Final part of a series of Bible studies in 1st Corinthians conducted by Ron Bailey in The Earley Christian Fellowship on the theme of expressing the life of Christ in the local church.
Archive for August, 2010
Part 12 of a series of Bible studies in 1st Corinthians conducted by Ron Bailey in The Earley Christian Fellowship on the theme of expressing the life of Christ in the local church.
Part 11 of a series of Bible studies in 1st Corinthians conducted by Ron Bailey in The Earley Christian Fellowship on the theme of expressing the life of Christ in the local church.
Part 10 of a series of Bible studies in 1st Corinthians conducted by Ron Bailey in The Earley Christian Fellowship on the theme of expressing the life of Christ in the local church.
Part 9 of a series of Bible studies in 1st Corinthians conducted by Ron Bailey in The Earley Christian Fellowship on the theme of expressing the life of Christ in the local church.
Part 8 of a series of Bible studies in 1st Corinthians conducted by Ron Bailey in The Earley Christian Fellowship on the theme of expressing the life of Christ in the local church.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy underlying much of the unwarrantable misuse of precious spiritual Biblical phraseology is the failure to distinguish the difference between the Old and New Covenants. Because a phrase is Biblical it does not follow that it is correct when used outside of its historical and dispensational setting.
Another great tragedy is surely the fear that underlies so much of the practice now made obsolete by God and therefore unacceptable to Him. It chiefly arises from a misplaced emphasis upon the power of black magicians using black arts to destroy people, or the work of God. Persons who ought to know better are teaching other persons who know less than they to live and move in fear of mediums and magicians, whose power against them was all destroyed at Calvary. This gives rise to all such superstitious uses of the Blood as covering oneself with it and sprinkling one’s possessions with it. Everything must be treated in this way it is said — houses, rooms, cars, situations. People will not get out of bed or enter homes, or go near a demon- possessed person, or even at times converse with another child of God unless some kind of prayer, pious enough in all conscience, is breathed concerning some use, or application, or coverage with the Blood. The sad, sad reason implied if not plainly given is that because the agents of Satan have blood, human, animal, birds’, or mixtures of bloods, so also must we have blood to answer, combat, or afford protection from that devilish medium. But this is not so. One real deep inward soul- drink of the spiritual value and eternal preciousness of that Blood of Christ is sufficient and more than sufficient to undo all the works of Satan. To find, collect, and use the finest selection of Biblical phrases concerning the Blood is not a Biblical prescription for overcoming Satan or giving protection from his powers. Superstition is not faith, and superstitious use of the Bible is not the least common fault among Christians today. This all must be banished from the churches for it does not honour, but dishonour the Blood.
There can be no doubt that the practices of the early Church are the surest guide to correct behaviour in all matters. The account of their habits, together with the epistles of guidance, and correction, and instruction, and edification, and education, form a major part of the New Testament canon. Nowhere in any of these, throughout the Acts of the Apostles and onwards (or, for that matter, in the Gospels either) is there any suggestion that the Church of Jesus Christ should act in such a manner as has been described. Not once is coverage or protection sought from or by the Blood. Instead the real reason for the shedding of the Blood is set forth in plainest terms, the forgiveness of sins, redemption, cleansing, drink. These things being had in experience there was nothing to cover, no protection needed. If a man is made the righteousness of God, does that condition need covering? And if so, from whom and by what? It is the basic moral and spiritual quality of the Blood that has been drunk, and that righteousness is as needless of protection in us as in the One whose originally it was. In understanding we must be men.
Pursuing the theme a little further we notice that the saints spoken of in Revelation 12 overcame the dragon, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they were not a lot of sell-lovers. Obviously, since we must love someone or something, they loved the One who shed that Blood and were quite prepared to lay down their lives for Him or their brethren: more, if the word in chapter 1: 5-6 is any indication, they loved the Blood He shed also. By it and their testimony they had no difficulty in defeating the devil. We are not told what they said, nor are we told that they ‘used’ the Blood in any way; just the honest facts are stated, by these two things they overcame the dragon, fallen Lucifer in his most terrifyingly powerful form.
The absence of reference to any method or ‘use’ of the Blood in this case is quite typical of all the New Testament scriptures wherever it is mentioned. Nowhere are we told that the apostles practised blood-sprinkling, neither did they teach that the Blood of Jesus Christ was ever intended for that use in general practice when dealing with any variety of demon personage or demonic situation. It is an entirely gratuitous assumption, as erroneous as it is extra-Biblical, to believe or teach that the sons of God need either to sprinkle or cover themselves or others with the Blood. We must surely take it for granted that the early Church would have known the proper attitude to the Blood of the Lamb so lately shed. Therefore, it permits of no other interpretation than that the complete absence from scripture of any such practices as have sprung into popular use since the closing of the sacred canon shows them to be wrong.
