The Blood-Bought Church
More and more I am amazed at the colossal ignorance of, and unconcern for, the purpose of Christ's blood shed on the cross! Liberal-thinking preachers for many years have been making efforts to eliminate the blood of Christ from man's need of coming to God and some even look upon the blood as repulsive. Many work hard trying to separate the church from salvation saying that the church has nothing to do with salvation.
God Chose Blood
Since man's first sin in the Garden of Eden, God has required the shedding of blood for the atonement for sin. God instructed Cain and Abel concerning the kind of sacrifice He wanted. It is said of Abel, that by faith he "offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb. 11:4). This blood sacrifice must have been precisely what God wanted since faith comes by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The first thing Noah did after he came out of the ark was offer a burnt-offering (Gen. 8:20). When Israel was delivered out of the slavery of Egypt, blood was used in their deliverance (Ex. 12:7-13).
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, "The rite of circumcision is an Old Testament form of blood ceremony. Apart from the probably sanitary importance of the act is the deeper meaning in the establishment of a bond of friendship between the one upon whom the act is performed and (Jehovah) Himself. In order that Abraham might become `the friend of God' he was commanded that he should be circumcised as a token of the covenant between him and God, Genesis 17:10-11" (see "Blood," p. 489). The patriarchal age was marked by sacrifices and rites of blood by those desiring to please God.
In Abraham's covenant, his own blood had to be shed. Later an atoning animal was to shed blood, but those who did appropriate the blood of animals were only ceremonially, and temporarily clean, because it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Heb. 10:4). In all ages, however, there must always be a shedding of blood. The covenant under Moses was dedicated by the blood of animals. Moses took the blood of calves and goats and sprinkled both the book and the people, saying, "This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all .the vessels of the ministry, and almost all things by the law are purged with blood and without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins" (Heb. 9:20-22).
Since there is no salvation but by blood, and since the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, it naturally follows that some blood of greater merit must be applied. As the first covenant was sealed by the blood of animals, the New Covenant was sealed by more precious blood, the blood of Jesus.
The Individual Is Bought With A Price
Each child of God has been purchased. Paul wrote, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirits, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). This was accomplished by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7), something of far greater value than silver and gold (1 Pet. 1:18). Each child of God has the same hope, having been purchased by the blood of Christ.
Unto the saints in Galatia, Paul wrote, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). Paul would not be found guilty of minimizing the cross of Christ, and what it had done for him. He would never equate the cross of the Lord, as some do today, to some $2 ornament worn as jewelry about the neck. To Paul, the cross was the symbol of the blood which Christ had shed thereon, and this gave it the fullest meaning.
It is only when we find what the blood of the cross did for lost men that we have an appreciation for it. The view of Paul is far different from those who claim such love for the blood of Christ, and sing loudly of the "Old Rugged Cross," yet spurn the very thing which the shed blood of the cross purchased for us. To fully appreciate the cross of Christ, we must look much further than the shape of the tree on which Jesus died.
The Church Purchased By The Blood
Paul's statement in First Corinthians 6:20 shows that every member of the church has been bought with the price of the blood of Christ; the church is composed of members; hence, the church has been purchased with the blood of Christ. He has given for it His own most precious blood, thus making it His own by the dearest of all ties. The transcendent sacredness of the church of Christ is thus made to rest on the dignity of its Lord and the consequent preciousness of that blood which He shed for it. We must maintain that, had not this Lord been God, His blood could have been no purchase for the souls of a lost world and the promise of redemption in His church would have been impossible. Since the church has cost heaven its dearest treasure, we ought to value it very highly indeed!
When Paul met the elders from Ephesus at Miletus, he discussed many important things. Included in the discussion was this thought: "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). Paul wanted them to know that the body of Christ owed much to the blood of the cross! This cannot be emphasized enough. Jesus Christ gave His blood to purchase the church and it should be remembered by all that He has never complained of being defrauded in the deal.
It was by this sacrifice that the church was bought and sanctified. When Paul wrote back to his friends and brethren at Ephesus, he said, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). This divine institution was the spiritual body of Christ. Nothing is like it is in the world, and nothing else like it in the Bible. Now, if Jesus had promised to build a multiplicity of churches, then we might have the option of choosing one to our liking. But since He promised to build only one (Matt. 16:18), and added the saved to only that one (Acts 2:41-47), then no option is extended!
Since Jesus Christ loved that church so dearly that He gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:23), God "gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). You just cannot afford to down-grade any institution so important to the Lord, that it was purchased with His own blood! To belittle the church of the Lord is to belittle the very blood of the cross which bought it. Unto the saved in Christ, Peter said they were redeemed with "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19).
The Highest Price
The word, "purchase," as used in Acts 20:28, occurs but in one other place in the New Testament - 1 Timothy 3:13: "For they that have used the office of deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith." The word properly means "to gain or get for oneself, purchase" (W.E. Vine's, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 231). This may be done by a price, or by labor.
No verse in the New Testament, or any other statement that could be imagined, could possibly exceed the power of Acts 20:28 in declaring the eternal importance and necessity of the Church which Christ established. Here the heretical notion of salvation by "faith alone" is shattered and counter-manded forever. By any definition, salvation by "faith alone" means salvation without the church of Jesus Christ; and in such a view the crucifixion of our Lord is reduced to the status of a senseless murder. As James Coffman said, "If men are saved, in any sense by the blood of Jesus, they must be saved through the church of which that blood is here declared to be the purchase price" (Commentary On Acts, p. 395).
That the church is, therefore, of peculiar value - a value to be estimated by the price paid for it - is clearly taught. This fact should make the purity and salvation of the church an object of special solicitude with the elders. They should be deeply affected in view of that blood which has been shed for the church; and they should guard and defend it as having been bought with the highest price in the universe. The chief consideration that will make elders faithful and self-denying is that the church has been bought with a price. If the Lord Jesus so loved it, if He gave Himself for it, they should be willing to deny themselves, to watch, and toil, and pray, that the great object of His death - the purity and the salvation of that church - may be obtained. Too many men like the title of elder, but do not like the work that is required; they like to see their name on a piece of stationery or bulletin, but do not want to put in the hours of labor that is required.
Paul's figure of speech to the elders is directly connected with a reference to the church as a flock; to the officers as overseers, or shepherds; and to their duty of feeding the flock. The figure as used by our Lord in John 10 should be compared with the expression in Acts 20:28.
How does a shepherd purchase his sheep with his blood? Pulpit Commentary noted, "The shepherd may actually give his life in fighting and killing the wolves. If he kills the wolves he saves the sheep, though he may himself die of his wounds; and then he plainly purchases the safety of the flock with his blood. These figures may be applied to the work of the Lord. He imperilled his life for our defence. He met our great foe in conflict. He overcame sin and death, and plucked death's sting away. He died in the struggle, but he set us free; and so he has purchased us by his own blood. He has won, by his great act of selfsacrifice, our love and life for ever" (Vol. 18, p. 168).
It is easily seen that some count the blood unholy when they have little regard for the church of the Lord and see it as just another denomination of no importance in God's scheme of redemption. Such say by their lack of respect for the church that the blood was wasted in purchasing the church.
Let it be said, in teaching and in practice, that the purchased church was not purchased to be a social club, but it has business second to none - that of saving souls. The borders of the kingdom must expand yet at the same time purity must be maintained within the church for it is Christ's desire to present it a glorious church without spot or wrinkle.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 2, pp. 37-39