Regarding blood sacrifice, has God ever needed blood in order to be appeased? I would argue, no, God has never needed blood to satisfy or placate Him. Yet I certainly do believe that the death of Jesus, and the shedding of his blood, were absolutely necessary to fully save us.
The Scriptures say, “For the life of a creature is in the blood.” Lev. 17:11. So we can confidently conclude the life of Jesus Christ is in his blood. In fact, Jesus says,
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” John 6:54-55.
Jesus is described as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 13:8. Although we all agree the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary to save us, I would further argue that his is the ONLY sacrifice that was ever necessary to save us. And that it was not made to appease the Father, but rather because our gift of divine life is in his blood. We needed that precious blood made available to us; so, God and His Son made it available.
Our redemption is in stages. Christ’s Death, and Christ’s Blood are two sides of the same coin. I would suggest some distinctions between these two aspects of redemption:
- -Christ’s DEATH ransomed us, and freed us from our captivity to death, under the author of death…that great legalist…SATAN. Matt. 20:28, Hebrews 2:14. Christ’s death was the price paid to redeem us from the devil. Christ had to die to break the power of death, and to regain the title deed to the earth. (For more on the title deed, see “Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent.") As Jeremy Myers has pointed out, “In His death, Jesus put to death the religious requirement of death.” —Satan being the religionist.
-However, Christ’s BLOOD gives us life. The blood continues the redemption process in order to heal our souls and bodies from the effects of sin. It was not shed to satisfy either our heavenly Father, or Satan, either (bloodthirsty devil though he is). Christ’s Blood was shed exclusively to meet our need for the divine LIFE contained in it. Lev. 17:11, John 6:54.
There are many Bible verses about the efficacy of the redeeming Blood of Christ, which are traditionally interpreted to mean that an angry, offended, legalistic God has finally been satisfied. So, He won’t destroy people smart enough to hide from Him under that Blood. But thankfully, more often than not, there are good, alternative interpretations for those hard verses—the verses which seem to paint God in an “un-Daddy-like” color.
For example, Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” However, the Greek word translated there as “forgiveness,” aphesis (ä’-fë-sēs), is alternatively defined as “release from bondage or imprisonment.” This preferred definition is in keeping with our argument that the sacrifice of Christ was not to appease an angry, offended God, but in order for a loving heavenly Daddy 1) to release us from captivity through His Son’s death, and 2) to provide us a life-giving blood transfusion!
The standard argument supporting the idea that our God has always needed blood sacrifice to appease His wrath, is basically: God is holy and just; is deeply offended by sin; for His divine justice to be satisfied requires blood payment for sin; all in order to ‘balance His books.’
Support for this argument usually begins with Genesis, where we are reminded that God Himself sacrificed innocent animal(s) in order to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned in the Garden. However, some scholars argue that Adam and Eve were originally clothed in divine light, and that after they sinned, they needed to be clothed in human skin, since they were losing their glorious light covering.
Psalm 104:2 says, “The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment.” (Note: the Hebrew word for “light” in this verse is pronounced ‘owr, like “this OR that.”) And Genesis 1:26 tells us, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….”
So, made in the image of God, Adam and Eve were likewise originally clothed in light, or so the argument goes.
Rabbinical scholars note that the Hebrew word for “light” is a homonym for the Hebrew word for “skin.” In Genesis 3:21, we read that God made for Adam and Eve garments of skin to replace the fig leaves with which they had wrapped themselves. The Hebrew word for “skin” in this verse is likewise pronounced ‘owr.
אוֹר ‘owr Strong’s H216 – light
עור ‘owr Strong’s H5785 – skin
So possibly Adam and Eve went from being clothed in ‘owr (light) to being clothed in ‘owr (skin/human skin). Because of sin, they lost a nature of light and gained a nature of flesh. (If so, then ‘owr would seem to be a play on words.)
The next supporting example for the argument of an offended God needing to be appeased by blood is the case of righteous (and, like everyone at that point, vegetarian) Abel. He brought to God “the female firstlings of his flock, even from their fat ones.” [Gen. 4:4, Young’s Literal Translation.] But the biblical account doesn’t actually state the animals were killed.
(It should be noted that angry Cain was promised prophetically, “If thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching…” [Gen. 4:7, YLT] —possibly pointing to that humble future lamb, Christ, who, from the foundation of the world, gave his life for everyone, including Cain. He did this both 1) to free us from our captivity to death—through his death, and 2) to provide us the gift of divine life—through his blood.)
The first indisputable blood sacrifice to God was by Noah, after The Flood (Gen. 8:20). But perhaps by then, blood sacrifices to appease the gods were already customary throughout Noah’s fallen, pagan world?
The Bible shows a progressively increasing revelation of the goodness of God. So, then, what about that whole sacrificial system instituted by Moses? Professor C.S. Cowles points out that,
In progressive revelation what we see is…reflective of the human mediators’ growing understanding of his [God’s] character, will, and gracious saving purposes in Scripture. Isaiah, for instance, saw into the mind and heart of God more clearly than Moses when he virtually dismisses the whole sacrificial system that Moses believed to have been instituted by God, instructions that are given in great detail in Exodus and Leviticus. In contradistinction to Israel’s entire temple-cult and priestly system, Isaiah asserts that God does not require “burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals,” and that he took “no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” What the prophet sees anticipates the dramatically clearer revelation of God fleshed out in Jesus: namely, that God is not impressed by outward ritual but rather inward holiness of heart and life (see Isa. 1:11-18)….
