Alice C. Linsley
The Apostle Paul’s authority in the Church is undisputed, yet he is undoubtedly one of the most hated figures of history because of his uncompromising defense of the Gospel. Part of his defense involved refuting the legalism that overthrows the sacrifice of Messiah. Were it possible to be saved by obedience to the Law, the Cross would merely be a tragic moment in history.
Paul understood the Blood of Jesus as the ground that constitutes the Pleroma, the single true all-encompassing Reality. The Church is recognized where this Reality is upheld through apostolic preaching, right doctrine and the dominical sacraments, all of which are efficacious because of the Blood of Jesus. This is what Luther realized after reading Paul's epistles. This is why Luther opposed indulgences, which posited the papal claim of salvific equality with the blood of Jesus beyond the grave. This diminishment of the Blood of Christ was intolerable.
The Apostle Paul's writing influenced St. Augustine, Luther, Calvin and many saints, monks and theologians. His confessional approach to Scripture and the Tradition of Israel is fundamental to a right understanding of the Christian Faith. Paul’s confessional hermeneutic is centered on the Blood of Jesus. He never allows philosophical speculation to lead the Gospel away from the comprehensive reality of the Blood of Jesus. All the things of God are realized in the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Messiah. All Truth comes into focus when viewed through Jesus’ Blood. All worldly striving is shown to be futile by His Blood.
Paul’s focus on “the centrality of the Cross” is one of the greatest strengths of his writings. We must always hold in our sight the bloodied cross upon which Christ’s immaculate Body was given for the salvation of the world. This is the vehicle of salvation, in fulfillment of the prophecies that he would be hanged on a tree.
His Cross is the new Tree of Life, from which we were driven by our sin in the beginning. In this sense, His Blood is restorative. By His Blood we are restored to Paradise and to the divine image. Referring to Moses lifting the staff with the serpent, Jesus tells his disciples, “When I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:34. Also see John 3:14.) In a very real sense, the waters of baptism are Jesus’ Blood, which makes us clean.
I came to understand this is a fresh way through a vision that I had in 1990 while sitting in a quiet church. Suddenly, everything around me disappeared except for the stone baptismal font, which had replaced the altar, front, center and elevated. An angel appeared above the font, and from a golden pitcher poured blood into the font. I knew that it was the Blood of Jesus and I slipped to my knees, overwhelmed by the presence of holiness.
Father Timothy Fountain, a reader of this blog, has noted, “Paul locates both death (burial = unclean) and life (new life) in baptism (Rom. 6) and in I Corinthians 11 says that in communion we proclaim Christ's death and "participate in his blood." Via the sacraments, as you say, the blood of the saints becomes the blood of Christ - "he in us and we in him." When a priest baptizes, chrismates and celebrates at the altar, water, blood and Spirit are all there, both under outward and visible signs and as inward and spiritual grace.”
The Cross was not a random event in history. It is the fulfillment of the most ancient divine promises and hopes of humanity. It was foretold in the Afro-Asiatic Dominion that flourished before the time of Abraham. Consider the linguistic connections between these Afro-Asiatic languages: The Hebrew root "thr" = to be pure, corresponds to the Hausa/Hahm "toro" = clean, and to the Tamil "tiru" = holy. All are related to the proto-Dravidian "tor" = blood. Hausa and Hahm are languages of Nigeria and Tamil and Dravidian are languages of India. These represent the far western and far eastern limits of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion.
The Apostle Paul refers to the Blood of Jesus no less than twelve times in his writings. Because God makes peace with us through the Blood of the Cross, he urges “Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together” (Eph. 4:3). Paul's confession of the saving Blood of Jesus informs his understanding of Baptism and the Body of Christ. He continues: “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all” (Eph. 4:4-5).
The blood of the saints is precious to God because it is the Blood of His eternal Son, by which our communion with God is restored. "But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in His own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single man in Himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the Cross, to unite them both in a single body and reconcile them with God. In His own person He killed the hostility... Through Him, both of us have in one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Eph. 2:13-14).
Thomas von Kempen - Thomas Hammerken (or Hammerlein -- both mean "little hammer") was born at Kempen (hence the "A Kempis") in the duchy of Cleves in Germany around 1380. He w...
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