Sunday, December 03, 2006

Symbolism of the Sacrament: The Blood of Christ

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
(Doctrine & Covenants 20:79, italics added)

Some time ago as I sat during the sacrament pondering the words of the blessing on the water, I wondered about the meaning of Christ's blood. Because I was taking the water “in remembrance of the blood” of Jesus Christ, I decided I needed to study its symbolism more.

Certainly, the blood of Jesus Christ has far more spiritual meaning and relevance than I can relate in a blog entry let alone discover in a lifetime. But my study did lead me to a better understanding of two related doctrines which always confused me: justification and sanctification.

Justification by Blood

According to Paul, we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). As a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder D. Todd Christofferson wrote of justification in the June 2001 Ensign:

Because of “the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice,” Jesus Christ can satisfy or “answer the ends of the law” on our behalf. Pardon comes by the grace of Him who has satisfied the demands of justice by His own suffering, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). He removes our condemnation without removing the law. We are pardoned and placed in a condition of righteousness with Him. We become, like Him, without sin. We are sustained and protected by the law, by justice. We are, in a word, justified. (italics in the original)

In other words, we are no longer condemned by the law because we have been set free or justified by the blood of Jesus Christ who suffered himself to pay the penalties demanded by justice. President Harold B. Lee said, "Justify means to pronounce free from guilt or blame, or to absolve" (Stand Ye in Holy Places, 52-53). According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek meaning of “justification” as used in Romans 4:25 and 5:18 is “the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him.”

Another word which describes this process of justification is remission. In D&C 27:2, the Lord said

For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

The Lord taught this principle of remission to his apostles while giving them the sacrament. He said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek definition of remission is “forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty.”

So by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are justified. In other words, his blood was shed for the remission of our sins.

Sanctification With Christ's Blood

By the Savior's blood are we also sanctified. In his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul wrote, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12).

Defining sanctification, Elder Christofferson wrote, “To be sanctified through the blood of Christ is to become clean, pure, and holy (D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 18). Strong's Concordance confirms the definition of sanctification as used in the New Testament as “consecration, purification.” Note the way Peter uses the term sanctification in 1 Peter 1:1-2:

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

According to Strong's Concordance, an alternative to the term sprinkling is purification. When read with purification in place of sprinkling, this verse makes it clear that sanctification through the blood of Christ leads to purification.

In addition to purification, Elder Christofferson likened sanctification through the blood of Christ to becoming clean. Alma did the same:

[T]here can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.
(Alma 5:21)

John the Apostle also indicates the eternal importance of the cleansing power of Christ's blood:

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
(Revelation 1:5-6)

In summary, let me share my understanding of the relationship between sanctification and justification. Our sins cause two problems which doom us. The first is that by committing sin, we violate laws; as a result, justice requires a penalty. However, through justification, Christ pays that penalty and we are pardoned. The second problem is that our sins make us filthy, and no unclean thing can enter into God's presence. So even if we are pardoned through justification, we are still filthy. But through sanctification, we can be purified until we are “cleansed from all stain” and can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Most importantly, this justification and sanctification come about by the blood of Jesus Christ.


Naiah Earhart said...

I sometimes wonder if the sanctification, the making sacred of, our hearts comes about in our own embrace of the Atonement (making our hearts one with Christ), in which case said sanctification might be necessary for the justification...Hmmm

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. This is the first that I remember hearing the idea that being pardoned from sin still left us filthy. I'm not sure I completely understand or agree just yet, but very interesting thoughts.

Michelle said...

I think I just had a possible a-ha with all of this. Baptism is for the remission of sins, which, to me, implies a connection with justification. We are able to be justified because we are baptized. Or, to put it a different way, without baptism, justification is not possible. But baptism cannot sanctify. The Holy Ghost is the Sanctifier.
Rom. 15: 16
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Alma 13: 12
Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

3 Ne. 27: 20
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

Joseph Smith once said that you might as well baptize a bag of sand if you don't give a person the Holy Ghost; baptism is worthless alone. So, it seems that baptism and confirmation pair up to make justification and sanctification possible. Sure makes those ordinances that much more meaningful to me!

Michelle said...

p.s. I think that would make what Naiah said tie in, too. My husband heard Elder Eyring once say that we can know that the Atonement is active in our lives if we are feeling the Spirit. As we renew our baptismal covenants, we are promised the Spirit. Living our covenants is one key way to embrace the Atonement, and open up the blessing of the Spirit, who brings the blessings of the Atonement into our lives and hearts, purifying us and changing our natures.

TylerD said...

Michelle, thanks for sharing your "a-ha." I hadn't really considered justification and sanctification in light of baptism and the Holy Ghost--brilliant! That adds a new layer of meaning. Of course, baptism does symbolize a cleansing, but clearly the Holy Ghost purifies us "as with fire." Fabulous.

Michelle said...

I just have to say that this is yet another reminder of how there are layers of meaning in even our most "basic" doctrines. Ah. You just gotta love it!

michelle said...

This is also all really interesting to study relative to OT rituals. I think we see some of the same symbolism. Gonna have to mull over that one a bit more....

Doug Towers said...

Your thoughts are interesting, michelle. What you say sounds good. If that connection be true, do you think that the level of our ability to forgive ourselves would therefore be demonstrated by just how effectively we use the Holy Ghost? I know that is taking it a step further, but shouldn't it follow?

Anonymous said...

I think the peace we can find through forgiveness, the power of the Atonement, etc. is found through the Holy Ghost, so I would suspect that what you say would tie into all of this, yes. Nice addition.

Todd Wood said...

Tyler, reading your post this evening, I would encourage you to consider my blog entry tomorrow. Tell me what you think. For that matter any of the rest of the gang.

Share with me what you think of the gospel implications in Romans 7.


Anonymous said...

TylerD, this is a very interesting post to me, and I appreciate the comments, as well. I've been trying for sometime to get a grasp on justification and sanctification and this will help me along.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family!!