Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Gospel in Genesis Abel: The Doctrine of Propitiation

It is uncommon in our day to think of God in terms of keeping people out of His presence. In fact, to listen to the average person with little concept of Scripture, someone would think that God is like Mr. Rogers, benevolently inviting all the kids to his neighborhood.

But when reading the Old Testament one is struck with the fact that God banishes sinners from coming near His Presence. He builds fences to keep people out, and He strikes sinners dead who come near Him.

This was true from the very beginning.

I. God banished all sinners from His revealed presence at the fall of Adam, and He guarded the entrance to His dwelling place judicially . . .

After Adam sinned against God, both he and Eve were "banished" from the Garden of Eden (God's revealed dwelling place) and as a result, they were “barred” from eating of the tree of life. Separated from the God who sustains life, Adam and Eve died spiritually, and then physically. "So God drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24).

The Psalmist teaches us that God is "angry with the wicked." His holy nature abhors sin. God's attributes of righteousness, holiness, justice, and wrath are rarely discussed from modern pulpits, but no person can rightly understand the law and the prophets unless he recognizes the righteous character of God as revealed by Scripture.

The east entrance to the Garden of Eden was protected by two angels and a flaming sword. This is a beautiful picture of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, where two cherubim with wings spread out looked down upon the mercy seat. The flaming sword that protected the entrance to "the tree of life" is commonly referred to as "The Sword of the Lord."

The sword seems to be between the Cherubim, guarding the way that leads to life, and it is a revelation of God Himself. God often reveals Himself as a "burning fire" or in Hebrew, the "Shekinah" or "glory of His presence." The Bible says, “The Lord dwells between the cherubim” (II Sam. 6:2). “Thou that dwellest between the cherubim shine forth” (Ps. 80:1).

Adam and Eve, and their children, dared not come before God for worship, direction or wisdom unless they offered something that would "propitiate" Him --- to cause Him to sheath His sword of justice.

II. To gain access to God's Presence, including eternal life, the sword of the Lord must be sheathed --- God Himself must be propitated.

Because sin is an offense against a holy God, something must be done to turn the anger of God into the favor of God. To be "propitious" means to be "favorable." Propitiation is "an act that makes one favorable."

Once again, it is important to understand that something must happen to cause the justice of God (His sword) to be satisfied (sheathed). Until you comprehend the holy character of God and the awfulness of man's sin, the concept of propitiation will be puzzling to you. What is it that will cause God to be propitiated and not banish and curse sinners, but rather, bless and welcome them into His presence?

The story of Cain and Abel answers that question.

Both Cain and Abel were religious. They were instructed by their parents of the need for God to be propitiated. They both worshipped the one true God, and they both were committed to their worship. Cain and Able had several things in common:

(A). They both came to worship God at an ordained time . . . “and in the process of time” (Genesis 4:3) is a phrase used to speak of an appointed time (such as in the harvesting of crops).
(B). They both came to worship God with with an offering in hand . . . “an offering unto the Lord” (Genesis 4:3). Cain brought the polished firstfruits of the field --- the work of his own hands. Abel brought a lamb from the flock, and slew the lamb before God as an offering.
(C). They both came with an objective in mind . . . “respect” in God’s eyes (v.5). In other words, they both desired for God to be propitiated (made favorable toward them).

But Cain and Abel had one big difference between them. Cain was rejected and cursed by God, but Abel was blessed and accepted by God. In other words, God was propitiated by the offering of Abel, but God was not propiated by the offering of Cain. Why? Many say it was because “Cain's heart was not right,” but that is not what the Bible says at all.

The writer of Hebrews says Abel offered “a more excellent sacrifice” (Hebrews 11:4). God was made favorable because of Abel's more excellent sacrifice of the lamb.

God was propitiated because a life was taken. Since God told Adam that the wages of sin was death, then for God to remain holy and righteous a death would have to occur for God's sword of justice to be sheathed.

And of course, the lamb of Abel is a type of "the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world," for the blood of bulls, and goats, and lambs can't actually take away sin --- it must be God Himself who dies.

Let me show you how from the very beginning, from the first sin of man, God prepared the world for the coming of His Son through the types of the sacrifices.

John Gill, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon and Augustus Toplady all taught that Cain and Abel brought their offerings to "the east of Eden," to the gate to the entrance to "the way" that led to life.

Though many believe the Garden of Eden was located in modern Iraq, that was not the belief of early Jewish commentators. The ancient Jewish commentary called The Targum of Jonathan said “Adam went and dwelt in Mount Moriah to till the ground of which he was created.” Dr. Gill says other Jewish writers wrote saying, “The gate of Paradise was at Mt. Moriah, and there Adam dwelt after he was cast out.” Mt. Moriah is the place of sacrifice (Abraham/Isaac; the Temple/sacrifices), the very place that the Temple would later be built.

In other words, there is some warrant to believe that the very place Abel offered the lamb ultimately became the spot where the lambs were offered by the Israelites in the Jewish Temple. And when the High Priest brought the blood into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he sprinkled it "between the cherubim" just as Abel would have brought the blood "between the cherubim" in his day.

