"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

What About the Gospel Causes People Offense or Shame?

Our church auditorium is decorated for Christmas and it looks absolute stunning. The inside holiday decor of our church could have been lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting. Our maintenance workers keep the buildings spotlessly clean, the woodwork polished, the lights illuminated, and the atmosphere festive yet relaxing. People who come to worship this weekend for any of our Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services will feel as if they are walking into the comfort of someone's living room. Plush chairs, moderate temperatures, and pleasing aesthetics will give the worshipper a sense and feel of the beauty of the holiday season. I don't believe Emmanuel is unique. Church buildings and church worship services throughout the nation will be just as beautiful, just as comfortable, just as pleasing.  There is nothing wrong with the emphasis churches put on beautiful church grounds or holiday decorating.  I think people who only come to church at Christmas time will enjoy what they see. What I'm not sure about is whether or not they will enjoy what they hear. At Emmanuel this Christmas morning, just like we have done each Sunday morning throughout the past year, we will study a portion of the book of Hebrews. As I walked through our beautiful auditorium to my office to print off the outline which will be passed out to worshippers on Christmas, I couldn't help but reflect on the text from Hebrews 9:13-14 and wonder if the gospel of Jesus Christ might be offensive to some this coming Sunday.

In a message entitled "The Ashes of the Red Heifer: The Greatest Gift You Will Ever Be Given," I will show how the Hebrew people sacrificed, burned, and then used the ashes of a red heifer in the Old Testament. The slaying of this young red heifer--a female cow with red skin which had never given birth or been yoked--is initially prescribed by God in Numbers 19. I will illustrate how the Hebrew priest killed the red heifer outside the gates of the city, drained the blood of the heifer into a basin, dipped his fingers into the blood and then sprinkled the blood toward the Temple. I will then explain how the heifer's carcass would be placed on a special altar and burned, with the ashes of the heifer picked up and kept for use by the entire Hebrew nation. If a Hebrew worshipper became ceremonially unclean by touching a dead body, the ashes of the heifer would be mixed with water and sprinkled on the defiled person. After the sprinkling of the ashes, the unclean person would be deemed "cleansed" by God and allowed back into the Temple courtyard to continue the worship of Yahweh through the regular sacrifices of lambs and goats, pigeons and doves, and in some cases bulls. Hebrew worship was not neat or clean. Hebrew worship involved death and blood. Not just a little blood, a lot of blood.  Listen to how Charles Haddon Spurgeon described Hebrew worship:
Everywhere blood was sure to greet your eyes. Blood was the one most prominent thing under the Jewish economy, scarcely a ceremony was observed without it. You could not enter into any part of worship but that you saw traces of the blood-sprinkling. Sometimes there were bowls of blood cast at the foot of the altar. The slaughter of animals was the manner of worship; the effusion of blood was the appointed rite, and the diffusion of that blood on the floor, on the curtains, and on the vestments of the priests was the constant memorial. The place of worship looked so like a meat market, that to visit it must have been far from attractive to the natural taste, and to delight in it, a man had need of a spiritual understanding and a lively faith."
The Apostle Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). There is something in the gospel that causes people to shrink back in embarrassment and shame. What is it? It's definitely not the beauty and aesthetics of our modern worship buildings. Our church buildings often look like 5th Avenue stores. Offense doesn't come from the method of our worship via our video and audio technologies,. We often look more Hollywood than Hollywood. Shame can't come from the church furnishings and decor because our churches are often more stylish and vogue than many of the homes from which the people come. What is it about the gospel that causes people shame?

