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Christianity is a bloody faith. It is a bloody faith because it is the faith of sinful people and the Bible tells us that sin requires blood. For sin to be forgiven, for sinful people to be made right with God, there must be a payment of blood. That payment was made by Jesus Christ on a blood-soaked cross and through the centuries Christians have been praising God for providing the one thing they need most that they cannot do themselves. So Christians speak of the blood of Jesus Christ, they thank God for accepting the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they sing of that blood, they praise God for it. This is an unashamedly bloody faith.

We can see the significance of blood in the pages of the Old Testament, where from the earliest verses there are bloody footprints leading away from the perfection of the Garden of Eden. The blood of millions of animals brings temporary peace between sinful people and a sinned-against God. We see the significance of blood in how frequently the New Testament mentions it—nearly three times as often as “the cross” of Christ and five times as often as the “death” of Christ. Says Richard Phillips, “At the very heart of our Christian faith is a precious red substance; the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In his new book Blood Work, Anthony Carter, pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia, describes how the blood of Christ accomplishes the Christian’s salvation. Through 140 pages that are equally descriptive and meditative, he traces the New Testament’s blood motif and finds that blood is necessary for purchasing, propitiating, justifying, redeeming, cleansing, sanctifying, electing, freeing and so much else. Almost every benefit that is ours in Christ Jesus is explicitly connected to us through this trail of blood.

The reason for all this talk of blood becomes clear in the pages of Scripture. “In Genesis 9:4 we are told that life is in the blood. If life is in the blood and the blood represents life, then the loss or shedding of blood represents death.” Thus the blood of Jesus is a metaphor for the life and death of Jesus. “His precious blood signified His precious life and His precious death. Consequently, the redeemed do not receive a blood transfusion from God. We receive a life transfusion—His death for our death, His life for our life. It is all according to His precious blood, which satisfies God’s righteous requirements for life and justice.”

If blood is so central to our great problem and God’s great solution, “It should not be surprising that as recipients of God’s gracious salvation through the person and work of Christ we preach, pray, and even sing of the wonderful power of the blood, as the popular hymn by William Cowper (“There Is a Foundation Filled with Blood”) demonstrates.” In fact, every chapter of Blood Work is marked by Christian hymns that, in both sorrow and joy, speak of Christ’s blood. “And can it be that I should gain / An interest in the Savior’s blood?” “I’ll wash my garments white / In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.” “Sealed my pardon with his blood / Hallelujah! What a Savior!” “Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood / Shall never lose its power.”

All this talk of blood and all these bloody songs called me to ponder why the Old Testament and all its blood-soaked history had to come before the cross. All the blood of all those animals was preparing us to understand the blood of the perfect and final sacrifice. The bloody doorposts in Egypt made death pass over the homes of God’s people; the bloody cross of Calvary makes death pass over the souls of God’s people.

Blood Work is a powerful book that calls the reader to better understand why blood is such a integral, vile, beautiful necessity to the Christian faith. It is a book that calls the reader not only to understand, but also to marvel and to worship.

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