I have read many books by orthodox Christian authors over the past 20 or so years. I have appreciated them and gleaned from each important points of doctrine and praxis. There are a few books that have profoundly challenged my perspective on how to interpret Scripture and my understanding of the implementation of biblical teachings. The careful study of these writers has also forced me to reconsider the validity of some received Church practices (of the different streams of Christian tradition). Two books in particular have led me into a new experience of worship of the living God and to gratefully speak in praise of the blood. Those are The Power of the Blood of Jesus and The Blood of the Cross, by Andrew Murray.
When I write for this blog, the content ranges from commentary on Scripture or engaging theological ideas; reflecting on theological gems I have found in books; presenting arguments for or against particular philosophical or theological conceptions. This essay has a very different purpose as I have crafted it to introduce some outstanding Christian books to the readers so they might consider acquiring them and benefiting from a thoughtful reading and study themselves.
Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was Dutch and served as a pastor in South Africa in the Dutch Reformed Church. Among some protestants he is now known mainly due to his writings, translated from Dutch to English, on prayer and Christian spirituality. He wrote two books on the subject of Christ’s blood: The Power of the Blood of Jesus and The Blood of the Cross. They are based on series of sermons he gave at his congregation in South Africa. The first is written more in the style of a book examining the biblical theology of the blood (with application to life). The second book, The Blood of the Cross, leaves the reader with the sense of having heard the content of much of the first book preached.
Murray argues throughout that God wants believers to know the blessing of understanding the power of the blood of Christ. Indeed, this is a necessity if the Lord’s people are to be able to live in spiritual freedom and ever deepening experience of the boundless grace of God. In one place he says,
“Believing in the rich, spiritual, living content of each Word of God, the learner must understand that ‘the blood of the Son of God’ is a subject the glory of which God alone knows, and He alone can reveal. He must believe it is possible for each effect which is ascribed to the blood, to be brought about by a manifestation of divine power that is beyond our conception. In this attitude of mind he should take up, and meditate on, first what one portion of Scripture says about the blood, and then what another portion says, so that the Holy Spirit may apply to his soul something of its life-giving power. It is only by such a use of ‘the Word,’ in dependence upon the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that faith can be strengthened so as to recognize and receive what the blood has to bestow.” (Murray, The Blood of the Cross, p.63)
The theological subjects he covers (in part) include redemption, motivation and courage toward missions work, Christ’s (and thus believer’s) overcoming sin, the expression of God’s love through the cross, God’s sanctifying of his people (as mirrored in Old Testament regulations for the sacrificial Alter), the Lord’s Supper and the blood, the Person of Christ as the Lamb, God’s deliverance and protection through the blood (Exodus 12), the implications of Christ purchasing us by his own blood, the work of the Trinity and the blood (1 Peter 1:1-2) and the eternal effects of being “washed in the blood” (Revelation 1:5-6). This summary merely surveys the main biblical themes he engages and elaborates on. His meditations on Scripture and applications for Christian spirituality are profound and challenge the reader to further seek God for revelation about these things.
One gets the sense that Murray has just begun to describe the reality of God’s work to redeem, cleanse and restore human beings. Yet even then there is a theological depth that he takes the willing reader into that demands a heart response to the Lord Jesus. He was a pastor and as such his theology is always oriented toward the practicalities of appropriating the truth of the Word of God.
As I read and re-read The Blood of the Cross, I was moved to stop and simply adore the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God for his love. In certain sections of his exposition I was taken up with awe wonder because I saw in my minds’ eye how beautiful God’s chosen means of salvation is towards us. This was more than one of those intellectual “aha” moments—that has happened frequently even when I was reading books I would not consider in the category of “great Christian books.” There is something about his clarity of understanding on this subject that led me to stop reading and analyzing with my mind and simply speak in praise of the blood.
What makes these two books so outstanding is that they give evidence of a life characterized by obedient faith. Andrew Murray knew experientially what he was teaching. Thus these writings not only clearly explain the meaning of Scripture but also impress that truth into the minds of receptive readers. This has been my experience. I am grateful to the Father that he prepared me to be receptive to the words of this servant of God of prior generations.
I recommend reading both of these books together as Murray wrote them to complement each other; together they give the full picture of what he taught his own congregation. The modern English editions I have utilized are The Power of the Blood of Jesus (First Rate Publishers) and The Blood of the Cross (Martino Publishing: 2012). (Although it should be noted that there are errors in the typesetting in this edition of The Power of the Blood, presumably because it is a reprint of an older edition, but one can still make out the intended words.) I recommend reading these in order, with intentional care to not hurry through the material. Rather, savor and contemplate the words and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding of both Murray’s points but also of the fuller implications of the truth he sought to explain and guide people into appropriating for themselves.