By J. Wilbur Chapman
I am preaching tonight on what I believe to be the most important subject in the Bible. Of course, anything that has to do with Jesus Christ is of vast importance. My text is found in the First Epistle of Peter 1:19 "The precious blood of Christ."
The Apostle Peter, as we all know, was a fisherman in his earlier days. It is wonderful that he became the leader and writer that he was, and, strange to say, the word that he uses many times is this word - precious. He speaks of precious promises. He says of Jesus: "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." It is just about the last word that you would expect a fisherman to use. He was probably an uncultured man and a stranger to the schools. Before he began to follow Jesus, he had the habit of profanity.
There was an occasion when, in an unguarded moment, his old habit took hold upon him and with an oath he said: "I know not the man." All this goes to show that if one accepts Jesus Christ as a Saviour and yields himself wholly to him, the Master will take complete possession of him and fashion him all over again. The power of old habits will be broken and the influence of evil associations will be overcome. When once Jesus comes into our lives, we are literally a new creation.
The word of the text is the word of an artist. It is the word of a man who feels power in his soul. When the Apostle Peter caught a vision of Jesus Christ, his soul was on fire, and he used this word: The precious blood of Christ! All too little is said in these days about the blood of Christ. Some of us seem to avoid the subject as much as possible. The other evening I spoke about the personality and influence of Satan. If there is one truth more than another that Satan would oppose, it is the truth of this text. If there is one subject that he would like to turn our minds away from, it is the blood of Jesus Christ. He tells us that we can be saved by reformation, by good deeds. He tells us that we can be saved by doing our best. But all the way through the New Testament we find that the only way to God is a blood-marked way. The precious blood of Christ!
I suggest that you take a little camel's hair brush some time, and a bottle of red ink, and go through the New Testament, marking with red every passage that has to do with sacrifice, with the death of Christ. Every passage that speaks of salvation as the result of the shedding of blood. Well, you will mark a great many passages. You will redden everything that deals with pardon and peace, and forgiveness, and joy, and salvation, and the very music of heaven itself. Then when you have marked these verses red, take a little pair of scissors and clip out every red verse. Then you will begin to understand how large a place the blood occupies in the salvation of man. The apostle knew this, and because he knew it, he said: The precious blood of Christ!
If you go through the Old Testament, you will find that the way to get back to God is the way of sacrifice. There it was the blood of bulls and goats, but these were not sufficient. When sin was too great, and human nature too weak, then Jesus Christ came in the flesh. He lived and loved, and suffered and died, and His heart broke. From pierced hands and feet and broken heart His blood poured forth, and because of this sacrifice, the Apostle Peter writes: The precious blood of Christ. In the Old Testament there are many figures that are used to make it plain. For example, when judgment was hanging over the homes in Israel, and the first born was about to be slain in Egypt, then the lamb without spot was sacrificed, the blood was collected in a basin, a bunch of hyssop was dipped in the blood, and the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts, and the word that came to the people was: "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." Remember the lamb was to be without blemish. Jesus met this condition. The lamb was to be slain. Jesus died that we might live.
I allow no one to go beyond me in paying tribute to the earthly ministry of the Master, to the marvelous words He spoke, and the great deeds He did. But I wish to say that I think I can prove that there is nothing said in the New Testament about our being saved by His life. I know there is one expression in the Epistle to the Romans which might seem to teach this: "Saved by his life." But literally this means - Kept safe in his life. The message of the Apostle Paul here was not to the unsaved, but to the saved. He is telling us that when once we have accepted Jesus Christ as the Saviour, then we have him as our environment, as our protector. His arms are underneath us and round about us. His wings are above us and we are kept safe in His life. But God's Word teaches clearly that I am saved not because he lives, but because he died.
One of the greatest preachers in England said the other day something like this- "Some men have a way of saying in these days very much about the works of men and very little about the death of Jesus Christ." But if I should lose out of my thinking the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood and all that it means, then I should have a wrong conception of God and His righteousness and justice. Also I should know that there was no chance for me to be saved, for if God could look upon sin and pass it over without an atonement, without something to blot it out, I think I should lose my great conception of God.
I should also lose my joy as a saved sinner. But when I realize that He may be just, and the justifier of them that believe, when I know that He may hate sin while He loves the sinner, when I know that His own Son bore in His body our sins upon the tree - then I can sing and shout for joy, for I know that I am lifted from despair into hope, from darkness into light, from bondage into freedom. The Apostle Peter knew this, so we hear him say - the precious blood of Christ. How plain it all is, prefigured in the Old Testament, perfectly illustrated in the New. Listen while I give you some passages of Scripture.
Jesus Christ died, and in dying he paid the penalty for my sins. His death was therefore, penal. Galatians 3:13: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." You remember the story of Father Damien. I recall when he started away from our country to the Hawaiian Islands to become a leper and to die as a leper for the sake of the lepers whom he served. Yet this is a poor illustration of Jesus Christ. He came into this world and suffered in my stead. He bore the shame of the cross. He was made a curse for me. As by faith I lift my eyes to Him and take Him as my Saviour, I take His place in the love and favor of God.
Listen again. It was a voluntary death. John 10:18: "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." I wish that I could help you to see what my salvation and yours cost. He turned away from the joy of heaven to the shame of earth. He turned away from the vast throngs saying - Holy, Holy, Holy, to this world where they veiled his face and smote him. He turned away from the immediate presence of the Father, and came down into this world where men spat in His face and heaped shame upon Him, and even placed the cross upon His tired shoulders. They did even more than this.
They put Him on the cross and drove nails through His hands and feet. They lifted Him up between heaven and earth, as if He were unfit for earth and as if they would hold Him back from Heaven. He came down to earth to meet all this and He did it willingly. He was ready to suffer, ready to die for you and me. Tonight, all you need to do to have the bondage of sin taken away and to have sin cast behind God's back, is just to take Him as your personal Saviour, and with His help to turn away from sin.