When the blood of the Lamb was shed, atonement was granted. Atonement means “covering.” The sin of Abel was covered, the lamb had died as a substitute for the sinner, and the sword of God's wrath was sheathed.

Again, the blood of animals could never remove sin. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament were only types and figures of the Lamb of God to come. Jesus Christ is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

No sinner ever approaches God and lives without the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The sword of the Lord that guards the tree of life is sheathed because of Christ’s death. Why? God is propitiated --- His justice is satisfied.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:4).

III. Regardless of what man may think, there is no knowledge of God, no relationship with God, and no abiding with God without faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

"Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" (Hebrews 9:22)

"Kiss the Son, lest he (God) be angry" (Psalm 2:12).

I personally believe Adam and Eve taught their boys how to approach God at the east entrance to Eden. They had seen God take a lamb, slay it, and cover them with the skin of the dead animal that died in their place. They had been promised a coming "life-giver," and Eve anticipated the Messiah who would take away their sins to come quickly.

Abel received by faith the word of the Lord from his parents on how God is propitiated, but Cain rejected the word and came to God on his own terms --- and found God not propitious or favorable to him.

Cain was a reprobate; a person without grace.

Abel pictures for us a person in God's favor. He, and his parents, are early examples of how sinners can find a holy God propitious toward them. People are saved the same way today as they were in the days of Adam and Abel. One of the best descriptions of what it means to be a "Christian" is found in Geneses. Christians are . . .

(1). Believers in the Word of God . . . “And Adam called his wife Eve (‘life-giver’)” (v.20). God told Adam that He would provide “a seed” of the woman that would crush the head of Satan. Adam believed God (as did Eve, see Gen. 4:1). Adam instructed Abel how God had informed them to approach Him, and Abel heard the word and believed.

(2). Receivers of the righteousness of God . . . “For with the heart man believes unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). This is salvation. When Adam and Eve believed the Word spoken by God “the Lord God . . . clothed them” (v. 21). We shall focus specifically on this gift of righteousness in the next post (Abram).

(3). Partakers of the nature of God . . . "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). "I am in pain until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4:19).

The last two are part of our future studies, but we close the lesson today by remembering that we shall never find God favorable to us until we recognize that He is propitiated not by our terms, actions or deeds, but by the His own actions on our behalf.

God gave the Lamb for us. God killed the Lamb for us. The Lamb is His Son.


(1). There is no access to the presence of God in worship, prayer, or ultimately eternal life in heaven, without coming to Him by faith in the offering He has provided for sinners --- His eternal Son, Jesus Christ.

"God set forth (Christ Jesus) as a propitiation through faith in His blood, for a demonstration of His righteousness" (Romans 3:25).

As the old hymnwriter wrote: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.

(2). A person can talk about God all he wants and the devil remains at peace, but the moment a person speaks of a propitiated God in terms of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the demons of hell scream into action.

The Apostle Paul stated that he desired to know nothing "But Christ and him crucified." This is the gospel. Paul further stated that he was not ashamed of the gospel because "It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). The message of every gospel preacher should be Christ and Him crucified.

(3). The love of God and the wrath of God coexist. They both describe His nature, and without His love there would have never been satisfactory propiation.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16).

Christ did not make an angry God become loving -- a loving God gave to the sinners He sovereignly chose to redeem the gift of His Son in order to propitiate His righteous wrath.

(4). Those for whom Christ died shall be saved.

"You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

The death of Christ is effective in that it satiates the wrath of God for sinners. A just God is satisfied, and because of Christ, a just God can pardon sinners.

For whom did Christ die? His people --- or as the Bible says, "those who will come to Him." Believers. Those who embrace the Son.

You either embrace Jesus Christ and what He did at Calvary to satisfy the righteous justice and wrath of God upon sinners, or you reject Jesus Christ and experience the righteous wrath and anger of God for yourself.

This is the gospel.

The good news is that God will never reject a sinner who comes to Him through faith in His Son Christ Jesus.

"Come unto me," Christ declares.

I have, and in Him I rest.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


peter lumpkins said...

Brother Wade,

Good morning. Tell me, do you actually teach this stuff to your congregation? If so, as did the angel similarly to Mary, I could say to your congregants "blessed art thou among churches..." As many Churches as I have visited this past year, I've had more than a lifetime's share of psycho-fluff. For me, biblical doctrine is my soul's meat and potatoes.

At any rate, I do have a quickie. You write: "Cain was rejected...by God...[and]...not propiated [sic] by the offering...Why?...The writer of Hebrews says Abel offered “a more excellent sacrifice” (Hebrews 11:4). God was made favorable because of Abel's more excellent sacrifice of the lamb."

Yet as I read Hebrews 11.4, the specific reason why Phebe :) says Abel's offering was accepted was because of faith's presence. It reads : "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain..." Indeed faith's presence in the lives of everyone in the entire chapter appears to bear this out, as does the acceptable sacrifices by God of non-blood offerings in the OT (a.k.a. The Grain Offering).

