Godly Respect for Blood
“I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men.”—ACTS 20:26.
1. How do Paul’s words at Acts 20:26 reflect Jehovah’s view of blood?
THOSE words of the apostle Paul as a Christian reflect his wholesome respect for blood, the fluid of life. Further on in this discussion, we will examine what Paul meant by that statement. But first let us consider what the Creator of animal and human souls says about blood. We have already observed that Jehovah God regards blood, as representing life, to be sacred. Those who wantonly or carelessly shed blood, and in particular human blood, become bloodguilty before God. However, are there not ways that blood may be used for benefiting mankind?
2. (a) Why was it a capital offense for those in Israel to eat blood? (b) How were the Israelites benefited by keeping that law?
2 God’s law to Israel regarding blood stated emphatically: “You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul [life, King James Version; American Standard Version] of every sort of flesh is its blood. Anyone eating it will be cut off.” It was a capital offense for Israelites or alien residents among them to partake of blood, even for needed nourishment. Before they ate the flesh, they must pour the blood out and cover it with dust, thus figuratively returning the life to God. (Leviticus 17:13, 14) That was a divine law. By keeping it, those Israelites maintained a healthy spiritual relationship with Jehovah, the Source of life. And they also enjoyed secondary benefits, in the preservation of physical health.
The Blood of the Christ
3. (a) Why is Jesus’ blood outstandingly “precious”? (b) How do the Hebrew Scriptures point forward to Jesus’ sacrifice?
3 However, Jehovah had in mind one outstanding use of blood. This was in ransoming mankind from sin and death by means of the “precious blood” of Christ Jesus. Even before “the founding of the world” (through sinful Adam and Eve’s bringing forth redeemable offspring), Jehovah foreknew how he would deliver mankind. (1 Peter 1:18-20; Romans 6:22, 23) It is “the blood of Jesus his Son [that] cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) So important is this use of blood that God caused to be recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures many types and shadows pointing forward to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.—Hebrews 8:1, 4, 5; Romans 15:4.
4. What foregleams were provided in the drama recorded at Genesis chapter 22?
4 Centuries before giving the Law to Israel, Jehovah commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. Thus God illustrated how he would sacrifice his only-begotten Son, Jesus. Isaac’s willing submission in this dramatic episode pictured Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s will in pouring out his lifeblood in sacrifice.—Genesis 22:1-3, 9-14; Hebrews 11:17-19; Philippians 2:8.
5. How were the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law deep with spiritual meaning?
5 The Mosaic Law also provided “a shadow of the good things to come,” pointing forward to Jesus’ sacrifice in behalf of mankind. The Law allowed for only one use of blood—in animal sacrifices to Jehovah. Those sacrifices were no mere ritual. They were deep with spiritual meaning. In minute detail, they foreshadowed Jesus’ sacrifice and all that would be accomplished through it.—Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:16, 17.
6. The Atonement Day sacrifices foreshadow redemption for what two groups? In what way?
6 For example, Aaron’s handling of the Atonement Day sacrifices pictured how the great High Priest, Jesus, uses the merit of his own precious lifeblood in providing salvation, first for his priestly “house” of 144,000 anointed Christians so that they may have righteousness imputed to them and gain an inheritance as kings and priests with him in the heavens. Next, the sacrifice on behalf of “the people” pictured Jesus’ ransoming all those of mankind who will inherit everlasting life here on earth. Even now, “a great crowd” of these are accounted righteous for survival out of the impending great tribulation. This is because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” and show their faith by rendering God sacred service.—Leviticus 16:6, 15, 18-22; Hebrews 9:11, 12; Revelation 14:1, 4; 7:4, 9, 14, 15.
7. Why may we rejoice in the fulfillment of those ancient types?
7 ‘The life is in the blood.’ Jesus’ blood was perfect, so that his sacrifice results in bestowing perfect life on all those exercising faith. How we can rejoice that those ancient types have been fulfilled in Jesus’ loving sacrifice!—Leviticus 17:14; Acts 20:28.
Blood—A Moral Issue
8, 9. (a) What are some of the marvelous functions of blood? (b) Like David, how may we express godly respect for the way we are made?
8 Astounding wisdom is to be seen in the design of blood. Evolutionists, still at a loss to explain the origin of life, would try to tell us that our lifeblood evolved somehow. How incredible!
