Is There “Power in the Blood?” Thoughts about the Blood of Jesus

Is There “Power in the Blood?” Thoughts about the Blood of Jesus

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Somehow I happened to get included in the list of people who receive meditations, mini-sermons, theological musings, from a person. (I’m not going to name any names here.) The list of names includes some pretty well-known evangelical leaders. Here is a recent example of the list owner’s theological musings:

“One of the problems of many modern day preachers of today is they do not preach on the blood of Christ.

Many ministers do not even know there is power in the blood Jesus Christ.

When Billy Graham was a young preacher a professor from Cornell University said to him, “Son, you’re a good speaker.  You speak with authority and clarity.  You can go places in the ministry.  But I want to suggest you leave out that blood stuff.  Don’t  speak about the blood,  It’s uncultured, uncouth, and you’ll go far, if you’ll leave out the message of the blood.”

Billy Graham responded,”I purposed in my heart then to preach on the blood of Jesus more than ever.”

It is paramount for every Christian and potential Christian understand the shed blood of Jesus in God’s plan of salvation.

Turn to Hebrews chapter 9, a great scripture on the blood of Christ.  Read verse 20.  It is not some gory story; it is a glory story.

“…without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:22).

On through the Bible, the focus is the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, central to man’s salvation, proclaimed from Genesis to Revelation, climaxing on the Cross of Calvary.

No wonder the Bible calls the blood of Jesus Christ “precious blood” (1 Peter 1:19).  Peter would rather talk about the precious blood of Christ.

The blood redeems. Turn to 1 Peter 1:18-19, Ephesians 1:7, Matthew 26:28.

The blood brings us near to God (Ephesians 2:13).

The blood cleanses (John 1:7).

The blood gives us power over Satan (Revelation 12:11).

The Cornell professor thought the blood is foolish. But those who are born again know better. “For the preaching of the cross [that is, the blood] is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

In real terms, only the blood of Jesus has lasting values and power.  The blood of Jesus is not perishable but everlasting.”

I responded (to everyone on the list):

“Personally, I don’t think there’s any magic in the word ‘blood.’ The power is in the truth to which it points–Christ’s atoning death on the cross for us. I don’t really care whether the word ‘blood’ is in any sermon or song (although I love the old songs that include it); what I listen for is the message of the cross–that Jesus Christ’s death is what reconciles us to God and the means by which Satan’s power is broken.”

This provoked some interesting responses including an accusation of “liberalism.”

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

This division over the importance of the phrase “the blood of Christ” (and cognates) in sermons and songs has been going on for a long time now. Fundamentalists used this as one litmus test for deciding who’s conservative and who’s liberal in the 1930s and beyond.

When I was a kid growing up in Pentecostalism (a form of fundamentalism even if not accepted as such by non-Pentecostal fundamentalists) “the blood of Jesus” was thought by many of my mentors, relatives and friends to have magical powers. That is, the phrase “the blood of Jesus” was believed to have power to tap into God’s healing and protecting power. For example, whenever our family was about to leave home on a driving trip out of town my stepmother would “plead the blood” over the car. The same was true for church buses leaving for camps, etc.

We loved to sing “There’s Power in the Blood” and “O, the blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow,” and “the blood will never lose its power,” etc., etc. Most sermons included some mention of “the blood of Jesus”—occasionally almost as proof of some theological position (over against those “liberals” who didn’t talk about the blood of Jesus).

I have no problem with talk of the blood of Jesus, but I interpret it as referring to Christ’s atoning death on the cross and not as having some magical power. I don’t believe the some special “chemistry of the blood [of Christ]”—the title and theme of a famous book found in most conservative pastors’ libraries in the 1950s. (It was written in 1943 by radio preacher M. R. DeHaan.) Nor do I believe the phrase “the blood of Jesus” has special power or is a necessary signal of biblically sound preaching.

One respondent asked if I believe Christ could have saved us by drinking Hemlock instead of dying on a cross by crucifixion. I don’t know the answer to that and I think it’s a bit of a trick question. But even if I say “No, he could only save us by dying by crucifixion” that doesn’t mean “the blood of Jesus” has magical power as a phrase or is a necessary signal of biblically sound preaching. “That’s all I’m sayin’” (as they say down here where I live).

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