Neither the Lord Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry, nor yet any of His chosen apostles after Him gave any instruction concerning blood-sprinkling or covering or pleading. They did not set any such example for the churches to follow, nor did they allude to any such practice, nor even hint at it. Nor can one example of it be found throughout the entire length of the Acts of the Apostles to give any ground for believing it to be Church tradition. To imply that the New Testament allows or promotes the practice and teaching of such things in connection with the Blood of the everlasting covenant is entirely erroneous: to infer that it may do is both mythical and repugnant; all are absolutely unnecessary and sheerly human, and if not directly devilish such practices are at least utterly sensual. Coverage is not provided by the Blood of God’s Lamb.
When God sent His Lamb into the world, it was a move back again to the original revelation in Genesis as contradistinctive to the teachings given later under the intervening Mosaic system. When speaking to the Jews in His day the Lord Jesus did not say, ‘Your Mediator Moses rejoiced to see My day’.. . but, ‘Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My day’. . . for Moses spake of ‘… a lamb …. the lamb …. your lamb,’ Exodus 12: 3-5, but Abraham said, ‘God will provide Himself a Lamb.’ …. Thus Abraham saw Jesus’ day. But Moses had to deal with the blood of men’s lambs; so coverage, sprinkling, striking, were its commanded usages. Because blood drinking was prohibited, men were inhibited and salvation was limited. Acts 13 : 39. Moses could not speak of salvation to the uttermost, whereas the Blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin. When we drink the Blood we are washed, sprinkled, purged, loosed, redeemed, forgiven — according to the riches of His grace, not covered according to the limitations of law. All is internal, externality is finished.
It may be that Balaam has a word for us in all this. A wicked king had hired him to use witchcraft against Israel, and for love of money the hireling prophet was for a while willing to do so. But he soon discovered a most remarkable and patent fact which is recorded for us in Numbers 23 : 23. ‘Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel…. What hath God wrought!’ Higher up we read, ‘God hath blessed and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.’
Let a man, even each member of the Israel of God, believe this truth, and he will not have need to relapse into Old Testament clichés, as sacred as they may appear. He will no more need to use its phraseology concerning blood than he will have need of that blood itself. The Blood of Jesus Christ goes on cleansing everyone who, having drunk it in order to become a son of Light, goes on walking in the light. A constantly cleansed man has no conscience of sin and no fear of evil; more than this, he is seldom if ever conscious that he needs protection. He does not believe his Lord is so forgetful of him that He needs continuously reminding to protect him. He lives in the glorious knowledge that all things work together for his good always. He finds that not only can he obey the injunction to give thanks in everything, but beyond that he also enjoys the mature word which fullness of the Spirit brings within his experience; viz., he finds himself giving thanks always for all things. Ephesians 5:18-20, a vastly better condition and attitude, and a much higher and fuller concept to be sure.
It must never be forgotten that the Bible says it is in Him we have redemption; not in His Blood but in Him. Of course it is through His Blood, but not in it. All redemption, even in historic Israel, was because of Him and the Blood He would shed; all is Him, in Him, of Him, and through Him to the Father. He and His Father were before ever He actually took flesh and blood, which He did in order that He should shed that Blood, so that by that act and through that Blood alone we might be born into Him. We do not, cannot drink the actual human physical substance of the Blood; instead the Holy Ghost has come, that in Him, the blessed Spirit, as from a sacred cup of Heavenly Life placed to the lips of the inward man, we may drink in all the virtuous Life of the soul of the Man Christ Jesus. As there are eyes of the heart, so are there ears of the heart, and lips of the heart even as also there are hands and feet and all faculties and senses and functions of the heart: we all have them; greater and more powerful than the outward, the inward man of the heart exists in us all in a state of death or life. Dead until he drink the Blood, alive only when he has drunk and as he does constantly drink it.
This is the perfect picture and truth of the Body. Does not every member of a body partake of and live by drinking in the blood of and in that same body? Even so does every member of His Body the Church live by drinking in the nature and virtue and life of Jesus Christ in the Spirit. This is why we are told that we are made to drink into one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). For the Life that was once manifested on the earth in the soul of the Man Christ Jesus, and is the truth for ever for every man, is brought unto us by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, from whom as a babe in the flesh on earth Jesus came by Mary to be life and truth for us all. Not outwardly now as distinct and separate from us, but inwardly, wholly, spiritually: that is, entire in spirit, as complete and wholesome, and actually He as ever He was when known as Jesus of Nazareth.
