Was Christ’s Death A Sacrifice?

By Al Serrato

The blood-curdling scream signaled that she had not yet given up. Hours of pushing and the baby had still not descended. The OB was weighing her options, while dad wiped mom’s forehead and encouraged her on. She screamed again, pushing and puffing and praying that this agony might soon draw to a close. The pain was so… intense, so utterly mind-numbing that she wondered, for the thousandth time, why she had wanted to have another child…

This is a scene that plays out day after day in hospitals all over the world – women experiencing extreme pain as they do their part to bring new life to – and into – the world. But what does this have to do with Christian apologetics?

Christ Death Sacrifice

Recently, I corresponded with a skeptic who posed some interesting questions about the Christian faith. She began by arguing that if indeed Christ rose from the dead, this would have been no sacrifice on his part, but a bargain, as he traded a normal body for a perfect one.

This, I responded, misses the point of what Jesus did: because his body was human, he experienced the pain and suffering that the crucifixion brought with it, in the way that any flesh and blood human would. There are many things that may result in the eventual gain that is exceedingly painful. You wouldn’t tell a mother who is about to deliver that her “sacrifice” and pain are any less real because she will be getting a healthy child “in return.” The mother’s suffering doesn’t “cause” the child to be born; it simply accompanies it, a feature as it were of the nature of things. But willingly enduring pain or suffering, in the service of others, is worthy of recognition and praise. What she endures still constitutes a sacrifice for her, even if she too gains in the process.

So too for Christ: though something better was in store, it nonetheless was a sacrifice for him to go through the steps necessary to complete his “substitutionary atonement.” And it wasn’t the pain that brought salvation; like the child birth referred to above, pain isn’t the point of the process; it is simply, and sadly, a byproduct of it.

Christianity does not teach that Christ’s suffering “caused” our salvation as if he needed to satisfy the whims of some sadist. The mistake implicit in the challenge is the assumption that God is some kind of monster, who measured the pain Jesus suffered until it reached some point where he was finally satisfied. No, it was not Jesus’ experience of agony that God was measuring. It was, instead, Jesus’ perfect life, while a man, that put him in a position to accept in our stead what we in fact deserved. Many people have suffered similar, or even worse, deaths, but they could not take on for others what they themselves deserved based on their own conduct. Since sin is something that we all do, and since sin results in separation from God, then a sinless man would be the only kind of man who could take, on our behalf, the consequences that we merited. This is why Jesus made a point of saying that no one took his life; he did what he did voluntarily, which is the only way it would, or could, have been accepted.

Had he been a sinner himself, this “sacrifice” would have been of no avail, as he would have had his own debt to pay. Had he been simply another man, chosen at random to be the scapegoat for God’s wrath, a colossal act of unfairness would have resulted. But God took the punishment upon himself. Since God the Father and God the Son are “consubstantial” – of the same essence – God’s infinite wrath is absorbed and balance by an infinite and all-powerful being.

Skeptics often claim that perfect justice and perfect mercy cannot coexist; one or the other must give way. But hasn’t God done just that? Has he not balanced perfect justice and perfect mercy through his perfect love – satisfied for eternity within the persons of the Godhead? Those who accept God’s gift receive forgiveness through Christ, while those who die in rebellion receive the just consequence of their choice.

In dying for our sins, Jesus did more than “sacrifice.” He demonstrated the sublime elegance that can solve even apparently insoluble problems, and open for us a path back to the Father.

Notes

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2zbCw1v

 


 

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11 replies
  1. bob says:

    “Skeptics often claim that perfect justice and perfect mercy cannot coexist…But hasn’t God done just that? Has he not balanced perfect justice and perfect mercy through his perfect love…?”
    Perfect justice would be making the punishment fit the crime. Perfect mercy should coincide with perfect justice. Perfect love? I don’t know – Is there such a thing?
    .
    “Those who accept God’s gift receive forgiveness through Christ…”
    How does one “accept” this “free gift”…just believe? And what did I do to God that was so bad that Jesus had to die for?
    .
    “… while those who die in rebellion receive the just consequence of their choice.”
    Rebellion? I simply don’t believe. How does that equate to rebellion? And my lack of belief is not a “choice”. I am just unconvinced. I can’t choose to be convinced. If you think I am wrong, just try it. Go ahead and believe something that you currently find unbelievable…try it…I’ll wait…
    .
    r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

    Reply
      • Nikola Dimitrov says:

        I would agree. Justice and mercy should NOT be separated. Psalm 62:12 says: “Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy (MERCY): for thou renderest to every man according to his work (JUSTICE).”

