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Follow up to “I Want Blood!”

About 10 days ago, I attempted to explain, in response to a reader’s question, why God needs a blood sacrifice, and why it had to be Jesus Christ. I also promised to consult with folks who’ve studied theology formally to get an ‘official’ perspective and follow up. I asked four pastors and a friend about the issue, all of whom I respect highly for their thoughtful responses as opposed to ‘party line’ autonomic responses. I have heard back from four of the five, two by email and two by conversation, and the summary is that all of us pretty much have the same understanding. Tonight, I will include the two written responses, edited for clarity.

My current pastor was the first to respond, hurriedly and briefly due to giving his kids a break in caring for a sick grandchild. His first thoughts are as follows:

1. The question of sacrifice is not a "difference maker" for God. By that I mean sacrifice does not change or make a difference in God, There is no need for him to sacrifice. It is a response of man to God as you have indicated in your house analogy. He did create (sole mover) all things but the point of the sacrifice is not God's need to sacrifice. It is man's need of redemption that creates the need for sacrifice. God created us as free, moral choosing beings, and it is our choice to respond to God appropriately, in this case sacrifice, not God's NEED to make a sacrifice.
2. Jesus was not sacrificed by God. Jesus CHOSE to endure the cross and crucifixion for our sins John 15: 12-17; John 19:8-11; John 1:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11  (just a few references) {RJW Note:  yes, Jesus is God, in the person of the Son, but was not ‘made’ to sacrifice Himself by God the Father. I know, I know, the whole Trinitarian idea of 3 Persons yet 1 Being is a tough one. For purposes of this discussion, think of the Trinity as 3 independent persons whose will is completely unified in inseparable purpose. Yeah, it’s still clear as mud. Let’s move on and see if things clear up as we move downstream.}
3. I am going to give you a web address below just for some reading. Like all things on the internet, I don't agree with everything in this response (even most things) but it is a good foundation on the background of the sacrificial system and the need for sacrifice.

I will try to get more from him this week. The second respondent was my pastor in another town, and a former engineer with a passion for thinking things through. He and I are a lot alike, though he would cringe at the idea! :P He says:

Before getting to the blood sacrifice itself, a couple of preliminary remarks:
(1) We must begin with God's character. If He is righteous, just, merciful, gracious, holy, etc., whatever he does must align with His character, or He is no more than the mythological pantheon of gods who are not consistent, and who are not perfectly righteous, etc. If His character is not perfect, it seems foolish to worship Him other than in fear of what He might do to us.
(2) We must understand the seriousness of sin. Sin is intentionally violating God's character (e.g., if we lie, we act contrary to His character of truthfulness). And, we must understand that we are fallen creatures to our core (i.e., we sin because we are sinners, not the other way around). We sin often and repeatedly.
(3) Now, because of God's character and our character, a "great gulf" exists. As Habakkuk cries out to God, "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness... " (Hab. 1:13). God must do something about this gulf. He can
(1) ignore it, and consign us to our fate,
(2) ignore it, and pretend nothing really happened (essentially, universalism), or
(3) deal with it justly.
We know because of His character, he cannot choose either option (1) or (2)
(4) The next key issue is, how serious is the crime? Even if we ignore the death penalty in our culture, a person who murders once is usually sentenced to life imprisonment ("usually" allows for the limitations of our legal system). So, is the scope of the crime God must deal with greater than or less than a single murder? I would argue it is much greater because (a) we ultimately are replacing God with ourselves (idolatry) and (b) Jesus tells us that if we hate another, we've committed murder in our heart. So, I would argue, the crime is much greater, so it is reasonable, based on our own morals, to expect the penalty to be much higher. So,
(5) To satisfy His justice, the penalty for the sin must be paid. At the same time, God is gracious and merciful, so how can He act to perfectly satisfy all His attributes? The cross - Jesus endured the full brunt of our sin, thus the price has been paid. Because he is God, He alone could endure the high price. So, in His death, the price was fully paid legitimately. Because he was man, He legally represented mankind and could substitute Himself for us. His blood, ultimately, implies a life was given as penalty for the severe nature and penalty of the crimes (sin). But, in Jesus, the blood is not the end - the price was fully paid, but Jesus alone, as the sinless sin sacrifice, was raised from the dead. A life was paid because of God's justice, He was raised "for our justification", i.e., showing God's perfect graciousness.

All "blood sacrifices" prior to Jesus portray the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, but could not pay the required price because the sacrifice was not of a perfect being and was not of a legitimate substitute for man. The blood sacrifice symbolized, however, the high requirement God's justice demands for our sinfulness. The ones making the sacrifice realized (or should have!) that a life was required for life.

I hope this is of help to folks. If there is interest, as I hear more, I’ll share it. Like I mentioned above, the two with whom I discussed this in person shared similar thoughts.


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