Robert Lowry penned that question and answer in his hymn, “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”. The song has been sung countless times, and the words teach us about the powerful cleansing power that is in the blood of Christ. Undoubtably, Lowry found inspiration for this song from Hebrews 9:22 which says, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins”. It is impossible for anything else to wash away sins.
Sin is a stain. Stains by definition are difficult to remove and they are an eyesore. If our vehicle leaks oil in the driveway it leaves a nasty stain that is difficult to remove. If we leave a glass on a table without a coaster, it will leave a stain that requires sanding and refinishing. If we get deep stains in our clothes, we have to scrub with a stain remover. The point is, removing a stain on anything requires work.
Some stains require work on the part of the individual. A stain in wood, is not going to really be fixed without some elbow grease. Deep grease, or grass stains in clothes sometimes requires intense scrubbing. Then there are stains that are so bad, the only thing that can be done is to take drastic measures. Maybe you have to paint over a stain, or you send off your garment to a professional, or you purchase the industrial strength cleaning agent.
In the early 2000’s a product called OxyClean took off. It had one of the most iconic informercials hosted by the infamous Billy Mays. This product unleashed the “power of oxygen” to remove the stains. And as someone who always had grease stains in my clothes, I can say that it was pretty effective.
OxyClean came in a powder form. We had the little tub of it sitting next to our washing machine. It is no surprise to anyone that OxyClean didn’t clean anything unless I put it in the washing machine. It didn’t clean anything sitting in its tub. It had to be put in the machine with the dirty clothes to clean them.
In the same way, if I had a really dirty pair of jeans, the only way that they would be cleaned was by putting them in the washing machine with the Oxyclean.
Every one of us understands that in order for a stain to be cleansed, the stain has to come in contact with the stain remover.
But just in case we don’t understand that basic rule, there are also instructions on the tub of the cleaner. And we know that a cleaning solution has no guarantee of being effective if we do not follow the instructions.
I say all of that to explain to you that the blood of Christ needs to be understood with the simplicity of this illustration.
We can work on the stains of our sins for our entire lives and they will never go away. We can go buy the thickest “cover paint” that we can find, and they will still seep through. We can scrub and scrub and scrub and that stain will still linger. We can go down the aisle of denominational Christianity and try out every doctrine that people sell to remove the stain of sin, but the fact remains, the blood of Christ is the only sin remover on the planet.
Now, many people will sell you on the blood of Christ. They will tell you that it saves and only it will save. And so they tell you that all you need to do is trust in the power of the gospel and the blood of Christ and it will save you. They say, “get saved, and then find you a church that you like”. Friends, the Bible says that God has placed the blood of Christ in the body of Christ (Eph 1:7), which is the church of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). These folks, have the blood next to the washing machine but they never put it in.
Then there are those that say, oh yes the blood is “in Christ”, but you just believe and you are all of the sudden in Christ. They say at the point of conviction, one is washed in the blood. But that is like filling up the washing machine with the cleaning agent and then never putting the clothes in the machine.
In order for something to be cleansed there has to be the cleaning solution, it has to be used according to the instructions, and then it has to come in contact with the stained item. This is no different with the blood cleansing our sins.
God has done the work of salvation. He has created the miracle cleaner for our sins. He has placed it in the body of Christ. But he has also given instructions for us on how that cleaner is effective. We, as the stained individual, must enter into the body of Christ. Entrance into that body is through baptism (Rom 6:3, Gal 3:27). Baptism is what takes one from outside of Christ, and puts them in Christ. Which is where the blood is.
What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. There is no question among anyone of “what” washes away our sins. The question of dispute is the “when”. When does the blood wash away our sins? At the point of water baptism. "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16).