“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
As far as Christianity being a bloody religion, it is. But it is uniquely a bloody religion. Contrary to bloodless religions, it takes sin seriously, indicating that God takes sin seriously and gives a death penalty for it. Sin is not a small matter. It is the simple sin of pride that turned Lucifer into a demon. It was the simple sin of jealousy that caused Cain to slay Abel, etc. And in Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, they believed the deceiver over a good and loving God, choosing to rebel against His love and denying the goodness of His character. Christianity is a bloody religion because it views sin as a holy God views it – seriously. It seems a simple matter, but it is the very thing by which so many are deceived.
Also, because God is just, sin requires a penalty. God cannot merely forgive in mercy until the demands of justice have been met. Thus the need for a sacrifice before forgiveness is possible. The shedding of the blood of animals, as Hebrews points out, could only “cover” sin for a time (Hebrews 10:4) until the intended and sufficient sacrifice was made in Christ’s atoning death. Thus, Christianity is different from other bloody religions in that it alone provides a sufficient sacrifice to take care of the sin problem.
Last, although Christianity presents a bloody sacrifice in these regards, it is the only religion that is bloodless in the end. The opposite of death is life. In Jesus’ death, He brought life as is shown in so many verses. And in trusting Christ and His atoning sacrifice for one’s sins, one is saved from death and has passed into life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). In Him is life. All other paths lead to death (Acts 4:16; John 14:6).
Question: “Why is Christianity such a bloody religion?”
Answer: To understand why Christianity is a “bloody religion,” we must go back to God’s declarations regarding blood in the Old Testament: “the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11, 14). Here God tells us that life and blood are essentially one and the same. The blood carries life-sustaining nutrients to all parts of the body. It represents the essence of life. In contrast, the shedding of blood represents the shedding of life, i.e. death.
Blood is also used in the Bible to represent spiritual life. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God and eating fruit of the forbidden tree, they experienced spiritual death immediately, and physical death years later. God’s warning, “You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17) was fulfilled. Their blood – their lives – were now tainted by sin. In His gracious plan, however, God provided a “way out” of their dilemma by declaring that sacrifices of blood, first the blood of animals and finally the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ), would be sufficient to cover the sin of fallen mankind and restore us to spiritual life. He instituted the sacrificial system, beginning with the animals He himself killed to provide the first garments, thereby “covering” the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). All the Old Testament sacrifices which followed from then on were temporary ones, needing to be repeated over and over. These continual sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the one true and final sacrifice, Christ, whose blood shed on the cross would pay the penalty of sin forever. His death made any further bloodshed unnecessary (Hebrews 10:1-10).
Question: “Why did the sacrificial system require a blood sacrifice?”
Answer: The whole of the Old Testament, every book, points toward the Great Sacrifice that was to come—that of Jesus’ sacrificial giving of His own life on our behalf. Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament’s central statement about the significance of blood in the sacrificial system. God, speaking to Moses, declares: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
A “sacrifice” is defined as the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason. Making atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. The Leviticus verse can be read more clearly now: God said “I have given it to you (the creature’s life, which is in its blood) to make atonement for yourselves (covering the offense you have committed against Me).” In other words, those who are covered by the blood sacrifice are set free from the consequences of sin.
Of course the Israelites did not know of Jesus per se, or how He would die on their behalf and then rise again, but they did believe God would be sending them a Savior. All of the many, many blood sacrifices seen throughout the Old Testament were foreshadows of the true, once-for-all-time sacrifice to come so that the Israelites would never forget that without the blood, there is no sacrifice. This shedding of blood is a substitutionary act. Therefore the last clause of Leviticus 17:11 could be read either “the blood ‘makes atonement’ at the cost of the life” (i.e. the animal’s life) or “makes atonement in the place of the life,” i.e. the sinner’s life, with Jesus Christ being the One giving life through His shed blood.