I propose it is blood sacrifice that causes offense. Specifically, it is the belief that Jesus came to shed His blood. To believe that God planned from the beginning for Jesus to die, shedding His own blood for the remission of our sins, invites ridicule from others. Peter ignored the offense and shame that Christ's death brings and declared at Pentecost that "this Jesus, delivered by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God ... is raised up again, putting an end to the agony of death" (Acts 2:23-24). The Spirit used Peter's message to bring deliverance to 3,000 people from their bondage to sin and death. But when Stephen later took this same gospel message to the religious leaders they stoned him (Acts 7). People in their natural state, even refined religious people, do not wish to hear about the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. We like our religions clean and neat. But the gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ died as our Red Heifer. God commanded the Hebrews in the Old Covenant to kill the red heifer in order to cleanse them of their defilement, but that ordinance was only a picture and foreshadowing of the Son of God whom the Father was sending to be killed for our cleansing (Matthew 1:21). The death Jesus died should have been the death we died--forsaken by God. But Jesus died as our Substitute. "He (Jesus) who knew no sin, became sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21) says the gospel, that "we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." He died as my Goat, my Lamb, my sacrificial Subtitute. But whereas the blood of bulls and goats in the Old Covenant could not cleanse the sinner's conscience or put an end to death, the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary does this and so much more. That's the theme for this coming Christmas message. "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14).

The book of Hebrews shows both the symmetry and the differences between the age of Law (prior to the cross) and the gospel age (this side of the cross). The worship of the Hebrews in the Old Testament looks nothing like the worship of Christians in the New Testament. Even though some pastors erroneously try to present themselves as the new priesthood and many of our non-profit church institutions portray themselves as new Temples, the manner in which God's people worship Him has radically changed since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The message of the early apostles and disciples of Christ was clear "No one is justified by the Law before God, for 'THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.' The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.' Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE'--in order that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:12-14). The early Hebrew Christians had been steeped in their 'ancestral traditions' of animal sacrifice (Galatians 1:14). After the resurrection of Christ, God's people were no longer required to offer the sacrifices. Animal sacrifice is over. The Righteous Judge had fulfilled the Law for us in His Son. God did not lay aside the Law of sin and death, but rather He fufilled it in Jesus Christ that "He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus" (Romans  3:26).

The message of blood sacrifice is the message of Christmas. Jesus came to die. His resurrection from the dead means sinners who trust Him will never experience separation from the goodness and love of God. Sin separates. Christ's sacrifice brings an at-one-moment (atonement) between sinners and God. The Creator is good to sinners, but it is only because of Jesus' death and the sinners' faith in Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the red heifer sacrifice, and it is His blood that cleanses us. It is this message of blood sacrifice which offends so many, but it is the only message that gives hope to the defiled.  When you join your family in worship this Christmas weekend, you will not be bringing a lamb to be sacrificed, because God has provided the Lamb. You will not be bringing a red heifer to the altar, for God has given the Red Heifer. You will not be shedding blood with your own hands, for God has shed His blood for us. Turn your eye of faith toward the shed blood of Jesus Christ and believe what He has accomplished for sinners. Our conscience is cleansed because we rest in Christ. The promise of God's goodness for eternity is ours because we approach God through the merits and sacrifice of His Son. We rejoice in the Father's love because He gave us His Son. Jesus Christ has come, Jesus Christ has died, and Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. This is the message of Christmas. It may offend some, but the truth of this message draws from us our worship of God. It may be ridiculed by some, but it is adored by us. It may cause some shame, but we echo the words of the Apostle Paul, "We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes."


Jeff Rogers said...

Halelujah for the blood. This is true gospel preaching.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Steven Stark said...

The idea of the penal substitution of Christ is offensive. One can say, "ah, but that's because you don't have the spirit of God! It is offensive to men," but that is an argument that could be used to approve anything.

Punching people in your way is offensive to you? you don't have the spirit.....throwing rocks at Canaanites is offensive? you don't have the spirit...bloody revenge offends you? ah! you must not have the spirit. Killing innocents with a suicide bombing?..... .....etc. etc. etc.

Is revenge the central point of Christianity, upon which love is a lesser point, an escape route for some? Or is love the central tenant, where punishment is seeking to bring about better outcomes, making the world a more loving place?

Another important point to consider is that the human notion of justice, of right and wrong, is the only one that we have. If something violates it, it is not coherent to call it just any longer.

Luckily there are alternate interpretations for Christ's mission, and I rejoice that we can all come together this month and celebrate a central spiritual core - giving, sacrifice, hope against all odds, compassion - despite our specific interpretation of the story.

I enjoyed the description of Emmanuel's decor. I have fond memories of the Christmas Pageant there. Merry Christmas to all!

wadeburleson.org said...


