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What does it mean to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus?

The following question was submitted:

“Reading 1 Peter 1:2, my version says, ‘…sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood.’  What is this referring to?”

This is a great question and involves a concept that is not readily recognized by Christians today.  To the Jewish readers whom Peter addressed, “sprinkling of the blood” would have been well understood.  To Gentile Christians today (that’s us), the meaning is not as clear, and reading the word “sprinkling” in the New Testament makes us a bit uneasy and confused.

The sprinkling of blood had a special significance to the Jews, as it was an integral part of their sacrificial system.  Specifically, in Exodus 24:8, “Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’”  (Note the similarity between these words and Jesus’ words when He instituted the Lord’s Supper.)  Moses sprinkled blood on Aaron, his sons and their garments which “hallowed” and “consecrated” them (Ex. 29:21; Lev. 8:30) before the Lord.

While blood was the means by which God’s people secured atonement in the Old Testament, no matter how much blood was sprinkled, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4).  However, there is power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of Jesus.  “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14).  Like the blood of bulls and goats sprinkled the unclean, the blood of Christ will “cleanse your conscience” completely to serve the living God!  According to 1 Peter 1:2, the blood of Christ is applied to us figuratively in the same manner the blood was applied literally in the Old Testament—by sprinkling.  Is there any other New Testament passage that bears that out and indicates when this takes place?

Hebrews 10:19-22 is full of beautiful imagery that uses Old Testament words and concepts to emphasize the wonder of having become a New Testament Christian.  It is by the blood of Jesus that we have access directly into the presence of God by a new and living way (v. 19-20).  As the old covenant required a High Priest for one to have access to God, the new covenant does likewise, however, it is Jesus who is our High Priest.  He is the only way to God (cf. John 14:6)!  Look at Hebrews 10:22 carefully.  We have access to God (draw near to God) through faith, “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”  So, in this passage, is faith, turning from an evil conscience and baptism (washed with pure water, cf. Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5).  When we are baptized, we “appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:21), and God cleanses us with the blood of His Son (Acts 22:16).

The blood of Christ is figuratively sprinkled on our hearts to cleanse us from an evil conscience when we repent and are baptized (summarized in the word “obedience” in 1 Peter 1:2).  Only then is one elect, sanctified, consecrated and cleansed, in order to serve the living God!