9 Our complex blood performs marvelous functions indeed. It conveys life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients to all parts of our body. It removes wastes. It carries white corpuscles to fight disease and platelets that repair minor and major injuries. It helps to regulate body temperature. Our blood is distinct to each one of us; geneticists in England are even talking of using “DNA fingerprints” produced from blood samples for identifying criminals. Blood is an organ among many body parts that caused King David to exclaim: “O Jehovah, you have searched through me, and you know me. I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made”!—Psalm 139:1, 14.
10. (a) Who should determine how blood may be used? (b) What clear direction did God give to Noah and to Israel? (c) What example shows that blood is sacred even when an emergency arises?
10 Should not the righteous Fashioner of mankind, the Designer of our blood, be the One to determine how that stream of life may properly be used? (Job 36:3) That he has done in no uncertain way. He declared to our forefather Noah: “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” (Genesis 9:4) And in repeating his Law to Israel, he clearly stated: “Simply be firmly resolved not to eat the blood, because the blood is the soul and you must not eat the soul with the flesh. You must not eat it. You should pour it out upon the ground as water.” (Deuteronomy 12:23, 24) No doubt David had this commandment in mind when three of his warriors risked their lives in order to bring him drinking water from the cistern in Bethlehem. He “poured it out to Jehovah” as representing their lifeblood. (2 Samuel 23:15-17) Not even in an emergency may the sacredness of blood be ignored.—See also 1 Samuel 14:31-34.
In the Christian Congregation
11, 12. (a) What spirit-directed body ruled on doctrinal questions in the first century? (b) On what religious plane did this body place the partaking of blood? (c) Why are blood transfusions to be equated with eating blood through the mouth?
11 Can you visualize a large room in first-century Jerusalem? Gathered there are Jesus’ apostles and other elders of the Christian congregation. What is their topic of discussion? Paul and Barnabas have come up from Antioch to lay before them a problem that has arisen there regarding circumcision. That council decides that newly converted Christians do not need to undergo fleshly circumcision.—Acts 15:1, 2, 6, 13, 14, 19, 20.
12 In stating this decision, the governing body back there summarized requirements that still rest on Christians. They said: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled [so as to retain the blood] and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” (Acts 15:28, 29) So idolatry, the partaking of blood, and fornication are placed on the same religious plane. Christians must abstain from all of these to maintain good spiritual health and share in the fulfillment of God’s promises. With regard to blood, it matters not whether this is eaten through the mouth or transfused through the veins. The purpose is the same—to sustain and nourish the body. As the governing body clearly indicated, failure to abstain from blood is a violation of the law of God.
13. (a) Abstaining from blood has resulted in what added protection for Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) How have other divine laws served to protect God’s people?
13 The current proliferation of AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases through blood transfusions indicates that good physical health is also often involved in the keeping of God’s laws. In Bible times, God gave Israel specific laws on diet, quarantine, hygiene, and sanitation that were well suited to their wilderness sojourn. (Leviticus 11:2-8; 13:2-5; Deuteronomy 23:10-13) By observing those regulations, Israel not only maintained a close spiritual relationship with their God but were also safeguarded physically from diseases that plagued their neighbors. It has only been during the past century that medical men have begun to appreciate the practical wisdom behind some of those laws. Many are coming to realize, too, that God’s law on blood makes sense.
14. When Israel obeyed, what healing and blessings were available to them?
14 When Israel obeyed, God fulfilled toward them the promise: “If you will strictly listen to the voice of Jehovah your God and will do what is right in his eyes and will indeed give ear to his commandments and keep all his regulations, I shall put none of the maladies upon you that I put upon the Egyptians; because I am Jehovah who is healing you.” More importantly, obedience kept Israel in line for future Kingdom blessings.—Exodus 15:26; 19:5, 6.
15. What recent example illustrates how we may be blessed in obeying God’s regulations?
15 Jehovah’s Witnesses appreciate the many benefits provided by modern medicine. For example, when a Kingdom Hall near Sydney, Australia, was destroyed by a terrorist bomb last year and more than 50 injured Witnesses were rushed to a nearby hospital, these were grateful that the doctors had on hand a plentiful supply of nonblood fluids to transfuse. All the injured survived. They could be thankful for these transfusions that were in harmony with Jehovah’s regulations. As a further plus, none of them were in danger of being infected by diseases that can be transmitted by blood.