I agree with you. The Scripture is quite clear that substitutionary atonement is offensive to people.

That's the point of the post.

Ultimately, the argument you have is with the God who said, "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).

Unlike a few of my fellow Bible-believing Christians, I have no angst, animosity or grievance toward those who do not believe that Christ died for sinners. To be consistent with the logic of it all, those who reject Christ's work for sinners answer to God, not men.

By the way, I do agree with you as well when you say the greatest principle is love. Jesus said "No greater love has man than this that He lay down His life for His friends."

Ultimately, it boils down to acceptance of Scripture as the plumb line for truth, and if there is a rejection of Scripture as the authoritative Word of God, then there is a rejection of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ.

wadeburleson.org said...


One further thought. It is preaching the Bible verse by verse for over 30 years, from Genesis to Revelation, that has caused me to have such a firm belief in substitutionary atonement.

Hearing homilies with no foundation in Scripture itself would by the very nature of public speaking avoid the subject of substitionary atonement.

And, finally, the evidence that the blood of Christ has truly cleansed the sinner is the sinner's agape (unconditional) love for others, including homosexuals, adulterers, murderers, abusers, thieves and the like--for such were we (Ephesians 2:1-3; notice the past tense of the verb 'were').

Anonymous said...


Yes, I have fond memories of Christmas pageants too! And that picture at the top...brings back memories! (-: There were many times when I participated in the pageant there where I wondered...what it would have actually been like back during that time. How interesting it would have been to walk the streets back then. To have been apart of the real market back then when Jesus entered. Oh how that must have been a sight to have seen. The market scene in the pageant was one of my fav. parts of the pageant to be apart of.

When you say plush chairs...did they get rid of the pews?


Wanda (Deb) Martin said...


I know those who attend Emmanuel this Sunday will be blessed beyond measure. Wish I could hear you deliver your Christmas message in person.

Whenever I think of Jesus' atoning work on the cross the word "sacrifice" comes to mind.

May you and your family have a Christ-filled Christmas!

Garen Martens said...

This Christmas sermon will certainly be different than any Christmas sermon I've ever heard.

Steven Stark said...

Hi Wade,

“The Scripture is quite clear that substitutionary atonement is offensive to people.”

Would it then be fair to say that this element of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, violates our sense of natural law? Our sense of right and wrong?

“Ultimately, it boils down to acceptance of Scripture as the plumb line for truth”

This is certainly a huge issue. Scripture is a product of flawed humanity - but it points towards our moral evolution (for instance, away from ancient codes of retribution and towards love [which does not discount punishment of course]). Scripture is not the ultimate truth, but if there is an ultimate truth, it may be a great signpost to help us. So you’re right, I would not describe Scripture as the plumb line for truth.

But of course, all theological reflection requires the belief that there is more work to be done beyond Scripture - and that our interpretation of Scripture must conform to certain ideas of logic and morality - else the practice of theology is meaningless.

“Unlike a few of my fellow Bible-believing Christians, I have no angst, animosity or grievance toward those who do not believe that Christ died for sinners. “

No, I never thought you did. I think you have a very charitable spirit for those you disagree with!

“And, finally, the evidence that the blood of Christ has truly cleansed the sinner is the sinner's agape”

I believe that agape (I usually say compassion) is truly the moral goal of the universe. But I don’t think the ability for agape is accomplished by revenge for its own sake. In other words, punishment must serve a purpose to be moral, not just tit-for-tat, which is simply the creation of more suffering for no purpose. Moral punishment seeks to make things better - it is an active part of love, not its counterweight.

Funnily enough, I feel that we are hair’s breadth apart. We both think agape love is the moral ideal. I think that God would always act with agape, because that is what He is, in all things. And a person can certainly believe that Christ "died for sinners" without believing that it was actually to satisfy a vendetta. It was something to instruct us, to convict our hearts. Something to show us that God suffers too.

rixshep said...

Amen, Wade!

A religion of a Christ without the Cross would make no sense. Scripture acknowledges this in so many ways and places. Galatians 2:21 says "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died to no purpose."

Yet He did die to a purpose! The cross is so important for people to understand.