        Reply
      • jcb says:

        Mercy here usually means forgiveness: giving people less than they actually deserve. Justice usually means giving people exactly what they deserve. You cannot have perfect mercy and perfect justice. Either you are giving people all the punishment that they deserve, or you are giving them less or more punishment than they deserve. Mercy is usually giving them less punishment than they deserve.

        Reply
  2. toby says:

    .. . . since sin results in separation from God, then a sinless man would be the only kind of man who could take, on our behalf, the consequences that we merited.
    This is so much malarkey. And so is:
    .
    Since God the Father and God the Son are “consubstantial” – of the same essence – God’s infinite wrath is absorbed and balance by an infinite and all-powerful being.
    In short, he could have done nothing, none of the convoluted torture-fetish theatrics, and simply forgave everyone. The equation balances before the theatrics even start.
    .
    In short there was no sacrifice. What is the pain of man to an infinite, omnipotent being? Would you please admit that a true sacrifice would be if that perfect being was currently burning in hell forever so we didn’t have to. THAT IS A SACRIFICE. What you’re spelling out is a charade that’s often stated as: god sacrificed himself to himself to appease himself. It’s a shell game.

    Reply
    • Kevin says:

      Wow, the Creator of the universe leaves the glory of heaven and the humanly unfathomable intimacy of His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to live and die, with and for His creation, and you don’t see the sacrifice?

      Reply
      • toby says:

        According to apologists like Frank Turek god is spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. He has nowhere to leave from. What is heaven according to apologists? Certainly it can’t be a place because god is, by their reckoning, no where.

        And what are you talking about? His relationship with the father and spirit? It’s all him! This three natures, but one is mind boggling lunacy dreamed up by some long dead theologian.

        Reply
  3. vikingmom says:

    The utter depth of Jesus’sacrifice is partly revealed in the famous article in the Journal of the American Association magazine. Offhand I think it is in the 1987 issue. The details from the witness accounts in the New Testament are examined. Supplemented with historical and archaeological info about Roman crucifixion execution methods. The forensic analysis summarizes the many crucifixion details to be a truly ghastly and slow death. Its no accident the derivative word for horribly slow and painful experience is…Excruciating!!!

    Also…there is a Separation between the Father and the Son. The cry of Jesus on the cross is “My God.Why have You forsaken me???”.

    The Bible says that Jesus was “made sin ” for us. The horror of the experience as described in the sources above…was maybe a little comparable to a soldier who faces the horrors of was for love of those he (or she) loves.

    Earlier Jesus agonized over the horror facing Him. He begged the Father God to let tjis cup pass (let him out of crucifixion) but He said “Not Mt will but Thine”.He prayed so intensely that beads of blood appeated on his face…a medical phenomenon indicating extreme stress…mentioned I think also in the JAMA article.

    …..
    And the evil we see around us…how can we doubt the pervasiveness of sin?

    Justice demands a penalty…Mercy satisfies justice and provides the repentant believer firgiveness and restoration.

    Reply
    • vikingmom says:

      Journal of the American Medical Association…March 21, 1986 On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ…forensic look at what hapoens to a oreviously healthy man who is brutally whipped and then nailed to a cross to die. Designed for those the Roman rulers considered the worst criminals.

      Reply
    • jcb says:

      Right, there is much evil around us that seems to serve no greater purpose. That’s why a perfect being probably doesn’t exist.
      There is of course (virtually) no evidence that Jesus’ death somehow means that now some people will live for eternity.

      Reply

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