it up in his despair of that situation. He must go to work with us as he did with our Lord, to try and get us off the ground where he is powerless. Now, in the case of the Lord Jesus, he was trying to get something in that was not there. In our case he tries to get us somehow to forsake the ground of what Christ is and take other ground, especially the ground of what we are in ourselves. So at the end in the consummate place, he is called the accuser of the brethren, "Who accuses them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:10), saying, "Look at this and that, look at the other thing about this one and that one; see that loss of temper, that slipping up, that..." - oh! any one of the thousands of things that are true of us in ourselves. He accuses and tries to get us to move on to that ground and take that ground. And if we do for a moment, our joy goes, our assurance goes, our strength goes, our countenances are fallen, we are miserable. Death comes in and Satan steadily tightens that hold, and how difficult it is to recover, to get back on to the right ground. It means a real fight. Nevertheless, God has made provision for all that.
God has made provision. Here is the basic, initial position: that
by faith we are justified, that is, we are accounted just. We have
the witness that we are righteous, in Christ, because of His
blood. Then God has seen quite clearly all the rest, what we are
in ourselves, and has made provision that all that shall not
interfere with and upset the basic position necessarily. "If we
say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not
in us" (1 John 1:8). A lot of people have tried to get over
this difficulty of a non-correspondence between their condition
and their position by arguing something about not having any sin
in them, and it is a delusion, it is not true, and most of those
people know otherwise and they have to call sin by other names.
But God knows the truth and He says in effect, "What you are in
Christ basically is one thing and you are that; what you are in
yourself is another thing, but even there I will make My
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (we make him a liar)" (1 John 1:10). "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Oh, I cherish the way in which it is stated, I cherish it more and more as I understand why it is put in that way - "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). We have lost it in our English language! The tense of the words there is - "The blood of Jesus his Son keeps on, goes on, cleansing from all sin". This Life is an abiding thing, this sanctifying Life, this righteous nature. Perhaps we have slipped into some darkness, a dark action, a dark spirit, a dark temper, slipped into something that is darkness and not light. What are we going to do about it? Go on in it, persist in it? Or are we going to turn aside there and confess it? What happens if we walk in darkness? We nullify the value of the blood for ourselves. If we stop and confess it, the blood does not do a new thing, but goes on doing what it has always been doing: maintaining our position before God. It is a question of keeping short accounts with God, not going on in sin, but confessing. He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The mighty power of that blood, that Life, that nature, that righteousness, keeps on working while we keep on in our relatedness to it by faith.
I think you can see, I trust you can, a little of the tremendous power of this blood and what it means in the whole range of spiritual things, spiritual forces, and of the possibilities of God's purpose being realised. It is this blood, this nature, this answer of a good conscience towards God, this satisfaction of God which is provided by the Lord Jesus dwelling within. It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). If we are looking for the hope of glory anywhere else, or in ourselves, there is no hope of glory at all. It is Christ, the hope of glory, within.
The Lord make this all very much more precious to us.