Hebrews 9:11-18 confirms in the New Testament the symbolism of blood as life and applies Leviticus 17:11 to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 12 states clearly that the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary and only atoned for sin partially and for a short time, hence the need to repeat the sacrifices yearly. But when Christ entered the holy place, He did so to offer His own blood once for all time, making future sacrifices unnecessary. This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Never again would the blood of bulls and goats cleanse men from their sin. Only by accepting Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for the remission of sins, can we stand before God covered in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Question: “If God hates human sacrifice, how could Jesus’ sacrifice be the payment for our sins?”
Answer: The Bible makes it quite clear that God hates human sacrifice. The pagan nations that surrounded the Israelites practiced human sacrifice as part of the worship of false gods. God declared that such “worship” was detestable to Him and that He hates it (Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). Furthermore, human sacrifice is associated in the Old Testament with evil practices such as sorcery and divination, which are also detestable to God (2 Kings 21:6). So, if God hates human sacrifice, why did He sacrifice Christ on the cross and how could that sacrifice be the payment for our sins?
There is no doubt that a sacrifice for sin was necessary if people are to have any hope of eternal life. God established the necessity of the shedding of blood to cover sin (Hebrews 9:22). In fact, God Himself performed the very first animal sacrifice to cover, temporarily, the sin of Adam and Eve. After He pronounced curses upon them, He killed an animal, shedding its blood, and made from it a covering for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), thereby instituting the principle of animal sacrifice for sin. When He gave the Law to Moses, there were extensive instructions on how, when, and under what circumstances animal sacrifices were to be offered to Him. This was to continue until Christ came to offer the ultimate perfect sacrifice which made animal sacrifice no longer necessary. “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4).
There are several reasons why the sacrifice of Christ on the cross does not violate the prohibition against human sacrifice. First, Jesus wasn’t merely human. If He were, then His sacrifice would have also been a temporary one because one human life couldn’t possibly cover the sins of the multitudes who ever existed. Neither could one finite human life atone for sin against an infinite God. The only viable sacrifice must be an infinite one, which means only God Himself could atone for the sins of mankind. Only God Himself, an infinite Being, could pay the penalty owed to Himself. This is why God had to become a Man and dwell among men (John 1:14). No other sacrifice would suffice.
Second, God didn’t sacrifice Jesus. Rather, Jesus, as God incarnate, sacrificed Himself. No one forced Him. He laid down His life willingly, as He made clear speaking about His life: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). God the Son sacrificed Himself to God the Father and thereby fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. Unlike the temporary sacrifices, Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice was followed by His resurrection. He laid down His life and took it up again, thereby providing eternal life for all who would ever believe in Him and accept His sacrifice for their sins. He did this out of love for the Father and for all those the Father has given Him. (John 6:37-40).
Question: What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins?
Answer: Simply put, without Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, no one would have eternal life. Jesus Himself said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In this statement, Jesus declares the reason for His birth, death and resurrection—to provide the way to heaven for sinful mankind, who could never get there on their own.
When God created Adam and Eve, they were perfect in every way and lived in a virtual paradise, the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). God created man in His image, meaning they also had the freedom to make decisions and choices of their own free will. Genesis 3 goes on to describe how Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptations and lies. In doing so, they disobeyed the will of God by eating of the tree of knowledge from which they were forbidden: “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17). This was the first sin committed by man and, as a result, all mankind is subject to both physical and eternal death by virtue of our sinful nature inherited from Adam.
God declared that all who sin will die, both physically and spiritually. This is the fate of all mankind. But God, in His grace and mercy, provided a way out of this dilemma, the shed blood of His perfect Son on the cross. God declared that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22), but through the shedding of blood, redemption is provided. The Law of Moses (Exodus 20:2-17) provided a way for the people to be considered “sinless” or “right” in God’s eyes – the offering of animals sacrificed for every sin they committed. These sacrifices were only temporary, though, and were really a foreshadowing of the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 10:10).
This is why Jesus came and why He died, to become the ultimate and the final sacrifice, the perfect (without blemish) sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:22; 1 Peter 1:19). Through Him, the promise of life eternal with God becomes effective through faith to those who believe in Jesus. “So that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22). These two words “faith” and “believing” are critical to our salvation. It is through our believing in the shed blood of Christ for our sins that we receive eternal life. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
by Robert Gobelet