In addition, the Apostle further states of Abel that this was "through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts" (11.4b) If the "faith" is that through which he was "commended" righteous, this is very close, it seems to me, to the Apostle Paul's "therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rm. 5.1).

Your posts are inspiring. Thank you. May your day experience His direction. With that, I am...


John Moeller said...


So what you are saying is that Abel offered his sacrifice in faith and Cain did not? aka, The offering Cain gave was not from the heart in faith so it was rejected...it was not the object, but the heart that made the difference?

It is true for today, it is not the words we speak that saves us, but the faith we put behind the words that saves us...what’s in our hearts makes the diffence.

wadeburleson.org said...


Thanks for the kind words.

"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" and

"Without faith, it is impossible to please God."

You are absolutely correct.

Abel is in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11 because of his faith.

However, it was the object of his faith which propitiated God, not his faith.

In other words, when we sing the song, "Have faith in God" we are singing the truth. We don't sing "Have faith in faith."

God's word to Adam and Eve was that they approach Him on the basis of the sacrifical lamb. He showed them by killing the first one and clothing them in its skin.

Abel heard the word of God through the instruction of his parents and "by faith (in the Word of God), offered the more excellent sacrifice." (Hebrews 11:4).

Thanks again for your great comment.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

Maybe I am missing something, or maybe I am not understanding completely your definition of propitiation. You say; "Propitiation is "an act that makes one favorable." I understand propitiation as being the satisfying of God's wrath, not something that makes man favorable. Jesus' blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat in the throne room of heaven is what satisfied God's wrath toward the sin of the world. Also, I do not know where your exact reference is for your statement about the Psalmist's words; "God is angry with the wicked". However it appears from the references of Scripture I have seen, namely Psalm 7:11, God's anger is not against the people but against the wicked ways of the people. I understand that it is not the people that God hates it is the sin of the people that God hates. Of course your reference to Jesus death and John 3:16 is clearly driven by your Reformed interpretation. That is ok with me. I believe God does choose, but by the way it seems in your closing there will be people kicking and screaming as God drags them into heaven. :>)

Other than our differences in Theology, are we saying the same thing about God's propitiation?


Gary Snowden said...


I too appreciate this series that you are doing. I wonder though with Peter regarding the reason that God rejected Cain's sacrifice while accepting Abel's. I have also heard all of my life that it was because Abel brought an animal sacrifice, thus observing what God had done as He killed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. In preaching through Hebrews though, I wrestled with 11:4 where it describes Abel's sacrifice being offered "by faith," the same introductory phrase that describes the character and conduct of each of the heroes and heroines of this chapter.

I really do believe that the key to understanding God's acceptance of Abel's sacrifice was the heart attitude with which he brought it--not the specific sacrifice itself. When Cain becomes angry in Gen. 4:5 over God's rejection of his offering, the Lord goes on to say, "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do no do well, sin is crouching at the door, and its deisre is for you, but you must master it." Apparently he still had the opportunity to make his offering (a grain offering was an appropriate expression of his vocation and later under the law was clearly acceptable by God) with a correct attitude and enjoy God's favor. Tragically, he did not do so and resorted to murder instead.

The implication is that his heart was already wandering from God and he refused to heed God's warning of repentance.

I think that the imagery of propitiation is a valid and legitimate one to help us understand God's redemption of man through the gift of His Son, but it is one of several different motifs that the Bible utilizes to help explain atonement. If pushed to an extreme and not read in the light of other equally powerful biblical images of redemption, one runs the risk of conceiving of God as an angry despot whose wrath must be placated by a loving Son, thus creating an artificial divide between Father and Son that is foreign to the Scriptures. As the most well-known verse in the NT affirms, "God so loved the world that He gave His Son." It isn't as if Jesus has to twist God's arm to convince Him to love and forgive sinful man. Over-emphasizing just the propitiation aspect of atonement leaves one open to that erroneous position.

Forgive the lengthy post, but I trust that it provides some food for thought.

wadeburleson.org said...


God never takes people to heaven kicking and screaming.

Sinners willingly receive Christ. Sinners choose to believe because the day of His power His people are made willing.

"God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11) is the text to which I refer, but I also believe in the everlasting love of God for His people. Jesus Christ is the propitiation that enables a loving, righteous God to accept sinners.

And ANYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Have a great day.

In His Grace,


Bob Cleveland said...


It seems to me that God was angry with Israel when they strayed from Him and disobeyed. He said He was angry and would pour out His anger on them.

He also says that when His people repent and turn from their wicked ways, He will then relent from His anger.

I see nothing objectionable in any way with saying God is angry with sinners (and not just angry with their actions). He's promised to relent if we repent.

Why wouldn't that be good enough for us? Are we trying to "over-nice" God? Do we fear telling lost people that they are condemned, not just their actions?

