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Twisted Scripture: Hebrews 9:18-22

• Greg Boyd

Our Twisted Scripture series continues this week as Greg explores Hebrews 9:18-22. This scripture passage is commonly used to support the penal substitutionary atonement theory in which our guilt was transferred to Christ and He was punished on the cross on our behalf. Greg raises several objections to this line of thinking and discusses the use of animal sacrifices as a method of atonement in the Old Testament.

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A key question is raised by the scripture in Hebrews 9:18-22. Why does there have to be blood for the forgiveness of sins? The scripture in Hebrews 9 has historically been used to support the penal substitution view of atonement in which the guilt of sinners has been transferred to Christ, and His death on the cross is viewed as a substitute punishment in the place of guilty sinners. His blood shed is seen as a satisfying God the Father’s wrath and need for justice.

Those who support this view argue Christ’s sacrifice in taking our punishment upon Him shows us His deep love for us. While we affirm the depth of Christ’s love for us displayed on the cross, we believe the scripture has been twisted creating a very ugly picture of God the Father. Greg raises several challenges to this interpretation:

  • How is this vengeful, wrath filled view of God consistent with the revelation of God shown in Jesus Christ? God the Father is essentially pitted against Jesus who steps in to satisfy the Father’s wrath. This view has created a love affair with Jesus while making people terrified of the Father.
  • This view makes the “myth of redemptive violence” the centerpiece of history. The myth that more violence will bring peace. As people imitate the God they worship, it’s no surprise the Church’s history is littered with violence and bloodshed (i.e. The Crusades, 100 years’ war, 30 years’ war, etc) in the 11th century A.D. as this theory became popular.
  • If forgiveness is simply releasing a debt, and in the penal substitution view of atonement Jesus essentially pays the debt for us, does God ever really forgive anyone? It creates a picture of God as desiring justice and sacrifice over mercy and forgiveness which is the opposite Jesus teaches.
  • If God is too holy to be in the presence of sin, why did Jesus constantly fellowship with sinners? In reality God’s holiness, unlike that of the Pharisees, actually attracted sinners, not repelled them.
  • How is it morally just to punish an innocent person for the guilt of others?

To provide more depth to these challenges, it’s helpful to understand more about the animal sacrifices referenced in the passage. People had been sacrificing animals long before the OT to appease the various gods they worshipped. When God starts out with the Israelites He is entering their world as a missionary in a foreign land. Because of their sinfulness He had to accommodate His ideal will in order to meet them where they were at and bring them toward His ideal gradually. Although God really wanted a contrite and surrendered heart, while he was weaning them off their culture’s influence, he gave sacrifice a new meaning. Instead of appeasing the gods’ anger and wrath, God made it a symbol the covenantal relationship He was establishing with His people.

We see the human condition reframed in the NT. God’s problem is not how to love sinners, but rather how to free sinners from the bondage to the kingdom of darkness we’ve entered by our covenant breaking sin. God’s self-sacrificial love in shedding His own blood through Jesus’ death on the cross was the only way to open our eyes to see who He truly is and receive the forgiveness He freely offers. Christ’s death puts on display self-sacrificial love as the way to defeat evil, not violence. God’s justice doesn’t compete with His love, it’s an expression of it. So when it’s not loving to do justice, he doesn’t. In essence, this is mercy and grace. In Christ, not only do we not get what we deserve, we actually get what we don’t deserve – an abundant life free of fear and full of the life giving joy of the triune God.

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Topics: Forgiveness, Sacrifice, Sin

Sermon Series: Twisted Scripture: Season 1

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Focus Scripture:

  • Hebrews 9:18-22

    18 Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

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26 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: Hebrews 9:18-22

  1. Joann James says:

    If God is all love, why did he put a curse on Adam and Eve, which we inherited?

  2. Lisa says:

    I do like your twist on scripture; however, how do you explain Genesis 3:21? Where did the garments of skin come from. How am I to read the creation/fall account? Which parts should be seen as literal and which parts should be seen as symbolic?