A man’s redemption is Jesus. He is not only the Redeemer but also Redemption. As Redeemer He is generally only thought of in connection with a redemptive act — Calvary, a price paid, a purchase made, a death died. But wonderful and indispensable as that was, it was and is of no avail unless He is also my Redemption. The Redemption is in Him through faith in His Blood. Redemption is Jesus’ Life. Laid down it purchased me, taken up and lived in me it redeems me from myself and sin. Redemption is Jesus. Jesus in me is made Redemption to me. Jesus, as He lived and walked on this earth was Redemption. As the Son of man He redeemed human nature; that is, He was God’s reason, just and holy and righteous, for redeeming me, because He proved that it was possible for human nature to be in the midst of sin and yet not sin, be beset by demons and not be defeated by them, be hated by men and still love them compassionately, tenderly, everlastingly, and ah, so much, much more. Where all men failed He succeeded; in every detail of life where I sinned He remained sinless and more beside; that is how and why He was and is Redemption. He, that Life, is God’s justification for justifying me; He is made justification to me. He is Redemption. Redemption is not some thing God gives me, but a personal life, Jesus. He was made Redemption to me having been and being Redemption in Himself as a Man on the earth before me: this is God’s magnanimity, and munificence to me. In him I have Redemption: through His Blood He was made Redemption to me; this is the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.
The end of this is that the life I now live in the flesh is His life not mine, and as He did not in the past need to be sprinkling blood, or pleading it, or getting under it, or covering Himself with it, neither does He require or need to do so in the present. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever, whether in Himself or in His people. His flesh is their meat, His Blood is their drink. ‘He that eateth Me shall live by Me,’ He said. It is quite impossible to eat raw flesh and not drink blood, for flesh is by blood. The Church of Jesus Christ is His Body — of His flesh and of His bone. Let all who are His members know that all is within them as they are in Him, and let them slip out from under a yoke that neither their fathers nor they were able to bear. The Old is done away with all its irrelevant phrases. The practices and the language went together. The New has replaced the Old. therefore let spiritual and mental renewal result in newness of speech.
We are told that His Blood speaks. It has a language of its own which leaves us with no need to say anything. Abel’s blood had to cry to God from the ground whereupon it was shed and by which it was absorbed. There was no-one to carry it to the heavenly Jerusalem, so it cried for vengeance. It had to be avenged even though vengeance may not have been in his heart when it was shed. But the Blood of Jesus speaks in Mount Zion where the glorious Christ mediates the Holy Spirit in unending love to bring us all back up into the image of God. The blood of sprinkling speaks to God and His answer is the outpoured Spirit. Where the Spirit dwelleth no protection is needed, for the Spirit is as the Blood and Him Who shed it. He is the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus, even the life that was in the Blood, the exact life. Being filled with the Spirit I am filled with all that the Blood stands for; there is no difference, none at all. Now I have no need to find a form of speech for the Blood, instead I have the name. Jesus was the name given to that man of flesh and blood, and when I both bear and use it in all propriety and power, it carries all the virtue and meaning of the Blood to whatever need I have.
First printed 1972. Copyright © 1990 G. W. North
Because this is so, and because He was moving up to the great eternal act of atonement, a few hours before His sacrifice the Lord Jesus took His disciples into an upper room that He might show them eternal truth. Passing over the intervening years of Hebrew practice and thereby displaying them to be parenthetic, He took a cup filled with wine and said, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in my blood … drink ye all of it.’ So they drank the New Covenant in His Blood. To them the whole idea was entirely revolutionary. They had first heard it when, having fed the five thousand men plus women and children, Jesus had taught them that He was the bread from heaven. He had said that they must eat His flesh and drink His Blood or they would have no life in them. They had not understood it then, nor did they understand what He was saying now, but they knew He was introducing to them an entirely new and (what was considered to be) unlawful practice. Blood drinking was prohibited by the Law, but here was Jesus commanding them to do exactly the opposite from what Moses had said. True it is that He never once intended them to drink His actual blood, and that all was spiritual, but there was no denying that His teaching was absolutely revolutionary.
And revolutionary it surely is, for the Lord was not introducing a new idea, but simply turning them back to an old one: drinking. Instead of ‘sprinkling,’ ‘striking,’ ‘pouring out,’ or any of the other various usages of the blood of the Old Covenant, it was now and for ever more to be drinking. The New Covenant is not an external covenant like the old one, but an internal and therefore an entirely new one. True it is that the Blood of Jesus Christ had to be poured out, and upon the occasion stamped into the ground like the blood of many another who had hung on Calvary’s hill or ever the Lord hung there. It had to be shed for remission, but it was the life of, that is, in the Blood, that gave it its true value. Isaiah has it right. He poured out His soul unto death. It was the life He lived in the flesh, the soul He created in sinlessness, that was really poured out as the actual blood outpoured onto the ground. The soul is in the blood. When a man drinks the Blood he drinks the soul of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth.