I might add that the whole Mosaic system seems to be an unfortunate interruption in the unilateral, everlasting, Abrahamic covenant of grace for him and his descendants (Gen. 17:19). And we should remember that being in Christ means we are numbered among the descendants of Abraham! Romans 4, Galatians 3, Hebrews 7.
- [“Unilateral”--one-sided--because it was only God making a promise; and the promise was between God and himself (Christ). It was not a bilateral pact, between God and us, with both sides making promises. Everything we need is found in the faithful Christ, alone.
We recall the self-maledictory oath of God in Genesis 15:5-21 (and examined in Hebrews 6:13-20). This was a type of oath, back in that day and culture, which Abraham could understand. And the fact that Abraham was asleep and didn't walk between the cuttings himself indicated that the covenant held no obligation for him.
We can see the promise from the Father to Christ in these words: “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet,” e.g., Matt. 22:44. Again, in John 3:16, on the part of the Father, we read “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” On the part of the Son, there had to be an agreement that he would come into the world and live as a man under the Mosaic law, and die to free us from captivity, and to give us the divine life found in his blood. We see his full agreement when Jesus said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law….“Here I am, I have come to do your will.” Heb. 10:8-9.]
Study the Bible yourself. You’ll find that every time the children of Israel murmured and complained [before Mount Sinai], it only brought forth fresh demonstrations of God’s favor, supply and goodness. Why? Because during that period, the blessings and provisions they received were not dependent on their obedience or goodness. They were dependent on God’s goodness and faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant, which was a covenant of grace.
The Exchange Of Covenants At Mount Sinai
Then, something tragic happened right at the foot of Mount Sinai. In Exodus 19:8, your English Bible says that the people cried out to Moses, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” In the original Hebrew text, this is actually a statement of pride. They were saying, “All that God requires and demands of us, we are well able to perform.” In other words, they were saying, “God, stop assessing or blessing us based on Your goodness. Start assessing, judging and blessing us based on our obedience.” So they effectively exchanged covenants, from the Abrahamic covenant which is based on grace, to the Sinaitic covenant which is based on the law.
Regarding the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, The Christus Victor Theory of the Atonement holds that it was actually SATAN’S wrath being poured out on Christ at the cross, not God’s. Because, after all, “God was IN Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Cor. 5:19. This position is in stark contrast to the Penal Substitution Theory of what happened on the cross.
Author, theologian, and criminal defense attorney Richard K. Murray makes clear that “Jesus' shed blood is not about punishment FOR sin. It's about deliverance FROM sin.” He writes:
I noticed a very interesting fact some time ago about the blood of Jesus. What the New Testament says about Jesus' BLOOD, it also says about God's SPIRIT.
The blood justifies (Romans 5:9), the Spirit justifies (1 Corinthians 6:11). The blood sanctifies (Hebrews 13:12), the Spirit sanctifies (1Corinthians 6:11). The blood cleanses (1 John 1:7), the Spirit cleanses (1 Corinthians 6:11). We drink the blood (1 Corinthians 11:24-25; John 6:55-56), we drink the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), while the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). We are to have "faith in His blood" (Romans 3:24-25) and are to have "the Spirit of faith." I think that on some level, the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of Christ are synonymous in some mystical way.
Simply put, the blood of Jesus is the "delivery system" of God's salvation. Any manifestation of power must have a delivery system. In the physical, blood literally serves as a system for the human body to DELIVER oxygen and nutrients to the various tissues throughout the body.
Spiritually speaking, the blood of Jesus delivers the fullness of divine life through the oxygenation of the Spirit into every corner of our being. The definition of the word "Spirit," interestingly enough, means breath, which of course is how we physically intake oxygen into our blood stream.
What the blood delivers, the Spirit manifests. What the blood transports, the Spirit provides. What the blood accesses, the Spirit strengthens. Jesus sweated blood resisting sin. He sacrificed His blood to give US access to His Spirit, the EXACT SAME access He had as the Son of Man. I see this whole issue is about effectively receiving the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The BLOOD OF JESUS is God's "delivery system" of salvation to all of us. It delivers us FROM sin and death TO holiness and love. The MAJOR part of this deliverance was Jesus REPLACING the rotten double-minded core in our soul WITH Jesus' healthy single-minded core in His soul. He first absorbed all of our radioactively toxic soul-cores on the Cross. THEN, when He poured out His own blood on the Heavenly mercy seat, the pouring continued at Pentecost as Jesus' poured out His Spirit as described in Acts 2. At Pentecost, Jesus poured out His Spirit onto and into the hearts of men.
At the Cross, Jesus shed His pristine blood FOR us. But at Pentecost, Jesus' blood transmuted to become His Spirit living WITHIN us. Jesus, through this sacrifice, took away our sin-natures and replaced them with HIS pristine faith, HIS pristine mind, and HIS pristine nature.
We were enabled by Jesus to become "partakers of the divine nature" 2 Peter 1:4. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20.
The blood of Jesus, then, is not about human transgression, but rather about divine transfusion.
Christ’s sacrifice was necessary, both to ransom us, by his own death, from Satan’s legalistic captivity of DEATH, and also to freely offer us his Blood, which contains his divine LIFE.
(Note: I recently updated the “For Further Consider” section of “Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?” And I was going to add this “Is God Bloodthirsty?” as a new comment there, but it just got too long to be a comment anymore )