  3. Billy Coward says:

    Can you explain Psalm 51:19?

  4. kevin says:

    On God’s animals, i can understand His allowing this back then, as was their custom; in the new testament, however, how is it that Jesus could grant the demon legion their request and allow an entire herd of pigs to fall to their deaths? i know that swine were unclean to the jews and this display may have been some sort of lesson to them….nevertheless, what gives? thanks

  5. Tina Fant says:

    I also am wondering about Genesis 3:21. Apparently fig leaves weren’t enough. Also, Genesis 4:4. It sounds to me that Abel gave an animal sacrifice and mentions the fat of the animal. Thanks.

  6. Michael says:

    I’m also very curious about the fall an how it seems God provided the first sacrifice. I have heard that this is a shadow. Man used fig leaves which is the law an could never really cover them but show there nakedness an God is the one who used the animal skin(Jesus) an provided a sacrifice that could truly cover our nakedness.

  7. Matt says:

    My only contention is the he states at 37:30 that Christ’s payment was not to free us from the wrath of God though it clearly states in Romans 5:9 that this is the case.
    “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

    It is exactly because of His work on the cross that on the day of judgement, God’s wrath, the condemnation for sin, will not be applied to those who have accepted His substitution.

    Greg’s spot on about clearing up all the misconceptions applied by the penal substituonary atonemnt, in regards to God’s love and forgiveness, but you can not overlook that there is a penalty for sin, and that is God’s wrath, it is condemnation and death, the just consequence, and it will be applied to those who do not accept the penalty, the price, the wage of that sin that Christ took on for us, in our place.

  8. Dave Pritchard says:


    Several things for me come to mind when looking at those passages. Firstly, I think it shows how a life (or “lives” depending on which version: Matt – 8:28) is inherently more valuable than the plentitude of what someone may or may not own. One demon possessed man healed and redeemed for the Kingdom, is far more valuable than potentially 2000 swine. As you’ve said though, they were considered unclean at the time and would have been an illegal trade in those days – (Deut 14:8) So, if they were owned or being eaten by Jews, their death in the water was probably a convenient reprimand. However, if they were being raised by Gentiles – “The Gadarenes” as the text suggests, you can see why the people there might have been either angry or full of fear over what had just happened. That’s a huge income stream for them flushed away in one moment!

    Another thing that is fairly straight from the text is that Jesus didn’t drive them over the cliff, down the bank or into the water – the Demons did. It’s interesting though that contrary to popular belief pigs can actually swim quite well –


    But again, this clearly shows how stupid and divided against itself the “Kingdom of Darkness” is, in that these animals were then subsequently driven mad by the demons and then coked to death in the water – the demons are innately so self-destructive that they couldn’t even maintain the life of their hosts. It shows the detrimental irony of what happens when you place an “unclean spirit” into an “unclean animal”.

    It’s also important to remember that in the ancient world the “sea” was a symbol for “evil” so in some respects, the whole episode could potentially be seen in light of Rev 20:10 where in the end, Death, the Devil and the Whole Satanic Mess is thrown into the lake of fire and is destroyed, so there’s a prefiguration or metaphor there depending on how you might look at it.

    The fact that the people reject Him afterwards and appear completely ungrateful, potentially shows how some will simple not come on board with The Message and want with an emotional passion, to hang onto their sinful lifestyle, their toys, their stuff – they don’t like anything getting in between them and their economic agenda.

    In some respects the text intrinsically shows how Jesus clearly demonstrated his power over the Spiritual, as well as the Animal Kingdoms – Psalm 50:10 but… in the later, not in a self-destructive or uncaring manner. In contrast, whether man or beast, Satan wants to unravel and collapse the Creation and bring it down, destroy it – anything to embarrass and thwart God’s plans. I think that Jesus most certainly knew what the pigs might do once infected the Legion but I don’t think he specifically ordained their destruction anymore than he causes the latest tsunami, earthquake or cancer to occur – in some ways this all connects back to the “Open view” of scripture, etc..