“Clean From the Blood of All Men”
16. Like Paul, what attitude should we show toward sacred service?
16 However, let us turn again to the first century. Some seven years have passed since Paul and Barnabas heard James announce the prohibition on idolatry, blood, and fornication. During that time Paul has made two missionary trips through Asia Minor and on into Eastern Europe. Now, on his return through Miletus, he is able to talk with the Ephesian elders, who come down to meet him there. He reminds them that he has not spared himself among them in “slaving for the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind and tears and trials.” Are we today as self-sacrificing in giving of our all in Jehovah’s service? We should be.—Acts 20:17-19.
17. Like Paul, how should we perform our service?
17 How had Paul performed that service? He witnessed wherever he found people, principally at their homes, and without regard to their religious background. He had not held back from instructing those elders, and no doubt they had accompanied him as he taught “publicly and from house to house.” They had not been the only ones to benefit from Paul’s zealous ministry, for he had ‘thoroughly borne witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus.’ Note that word “thoroughly.” Are we today thorough in seeing that all kinds of people, all ethnic groups, receive the witness?—Acts 20:20, 21; Revelation 14:6, 7.
18. (a) Like Paul, how should we involve our soul in God’s service? (b) Like Paul, how should we proceed in the face of increasing pressures?
18 The word “thorough” appears also in Paul’s next statement: “I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 20:24) There would be no value to his soul, or life, if he did not thus fulfill his ministry. Do we feel that way about our ministry? As these last days run toward completion, and as stresses, persecutions, sicknesses, or advancing years bear in on us, do we still display a spirit like Paul’s in searching thoroughly for “deserving” households?—Matthew 10:12, 13; 2 Timothy 2:3, 4; 4:5, 7.
19. Why could Paul say, “I am clean from the blood of all men”?
19 Paul did not expect to see those Ephesian elders again. However, with full confidence he could say to them: “I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men.” How so? Paul had not shed blood in warfare. He had not eaten blood. But he had been most interested in the lives of others, as represented by their blood. He did not want to see them lose their lives in God’s Day of Judgment because of his failure to give a thorough witness. He had not held back from telling those elders and others “all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:26, 27.
20. (a) In line with Jehovah’s repeated warning to Ezekiel, what responsibility should we discharge today? (b) What will result to ourselves and those who listen to us?
20 As the “great tribulation” draws closer, the need to declare all the counsel of God becomes ever more urgent. The situation is similar to that some 2,600 years ago when Jerusalem’s destruction was impending. The word of Jehovah came to his prophet Ezekiel, saying: “Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me. When I say to someone wicked, ‘You will positively die,’ and you do not actually warn him and speak in order to warn the wicked one from his wicked way to preserve him alive, he being wicked, in his error he will die, but his blood I shall ask back from your own hand.” (Ezekiel 3:17-21; 33:7-9) Jehovah’s anointed servants and the “great crowd” of their companions bear a similar responsibility today. Our witness should be thorough. Thus, during the day of God’s vengeance, we may be saved along with those who listen to us.—Isaiah 26:20, 21; 1 Timothy 4:16; Revelation 7:9, 14, 15.
21. In what ways may we show godly respect for blood, and with what outcome?
21 In the matters of Christian neutrality, of abstaining from blood, of giving a thorough witness, and of exercising faith in Jesus’ precious sacrifice, let each one of us be determined to obey all of God’s counsel. Thus we may share in the joyous fulfillment of Psalm 33:10-12: “Jehovah himself has broken up the counsel of the nations; he has thwarted the thoughts of the peoples. To time indefinite the very counsel of Jehovah will stand . . . Happy is the nation whose God is Jehovah.”
How would you answer?
□ What one use of blood brings lasting blessings?
□ How do we benefit by abstaining from blood?
□ How may we keep “clean from the blood of all men”?
□ What example of thoroughness should we follow?
[Blurb on page 26]
The Wall Street Journal of March 20, 1986, carried an article under the title: “Blood Banks Aren’t Safe From AIDS.” The opening paragraph reads: “The U.S. blood supply is less safe than blood-banking organizations would have us believe. Transfusions are potentially a prime pathway for spreading Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome beyond the current high-risk groups to the general population. The AIDS antibody test used to screen blood donations cannot guarantee that all tainted units will be detected. Worse still, blood bankers are reluctant to take measures that would improve the safety of transfusions.”