What does God think of your good deeds, your bad deeds, any or all of your own works? Look to the cross. Even our "righteousness" is as filthy rags, according to scripture. The cross is what we deserve.

But, what does God think of you? Of me? Of all of us? Look again at the cross! WE are not on it! He is there in our place! Infinite and ultimate love! So, yes, the message IS one of love. But nothing, not even love, has complete relevance if it is not in a context, if only seen through a part of the spectrum of reality.

Those who deny this do not want the real God. They want half a god. They reject balance, which we finite beings need to understand One who is infinite in scope.

Scripture itself is complete and clear, to those who accept the totality of it, instead of setting themselves up as higher than God and scripture by choosing for themselves which parts they will accept and which parts they will not.

Looking forward to your Christmas day sermon, brother!


Christiane said...

The Holy Gospels stands witness to just how offended some were at the idea of the blood of Christ:

The Gospel of St. John, chapter 6 records one such reaction . . .

"60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard;
who can accept it?”
61 Since Jesus knew that His disciples were murmuring about this, He said to them,
“Does this shock you? "

wadeburleson.org said...


You wrote: "Funnily enough, I feel that we are hair’s breadth apart. We both think agape love is the moral ideal."

I agree. I see the agape love of God in Christ's death. One of my favorite verses is from Romans. "What shall we say then to this? If God be for us, whow can be against us? He who spared not His own Son, how shall He also not give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? I am persuaded that neither death nor life, principalities or powers, that's that are or things that are to come shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Merry Christmas

Debbie Kaufman said...

Would it then be fair to say that this element of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, violates our sense of natural law? Our sense of right and wrong?

Yes Steven, I would say that. It seems wrong that so perfect a man who is also God, so innocent a man who is also God would die in my place for sin I am guilty for. But He did.

wadeburleson.org said...


I wish I had known some of the things I have since discovered when we were in Jerusalem. In Temple days there used to be a bridge called "Red Heifer Bridge" that ran out the Eastern Gate, across the valley, to the Mt. of Olives. You can see it in one of the pictures. I am halfway becoming convinced that Calvary is near the Mt. of Olives, not far from the Garden of Gethsemane, near the altar of the Red Heifer sacrifice--to fulfill all the types of the Old Covenant. We'll see.

wadeburleson.org said...


Could not have said it better! Good word.

wadeburleson.org said...


What a WONDERFUL surprise we received today from you and Dee. I have long heard of Sherri's Berrys but for the first time was able to try them due to your generosity! Thank you so much!! They were delicious and I have successfully fought off most of the kids from eating the chocolate covered strawberrys (but I've shared with Rachelle). Thank you so much for you kindness. You both will be receiving a thank you letter soon!


wadeburleson.org said...


I was thinking more of our Sunday REFUGE services in the multi-purpose facility. We have chairs there. When we get to the auditorium remodel (after our new youth center) there will be chairs in the auditorium (removal of the pews) for our services there as well.

wadeburleson.org said...


Love your logic (as always).

Anonymous said...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to for this post!

I get so tired of hearing we cannot preach the blood because it offends.

Yes, it does.

It is supposed to offend.

And if our faith is to be more than moralistic theraputic deism, we must stand firm on this issue.

Merry Christmas to all, and Pastor Wade, THIS is the "sermon" I will take to heart and treasure this Christmas!


wadeburleson.org said...


Thanks! And though I don't say it enough, thanks for all your contributions to the kingdom in your writings and comments.

Merry Christmas!

Paul Burleson said...


I agree with Linda and would add that I do think the offense of the Cross is sometimes exacerbated by those who teach it because of the way they present it. That is generally caused by a tone of anger and rejection of all sinners that is heard in the voice and attitude of the one trying to give a presentation of the argument. Thanks for being FAR from that in this post.

Also, I've discovered, after my years of study and reflection on the scriptures concerning His sacrifice at the Cross, that this understanding of the "penal Substitutionary" death of Christ as you have presented it, is. in fact, His LOVE on display.

I read where someone said this, with which I agree wholeheartedly. [All the capitalized words are my emphasis.]....