God is Who He says He is. Period. It rubs me the wrong way when folks want to humanize Him, or deify man. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, and that's not part of what anyone has said, but I felt like saying this anyway. So I did.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I am going to deny my self the enjoyment of a challenge with you on the I of TULIP. The reason? I really did desire to look more at propitiation. This is where many people have problems and desire to make God to be this loving Grandfather instead of a God that has wrath.

Having said that, your definition does appear to be more in line with "expiation" instead of "propitiation". CH Dodd argues for "expiation" which is merely the cancellation of sin. This cancellation would make one favorable to God. However, "propitiation" is the turning away of God's wrath.

While you state this in the end, to me, it appears that you begin with a different view.


The Fletcher Family said...

Forgive the interruption, but we have a new leader in the funniest oxymoron contest. Tim, you win with..."Other than our differences in Theology, are we saying the same thing about God's propitiation?"

This easily beats "rap music" and just edges out "disappointing birdie".

Congrats Tim.

wadeburleson.org said...


I believe it is justification that that enables God to delight in a sinner. Propiation makes God favorable toward a sinner.

Tomorrow: Abram and the doctrine of justification.

peter lumpkins said...


I do understand your point about the sacrifice itself--or more properly, Himself--possessing the value of atonement. And surely, my words did not imply that I embrace "faith in faith." If they did, I right now repent in double sackcloth and triple ashes.

Nevertheless, Hebrews 11.4 seems to focus on faith, not sacrifice, no matter the value. That is, faith connects us to the sacrifice...it appropriates...applies the sacrifical propitiation the Sacrifice makes--"Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him righteousness."

In the end, no matter the value of the sacrifice, unless faith hooks us in--faith IN Sacrifice--life is absent. What "appeases" God for us is Sacrifice. What pleases from us is Faith. And, Hebrews 11.4, at least from my view, focuses on the pleasing, not the "appeasing". That's all.

Hope you well. With that, I am...


The Fletcher Family said...

Excellent Bob!!! You stole my thunder brother. "God loves the sinner but hates the sin" is not a biblical statement and I have found this is usually only something folks say so that they don't offend the sinner (usually homosexuals) when witnessing.

The unregenerate is at enmity with God. That clears it up for me. When the unregenerate sins (any kind of sin), the bible says they are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of judgment. The sinner has broken God's law.

The sad reality is that the homosexual is damned...despite his perversion.

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Dull Iron,

Let's see:

a) God loves the sinner but hates his sin
b) God hates the sinner but loves his sin
c) God hates the sinner and hates his sin
d) God loves the sinner and loves his sin

Since, in your view, Brother Dull Iron, a) is clearly not Biblical, I wonder which of the remaining options may fit better say, John 3.16.

Looking at these four options, a), at least from my vantage point, may be closer after all.

Have a greace-filled day. With that, I am...


wadeburleson.org said...

I would propose that God loves sinners --- and for this reason He gave His Son.

Of course, dull iron, I do believe you are also correct that he righteously hates the repropates --- as it is written, "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated."

"Kiss the Son, lest God be angry" Psalm 2:12.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade (and others)

Excuse me. I did not say God hated sinners. I said He is angry with them.

When a son manifestly violates his father's standards, the father may well be angry with him. That doesn't mean he doesn't love him any more. If he didn't love the son, there'd be no real reason for disappointment (and the resulting anger and shame).

Why would we blame God for doing that when we wouldn't?

I can relate a lot to my childhood. I loved my dad dearly and never ever wanted him to be disappointed in me. I gave him plenty of reason to, though. The biggest disappointment I ever was to him, he simply forgave without any anger and it broke my heart. I wished he'd ranted, but he didn't. Still, I had this "black cloud syndrome" toward him .. I didn't know what he'd do if I crossed him, and I didn't want to find out.

Him hating me was something that never, ever even entered my mind.

Nor has it, with God, since I've been saved.

The Fletcher Family said...

I didn't mean for it to get that deep. Peter, you always make me think harder than I am willing. Stop that please.

Briefly, I was simply venting from a built up frustration from hearing folks say "Come to Jesus, oh, come to Jesus. He loves you just the way you are." That is not biblical. Furthermore, it is just plain wrong. He doesn't love the sinner just the way he is. The sinner must be changed by the gracious act of his creator before that kind of love can occur.

Now, in referencing John 3:16, He does love His creation for what it is...His creation. However, God's saving love is not a promiscuous love. God's love is purposeful and intentional. He does manifest that love differently to His own.

I love my wife and my next door neighbor, Sam...but clearly (hopefully) not in the same way. He certainly didn't make His creation with a greater ability than He has.

Willing to be sharpened more,

Dull Iron



Thanks again for sharing God's Word with us sinners.

Tim Rogers,

The Old testament shows the wrath of God.

The New Testament shows the Love of God.

The Book of John should be the First Book for a new Believer to read and understand IMHO.

In His Name

Wayne Smith

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I am not certain as to how I am to receive Dull Iron's comments. Am I being marginalized by a comment he disagrees with? Or is he joking about something he does not understand?


wadeburleson.org said...


Well said on the connection faith has to the sacrifice.

I could not agree more.