    I’m sure Jesus went over there with the hope and intension of bringing His Kingdom to those people but he wasn’t going to force them to show gratitude – that was their job. There are other correlations within scripture with this episode but I’ve already gone on too long as it is…..

  9. Kathy D. says:

    Hi Greg, Wow. My notebook is full now!! This teaching is jam packed, wonderful, love the passion, praise God! “God at War” – great book, Greg, thank you. I’m excited to finish it (have a chapter left) and start “Satan and the Problem of Evil.”

    The animal loving podrishioner,

  10. Dave Pritchard says:


    I came across this on Q Talks. You might find it interesting!

    Q Ideas | Christine Gutleben & Wayne Pacelle | Animal …
    ► 17:20► 17:20

    Cheers, Dave

  11. Joann James says:

    I just found this link from the Meeting House with Bruxey


  12. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Joann, I saw your original question, which I didn’t see anyone touch on. That’s a good question.

    The thoughts I would offer is that it’s not a curse to destroy humanity but a curse to discipline and cause repentance. In other words, God declare to Adam and Eve that to experience life without him is to curse their selves. God ultimately ratified Adam’s decision with his expulsion from the Garden. Remember that Adam and Eve cursed themselves first by evidence of guilt and shame experienced from their action. Moreover, when God called Adam and asked him what happen (which was God’s way in saying I’m giving you time to fess up) Adam didn’t repent but blamed Eve as the story goes.

    What’s fascinating is that it took 3 generations before men (Adam’s line) started to call on the Lord. (Genesis 4:25:26). The word call in verse 26 is qara in the Hebrew, which means to proclaim or cry out in a loud voice. This means that Adam and his family didn’t truly repent and proclaim God as Lord and Saviour till that time.

    Back to the curse as a form of discipline, that principle of discipline is gleaned from God’s dealing with Israel. In Deuteronomy 28, as a prime example, God presented to His people blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Whenever Israel walked in disobedience, they were driven out of the land for a period of time and experience the curses stipulated in Deuteronomy 28. However, the curses were never meant to be permanent but as a mechanism to drive His people back to obedience and experience the blessings again. (You can read from Isaiah, Jeremiah and onward with the other prophetic books and see that same theme emerging.) And with time and obedience, His people did return to the land. (Of course, they ended up being kicked out again but that’s beside the point.) The way that God dealt with Israel on the micro level is the same way God deals with humanity on the macro level. Humanity was driven out of the garden for disobedience and experience curses for a period of time (which feels very long). However, humanity will return back to the Garden of Eden (and the City of Jerusalem) as Revelation 22 indicates, because we’re in Christ. Indeed, Revelation 22 uses primarily metaphorical language to express the reality of our new home with God. Nevertheless it’s conceivable as secondary point of Revelation 22 that there will be a garden to experience with all its blessings – even more than what Adam and Eve experienced.

    I believe the curse was to discipline His humanity not destroy. Otherwise, God could have ended the story of humanity from the beginning. Let me know your thoughts.

    ~ Denley McIntosh

  13. Geoff says:

    Your question is a good one and I’m not even saying I agree with Greg’s view here, but the Greek in that passage just says, “from the wrath.” I think that a great case can be made that the wrath is God’s wrath, but it does just say, “the wrath.”
    Romans 5:9
    πολλῷ οὖν μᾶλλον δικαιωθέντες νῦν ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ σωθησόμεθα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς.

  14. Dave Pritchard says:


    A few years back in “Christianity Today” Mark Galli mentioned in a somewhat balanced article entitled – “The Problem with Christus Victor”, that this atonement theory had a tendency to pander to the “victimhood” of believers and it’s popularity was indicative of Post-modern culture where we see ourselves as being manipulated by biological and natural forces outside of our control. He writes –

    “Many interesting comparisons can be made between the two theories. Both actually include dimensions of personal guilt and victimhood, but as I listen to the discussion today, it seems that Christus Victor highlights our state as victims. Substitutionary atonement focuses on our guilt. In Christus Victor, we are liberated from hostile powers out there. In substitution, we are forgiven, and liberation is from ourselves and our addiction to our sin. Naturally, both models speak to truths of the human condition! And both have nuances worth exploring. But I’m concerned at the rising popularity of Christus Victor when it comes at the expense of substitution.”