"The passion to pack God into a CONCEPTUAL BOX OF OUR OWN MAKING is always strong, but must be resisted. If we bear in mind that ALL THE KNOWLEDGE we can have of the ATONEMENT is of a MYSTERY about which we can only THINK AND SPEAK BY MEANS OF MODELS, and which REMAINS A MYSTERY WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, it will keep us from rationalistic pitfalls and thus help our progress [toward understanding] considerably."

Excellent Christmas message. Mom and I will listen via Internet.

Jeff Rogers said...

Steven, I think Wade is correct, that your argument is really with God.

But to take it just a bit further, I think you are looking at sin differently then how God views sin. God's view of sin is that it is worthy of death.

Death often involves blood-shed. And that token of blood, (proof that death has occurred) is what is called propitiation...or the satisfaction that God's requirement that sin be dealt with has been accomplished through the blood and the death of a substitute.

Lacking a substitute the sinner is left to answer directly before God for his own sin.

That is the entire point of the gospel. God has provided that substitute through his own son, the perfect life, the sinless life, offered to take the place in judgement and in death for those of us who had not capacity to provide that satisfaction to God.

I understand your revulsion at the whole issue....It is revolting. It is revolting because the bloody vengeful death is illustrative of how horrible sin is.

Sin is the offensive part of the whole equation. The fact that God provided a way to deal with this gruesome issue of sin is a glorious thing, and yes, offensive to many. But it is hardly offensive to those who have embraced it as their only way to be rectified, restored and brought back into right relationship with our creator.

Keep hammering this out in your heart and see if the offense may diminish some as you recognize how really ugly sin is in the first place. God bless you in your journey.

Wade Burleson said...

Good word Jeff.

Anonymous said...

autiemWade; Too many times in the past few years I have responded to you in the negative because of my disagreement with some things you proposed. But today forbid it me to let it pass without saying to you I am in total agreement with this post and fully intend to hear this sermon. God bless you and your family. You hone my blade.
Jim Sadler

Anonymous said...

Don't know where that antiem came from.

wadeburleson.org said...

Merry Christmas Jim.

Steven Stark said...

Hi Jeff,

“Keep hammering this out in your heart and see if the offense may diminish some as you recognize how really ugly sin is in the first place.”

I just don’t see how more sin will fix sin. Sin is pretty terrible, and two wrongs don’t make a right. Surely God overcomes evil with good, not with the continuation of violence and suffering. Humans are the ones who caused the suffering of an innocent person in Christ. It’s to our shame, and if it leads to salvation it is because of a conviction of our hearts, not because it satisfied a vendetta.

Hi Debbie,

“It seems wrong that so perfect a man who is also God, so innocent a man who is also God would die in my place for sin I am guilty for.”

I can recognize the very wonderful root of the feelings you describe. We are imperfect, even terrible at times. The idea of forgiveness, of compassion from God, of being loved in spite of our deficiencies and the suffering they have caused, is overwhelming and wonderful.

Please don’t mistake my “offense” at the doctrine of the penal substitution for offense at the spiritual feelings you are describing. I simply think that the penal substitution is a morally problematic way to describe the sincere feelings of gratefulness you are describing.

Many have said that my actual argument is with God. No, my argument is with a concept of God - the one espoused here. A Muslim would probably tell you, if you do not accept the Koran, that “your argument is with God, not me.”

So this is not a good argument. Nor is any argument that sounds like this, “I believe it BECAUSE it is nonsense” or “I believe it BECAUSE it is offensive.” Surely everything we do not believe is because we feel that it does not make sense or because it is morally offensive. So there must be another reason.

The penal substitution remains unjust and unworthy of attribution to God. But, as I have said already, there is a deeper spiritual root at work in Christmas and I am thankful to share it with so many wonderful folks, like the writer of, and the commenters on, this blog.

Anonymous said...

So thats what ya'll are callin the gym now?? (-: And new youth center? is that another renovation of Chucks place or renovation of the top floor of what I still call "the new building"(the section with the elevator)...some traditions die hard. (-;


Anonymous said...

I dont see the penal substitutin as unjust but merciful.