In His Grace,


wadeburleson.org said...


I see glimpses of the eternal love of God for His peopl in the Old Testment. For instance, in Psalm 139 David cries, "How precious are your thoughts unto me O God, how great is the sum of them."

The Hebrew word for "precious" is an interesting word. It literally means "rare." Something is rare because it is rare in number (as lunar rocks on the earth) or rare in nature. God's thoughts are not "precious" to David because they were rare in number. The next verse says God's thoughts toward David number more than the sands of the seashore.

God's thoughts toward David are rare in nature. God loves David without conditions. God loves David in spite of his sin.

God loves David in a manner no human being has ever loved David, and that is what compelled God to send His Son for David.

So, I would say we see the love and wrath of God in both the Old and New Testaments --- the people of God are loved eternally by Him --- the reprobates cared for, watched over and surrounded by mercy, but are also the recepients of God's wrath.

Not so for those who are "in Christ."

John Moeller said...

Is it God’s wrath I see in the New Testament or the default “reward,” or lack of reward for me. In that I mean, is it God dealing out wrath to the unsaved-sinner, or the unsaved-sinner receiving what he-himself has sewn. The Bible says; God IS love. So the way I see it is that I reap what I sewed, God didn’t deal it out to me, I gave it to myself.

Bob Cleveland said...

Dull Iron:

Did Jesus love the woman at the well? Did He love the woman caught in adultery, whom He later told to go and sin no more?

How about the man we call the "rich young ruler", in the episode which states of Jesus ..."And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him...." Does that say Jesus loved that man?

Did He love me when He died for me?

I heard 40 years ago that Jesus loved me the way I was, but He wasn't willing to let me stay that way. The longer I live, the more true that becomes, to me.

Writer said...


Allow me to offer an explanation of "propitiation" by Dr. Gary Burge in "The NIV Application Commentary: Letters of John."

Regarding 1 John 2:2, Dr. Burge writes, "The second solution for sinfulness (1:9) is provided in 2:2. The basis of Christ's case on our behalf, the power of His advocacy, comes from His sacrifice on the cross. Here again John uses a technical term 'hilasmos:' Jesus became a hilasmos for our sins. In the New Testament this word occurs only here and in 1 John 4:10, although related forms of it appear elsewhere. And controversy surrounds its precise meaning. Its use in extrabiblical literature and the Greek Old Testament (ten times) makes its meaning fairly clear: A 'hilasmos' was a sacrifice given to placate someone who was angry. In a religious setting, it was an angry God. By this interpretation God is the object of Jesus' sacrifice, making the sinner acceptable because God's disposition has changed. On the other hand, some have urged that the object is not God, but the sins themselves. The sinner is pleasing to God because the sins are wiped away. Still others think that the two concepts merge and that at the very least, we cannot lose the notion that somehow God's anger has been placated. No doubt the meaning of Christ's sacrifice was forged in Christian thought and was not entirely dependent on sacrificial antecedents outside the Old Testament. There the two thoughts merge clearly: Sins are covered over and God's righteous anger is changed. The NIV attempts to catch both emphases with its translation, 'atoning sacrifice.'"

Dr. Burge explained in a footnote that the translators who wished to emphasize the exhausting of God's wrath translated "hilasmos" as "propitiation." Those who wished to emphasize the covering of sins translated "hilasmos" as "expiation."

I agree with John Piper who prefers "propitiation" as the exhausting of God's wrath. However, I also have no difficulty accepting a both/and.



wadeburleson.org said...

Very fine comment Les.



And I could not agree more :).



I agree with you about God showing and sharing his Love in the Old Testament.

Its after, the Holy Spirit convicts our Hearts (Born Again) by God's Love in John 3:16. Then you see God's Love throughout the whole Bible. At least it was for me.

In His Name

Wayne Smith

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Brother Dull Iron,

I feel your pain in thinking outside parameters. I too get stuck in my little slice of the Kingdom--much more than I usually confess :)

Allow, please, only a tenny-wenny nudge further. You write: "He loves you just the way you are...That is not Biblical..." I do not know if your theological persuasion looks toward Geneva, Dull Iron, but if so, nothing could be more Biblical than God loves you the way you are--even from eternity!

Yet, even I, whose theological direction is a little South of Holland, believe in God's comprehensive love from eternity for His creation--especially His creation made in His image.

Someone said it like this to me once: There is absolutely nothing good I can do to cause God to love me more; nor is there anything bad I can do to cause God to love me less than He already does.

May peace be yours this evening and grace for tomorrow. With that, I am...


wadeburleson.org said...


I would commend Dr. Gill's little book to both you and Dull Iron entitled "God's Everlasting Love To His Elect."

Charles Spurgeon called this little book by "my mentor in Israel" a classic work on the love of God.

I do not anticipate either you or Dull Iron will agree with Gill totally. He says, as do you, that God's love for His elect is eternal, and unconditional, and it is this love which compelled Him to send His Son.

But, as Dull Iron points out, there is in Scripture the clear teaching that there are some who are not the recepients of His eternal love, but are objects of His divine wrath (as is Pharaoh in Romans 9).

