Did the Father Become Sin?

by
Jason Dulle
JasonDulle@yahoo.com


Question:

I am a Trinitarian. I would like to comment on your "Understanding the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" paper, specifically your section in which you deal with the possibility of God forsaking Jesus on the cross. You argue that this is not possible, and that Jesus only meant that He felt forsaken on the cross (Mark 15:34). The word "forsaken" as used by Jesus means to "desert, to leave or to abandon." You deny the meaning of this word completely, and then claim that the Father still indwelt Jesus on the cross. This presents a problem, for if the Father still indwelt the Son, then both the Father and Son in the person of Christ were together made sin for us on the cross (II Corinthians 5:21). If the Father was himself made sin, then Christís atonement on the cross would have been of no effect because it could not have been offered up to a sinless and holy God, because the Father was also himself made sin on the cross, together with the Son.

You are forced to misinterpret II Corinthians 5:21, as the Father making himself sin for us, and then offering up a sacrifice to himself in heaven, whilst at the same time he was completely tainted with sin upon the cross. I feel that this interpretation ignores the distinction between the Father and the Son in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, which I have listed below. Secondly it misapplies the redemptive sacrifice of the atonement to the Father, and by doing so then fails to explain how the Father who is now also "made to be sin," can accept his own sacrifice for sin.

"For He [Father], made Him [Son], who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God [Father] in him [Son]." Do you have an answer to such an argument as this?




Answer:

You said, "The word "forsaken" as used by Jesus means to "desert, to leave or to abandon." You deny the meaning of this word completelyÖ." I disagree with such an assertion. I do not deny the meaning of this word, but understand its meaning in the context of the OT passage from which Jesus quoted. When David used the corresponding Hebrew word in Ps 22:1, he did not mean that Godís Spirit had left him. If this is so, why is it wrong to interpret Jesusí use of the corresponding Aramaic word in the same fashion? If we understand Davidís use of the word as legitimately expressing his feelings of being forsaken by God, although he was not actually forsaken, why can we not understand Jesusí use of this same verse to indicate the same thing? To do so is not exegetically dishonest or an attempt to twist the Scriptures. It is using the Scripture to inform our understanding of other Scriptures.

Then you said that to claim that the the Father was in Christ on the cross when Christ bore our sins is problematic because "if the Father still indwelt the Son, then both the Father and Son in the person of Christ were together made sin for us on the cross (II Corinthians 5:21). If the Father was himself made sin, then Christís atonement on the cross would have been of no effect because it could not have been offered up to a sinless and holy God, because the Father was also himself made sin on the cross, together with the Son." I do not want to accuse you of anything that you do not believe, so please do not take my statement in the wrong way, but this sounds reminiscent of Tritheism.

If the three Persons of the Trinity are of one substance, how can one Person do something that another cannot? Orthodox Trinitarianism teaches something called perichoresis, which means that each Person of the Trinity participates in the activity of the other two Persons, although the majority of the activity is to be attributed to one Person. They must teach this in order to avoid Tritheism where each member of the Godhead is doing His own thing. An example is the way that the Scripture speaks of believers being filled with the Spirit. Most references say that we are filled with the Spirit, or Holy Spirit, but there are some that speak of us being filled with the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 4:6), and some that speak of us being filled with the Father. Since there is only one Spirit (Eph 4:4), Trinitarians must explain this phenomenon as a perichoresis of Persons.. Another example is sanctification. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are all spoken of as sanctifying us, but the Scripture usually speaks of sanctification in connection with the Holy Spirit. Now, this being the case, to say that the Father was not in Christ is to deny a perichoresis of Persons, which is to deny a true Trinity, and confess at least an incipient form of Tritheism. How can the Persons be distinguished to such a degree that the Father cannot be said to be part of the divinity of the Son while on the cross? With such a view, how is it maintained that there is one Spirit, one substance, and one God? If the Father was not in Christ when He bore the sins of the world, then neither was God the Son, if indeed there is a true Trinity of Persons, and a true perichoresis of the same.

You then said, "I feel that this interpretation ignores the distinction between the Father and the Son in II Corinthians 5:21Ö. Secondly it misapplies the redemptive sacrifice of the atonement to the FatherÖ." If you want to maintain a distinction in II Corinthians 5:21 between the Father and the Son, and see this as a distinction between two divine Persons, let us apply this to the more immediate context and see how it reads. I will quote II Corinthians 5:18-21 with interjected comments from a Trinitarian perspective to demonstrate that keeping a distinction between the Father and Son does not lead one to believe that the Father was absent when Christ died for us:

18 And all things are of God [Father], who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ [God the Son], and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God [Father] was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God [Father]. 21 For he [Father] has made him [God the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

I realize that Paul is making a distinction here between the Father and the Son, but my question is how could Paul say that God the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself if the Father could not be in Christ when He reconciled the world, because He had to be separate from the sin? How can the Father be in Christ reconciling the world, and yet not be in Him at the same time? This passage proves the very opposite of that which you assert concerning it. We know that the reconciliation of God and men occurred at Calvary (Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:10; Hebrews 2:17), so I see no escaping the conclusion that God the Father was in Christ when Christ made the atonement for our sin, bearing it in our stead. He did this through the Son, which we understand to be a reference to the incarnation. It was Christ (God incarnate) who offered up the sacrifice of his human life to the Father (God transcendent) in his body. Apart from Godís humanity in the person of Jesus Christ there could be no atonement. Godís spiritual essence was not made sin for us, for His nature is holy, but it was His existence in the flesh as a result of the incarnation. God did not accept the atonement made by another divine person, but the atonement He made for us by means of His incarnation in the flesh.

Concerning your last statement, "Secondly it misapplies the redemptive sacrifice of the atonement to the Father, and by doing so then fails to explain how the Father who is now also "made to be sin," can accept his own sacrifice for sin." I do not see this as being problematic to the Oneness position. It is only problematic to the Trinitarian understanding. The Oneness position does not see the references to the Son to be references to another divine personality in the Godhead, but to Godís existence in the flesh. It was only because of the incarnation that God could deal with the sin issue and reconcile man to Himself. In II Corinthians 5:18-21, Paul is distinguishing between God and Christ as between God as the unlimited Spirit, and this same God willingly limited in a human existence. God transcendent beyond the incarnation, accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which sacrifice could only be made in the flesh (Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 10:10; I Peter 2:24).. God could not have taken on the sin of the whole world as a sacrificial lamb apart from a human existence. Oneness theology understands the humanity that God assumed in the incarnation for our redemption to be the reason for all such distinctions between God and Jesus, or the Father and Jesus. We do not have the problem of one divine person having to accept the sacrifice of another divine person in this view. We only have the unlimited Spirit of God accepting the sacrifice that was accomplished by His incarnation.


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