If a man commits 20 murders...justly and rightly so should he get the death penalty. Thats 20 murders too many. But if he stands in court before a king who is judge and that king says "This man is to go free, I will take this man's place in the chair." Its hard to comprehend, but as Pastor Wade once said, that would be me were it not for the Grace and Mercy of God.

As far as offending goes. Someone somewhere is going to get offended. Theyre offended if you talk about it and offended if you dont. guess its like drinking and driving in a way. The friend who is sober will probably offend the one who is drunk, but thinks they can still drive home. Better to be offensive and take the keys away to save their life, then not be offensive and just hope they get home safely.


Steven Stark said...

Hi T.,

“If a man commits 20 murders...justly and rightly so should he get the death penalty. Thats 20 murders too many. But if he stands in court before a king who is judge and that king says "This man is to go free, I will take this man's place in the chair."”

If a judge offered to go himself to the electric chair in place of a serial killer, no one would think that justice had been done. It would be public scandal.

The judge’s death would be a meaningless waste of life, and it would be too dangerous to the public to allow the serial killer to go free.

This example helps us to see the true meaning of justice - not blood for blood, but rather public safety and the rehabilitation of the individual and society.

Rex Ray said...

The Baptist Standard:

quotes Albert Mohler saying December 14, 2011:

“A person can come to Christ without full knowledge of all that Christians believe, but once aware of the Bible’s teachings cannot reject the Virgin Birth.”

Does his belief do away with ‘once saved always saved’?

And if it’s the Virgin Birth today, what’s next?

In other words; can Jesus save but Mohler takes away?

Garen Martens said...

Wade - My theological thinking isn't very deep, but my imagination of the events is vivid. I'm glad to know of the red heifer bridge because I can now visualize the ritual and pomp of the event and that our "red heifer" sacrifice, Jesus Christ could have been taken across the same bridge as a fulfillment. I agree there would then be a good possibility that Calvary would have been in that direction. Even the Garden Tomb still makes sense if Calvary were close to Gethsemane because a main road connected the two areas. I have wondered before why the evidence for the Garden Tomb relied so much on the description and proximity of the "rock of Golgotha" above the bus station. It is not necessary for a burial place to be near the place of the death. Interesting stuff.

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY . . .

this is the season to shelter in His Peace, and remember His Words
'do not let your hearts be troubled, nor let them be afraid'

Here is a relection I found for Christmas Eve, to help keep close to Him in His Coming To Us:

The Mystery of The Incarnation . . .
“O God, O Our God, Alleluia”

“Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O Heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny Hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made Hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands”


May Our Lord send His Christmas Peace to you, Rex
and the blessings of Christmas to all who shelter in His Peace this season

We need to remember . . .
'be not afraid'
'let your hearts not be troubled'

It is the season to rest in Him and let go of our fears and troubles
in honor of Him who came to bring us home

Rex Ray said...

Hello Christiane,
Here I am being Don Quixote—fighting windmills, and wanting someone to join the fight, but as usual, you came quoting peace and rest. I watched your beautiful link but couldn’t get a sound.

Have you ever gone to sleep day after day with one thought on your mind, then to awake with it still there? This week a five year old girl came by that we had met once before. She was in a wheelchair and responded to a challenge of racing my wife in wheelchairs with: “I want to win!”

The week before she started down my slide for the first time in someone else’s lap, but only went two feet. Over 1,200 trips had accrued without anyone being hurt, but due to three ‘events’ or three ‘ifs’, her leg was broken.

I know the Scripture doesn’t apply, but I think: “Better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck that to cause one of these little ones to fall…”

Maybe it makes the pain less to jump on Mohler. He was with a group including Paige Patterson that represented Southern Baptists who met with the Baptist World Alliance for the first time since 2004.


I don’t see why BWA didn’t leave when they saw Patterson. They must have the spirit of your poem.

Eagle said...

Hi Wade,

I'm one of the agnostics that hovers around the Wartburg Watch and Internet Monk. I read your post and have a question if you don't mind.

Why did Jesus have to die for sin? I mean...couldn't the God who created the Heavens, and earth and everything within have the power to forgive sin, without sacrificing his son? If everything within the universe is under his control why couldn't he have taken such an action? I'm not trying to be difficult...just curious. It was one of the questions I could never get answered when I was in the system.

