(Note that this is a supplemental page for the glossary definition of “blood.“)
Most of Christianity believes that a blood sacrifice (even the blood of God’s only Son) was necessary before sin could be forgiven. But even one example of God forgiving sin without a blood sacrifice would indicate that blood is not necessarily required; certainly not an absolute requirement. There are a number of such examples in scripture, but a particularly interesting one is found in Leviticus in the midst of a discussion of sin offerings:
“But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.”(Lev 5:11)
There is a bloodless sin offering; so blood is not a strict requirement for forgiveness of sin. But then we read:
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)
“Almost” implies an exception so there is more evidence. But doesn’t that verse indicate that blood is required for the remission or forgiveness of at least most sins? The word “remission” there is from the Greek “aphesis” (Strong’s G859) which is related to “apheimi” (Strong’s G863) a word used NOT in reference to God granting forgiveness but, rather, to the sinner receiving it. There is a difference – forgiveness, like many other things in scripture, is actually a two-part transaction. God (the forgiver) grants it (always) and the sinner (the forgivee) receives it (if he is aware it is offered and chooses to). More information and e-book with word study on forgiveness available here.
If the shedding of blood was not an absolute requirement, did God even want it? Actually, there are quite a number of verses which indicate that God was not interested in people offering sacrifices. Yet, He gave considerable instruction concerning sacrificial offerings. How do we resolve this?
First let’s look at the verses which seem negative regarding sacrifices:
“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam 15:22)
“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness [not animals], and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psa 4:5)
“To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Psa 21:3)
“Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” (Psa 40:6)
“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psa 51:16-17)
When a person has a “broken and a contrite heart” then God will be pleased (verse 19, below) with the burnt offerings. Without that attitude of mind (heart) there is no value in the physical offerings.
“Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.” (Psa 51:19)
“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.” (Eccl 5:1)
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.” (Isa 1:11)
This verse is an offer of mercy and pardon with no mention of sacrifices:
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa 55:7)
“For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.” (Jer 7:22-24)
“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
“Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.” (Amos 5:22)
“Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:6-8)
“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matt 12:7)
So how are we to understand that God did not desire sacrifices yet, in many cases, gave instruction concerning them? Perhaps He was giving what would be best for sinners; what He knew they would need so that they could believe they were forgiven.
“And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.” (Deut 6:24)
Here is a very important verse in considering this question:
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.” (Heb 10:4-6)
Also, this verse:
“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:” (Heb 10:11)
It is quite apparent that sacrifices were not to take away sins; this they could never do.
This may be just another example of Divine accommodation – God giving us what we want or need even though it may not have been in God’s original plan or His ideal. This may seem almost heretical but think of this question:
Did Jesus die for us first so that God could then forgive us or did God’s attitude of love and forgiveness lead to Him granting that Jesus die for us?
Perhaps there is a reason why the King James Version says of God 41 times “his mercy endureth for ever.” Perhaps He does forgive all sin just like the Word says.