    Now I’m not saying I agree here but I can see his point – but only to a point….. He goes on to say that –

    “Christus Victor has an uncanny tendency to downplay a sense of personal responsibility, which in the end, sabotages grace.”

    On this point, I think Galli is definitely wrong! Although not overly negative, his preference clearly comes though and he does kind of set up a polemic between the two, as if one is inherently more valuable and accurate than the other. It seems to me that anyone of the four main (or more) Atonement Theory views – “Ransom Theory / Christus Victor”, “Penal Substitution”, “Satisfaction Theory”, “Moral Influence Theory”, etc… can easily be backed up by specific scriptures but that this should not lead to a dominance of one view over another. So I think it’s more logical to hold to a kind of Joel Green “Kaleidoscope theory” where you don’t dig yourself into a trench of Dogma about the matter.

    Gustaf Aule’n builds a strong case for the “Christus Victor” aka – The Classical or Patristic View, in his popular book by laying the foundation through the writings of Irenaeus and other early church fathers. He contrasts this with the “Latin View” which received a big theological push from Anselm of Canterbury.

    One of the things that strikes me as profound when looking closely at this, is the Christus Victor emphasis on Jesus’s victory over death and bondage to satanic forces for us, as opposed to victory ones personal sins emphasized more succinctly in Penal Substitution theory. But the two are components of the same alienation problem – Christ overcoming for us [the powers of darkness] on The Cross, is a victory over death because it is simultaneously a victory over the power of sin, – it checks both boxes! Our “death” spiritual and physical is the result of our sin [via Adam] – But…..the death of a sinless life, i.e. – Jesus, results in the recapitulation of that original spiritual and ultimately physical “life” for us in the new heavens and new earth.

    Galli also points out that –

    “Neurotic Substitutionary Atonement” needs to be abandoned. The picture of a wrathful Father having his anger appeased by the death of his Son is wrong on many fronts. Here’s one: It separates the work of the Father from the Son, as if they have competing concerns—the Father with righteousness, the son with compassion. It sounds like the Son saves us from the Father!

    I like this last part.

  15. Matt says:

    Geoff, I chose that verse because it wraps it up into one sentence, though simply connecting the dots it’s clear that judgement (God’s wrath) is to befall those who do not choose to follow Christ. As there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1), the condemnation of death, which is the penalty for sin, than it is clear that Christ has saved us from the wrath, the condemnation, the penalty of that sin to come, which is simply God dealing with evil.

    That is where Christ steps in, to fulfill what is our due penalty for sin. The misconception is that God does not love us until that price is paid, though it is clear (Romans 5:8-10) that it is exactly because He already loved us that He sent His Son, and that Christ’s blood (payment) now released us from the debt accrued from our sin, allowing that barrier to be torn down opening a way that we can now enjoy direct communion and reconciliation once again with the Father.
    We are cleansed by that payment, our debt is wiped, our sins accrued, now erased, because Jesus stood in that gap and paid the price in our stead.

    As far as it being God’s wrath, those who continue to reject God, they do not accept His forgiveness, nor His loving payment, and to them it is not applied as scripture says, the wrath of God remains upon them (John 3:36), and they are storing up wrath for the day of judgement (Romans 2:5), their wage for their sin will be death (Romans 6:23), because they have not accepted the wage that was paid and offered in their stead by Christ. God will not force His forgiveness and unity upon those who do not want Him, to do so would also be unloving, yet still their sins, their penalty will be paid in full by them if they will not accept His offer as a substitution.

