Although I am a convert to the traditional Lutheran confessions and believe the historic liturgy is generally the proper form of Christian worship, I have a great appreciation for all forms of music. Particularly, I enjoy traditional Gospel music. For this reason, Kanye West’s release of the song and video entitled, “Wash Us in the Blood” fascinated me. This follows Mr. West’s release of the gospel album in late October 2019 entitled, “Jesus is King.” When I watched the video for West’s “Wash Us in the Blood,” I found its mixture of gospel-inspired themes with the commentary on the current issues in American society compelling.
This song seems to be a prayer to God to wash America (or the world) in the blood of Christ. He also asks God to send the Holy Spirit down. The track includes selections from a preacher who identifies the devil and the world as sources of evil. West’s video also brought to my mind Martin Luther’s teaching on the means by which God in fact washes us in blood of Christ and brings down the Holy Spirit upon us.
Remember the explanation of the second article of the Apostles’ Creed from the Small Catechism where Luther wrote that Christ “purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be His own.”* Here Luther borrowed from I Peter 1:18-19 to explain Christ’s redemptive act. In the early 1520s, he published an edited version of his sermons on I Peter. In this text, he described Christ’s blood as a treasure and wrote that “one drop of this innocent blood would have been more than enough for the sin of the whole world.”**
According to Luther, however, how does God distribute this costly treasure to sinners? In Against the Heavenly Prophets (1525) he explained God achieved the forgiveness of sins on the cross but He distributes it through the preached Word and the sacraments.*** In this case, God washes sinners in the blood of Christ and brings the Holy Spirit down to them in holy Baptism. In his lectures on I John 5:8 (1527), Dr. Luther stated that the Christ’s blood is connected to the water of Baptism and the Holy Spirit. He explained in the following manner:
In Baptism there is the blood and the Spirit. If you are baptized with water, the blood of Christ is sprinkled through the Word. If you are baptized in the blood, you are washed at the same time with the Holy Spirit through the Word. Therefore these three must be accepted as one testimony. For these three constantly accompany one another, and through the Word a daily immersion and a perpetual Baptism takes place, a perpetual shedding of the blood of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, a continual cleansing from sins.****
*Small Catechism, Part II, Second Article http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php#creed
**Martin Luther, Sermons on the First Epistle of St. Peter, Luther’s Works 30:36.
***Luther, Against the Heavenly Prophets, LW 40: 213-14.
****Luther, Lectures On The First Epistle of St John, LW 30: 316.