Lou: So then “power in the blood” is a shorthand way of saying, “There is power in the death of Christ. The meaning of His death has the power to change my life.” It’s much more than just the image of being washed in blood.
Graham: That’s right. I remember when I was baptized up at Pacific Union College, the a capella choir stood out there and sang, “There is a fountain filled with blood,” and you could probably sing the rest of it.
Lou: “Drawn from Emanuel’s veins.” I love that song.
Graham: That’s right. I like it. I’ve sung it many times myself. But the older I get, the more I think of the meaning of it. In fact, sometimes when we’re singing it, I have to stop and think about it. There’s no power in just repeating the words. But there’s power in the meaning; why Jesus had to die, how the cross is the most costly and convincing evidence, and how the cross will provide security throughout eternity. I’m definitely not going to make light of the blood. But it’s a symbol. We have to ask what the meaning behind that is.
The same is true with “paying the price.” That can be interpreted in various ways. Some have wondered if maybe God paid a price to the devil to buy us back, for example. But no, I just think it’s a way of saying, “This is what it cost to do away with sin. This is what it cost to handle the breakdown of trust and trustworthiness.” For example, when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, he paid a heavy price to do that. He used to fall to the ground unconscious as he crossed the finish line. He left just enough energy to make it to the finish, he had nothing left. But the price he paid to run a four-minute mile was not paid to anybody else. That language is a metaphor of all the effort it took to break the four-minute mile. Similarly, Jesus did die to pay the price of sin, but let’s not over-read the metaphor. As always, let’s let the rest of Scripture guide us as to the meaning we should read into those words.
Lou: So some of the illustrations that we have used can give the wrong impression.
Graham: All illustrations are hazardous, so the Bible way is to give us many illustrations. One illustration can cover the shortcomings of another.
Lou: But what about such metaphors as the “satisfying of justice” and “the demands of the law?”
Graham: He died to satisfy the demands of the law. But that raises the question, what does the law demand? Paul says, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:10). Jesus (Matt 22:37-39) and Moses (Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18) said the same. So the law would seem to demand our love, but love can’t be demanded. If love has to be commanded, it’s not real love. So what does the law say? “You have to love God and love each other, or you will be executed in the most painful way known to our Heavenly Father?”
Some of our good Christian friends live under the awful weight of believing that God has said, “You either love and obey Me, or you will be tortured in sulphurous flames for eternity.” That such good folk can still love God is a real tribute to them, but it is not a tribute to God. Because they truly love Jesus and are faithful, I believe they will be in the Kingdom. But what an awful burden to live under! Yet I think Jesus will love to introduce such people to the Father. He’ll say, “Would you like to meet the Father?” And they’ll say, “Well, if You will go with us.” And He’ll respond, “There’s no need, but I’ll go with you anyway.” What a marvelous surprise it will be to millions of these people to meet the Father in the Kingdom and discover that He is just as loving and gracious as the Son. We will cover this topic in the next chapter, “There Is No Need To Be Afraid of God.”
Speaking about “the demands of law” belongs to a very legal conception of what has gone wrong in the universe, which we discussed in Chapter Two. In that view, what has gone wrong is that we have “broken the rules,” and the law demands that God execute us for breaking the rules. Jesus died so that somehow God could justly forgive us even though we have broken the rules. I’m not sure we have been able to make too much sense out of that. But it goes along with the other one, “satisfying justice.” Whose justice? I have friends who say, “If God does not give (Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, etc.) several days in the fire, I will not regard Him as a just God.” They have that strong a feeling about the satisfaction of justice. I think they really mean it, and I respect them for that. But I would also love to relieve them of that burden. If I want to know why Jesus died, I should go to the cross, see how the Father is involved, and then fit what I see back into Scripture. I don’t see God fulfilling the requirements of a legal model.