Anticipating Calvary, before His death the Lord as it were presented His whole soul- life as Man on earth in the cup He gave them to drink. It was as though He caught and compressed the real virtue and value and purpose of Calvary into the loving cup, that He might impress upon our tardy spirits the critical importance of the inward action above the outward manifestation, lest we lose the significance of the epochal and eternal thing that was being wrought and instituted as law in the New Covenant. The New Covenant in His Blood is a covenant to create in His own people the soul that was in Him, that being regenerate in spirit they too may live on earth the eternal life He lived whilst here. ‘Drink it,’ He says.
Oh, the soul of Jesus! How wonderful! The soul-life of that Man for every man who will drink. God manifest in the flesh, His uttermost perfections, His glorious reality, His sweetness ineffable; the wonder of Him, the righteousness, the holiness, the purity, the loveliness of Him; all that Manhood lived out under all kinds and conditions of life; trials, temptations, provocations, hatred, deceptions, lyings and blasphemies, betrayal, and tortures, and crucifixion; all that perfect soul that loathed sin, and that leapt out against hypocrisy, all the preciousness of this wondrous life that always obeyed the Father — He says, ‘Drink Me in, drink in My soul, My life, My all in the Blood.’ The concern was and still is not so much that the wine be drunk; one only takes a sip anyhow, a lip-moistening, a little swallow; of itself it is nothing, a mere token thing of the gushings of His soul into ours as we open our being and drink and drink and drink in the perfect life of that Man, that God in Flesh.
So we see that immediately we reach the New Covenant we are brought back to the original idea of the open mouth; ‘the Blood’ has to be drunk. Yet the idea of sprinkling is also to be found in the New Testament, for the Hebrews letter speaks of the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. The comparison is apt, for Abel’s blood was spilled on the ground as valueless for atonement as his brother Cain’s, but Jesus’ Blood is sprinkled on the throne of grace. I do not know quite what I expect to see when I stand before that throne, but this I know, that as of old the High Priest went every year into the Holiest of all and sprinkled the blood of atonement upon the Mercy Seat, so Jesus has gone into the Heavenly Jerusalem with His own Blood and has sprinkled the throne of grace with it. Moreover, the Holy Spirit has come forth, the second Apostle of the Trinity to be sent by the Father, to sprinkle hearts from an evil conscience.
All sprinkling of the Blood of the New Covenant is done by the Holy Ghost. His work by it is the inward disinfecting of the human personality from all sin and uncleanness and evil. There is not the slightest ground in the New Testament for believing that men are expected subjectively to handle and use the Blood; to the contrary they are plainly shown to be the objective beneficiaries of another’s handling of it. Without question this is because of the redemption in that Blood. Redemption is not only through the Blood, that is because it was shed (meaning that unless it had been outpoured on the cross there could have been no atonement, which is absolutely true), redemption is only through the Blood because also redemption was in the Blood of that wonderful Man.
There was no redemption in the blood of animals; it contained nothing of the moral and ethical worth of a life free from sin; it was not precious Blood but common blood. Superficial innocence it may have, sufficient enough for the Lord to allow Himself honestly to use it for imputed coverage and token implication, but it would have been immoral to have used it for anything further than that. So the Lord God did not do so. But the precious, unique, eternal soul-life of Jesus was utterly righteous, holy, pure, love-filled, virtuous, and positively redemptive. His Blood covers nothing, but removes everything contrary to its moral, ethical and virtuous nature, and brings into everyone who drinks it the soul-life of the Man who shed it. In one eternal act He shed it in that manner as the procuring price for the souls of men; just once in the end of an age of bloodshed He did it to end the age of bloodshed and put away sin thereby; and with the consummation of that age came also the passing of its practices, and phraseology.
No more must men use its limited vocabulary when speaking of such precious Blood; no more may men speak of covering anything with it; it is impossible, it cannot ‘be done. The ideas are incompatible. Neither must men conjure up ideas of sprinkling it upon anyone or anything or anywhere. It is already sprinkled in the only places it may be sprinkled. We must not vulgarise it or impute unto it any superstitious uses. We must drink it; it is the blood of the new man which is entirely spiritual while living in the flesh.
First printed 1972. Copyright © 1990 G. W. North