What’s the Big Deal about God’s Giving His Son?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, April 2, 2010 at 3:29pm
AN INQUIRER says someone asked him these two questions, and he wasn’t sure how to answer.
FIRST: “Why should God be so ‘stressed out’ about giving His ‘only begotten Son’? If He is God, couldn’t He just make more?” When I saw this question, my first thought was something like “What an idiot! If this guy is serious, this shows how utterly shallow his understanding of God and salvation must be.” But I will set down a few thoughts anyway. In the first place, in one sense, it is true that the omnipotent God could become incarnate in whatever number of human beings he might choose, if that were necessary. But that speculative scenario totally ignores the real context of the giving of his only Son.
Thus in the second place, NO, God could NOT “just make more” sons. The “giving” of His “only Son” (only-begotten Son, one and only Son) was a necessary aspect of a specific plan of God for which such an option of “just making more” was meaningless. This “giving” was part of the division of labor among the three persons of the Trinity for the purpose of accomplishing the redemption of sinners. The Son’s role in this plan was a one-time-only project. God the Son submitted himself to God the Father, became a human being, and did what was necessary to bring about salvation. There was no risk of failure, no “what if he fails?” contingency plan, involving the potential sending of Son #2, etc. What the one-and-only Son had to do was already predetermined “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23, ESV).
My “in the third place” leads to the second question asked of my inquirer:
SECOND: “What’s the big deal about it being so hard for God to give up his Son, when he knew that three days later everything would be all right again?” What this question reveals is how little this person really knows about the gospel. Specifically, he does not understand what the Father was giving the Son FOR or TO, or what the Son was going to have to go through in order to accomplish salvation for the world. “What’s the big deal” about the incarnation and the resultant propitiation? The Father was giving his Son so that the latter could put himself in the place of sinners and absorb into himself all of the just and righteous wrath of God deserved by sinners, and thus enable God to FORGIVE sinners without violating his own justice (see Romans 3:26). The sheer amount of agony and suffering Jesus would have to go through, known ahead of time by the Father, is something no parent would ever want to wish upon his or her child. Just to be a part of this plan, and to witness what his “only Son” had to go through, also brought untold agony upon the Father himself. THIS IS THE BIG DEAL about this plan of redemption. NO WONDER neither the Father nor the Son would want to go through it twice.
[To explain this further, I am mostly copying the following material from my book, “What the Bible Says About God the Redeemer,” pp. 514-515.] One major form of theism denies that God ever suffers and even that he CAN suffer. This is the false doctrine of God’s impassibility (inability to suffer), which is based on a faulty view of his immutability (unchangeableness). A right understanding of the true nature of God includes the possibility of his suffering, indeed, the NECESSITY of his suffering in order to accomplish our salvation from sin.
God began to suffer as soon as sin was a reality, and perhaps from the time he foreknew the reality of sin. But the climactic suffering of God took place in connection with his work of redemption, as that was accomplished through the substitutionary death of the incarnate Logos, God the Son. This divine suffering took two forms. First, the divine nature of Christ himself suffered when he took our sins and our penalty upon himself on the cross. The incarnate Christ had two natures, divine and human; but he was only ONE PERSON, one center of consciousness. Whatever experiences passed through the consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth passed through the consciousness of God the Son. When Jesus experienced suffering and death on the cross, God the Son experienced suffering and death. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Particularly poignant was “the pain of his God-forsakenness” (H. Berkhof; see Matt. 27:46). In its full reality, though, God the Son suffered the full equivalent of eternity in hell for the whole human race. Only through this unimaginable agony could he truly be the actual substitutionary atonement for all mankind.
The second form of divine suffering connected with the cross was the suffering of God the Father, the real pain he endured in sending his own Son to die on the cross. His own Son! This is how Romans 8:32 puts it: “He . . . did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” One point must be made clear. In reference to the cross, the Father did not suffer WHAT the Son suffered, but BECAUSE the Son suffered. He was not experiencing the agonies of Calvary; only God the Son was experiencing those. The Father rather was experiencing the agonies of a FATHER as he watched his only begotten and only beloved Son go through an ordeal unlike anything eternity had ever seen or will ever see again.
In summary, the Son suffers the eternal wrath of the Father upon sin, and the Father suffers to see his Son having to endure it. THIS is the “big deal” of the incarnation, of the death of Jesus on the cross, and of Good Friday.