Both the love of God for sinners and the righteous wrath of God toward sinners are to be praised.

And of course, any sinner who comes to faith in Christ has warrant to believe He is loved by God from everlasting.

Those who reject Christ have no warrant to believe this to be true.

Coty said...

I’ve enjoyed the posts this week and are looking forward to the other three.

A bit more on Cain and Abel: The text in Genesis, as elaborated on by Hebrews 11, simply does not tell us that God required Cain to bring an animal sacrifice. We do know, however, that Cain knew what was required of an acceptable sacrifice, for God says to him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” He knew how to do well!

The difference in the sacrifices had to be more than grain versus animal. Consider: If Cain had offered an animal with his same attitude toward God, would that have been as acceptable as Abel’s sacrifice? Given Psalm 50:8-9, the answer must be no. It is perfectly possible to offer the right object as sacrifice and have that sacrifice rejected by God. Further, we must remember Hebrews 10:4; God was never propitiated by any Old Testament sacrifice in and of itself, whether of grain or of animal blood. But every sacrifice rightly offered – whether burnt offering, peace offering, grain offering, sin offering, or guilt offering – pictured the work of our Lord on our behalf. His blood offers the only possible propitiation, for all men of faith of all times.

Furthermore, there is more to Abel’s faith than incipient faith in a (the) Redeemer. In Hebrews 11, the main content of faith is not faith in a Redeemer, but believing “that [God] exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Abel had such faith; Cain did not. Whatever God asked Cain to give, he did not think worth giving to God. He thought his loss would be greater than his gain. So he gave something less. Abel, on the other hand, gave what God asked. He believed that God’s acceptance was worth more than whatever he might give up. He believed the sacrifice was no sacrifice at all.

God was no treasure to Cain. And treasuring God is one important aspect of saving faith.


wadeburleson.org said...


Excellent comment!

You have given me much to think about.

I agree with you that the grain offerings typified Christ as well. My favorite series of all time was the one on the Levitical offerings I taught three years ago on Wednesday night here at Emmanuel.

However, I still believe that Cain and Abel were instructed to bring a blood sacrifice. You rightly point out they were told something. I also agree with you Hebrews does not specifically teach that they were told to bring a lamb, but I believe the inference is strong.

Again, great comment!

I particularly love your last sentence (though as for me I'm not sure I have ever fully treasured God --- but I still rest in the knowledge that He fully treasures me :) ).

In His Grace,


irreverend fox said...

thanks for the series Wade, this is great stuff.

wadeburleson.org said...

Your welcome Fox.


P.S. By the way, I knew you spoke in jest yesterday :).

peter lumpkins said...


Why, my Brother! You would not have me journey back and embrace again the Decree the Geneva Don himself shuddered to utter, calling it the "horrible decree", would you? Ummmm...Let me think...Nah. I'll just remain post-Calvinist :).

BTW, thank you for the invitation to consider Gill. I never take lightly recommended books that have profoundly influenced others.

With that, I am...


wadeburleson.org said...

I have trouble seeing reprobation as a "decree" that causes one to shudder. Maybe it's because I see reprobation as a passive act of God rather than an active one.

In other words, God simply leaves some sinners who are free moral agents in their sin, but He actively redeems a great many other sinners by His active grace and for His eternal glory.

And of course, I love the language of Scripture to describe those He actively redeems . . . "For God so loved the world"

Doesn't sound like the chosen few to me.

By the way, this is why our church spends time, energy, and lots of money ($500,000 last year) on missions --- it's a big world out there.


The Fletcher Family said...

Wade, Peter, and Bob. Thank you gentlemen so much. This is good for me. I love to be sharpened and I am thankful for friends that I otherwise would not know except through the blessings of blogging.

Wade, you see through my ramblings most clearly. Thank you for helping clarify.

Gill is a tough read, but for me personally, he is right up there with Boyce, Sproul, Packer, Piper, and MacArthur. And "Death of Death..." is one of my favorites. Enough useless information about me.

It is not His love for the young ruler, or the harlot, or any other of His creations I am navigating here. It is that love that Peter refers to as eternal. I think of it as a salvific love. This nonpermiscuous (is that the proper word?) love is eternal; it is purposeful; it is intentional. He did love that young ruler even as he walked away from Christ with his heart revealed, and he loves me even as the liar, thief, and adulterer that I am today. But I submit that unless there is more to the story than what is revealed in scripture about that young ruler, only one of us was granted that eternal, salvific love. (Hint: That would be me.)

Tim - It was meant as a joke, but the laughter is hard to come by sometimes. The phrase you offered sounded "oxymoronish" to me, so I tried to run with it. I also never joke about something I don't understand. That's why I joked here, because I understand perfectly. Thanks for understanding and don't feel marginalized.

Still Dull, but gleaming.

peter lumpkins said...


