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Things that Differ.
The Blood of Christ. Its Scriptural Limitations.
There are two references to the blood of Christ in the Epistle to the Romans, both of
which add to our understanding of the doctrine attached to it.
"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare
His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God"
"Much more then, being now justified by His blood, ye shall be saved from wrath
through Him" (5: 9).
In the first passage Christ is spoken of as "set forth to be a propitiation". "Set forth"
(proetheto) is the middle voice, and means, "set before oneself", i.e., God set the
propitiation before Himself as the basis of His attitude to man, and the justification of His
passing by the sins that had taken place before the coming of Christ. The same word is
translated in the two other occurrences "purposed" (Rom. 1: 13 and Eph. 1: 9). God
purposed that Christ should be a "propitiation" hilasterion). This word occurs only once
more, in Heb. 9: 5, where it refers to the "mercy seat" that was placed in the Tabernacle.
Upon this mercy seat the blood was sprinkled on the great day of atonement
(Lev. 16: 14, 15). Sins were "covered" for a year, typically atoned for, the real
atonement being only possible by the blood of Christ. Instead of saying that atonement is
an Old Testament doctrine, and not to be used of the offering of Christ, we ought to say,
rather, that the "atonements" of the Old Testament were only typically so, in reality they
were merely "coverings", Christ alone put away sin, and made an atonement.
The point, however, in the verse for our special notice is, that whatever meaning may
attach to the word rendered "propitiation", it does not apply universally, as does the death
of Christ. It is limited in its application by the words that follow, "through faith in His
blood". Note also the context,
"The righteousness of God which is THROUGH FAITH of Jesus Christ unto all them
that BELIEVE. . . . that He might be just, and the justifier of him who is of the FAITH
of Jesus. . . . the law of FAITH. . . . we reckon that a man is justified by FAITH. . . .
one God who shall justify the circumcision out of FAITH, and the uncircumcision through
the FAITH. . . . His FAITH is counted for righteousness" (3: 22 - 4: 5).
Nothing can be clearer than that without faith in the blood of Christ there can be no
propitiatory, no mercy seat. The faith, too, is said to be "in His blood". No other
conception will do. It is not a question of believing that there is one God, for we know
that demons believe that, yet tremble. It is not a question of believing the good news of
the kingdom; that brings no justification with it. Justification is "by His blood", and
Christ is a mercy seat only to those who "have faith in His blood". The two references in
Rom. 5: 1-9 link the same thought together. "Being justified by faith. . . . being now
justified by His blood". While the Epistle to the Romans links justification with the
blood of Christ, Hebrews connects cleansing and sanctification with it.