Vol.XVIII No.X Pg.7
December 1981

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

We hear much about the "continuous action of the blood of Christ" and would like your comments on this. AF


Christ's "blood" is a metaphorical way of referring to His life which He gave up on our behalf. Blood was recognized from early times as the life principle, although its real function was not discovered by man until the early 17th century. In Lev. 17:11 we read, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life." The typical use of blood in the Old Covenant furnishes terminology for New Covenant statements, So that "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2, Heb. 12:24) is only a figure for cleansing (forgiveness) taken from ceremonial types of the past. Christ's blood is not a super-detergent, continuously active or waiting to be rubbed on our sin.

Christ shed His blood (died) once, or, "once for all" (Heb. 9:25-f., 10: 10). The sacrifice has been made, the means has been provided. God can extend mercy, forgiving our sins, without compromising justice, because His Son died in our stead. The soul that sinneth, it shall die — that principle is repeatedly stated (Ex. 32:33, Ezek. 18:20). I sinned, I must die; but Christ died in my stead. Now, He "ever liveth to make intercession for" me (Heb. 7:25). That is, His "blood" (sacrifice of His life) is ever available to my use. I can "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace."

But continuously available is not the same as being continuously applied. The "once for all" death of Christ is continuously available to all in the world, but it is applied (i.e., God has promised to forgive) only those who come to Him in keeping with His revealed invitation. The same principle is taught with reference to Christians who sin.

"Cleanseth" of 1 Jn. 1:7 is present active, and suggests progressive action; but of course that is because it is contingent upon the present subjunctive "if we walk in the light" which describes an active manner of life. "If we confess" of v.9, is also present active subjunctive, and the forgiveness and cleansing of v.9 is clearly contingent upon that confessing. The language here describes ones habitual course of conduct and does not lend itself to breakdown in steps of "what ifs" either to excuse sin or to call for judgment upon things only God can know and judge. If this "continuous action" of blood means forgiveness in the absence of man's faithful response to stipulated conditions, I find no "Bible" for that.

GRACE is a characteristic of God, a benevolent attitude toward or love for His creatures. It is expressed in Jesus Christ, the promised Savior. We (who-so-ever-will) benefit by it, as we come to and are faithful to Christ (Rom. 11:17-23, cf. v.5). It is expressed in the willingness of Christ to die for us (Jn. 3:16). It is available to all mankind — but so far as I (or others) can know, only on God's terms. It is absurdly foolish to whittle on God's end of the stick.