Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 10, 1954

The Blood Of Christ -- How Applied

Roy E. Cogdill

There are people who become exercised and disturbed over what they call the "theory" of the atonement. They are puzzled as to exactly how it is that the blood of Christ can take away guilt, cover our sin, and prevent spiritual death. How did Christ die for me? they ask. I think all of us would profit more to give less attention to the theory of atonement and more to the fact of atonement. God has taught us in His word that the blood of Jesus Christ is able to propitiate for our sins; it will completely satisfy God's requirements. At his death Christ became a Savior perfected forevermore; he is able to save to the uttermost, redeeming all those who accept the terms of pardon he has laid down. Once we recognize our great need for a Savior, and realize that we cannot be saved at all without the blood of Christ, our interest shifts with amazing speed from the various "theories" of atonement to the one great central fact of atonement.

Perhaps a homely comparison will help us to realize the reason for that attitude. Let us suppose some man has accidentally swallowed a massive dose of deadly poison. Unless something is done immediately to counteract the effect of this deadly element now in his body, death is certain and not far off. A doctor is called, and he rushes to the scene with all the speed his car can produce. Being informed as to what chemicals the man has swallowed, the doctor opens up his medicine kit, and quickly prepares an anti-dote. He hands it to the doomed man and says, "Here, swallow this quickly. It is an anti-dote for the poison you have taken, and will save your life if you take it immediately."

Suppose then the man replies, "Doctor, I have every confidence in you; I believe this medicine you have prepared will indeed save my life if I take it. But I have always been a man who wants to know just how things like this work. I want you to explain to me exactly what will take place when I swallow this medicine. What are its chemical elements? How will it react on the poison I have accidentally swallowed? And precisely how does it overcome the deadly effect of that poison on my system?"

We know that no rational man would make such a speech, or entertain such an attitude, in the face of fast approaching death. All the man would desire under the circumstances would be assurance, from someone in whom he had confidence, that the anti-dote would save his life. He would take it without further delay.

Once a man is convinced that he is a sinner, lost, undone, ruined, dead in trespasses and sins, separated from God because of his sins, a child of Satan, under eternal condemnation, facing certain spiritual death, and eternal banishment and punishment because of his condition — once a man truly understands that awful fact, he will hesitate not a moment over inability fully to comprehend or understand just "how" the blood of Christ will save him. Let him believe that the blood of Christ is able to redeem and save his soul from sin, make him a child of God, and bring him heaven after this life is over, and he loses his interest in the "theory" of atonement. What he wants and longs for is salvation; he will leave it wholly in God's hands as to how and in what way the demands of God's justice can be satisfied by the blood of Christ. He will gladly accept the offer of divine grace, plunge himself in the cleansing fountain that will be able to redeem and save forevermore.

There are some people who talk about the blood of Christ literally saving. They say something about a man being formally saved, and figuratively saved, and then add that he is literally saved by the blood of Christ. Such is a perversion of simple Bible teaching. The actual, literal blood of Christ is not that in which we are "washed" and "made clean." Just as the actual, literal blood of Christ is NOT that which we drink in the Lord's Supper (Catholic superstition to the contrary notwithstanding). If you were to go back to the city of Jerusalem and search for the exact spot upon which Jesus died, you would be no nearer to the blood of Christ when you found it than you are right now. If you had been present at the foot of the cross when the blood of Jesus spurted from the torn and lacerated hands and feet, and if you had stepped forward and dipped your hands in the crimson stream that came forth from his side when he was pierced by the Roman spear, you would have been no closer to the saving blood of Christ than you are now. It is not the literal contact with the physical blood from the body of Christ that saves us. That is not the sense in which Christ saves. Rather it is our acceptance of the blessings and benefits obtained by his blood; our total submission to the will of God that makes possible our salvation.

Perhaps another comparison from the field of medicine will help to make this clear. When a doctor writes a prescription there are two distinct parts to it: one to the druggist or pharmacist, one to the patient. The part directed to the pharmacist tells him exactly how to prepare the medicine, what chemicals to use, and in what proportions to mix them. The other part of the directions, addressed to the patient, explains how the medicine is to be taken. It is just as essential that the patient follow directions as that the druggist follow them. An over-dosage can as surely be fatal as a mistaken chemical in the formula. A medicine that is to be applied externally can kill if taken internally.

Paul explains how this principle works in our relationship with Christ. He wrote, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1). The law of sin and death in that passage is not the law of Moses. It is God's law which declares, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Death is the penalty for sin. This is the "law" from which I am allowed to escape by the law of the Spirit of life. But is it not the blood of Christ which frees me from that penalty? It is indeed. Then how is it the "spirit of life" frees me?

The law of the Spirit of life constitutes the "directions" by which the blood of Christ is applied to the case. The blood of Christ is the "medicine"; the law of the Spirit of life is the directive for the taking of the medicine. The blood of Christ is the remedy; our obedience to the law of Christ is our application of the remedy. And that parallel runs all the way through the gospel. It is an astonishing, and a truly simple, parallel when one follows it all the way through the word of God. The blood of Christ saves; but that blood is applied to us in our obedience to his word. All "theories" of atonement that men may entertain are quite beside the point in view of this tremendous provision of God's grace.