Christiane said...


sorry to hear about the little girl, but it was an accident, and you are not to blame . . .
I know you feel bad for her, but you didn't cause it to happen, no intent was there to harm

I will pray for the little one, and take over the worry for a while, so you can rest this Christmas Day.

I don't much understand about Al Mohler, but I will always think of Dr. Klouda when I hear Patterson's name . . . and wonder how he could have done what he did . . . I wonder if he ever was given the grace to feel remorse? But that too is in the Hands of the Lord.

I didn't write that 'poem', it comes from an O Antiphon reflection, but I thought you might like it.

Peace and rest flow from Christ, like 'living water' to thirsting people.

Have a good Christmas Day.
Don't worry. All shall be well, and
'All manner of things shall be well.'


Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for commenting. You ask a great question. Why did Jesus have to die for sin? I mean...couldn't the God who created the Heavens, and earth and everything within have the power to forgive sin, without sacrificing his son?

Hebrews 9:23 says, "Therefore it was necessary ..." and goes on to speak of the sacrifice of Christ and the cleansing that comes from His blood. From a human perspective it is possible for sin to be forgiven in ways other than the shedding of blood, but it seems from the divine perspective "it was necessary" that blood be shed. I think you are asking the question, "Why?"

The answer to that question is found in the nature of sin and the holiness and perfection of God. Sin against God is deserving of death. Sin against God is capital punishment. That means the life is required when that life sins against the Creator. Could God have done it differently? Only if sin weren't as ugly as it is and only if God weren't as holy as He is. But those are hypotheticals.

God says it is necessary that life end when sin begins. The wages of sin is death. God, however, in His love for sinners says that He will provide His own life. Emmanuel--God with us. Jesus Christ gave His life for us. So, as C.S. Lewis says, "The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.” (Thanks Wartburg Watch for the quote).

Eagle, I too have long asked, "Could there not have been another way?" In my understanding of Scripture (particularly Hebrews), I have concluded there could have been no other way because of the nature of sin and the holiness of God.

Merry Christmas, Eagle! I pray that the Lord's mercies and graces toward you in 2012 will be without measure!

Wade Burleson

Micah Martin said...

Mr. Burleson,

That is a great post. I have one sincere question though.

If biological death is a part of the curse or penalty for sin... and Christ was our substitute... then why do Christians who are forgiven in Christ still biologically die?


Rex Ray said...

Your question is interesting, so I’d like to give my two cents.

Since I’m not an ‘Inerrantist’, I’m not bound to believe EVERYTHING Paul said came from the mouth of God.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12 Holman)

1. If Paul referred to Spiritual death, he is correct based on (Genesis 2:17 Holman):

“…FOR ON THE DAY YOU EAT FROM IT, you will certainly die.”

Spiritual death is separation from God. Did Adam and Eve die spiritually on the day they ate the forbidden fruit? “…and they hid themselves from the Lord God…” (Genesis 3:8)

2. If Paul referred to physical death, he was wrong because if man was made to live forever, what purpose was the Tree of Life?

“…what if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever! So The Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden…” (Genesis 3: 22-23 NLT)

In my opinion, God made man to die a natural death, and man would live again with God in heaven.

Micah, your question alone would be the closing statement for a lawyer to ‘prove’ that sin did NOT bring physical death on the human race.

Micah Martin said...


I think you hit the ball out of the park.

"Inerrantcy" aside, I think the Bible is clear that biological death is NOT connected to "the sin."

Consider two more points:

Jesus called his biological resurrection a "sign." A sign never signifies itself. It was a sign of something much bigger.

Also, in Acts 26:23 Paul states that Christ would be (was) the FIRST to rise from the dead. This again rules out biological death because Jesus was not the first to rise from biological death. (And Adam was not the first to die biologically.)

To me that should lead us to reconsider what "resurrection" is. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul goes directly back to Hosea and Isaiah in his discourse on the resurrection of "the body". Those passages are talking about corporate death not biological death. Israel was dead, even though they were comprised of biologically live human beings.

