So, I got a comment today on my engagingly titled post “Did God Really Demand the Death of His Son as a Sacrifice for Sin?” I was going to answer it in a comment, but I realized that most of y’all would never see it there. And sometimes the best conversations take place in the comments section. Especially when there’s a question from someone who thinks I’m wrong.
My blog posts purposely distill a lot of background information into a hopefully interesting, informative and sometimes challenging post. So I can’t cover everything, but I promise that if you have a question, I have an answer. It may not always be the right answer. But I do have an answer. I have been called Hermoine Granger more than a few times over the years. (I am very grateful to the Harry Potter books for giving us a nicer way to call someone a bossy know-it-all, btw.)
So here’s the comment:
I loved reading your article and it does make a lot of sense. However, Isa 53:10 says, But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If he would render himself as a guilt offering..(NAS) So, I think that the theological stand point that is argued against in your article is actually derived from the Word of God. This has been a point of inner controversy to me as well?? Why would a loving God send His Son to be beaten to a pulp in order to satisfy justice for the sins of humanity, if the sinner will just believe in Jesus? That would be like punishing the good kid in the class in front of everyone to justify the rest of the bad kids who acted up in class and then telling them, if they only believe that the good kid got punished for their misbehavior; their deeds would be forgiven? Believe me when I tell you how I have struggled with this as a Christian..
For those following along at home, Isaiah 10:53 says:
But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering
We can easily read this as saying that God was pleased to allow these things to happen because through the work of the cross, his children (us) would be returned to him.
Again, the thing to remember is that a guilt offering is to meet our needs, not God’s. As I say at the beginning, the entire practice of using offerings and sacrifices when dealing with the divine was something humans came up with long before the time of Abram. What we see is God appropriating this pre-existing concept for his own purposes. And those purposes were not getting his own needs and demands met, but in meeting our needs.
So God uses blood sacrifice for two purposes: to remind us all of his covenant with us, that is to establish that he is trustworthy. And to allow for the release of any sins/impurities which might be a barrier keeping us from seeking after Him. Those are our needs that he was providing for when he established ritual sacrifice. We need to be able to trust God and we need to know that our sin will not ruin our relationship with him.
In the cross, the need for blood sacrifice is satisfied. Which is to say we have been given what we need to know in order to understand definitively that God is trustworthy and that our sin cannot ruin our relationship with him. It never could. That’s what we didn’t previously understand. We thought that God could be defeated, avoided, rejected or otherwise sent away by our sin. That Satan would win. At least a little. Or a lot. Basically, we said God was the cosmic loser, but such a wonderful cosmic loser that we should all worship him so we wouldn’t go to hell. The cross and the resurrection tell us that God wins. And it does please God.
BTW, that hopeful feeling you experience when someone tells you that God is better than you’ve been taught is the Holy Spirit moving. I know a lot of church’s tell you to ignore it. To settle for a God who isn’t really good enough. But listen when your heart leaps with hope, joy or peace. That’s the Spirit in you.