5th October 2013
Many hymns in The Methodist Hymn Book mention the ‘blood of Christ'. Those precious older hymns are a constant source of inspiration, aspiration and affirmation to me, leading to a renewed consecration. Some modern ‘Songs' now used in worship are Biblical, but many are rather thin in Scripture content, and rarely focus on the shed blood of Jesus. The Old Testament history, symbolism, allusions and prophecies culminated in the New Testament fulfilment, spanning the incarnation, ministry, atoning death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Then came Pentecost, the gift and ministries of the Holy Spirit, the birth and spread of the church, until today! Ruth Paxon refers to a crimson thread from Genesis to Revelation! Note: Hebrews 9:22.
My love of hymnology has prompted me to ponder the old hymns that express and expound the ‘precious blood of Christ'. Crucifixion was common then, but the death of Jesus the Son of God was unique. Lent and Passiontide lead us to the wondrous cross and resurrection which has been, and always should be, the central focus of the gospel. The heart of the human problem is still the problem of the human heart.
Consider some theological terms in Scripture: redemption, reconciliation and atonement (at-one with God), regeneration (the new birth), remission, justification, adoption, salvation, sanctification. Yes, they are big, heavy words, and who in our congregations now really understands them? We should not drop them as archaic, but explain them in more modern terms. We are sometimes tempted to preach what people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. The Wesleys perfectly blended the transforming Gospel and the current social needs, but they always prioritised the Gospel - which is what we need to do.
I can never forget the Christian foundations that were laid from my teenage acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Saviour, Lord and Master in the local Methodist Church. That led to my growth in grace, my call to lay preaching, then the clear call of God into the ministry. My convictions and preaching developed from the Methodist emphasis on true life-transforming conversion, Scriptural holiness and evangelistic outreach.
Every decade seems to have brought a new and often helpful way of proclaiming the Gospel and ‘being church'. There have also been some wise and necessary church unions, the gradual change from some old denominational labels to new names for Christian communities, hoping to be more appealing to our secular society. Continuing developments in theology and terminology are evident too. I do recognise the massive social needs and political strategies needful in our own nation and the world that challenge the church, but I detect a gradual weakening Scriptural theology of basic gospel truth, including a neglect of my theme here on the atoning blood of Christ.
Hymns are more rooted in our memories and more easily sung than the prolific flow of new worship songs with their fading focus on the cross, resurrection and ministries of the Holy Spirit. We do need to revise the grammar but we need to retain the best hymns and not drift away from the Biblical foundations of the gospel, intended for every generation. Dictionaries clearly define gospel as ‘Christian revelation' and ‘good news' (the Greek word is so translated in the Acts)), derived from 'god-spel'. We must not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater' and lose its impact on our communities. Paul's constant burden should be ours too, ‘the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace' (Acts 20:21 and 24).
I found 21 Bible texts and 38 Methodist Hymn Book lines about ‘the blood', especially in the sections on the Sufferings and Death of Christ, Repentance and Forgiveness, Faith and Regeneration, and most are in Charles Wesley's hymns. The whole Hymn Book has 243 hymns (a quarter) by him out of the total 984 hymns, and the personal pronouns ‘me' and ‘my' are very evident. John Wesley was not a similar poet, but has 25 hymns - 2 original hymns, 3 altered from other authors and 20 translations from overseas.
The primary focus of both brothers was personal salvation and growth in holiness. Social needs were recognised and ministered to, but they came second. Is our preaching as balanced as theirs? Their preaching priority was to ‘offer Christ' and it drew so many responses that it later resulted in the birth and expansion of the Methodist Church in England and overseas.
The 38 MHB Hymn Lines and 21 key Bible References mentioning the ‘blood' are noted here below:
1 v.5 His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.
81 v.1 Thy blood alone, O Son of God, can give me peace within.
172 v.3 Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah! What a Saviour! 180 v.3 He died that we might be forgiven (our past), He died to make us good (our present),
that we might go at last to heaven (our death into eternity), saved by His precious blood.
v.5 O dearly, dearly has He loved, and we must love Him too ... and trust in His redeeming blood.
184 v.2 To wash us in that precious flood ... blood.
193 v.1 How vast the love that Him inclined to bleed and die for thee.
200 v.3 Let Thy life-giving blood remove all my load.
v.5 Thy blood be upon me and always abide.
201 v.3 O dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power.
321 v.5 Love of God so pure and changeless, blood of Christ so rich, so free,
Grace of God so strong and boundless, magnify it all in me.
325 v.2 A pardon written with His blood.
345 v.2 For pardon which Thy blood has bought: Christ crucified, I come!
348 v.5 Show me the atoning blood, when my strength and spirit fail ... Jesus crucified for me!
351 v.1 Thy precious blood that flowed on Calvary.
Chorus: cleanse me by the blood that flowed on Calvary.
353 v.1 Just as I am ... Thy blood was shed for me ... O Lamb of God, I come!
v.2 Just as I am ... To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come!
354 v.4 Lord, let the cleansing blood, blood of the Lamb of God, pass o'er my soul.
356 v.4 A pardon bought with Jesu's blood.
v.5 Pardon bestowed through Jesu's blood.
361 v.5 His bleeding heart shall make you room, His open side will take you in.
363 v.1 Spirit of faith, come down, reveal the things of God;
And make to us the Godhead known, and witness with the blood.
'Tis Thine the blood to apply, and give us eyes to see ... (He) surely died for me.
v.2 Then, only then, we feel our interest in His blood and cry with joy unspeakable: Thou art my Lord, my God!
365 v.1 Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb, Thy blood was shed for me.
368 v.1 Thy bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears ... my name is written on His hands.
370 v.1 Jesu, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress.
v.4 Lord, I believe Thy precious blood ... for me, even for my soul, was shed.
371 v.1 And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood?
Amazing love! How can it be that Thou my God, shouldest die for me?
375 v.3 While Jesu's blood through earth and skies mercy, free, boundless mercy! cries.
377 v.3 We all His unknown peace receive and feel His blood applied. 391 v.1 Thy life was given for me, Thy blood O Lord was shed, that I might ransomed be.
456 v.1 For ever here my rest shall be, close to Thy bleeding side.
465 v.3 Wisdom in a mystery of bleeding love unfold.
500 v.1 His blood for me did once atone.
522 v.1 I could not do without Thee, O Saviour of the lost,
Whose precious blood redeemed me at such tremendous cost.
633 v.1 Thou tender Shepherd of the blood-bought sheep.
21 NIV verses mentioning significant Words and Phrases about the ‘Blood of Christ'
Matthew 26:28; Romans 5:9; I Corinthians 10:16; 11:25; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:12,14; 10:19,29; 12:24; 13:12,20; I Peter 1:2, 18-19; I John 1:7; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11.
My blood of the covenant poured out for forgiveness; Justified by his blood ... Participation in the blood of Christ ... The new covenant in my blood, drink in remembrance of me ... Redemption through his blood ... Brought near through the blood of Christ ... Making peace through his blood shed on the cross ... His own blood obtained eternal redemption ... The blood of Christ will cleanse our consciences ... Confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus ... The blood of the covenant sanctifies... Come to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood ... Jesus suffered to make people holy through his own blood ... God through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus ... Obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood ... Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ ... The blood of Jesus, God's Son purifies us ... To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood be glory for ever and ever! ... You were slain and with your blood you purchased us for God ... A great multitude from every nation have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb ... They overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.
Rev Perry Smith (Belmont, NSW)