As for the "decree" to reprobation being "passive", I am afraid you will have to work out in your own theo-framework, my brother Wade, just how a Sovereign can sit back and "passively" watch not only humans He specifically made in His image, but also--evidently from the Calvinist persuasion--humans He created for the specific purpose to justly fry in Hell for eternity, do so. For me, I allow myself a second glance at revelation.

I would love to play more with you but my wife will soon be home and I cannot hear another sermon this week on why I failed doing my chores :). Perhaps you can post on this very issue. I'll bet you get plenty of comments.

Grace to you, my Brother. With that, I am...


Greg P said...


Thanks for the post. I hesitate to do this but I feel compelled to point out a few things that I think need to be considered regarding this passage. This is not the product of a momentary glance; I spent about 40 hours last year on this very passage dealing with the issues (not to flaunt scholarship but simply to let you know it has been long-deliberated).

To begin with, we must admit that the text says nothing about any instruction given to the two brothers about bringing a blood sacrifice. Any assertion that God commanded them to do so must not be considered any more sure than mere speculation.

Following the hermeneutical principle of progressive revelation, we cannot say that Cain and Abel knew that blood was required to take away sins, though it is clearly taught in Scripture for us to see today. We must not *assume* that they knew this truth.

Further, we should not assume that propitiation was the purpose of the offering. The Hebrew word "minhah" is used, indicating an "offering", rather than the word "zebah", which would indicate a "sacrifice".

It is most natural and reasonable to believe that each brother brought his particular gift because that is what kind of goods he had. Verse 2 says "Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground." Thus it is not at all surprising that Abel, a keeper of flocks, would bring something from his flocks, or that Cain, a tiller of the ground, would bring something from the ground. They simply brought that which they possessed.

The very furthest that the phrase "better sacrifice" can be taken is regarding the *quality* of the offering, not the *nature* of it. Hebrews says it was better, but it does not say that was because it was of blood. One could just as easily point out that Abel brought the "firstlings" and the "fat portions" and say that was the reason it was "better".

All of that to say that I'm not so certain that propitiation is taught in this particular passage. It is certainly a dominant theme in Scripture and I believe that it is at the very heart of the passage that is the heart of the gospel (Romans 3:21-26), but regretfully I don't see it here.

I'm still looking forward to the rest of the series, though :)



wadeburleson.org said...


Excellent post.

I agree that propiation is not taught explicitly or specifically in the story of Abel, but I do see it clearly implied in the types.

Obviously, anyone can take types too far, but I feel justified because of the way the apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews take Abel and do similar things.

Nevertheless, a very good, scholarly post from which I learned a great deal.

Thank you.

wadeburleson.org said...


I think your vision of hell may be a tad too "Dante" esque.

Hell is living in the God's presence for eternity without His mercy, and compassion and grace, personally bearing His just and righteous wrath for sin (this of course would be the fire that does not consume).

I think what is so awful about hell is that God has given enough common grace that, as the Apostle Paul states, "every man is without excuse."

Had they lived the way God created man to live, there would be no hell.

Nobody has lived that way, and our rebellion against God (both federally and personally) is nobody's fault but our own.

To compound judgment in hell, God has provided a Savior for undeserving sinners, but even in hell, sinners have no desire for Him.

So, I guess what I'm saying is it would be impossible for God to wipe away every tear in heaven if His people did not come to some understanding that in the eternal plan of God hell ultimately serves some "good."

The wicked who go unpunished on earth shall face God's judgment in hell.

Of course, all of us by nature are wicked, and that is why those of us who are in Christ are absolutely in love with God. We marvel at His grace in giving us His Son Jesus Christ.

Christopher Redman said...


Good words on the subject of reprobation and God's decree. I also view those who perish to perish not by God actively choosing them via predestination to hell but rather God allowing them to reap the just consequences of their sin.

Peter and I have conversed on this subject before. Suffice to say, I believe the view you have expressed is a valid attempt to take the whole of revelation into account and not focus on one attribute or one verse, ie: love and John 3:16.

We do not have to explain the origin of evil nor do we have to embrace double predestination. We embrace what is revealed and that which is not, we leave in the heart of God.

Unconditional election of undeserving sinners to salvation is unequivocably undeniable. As the scripture says, "Salvation belongs to our God and to the lamb."

Blessings and Peace,

Chris Redman

SBC Layman said...

I wanted to add a few things to the comments and the concept of God and hate

To add to Dull iron, Peter, Bob and Wade's discusion about it, specifically a quote from Spurgeon concerning the verse
"Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated."

"Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly—it is the same thing—created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loves a man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deals with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets."


SBC Layman said...

The second comment was about what many have mentioned about love in the Old Testament.

One of these verses is in Deutronomy 7:9
"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands."

There is a definite covenant of love that goes through the Old Testament.

irreverend fox said...



sinners in hell remain sinners and continue to sin...therefore...hell is everlasting because their continual rebellion against God is everlasting. So hell is an endless cycle and it is all their fault.

I believe that if any soul in hell were to honestly repent and cry for mercy, God, whose is full of grace and truth, would indeed give them mercy. Why would He not? He gave it to you and you deserved it no more than even a soul in hell...