    Again I agree with Greg that much has been skewed when dealing with Penal Substituionary Atonement, so yes, rectify the misconceptions, but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I agree there is much to be adhere unto with the Christus Victor view, but in short I believe it’s clear the the work on the cross protects us from the wrath to come, the judgement of God, for those who so choose to accept it.

    Peace brother.

  16. Julie says:

    Could Greg explain why God provided Abraham with an animal to sacrifice when Isaac was about to be sacrificed and Abraham sacrificed the animal instead? I don’t understand how this is loving and have always felt so sorry for the poor animal that was caught in something and was sacrificed.

  17. Josh says:

    Hey Kevin, regarding Jesus and the swine, here is a FANTASTIC[!!] paper arguing that the episode is more likely an instance of recorded political allegory than literal history. Bless you man.

  18. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Julie, I think Greg spoke about it in his message. It was God’s way accommodating the culture at the time. As part of the fall which means human beings rebelling against God by virtue of Adam initial rebellion, animal predation and death became a reality; and human beings proclivity to kill animals as well.

    God tolerated these acts of violence to animals (especially in the Israel’s sacrificial system in the Old Testament) knowing sin will not have the last say; and one day animal death will no longer be a reality.

    Isaiah 11:6-9

    6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
    The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
    and a little child will lead them all.
    7 The cow will graze near the bear.
    The cub and the calf will lie down together.
    The lion will eat hay like a cow.
    8 The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
    Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
    9 Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
    for as the waters fill the sea,
    so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.

    I hope that helps…

    ~ Denley McIntosh

  19. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I see God’s wrath in two ways or manners based on how God seems to act throughout both Testaments. The first way is God can step backward and allow his wrath to be mediated through rebellious humans to others or themselves, which Romans 1:24 seems to highlight, “God gave them up…” Or when God made the Babylonians judge Israel in the Old Testament. (Note: when God mediates his wrath through wicked people, He then turns around and holds the wicked accountable for their action as well like He did with Babylonians in Habakkuk.) Also, this manner of wrath was the means that God used rebellious people to crucify our Lord.

    The second way is God stepping forward where God mediates the wrath himself directly like with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, or when God came down to judge Miriam in Numbers 12 for speaking out against Moses.

    Either way, if God mediates his wrath directly through manifestation or indirectly through humans/creation, all events must be allowed by God. That’s why I believe Isaiah mentions in 53:4 that God punished Jesus in terms of sovereignty but in practicality, Peter in Acts 2:36 indicates it was the Jews and Gentiles.

    God didn’t mediate his wrath directly on our Lord but indirectly through human agents. However, the wrath comes from him in the general or absolute sense because all events are permitted or sustained by his him/will.

    Does that make sense?

    ~ Denley McIntosh

  20. Peter says:

    While I have no intention of addressing the lose ends of the questions/issues raised (these should be held over to Greg and Paul’s next Q&A), there are some “takeaways” on this issue that I have found with another commentator that are relevant to this matter and the debate.

    Firstly, Greg presented several views/theories on the Atonement and the “Four Views” book, there are also a number of others. The point is that views or theories do not save, but endeavour to set out a coherent and helpful mode to understanding Christ’s death and the impact on our lives. Interestingly, we have John the Baptist saying in Jn 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and, of course Jesus at the last supper in Matt 26:28, “ for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.

    Secondly, the issue of revelation of a number of matters as contained in the Bible are progressive in the sense that the OT can often be a shadow of what comes to fruition in the NT….this is especially so in relation to the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Jesus. The fact of the eternal Father and the Son in one sense have always been and will continue to be, but their revelation to us doesn’t really come to the fore until the NT. Similarly with Atonement where this existed in a form in the OT, which was a shadow in a sense, as to what Jesus ultimately provides in the NT.