It was a substitutionary death. In these times men seem to shrink from this thought. I have no harsh word for any man who cannot accept my theological position. I have no harsh word for the man who cannot at first accept a substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. But let me explain the meaning. It means that He takes my place and offers up Himself for me. I only know that I find this throughout the Word of God, and it takes hold of my soul and grips me. II Corinthians 5:21: "For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin." There are some things in this world that are so dreadful that we cannot think of them without growing sick. We cannot speak of them without suffering. So it is when we think of sin in connection with Jesus. Yet we are told that He was made sin for us.
When men come to my room and tell me that they are drunken and lecherous, that they have secret sins and passions that bind them, I can only go so far with them. These things I have not experienced, except through my sympathy. Yet while my Saviour did not sin, He was made sin for us. When the man who was a drunkard comes to Him, or the lecherous man, or the dishonest man or the woman who is weak, my blessed Redeemer knows all about their trouble, and knowing their trouble and staggering beneath the weight of the world's woe, He hurries to the cross and dies. St. Peter knew this when he said - The precious blood of Christ!
Hear me, too, when I give you this text from the Old Testament. Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." What does this mean? It means that when Jesus Christ came into this world and lived and loved and suffered; when His heart broke on Calvary's cross and the blood poured from His veins, He was laying down His life for you and for me. Of course, if I should lay down my life for you, it might avail in a certain way, but the value of the life determines the value of the blood. Do you not see this? I stand here tonight preaching and I know that there are some rich people here who are nevertheless very weak. There are some who are high in social life, but they have gone astray. Some are poor, too, and they have turned away from God. But no matter who you are, my Saviour is groaning upon Calvary and shedding His blood. He is able to save you all. The Apostle Peter knew this, and he said - The precious blood of Christ. I am hurrying to the close of my message but I want you to know the hope that is in the blood of Christ. Do not resist Him, my friends. Do not reject His precious blood.
My friend, Dr. Geo. F. Pentecost, was determined to climb Pike's Peak alone. His friends said to him, "You cannot do it without a guide who knows the way." But Dr. Pentecost said, "I know that I can climb it alone." So he started off. They told him that at a certain curve in the mountain there was a hut, open to any traveler, if by any chance he should miss his way going up. He was getting along very well, when suddenly a snowstorm overtook him. Without warning the blinding snow covered him and he began to drift. He staggered and fell, and then there came to him the warnings of his friends. He had practically given himself up to die, when he realized, as he lay upon the ground, that his hands were touching some dry twigs. It came to him that if he could start a fire he might still escape. He felt in his pocket for matches, and found one. But the wind was blowing a perfect gale.
I heard Dr. Pentecost say that he took that single match and, shielding it in his hands from the snow, started to strike it, but he was afraid and he put it back into his pocket again. Finally, in his desperation, he got up closer under the shadow of a rock and struck the match, shielding the little flame as best he could, and touching it to the dry twigs. The fire was started and his life was saved. There was just that one little thing between him and death. What a blessing that he did not treat it carelessly. Tonight I am standing here to say that there is just one thing, between you and judgment, and that one thing is the precious blood of Christ. I beg you not to treat it carelessly.
But someone is saying, - You don't know my sins. You don't know my habits. If I should start this evening, my old habits would come back at my heels like hounds scenting blood. True, I don't know your habits, but I do know my Saviour.
Do you remember the story in Scottish history, when they were seeking to take Bruce the King? They heard that he was in his palace and they started after him. The King heard that they were coming, and escaped with his trusted few. They made their way through the fields and into the forests, and when they thought that they had escaped, in the distance Bruce heard the baying of bloodhounds. They were his own bloodhounds. He gave himself up for lost, but in the distance he heard the babbling sound of a little mountain stream. With his faithful followers he went into the stream and by going up the stream some distance and across to the other side, they covered their trail.
When the hounds came to the stream, so history tells us, they lost the trail and Bruce was saved. But I know a story a thousand times better than this. Yes, I do. I ask you to give your hearts to Christ, and then start, and the moment you start, all the old habits of your life are after you again; the old passions and lusts and desires. You have only half started when you sink back and say - It is hopeless. But wait a moment. You can cover your trail. Mr. Alexander and I landed one night four hours late, on the Fiji Islands. We were to have held services there. The service had to be cancelled. Nevertheless, we decided to stop, for we wanted to say at least that we had been in the Fiji Islands. While we were there, we heard in the distance what sounded like a cannon. We were told that it was calling the people to the House of God.
A man stood with a mallet by a hollow log of a special kind of wood, and the sound could be heard for miles. We climbed up the hill and found a multitude of people with black skins and strange hair waiting for us. They sang two songs, in which Mr. Alexander led them. One was the "Glory Song," and the other was the song which belongs to our subject this evening. We did not know the words, but we knew the music. We have heard this song in every land under the sun. We have heard people sing it with tears rolling down their cheeks. We have heard it sung while multitudes pressed up to the altar and sobbed their way into the Kingdom of God. This is the song they were singing in the Fiji Islands-
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins."
Can you not see it? Plunge in! Plunge in! Tonight! To-night! Nobody is too sinful!
Nobody is too sinful. Nobody is too far away. The precious blood of Christ can cleanse and save unto the uttermost. Nothing less than his blood can do this. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
I can say no more. With all my heart I wish that I might. I can only add this. I love Him. I love Him. He is to me as real as you are. I love Him. I want you to love Him. I want you to take Him. I know that there are people who want to say this evening - "Pray for me." Lift up your hand to express this desire of your heart.