The reason I ask the question is to get Mr. Burleson's perspective and also to show the inherent cognitive dissonance of the church. We preach total forgiveness of sin's in Christ but then we turn around and acknowledge that that forgiveness is ineffective because we all die the death that sin brought.

I believe it is high time that we are open to re-examine what the Bible means by "death" and "resurrection."

What if the mortal corporate body of Adam (Old Covenant Israel) has been raised as the immortal corporate body of Christ (New Covenant Israel)?

What if 2 Peter 3's elements of the old heavens and earth (OC system) melted away and were replaced by the New Heavens and Earth (NC order)?


wadeburleson.org said...

Micah, I am out of town so I am sorry it has taken so long to respond. Must give a short answer on my IPad. Death is the LAST enemy conquered by Christ for the believer.

Rex Ray said...

Micah and Wade,
We’re really getting into a ‘deep’ subject here. [I guess I just sort of wiggled myself in. :) ]

God has always intended man to live forever—ether earth, heaven, or hell.

And so it will be. The transition (death) from earth has always been God’s plan except for Enoch and Elijah.

What would be the population of the earth today if no one had ever died? (Don’t forget those who died before having children.)

Nuff said.

Micah Martin said...

@ Wade,

Thanks for the response.

That is the answer I typically get but permit me to make two observations.

1) It is posited that the physical process of death or dying is the curse of sin. If Christ is our substitute, then no Christian should physically die.

It is like saying that I am in prison and about to be hanged. The jailer comes in and say's congrats, we have a volunteer that was hung in your place. You are forgiven. And then he promptly leads me out and hangs me.

2) Besides the fact that Paul roots his doctrine of the resurrection, found in 1 Cor. 15, firmly in OT passages that have nothing to do with biological death of individuals the greek that Paul uses is in the passive present tense. Death "is being" defeated when Paul wrote that. More correctly, "the last enemy being destroyed is death." (2000 years ago)

How can Paul be saying that physical death was "being" destroyed?

The second point is just tangental to this discussion. The nature of the substitutionary death is the big one. If Christ died in our place, then it seems obvious that physical death is not a part of "the curse."

Thanks for your patience.

Micah Martin said...


I am not sure what you mean by God always wanted man to live forever on earth, heaven or hell. I would reject the idea of the immortality of the soul if that is what you are basing that on. I think immortality is only found in Christ.

Other than that, I believe that the physical universe that we live in is the same one that Adam was in. The physical laws etc are the same as they were before the fall.

I don't think Genesis is talking about the material universe. (And Revelation is not talking about the end of the physical universe.) It is essentially talking about a Covenant Creation or Cosmic Temple. (See John Walton) And I am beginning to see that it is very prophetic. (See Milton Terry and Peter Enn's work on Adam as Israel).

You are right, this is a very deep subject. Probably too deep to continue on a forum such as this. I appreciate your insight and dialogue though. If you would like to continue on another forum or by email let me know and I will be happy to oblige.


greg.w.h said...

I think the answer is found in this question, Wade: "Adam, where are you?"

Rex Ray said...

You stated: “Death is the LAST enemy conquered by Christ for the believer.”

I believe ‘Spiritual death is the LAST enemy conquered by Christ for the believer’ because there never was a penalty of physical death.

Opts—I stand corrected. I should have said, ‘God has always intended man to live forever. His original plan was for man to learn to love him on earth for a period of time and then transfer him to heaven after he died. In heaven, God would make him higher than the angles.’

Job learned to love God—“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

Micah Martin said...


Thanks for the clarification. It seems that we are both on the same page and in agreement.

One of the things I find interesting is that Paul takes the need for resurrection all the way back to Adam, before the fall.

In 1 Corinthians 15:44-48 Paul goes all the way back to Genesis 2:7... before the fall.

Anyway, thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

"You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Death has been linked to sin since the beginning.
Obey me and enjoy Eden.
Disobey me and welcome death.
It was, and still is, our choice of the latter.

Thus the offense, I believe, is many are too proud to acknowledge, "Yes, I chose this, and yes, the Son of God had to die because of my choice"
It is an act of humbling oneself that they find offensive.