    In Greg’s view of sacrifice in the OT, mention is made of Abel (and by others above), but the interesting thing is that Abel was the first prophet as mentioned by Jesus in Lk 11:49-51 and in Amos 3:7 it says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” So there is a reasonable assumption that Abel knew what he was about and that his deeds were righteous. It is also noted from the recent Job study, in Job 1:5, “and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.” The other aspect here is whether sacrifice is of a creational order or not. An example of creational order would be marriage as is the Sabbath day of rest. Whether sacrifice as a means of worship was inherent given the Fall, cannot necessarily be said for certain. However, the later “formalisation” of the sacrificial system under Mosaic Law tends to underline this.

    The last point I wish to touch on is God’s wrath. In Rom 2:5, Paul says, “..on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”, which infers that wrath is only known by revelation….it doesn’t come naturally to the natural mind. Just as we try and compare love in the natural sense with God’s love and similarly our fatherhood with God’s Fatherhood, they are of different orders. While Isaiah 53 prophesies Jesus’ death, we cannot fully appreciate God’s wrath in this action,

    “He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    he was bruised for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
    6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned every one to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
    like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb,
    so he opened not his mouth.
    8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
    that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
    9 And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
    although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
    10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him;
    he has put him to grief;
    when he makes himself an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days;
    the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand;
    11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous;
    and he shall bear their iniquities.”

    Then again, 2 Thes 1:7-9 does provide a fairly graphic picture for the impenitent,

    “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”.

  21. Matt says:


    Consider the possibility that God didn’t put a curse on us. Perhaps it was interpreted through our sinful perspective as a curse. The “curse” can also be read in a way that it’s just God describing what the outcome is of their sin based on the laws of the universe.

    He’s just describing it, just a scientist would describe the outcome of some natural process such as evolution, physics, biology, genetics, etc.

    God often gets a bad reputation because either Satan twists God’s words or plain out lies (“surely you will not die…”), and probably more often, since our eyes are darkened by our sin, we put a dark “spin” on what God really said.

    God Bless,


  22. Denley says:

    Hi Matt,

    I would agree with that sentiment but it needs qualification. If you go down that route, then the idea presupposes a more Deist view of God. Scripture however mentions that God is engaged and involved with creation, so it can’t just mean laws of the universe’s acting on its own. This is also connected with God’s sovereignty. How do we understand this affirmative statement from the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and exist…”?

    I’d suggest that the Old Testament writers see all events in general coming from God as the Creator and Source of all things. He is the “Ground” for everything to exist or literally “stand out”, which is the origin of the word. This is why in the Old Testament you have passages like in Ecclesiastes 7:14, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider this: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” And Isaiah 45:7 goes on to further say, “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.” This is the bird’s eye view or macro perspective, which means God brought upon the curse indirectly. This is because God has given humans choice with the possibly to do good by His grace but with choice comes the possibility to do evil by man’s own volition. Therefore, from a localized or micro view, the curse is brought on by a sinful humanity, directly. That is why God can hold humans accountable for our sins through own choice.

    Matt – I hear what you’re saying, but I hope I could add on your thought with that qualification as brief as it may be…

  23. Matthew Boyum says:

    Let me preface this by saying that Greg has had the most impact (positive) on my Christian life than any other preacher/teacher/theologian/author, save Watchman Nee. Having said that, I am concerned about this message. The reason 99.99% of people have never heard a sermon like this is because its premise is an invention of Greg’s. I understand his view concerning this issue: to protect the view of a non-violent God. However, holding to Greg’s view essentially means dismissing the vast majority of the Pentateuch, which Greg would agree is inspired. A “God” of accommodation is a scary road to traverse. Lastly, my most pressing question is this: how could God demand Isaac as a sacrifice if He is anti-sacrifice? Furthermore, he provides a lamb in Isaac’s stead. Doesn’t this indicate that God didn’t accommodate sacrifice of animals? Rather, he demanded it.

