I grew up believing that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins,” but lately I’ve discovered that this verse [Hebrews 9:22] isn’t saying what they told me it says.
In fact, if you read the entire book of Hebrews you’ll discover that one of the main points the author is trying to make is the exact opposite.
See, Hebrews 9:22 is talking about what was required under the Old Covenant Law, and the entire book of Hebrews is essentially about contrasting the Old Covenant Law with the “better [New] Covenant” of Love and Grace.
So, unless we understand that this verse in Hebrews is actually seeking to provide a contrast to “what was wrong with the first [Old] covenant]” [Heb. 8:7], as compared to what we have now received under Christ, we will completely miss the point.
To be honest, sometimes I think that maybe those pastors and Sunday School teachers who missed this point and then taught me to miss the point, never really read this book for themselves. Instead, I think we all tend to just regurgitate what our teachers told us and repeat what our pastor taught us to think.
That’s a big mistake.
See, the point about what was necessary “under the Law” – specifically “the shedding of blood [for the] remission of sins”- is intended to be a critique of this idea, not an affirmation.
First of all, when it comes to blood sacrifices, the Old Testament isn’t univocal. Yes, Moses says it is required, but then Isaiah, Hosea and King David all disagree and say that such a thing never entered God’s mind and that God does not delight in the blood of bulls and goats, and that what God cares about is the spiritual condition of the human heart. [See Psalm 50:8; Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16; Psalm 40:6–8; Isaiah 1:11–31; Jeremiah 7:21–23]
So, if we go back to Hebrews and read the very next chapter , we’ll notice this:
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into
the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings, you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings
and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.”
He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through
the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” [Hebrews 10:4-10]
So, if we break all of that down we’ll notice a few things:
-The blood sacrifices never took away anyone’s sins
-Christ affirms that God did not desire sacrifices and offerings
-God doesn’t desire burnt or sin offerings at all [!]
-Christ came to do God’s will [and that will was NOT about blood, or sacrifices or sin offerings]
-The sacrifices, sin offerings, etc. were “offered according to the OT law” [the defective covenant]
-Christ did away with the first covenant [OT] in order to establish the “better covenant” [NT]
-When Christ submitted to the will of God, it was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets [thereby making them obsolete]
-Because of this, we are now sanctified “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ”
Ok, now before you pounce on that last point, let’s clarify a few things:
Keep in mind that this entire passage is trying to affirm that God did NOT desire or require sin offerings. So, whatever the term “offering of the body of Jesus Christ” is referring to we can safely say this: It was NOT about his blood being shed to cover our sins.
In fact, if we simply read the passage we’ll see that it doesn’t suggest this at all. [No mention of Christ’s death or crucifixion. Just the “offering of his body”]
Now, what IS affirmed is that the obedience of Christ to the will of the Father is what fulfilled every requirement of the Law for us.
See, the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ” is expressed in his Incarnation and in his obedience to the Father’s will [which, once again, was NOT about sin offerings or blood sacrifices].
At this point many will ask: “But, didn’t Jesus need to die? Isn’t that why Jesus came in the first place?”
Well, embedded in the equation of the Incarnation is the fact that Christ gave up his immortality to take on mortality. [See Phil. 2:5-11]
Once Christ took on mortality, it was inevitable that his flesh would die – one way or the other.
Did God require that his death be at our hands? No.
Did God require that Christ would suffer? No.
But, did God know that we would inevitably treat his Son this way? Yes.
So, the manner of Christ’s death was our decision. It was us who murdered the Son of God.
Take note: We rejected the Christ. We nailed him to the cross.
Now, God could foresee this would happen, but God certainly did not require it or demand it. [See Hebrews 10:4-10 again for reference]
The forgiveness of our sins wasn’t tied to any virgin blood sacrifice. That’s paganism.
The reality is that, once Christ took on mortality, it was inevitable that he would die and enter the grave. At this point, death would have been transformed from the inside out by the Resurrection power of Christ.
Yes, Christ came to abolish the law of sin and death. He conquered the grave. Death has no more power or sting.
Because of this, everyone is now, once and for all, set free from the power of death and sin.
But, contrary to popular belief, this could have been accomplished whether Christ was accepted or rejected.
So, this “offering of the body of Jesus Christ” was more about his obedience to the Father’s will and not at all about blood, sacrifice or offerings for our sins.
“God was, in Christ, not counting our sins against us, but reconciling the World to Himself.” [2 Cor. 5:19]
Jesus forgave without bloodshed.
It’s time for us to abandon the ancient pagan ideas about a wrathful God who requires a virgin sacrifice before extending forgiveness to His children.
Jesus came to abolish that nonsense.
Some of us are still trying to wrap our minds around that one.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The e-book “Unraveled: More Thoughts On Christian Entanglement” by Keith Giles is available now as a free PDF. If you’d like a FREE download of the entire 85-page book, you can grab one HERE
Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of several best-selling books, including “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” which is available now on Amazon.