The problem is not God being mean or unjust...the problem is that not one single soul in hell will EVER repent because they are SINNERS, they do not lose their free will...they continue to sin even in hell. So what else could/would God do with such rebels but make them pay for all the new sins they've continually commited while in hell.

This idea of people being sorry in hell is not Biblical.

Unknown said...

If God was passive in allowing sinners to go to hell, versus actively choosing some for heaven and others for hell, does it make him any more or less just?

My question, did God actively make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common purposes? If He in fact did make some for common purposes, how would this be passive?

SBC Layman said...


See the quote from Spurgeon about two posts before yours.



Some Names are in the Lamb's Book of Life, and Some Names are not.

The ones not Chosen,Predestine, or
Elected are going to Hell,
no if's, no and's,no but's!!!

I Have the Bible verses on my Blog called Accountabilty at


In His Name

Wayne Smith

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

In your comment to Peter you say; I think your vision of hell may be a tad too "Dante" esque.

Hell is living in the God's presence for eternity without His mercy, and compassion and grace, personally bearing His just and righteous wrath for sin (this of course would be the fire that does not consume)."

Does this statement not remove the literal fire from hell? I understand that hell is the separation from God, not living in His presence without the benefits of his compassion, mercy and grace. God's presence will not be in hell at all, will it?


Jim Champion said...


If God is omnipresent, is he in hell?

wadeburleson.org said...


God is in hell. He is omnipresent. The fire is as literal as the fire that Moses saw burning the bush, but the bush was not consumed.

Hell is being in the presence of God, and experiencing the severe wrath, holy anger and eternal vengeance of the omnipotent King of Righteousness --- with no relief.

Is it real? Yes.

Is it rough? Yes.

Is it ready? Yes.

Hell is created for the purpose of eternal judgement. As Edwards said, "An unrepentant sinner is like a spider dangling from one single thread over an open frame. Only God's mercy keeps the spider's one web from being clipped."

My point is simply we should draw our conclusions about hell from Scripture and not a medieval poet.



Unknown said...

sbc layman,

good quote. now how about scripture to answer my question?

craig from Georgia said...

"Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated."

Since this comment is from the book of Malachi, that means it was made hundreds of years after Jacob and Esau lived doesn't it?


graig from Georgia

What are you Questioning about time line?

Mal 1:2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob

Rom 9:13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

In His Name

Wayne Smith

CB Scott said...

Wade and Tim,

God has status independent of creation for He is the creator. Therefore the fact that He created Hell for the Devil and his angels does not demand that God inhabit its boundaries to have perfect knowledge of the intermost parts of its domain.

To say God is in Hell takes transcendence and immanence to close to the heresey of Pantheism.

God created the Coosa River, but His dwelling is not therein,yet He perfectly knows the total number of catfish confined to its boundaries and when I am going to catch one and which one it will be. I just wish it would be one of the really big ones:-)

Tim Rogers said...

Brother CB,

My thoughts also. I believe the reason I waited so long, Brother Wade, to respond is that I had to think through this. I know that Psalm 139:8 says "If I make my bed in hell, behod thou art there." However, "art there" is copied in by the KJV translators. Isn't this more of the knowledge of God knowing your presence than actually His presence being present?

Also, Brother Wade, you made the statement that Hell would be having God's presence but without his mercy, compassion, etc. Are these not part of His attributes? Are we able to separate God from His attributes?


ps I am preparing for a Revival beginning on Sunday AM and I promise this is the last question this week.

JRW said...

Wade: I have always suspected that the reason evangelicals reject evolution, in spite of the voluminous evidence that has accumulated over the years, is that it is not in agreement with the interpretation of Genesis that requires a belief that man was created without a sinful nature. If evolution is true, our selfish nature is a result of the selfish genes we have inherited from our non-human ancestors. These selfish genes were necessary for survival.

Mankind is the only creation of God that is aware of good and evil or right and wrong. This awareness, which is the gift of human consciousness, sets up an ongoing conflict between our selfish genes and our knowledge of right and wrong. This is best illustrated by Paul's struggle with choosing to do the wrong thing even when he desires to do the right thing.

The evangelical scientist, Francis Collins, in his new book "The Language of God", argues that the DNA evidence for evolution is too overwhelming for evangelicals to continue to reject it. He sees that the continued rejection of this basic building block of Biology will ultimately lead to the loss of multitudes of young people from evangelical families who will be forced to choose between the faith of their fathers and the rigors of science. He calls this an unnecessary tragedy. He may be right and, if so, it certainly will be a tragedy, but there does appear to be a very real conflict between evangelical theology and evolution. If we are a creation with selfish genes, then mankind was not created with the potential to lead sinless lives. We were created as selfish creatures. Our consciousness makes it possible to choose to do unselfish things, but our basic nature is to be selfish.

The next 20 years will be critical to the future of evangelical Christianity. Seminaries need to make a concentrated effort to seriously address this conflict and suggest a resolution. To ignore it will only insure that its corrosive effects will continue.