  24. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Matthew,
    I think the issue is not demanding a sacrifice as so much that Abraham broke covenant and sinned. No sin specifically but in general I surmise. We know any sin committed warrants death whether spiritually and/or physically as we saw in the Garden with Adam. With Abraham, he should have died because of sin in general (or maybe with Hagar) but God directed him to use Isaac as his substitute. Why Isaac? I suppose Isaac was neither at a point of maturity to be held accountable for sin nor an expectation was given to him. Isaac was blameless and therefore was an adequate substitute. Of course, Abraham could have rejected God’s command for Isaac’s sacrifice considering that he was the promise child of his and Sarah’s old age. Nevertheless Abraham trusted God and was obedient knowing that God would keep his promise since he was able to bring life out of nothing or barrenness with Isaac. True to form, God intervened and stops Isaac’s sacrifice. This was not because I believe God had a change of heart, but He showed Abraham that He was responsible for the covenant with Abraham. This happened while God was working in the known sacrificial system of Abraham’s culture and/or day.

    I believe one key thing we have to remember that the covenant cut with Abraham in Genesis 14 & 17 was one-sided covenant. This meant that God was responsible for both sides of the covenant as oppose to Abraham keeping up his side. All Abraham had to do, so to speak, was to believe and trust God was faithful to His covenant promise. God did this by providing Abraham the adequate sacrifice and allowed Abraham, acting as a high priest, to participate in fulfilling the other side of God’s covenant. That’s why we could use this narrative as a shadow to our Lord Jesus who was the high priest and sacrifice keeping both sides of the new covenant as the God-Man in Hebrews 8 & 10.

    We like Abraham just need to trust that our sin, which warrants death, has been intervened by the Father and Jesus has kept our side of the covenant. Jesus is the only adequate human response to God’s new covenant for our humanity.

    I do Matthew see the attempted sacrifice of Isaac at some level as a cultural accommodation. However, I think the thrust of God’s action, foremost, is predicated on his covenant promise to Abraham. That’s my thought. I hope it helps.

    ~ DM

  25. James Moriarty says:

    Atonement theory is always a lively discussion! Keep in mind it’s theory… CS Lewis made this observation “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work”

    It seems to me that if The Lord took 3,000 years, give or take, to wrestle with and gradually walk “vicarious Israel” out of their deeply entrenched paganism so that he could one day come among them, as one of them in order to reveal who he has always been; why do we think, 2,000 years later, especially upon reflection of the sullied history of the church, that he’s not doing the same thing with us from this side of the cross?

    Could it be that as we get closer and closer to the day when we will finally see him as he is, that he’s gradually becoming clearer and clearer to us? Our trouble is we tend to be like Peter, James & John on the mount of transfiguration. We like to camp out on revelation. The trouble is in the end we go crazy or near crazy trying to get our theology exactly right.

    GK Chesterton commented on this in “Orthodoxy”,

    “Imagination does not breed insanity… Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad… but creative artists very seldom. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion… To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

  26. Michael Johnston says:

    Hey Matt,

    Thought I would try to offer some clarity to your objection.

    Greg is not saying that the Cross does not save us from the Father’s wrath; He’s saying the reason for the Cross was not because God’s wrath had to be avenged by Christ paying our debt to the Father. Rather, God willingly shed His own blood to free us from the covenant to bondage and the rule of Satan.

    The idea that we have a debt that we accrue by sinning and that it must be paid in order to receive forgiveness is specific to the Penal Substitution view; and in my opinion it’s not very well established Biblically. In my opinion the Bible makes it clear that when sin runs its course, it leads to death and those results are intrinsically designed into sin. It’s God’s mercy and grace that prevents us from certain death while we’re in sin. He protects us from our own sin in hopes that we will turn from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. There comes a time when we become so set in our ways, after making the decision to live in sin for some time, that God knows there is no hope for us to turn back to Him. When He sees that this is the case, His wrath and judgment is to withdrawal His protection and allow sin to run it’s course (leads to death). He always does this with a grieving heart. Sometimes He hardens peoples hearts in hopes that it will wake them up; it’s always redemptive (Romans 11).

    Blessings brother,

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