The Flagellation, Caravaggio (1573-1610) Source: Art and the Bible
Son 2:15 KJV Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Subtle misconceptions are the little foxes that spoil our understanding of the Scriptures.
An unbalanced view of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is often the result of misrepresentation of Scripture.
I have heard preachers explicate how Jesus was ‘smitten of God’, ‘made sin for us’, ‘forsaken of God’, and have often repeated these ill-conceived views without examining the Scriptures for myself.
I will attempt to explain my understanding of substitutionary atonement.
Was Jesus Smitten of God?
Many preachers and websites narrate arduous and unremitting accounts of Jesus being ‘smitten of God’.
Zec 13:7 KJV Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
A Quote from Living Stream Ministry
‘However, not only did men reject and betray Him, but God smote Him. “Smite the shepherd.” He was smitten by God on the cross. He was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver by men, but following that, He was smitten on the cross by God Himself.’
Some scholars suggest Zechariah prophesied the Lord would personally smite the Shepherd. In my opinion, Albert Barnes elucidated the meaning and context of this portion of Scripture when he wrote:
Zechariah 13:7 ‘But by this command he signifies that human malice, acting freely, could do no more than His “Hand and” His “counsel determined before to be done” Act 4:28. The envy and hatred of Satan, the blind fury of the chief priests, the contempt of Herod, the guilty cowardice of Pilate, freely accomplished that Death, which God had before decreed for the salvation of the world…(Ribera), “the sword shall be aroused against My Shepherd, that is, I will allow Him to be smitten by the Jews. — Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible
The Perpetrators Were Identified by Peter in Acts 4
Act 4:26-28 KJV The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
‘For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.’ God the Father did not smite His Son; Peter in Acts 4 listed the perpetrators.
All the evil that sinful ‘man’ could muster while driven by Satan and his kingdom of darkness, was according to the Lord’s divine plan for the redemption of mankind.
God knew Adam would disobey His command and result in ‘mans’ fall and deprivation. Nevertheless, God’s great plan of redemption was in agreement with the Son before foundation of the world. He permitted Satan and wicked fallen ‘man’ to smite and unleash all within their power upon the Lord Jesus Christ, but to no avail, on the third day Christ rose victoriously from the dead.
A Quote from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible
Acts 4:28 ‘and thy counsel determined before to be done: God’s decrees are from eternity; there is nothing comes to pass in time but what he has beforetime determined should be done, either by effecting it himself, or doing it by others, or suffering it to be done, as in the case here. Whatever was done to Christ, either by Jews or Gentiles, by Herod or Pontius Pilate, was according to the secret will of God, the covenant he made with Christ, and the council of peace that was between them both: what they wickedly did, God designed for good, and hereby brought about the redemption and salvation of his people: this neither makes God the author of sin, nor excuses the sinful actions of men, or infringes the liberty of their wills in acting.’
Isa 53:4 KJV Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
A Quote from R C Sproul ‘The Servant Lord II’
‘He is “smitten by God” for our sins and “crushed for our iniquities” (v. 5). Note that it is not any sin in Jesus that causes this punishment. Rather, the Father punishes the Son for the sins that we have committed, the sins that were imputed to Him on the cross.’
The Old Testament animal sacrifices were a type and foreshadow of Jesus the Lamb of God, I fail to find God pouring out His wrath upon the innocent lambs for being sin bearers.
A Quote from Gloria Copeland
‘Jesus was smitten of God with sin and sickness in order for you to go free. Verse 6 tells us, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”’
Jesus was smitten, but not smitten of God!
‘yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted’ Isaiah did not write Christ was smitten of God! The prophet clearly said ‘yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted’. There is a huge difference, the crowd witnessing the crucifixion considered Him smitten of God because of His predicament and punishment.
Consider other translations:
Isa 53:4 Douay-Rheims Bible Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.
Isa 53:4 Geneva Surely hee hath borne our infirmities, and caried our sorowes: yet wee did iudge him, as plagued, and smitten of God, and humbled.
Those who beheld the spectacle of Christ’s sufferings assumed He was in that wretched condition for His own sins, of which He had none. They were oblivious to the fact it was for their sins and for the sins of the world that He endured the cross.
Isa 50:6-7 KJV I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7 For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
‘I gave my back to the smiters’ Jesus willingly gave Himself in the knowledge that God the Father would come to His aid.
‘But this is your hour, when darkness reigns!’
Luk 22:53 ISV While I was with you day after day in the temple, you didn’t lay a hand on me. But this is your hour, when darkness reigns!”
‘But this is your hour, when darkness reigns!’ The crucifixion was a spectacle of violent aggression. However, it was not a manifestation of the Father’s wrath on His Son. It was a testimony of God’s love and forgiveness in contrast to the violence and wrath of sinful ‘man’, incited by the Devil and the powers of darkness.
Col 1:13 KJV Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Christ prevailed over ‘mans’ wickedness unleashed on Him in the physical realm, and Satan’s futile attempt to overturn God’s great plan of redemption in the spiritual realm.
A Quote from the People’s New Testament
Colossians 1:13-14 ‘Who hath delivered us. The language implies that we were captive. We were under the power of darkness. Compare Luk_22:53. Satan is the power of darkness. Those in sin are held under his power.’
The Devil’s hostile yet ineffective attack on Christ was a desperate attempt to thwart the plan and purpose of God. Although he bruised Christ’s heal at the crucifixion, his final demise was imminent, when Christ would bruise his head… Genesis 3:15
The concept of God the Father pouring wrath on His Son is not in the Scriptures, nor did the Apostles teach God punished Jesus when He was on the Cross.
Was Jesus ‘Made to Be Sin’ for Us?
2Co 5:21 KJV For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2Co 5:21 Douay-Rheims Bible Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us: that we might be made the justice of God in him. Sin for us… That is, to be a sin offering, a victim for sin.
The Douay-Rheims translation not only makes more sense, it is also in keeping with Christ being the antitype of the Old Covenant sacrificial system.
The innocent animal was not made to be sin, but the sin bearer.
William F Beck’s God’s Word, Adam Clarke, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, and the Summarized Bible, all captured the true meaning of the verse.
Did Christ Become Sin?
A Quote from Matt Slick, Carm.org
2 Corinthians 5:21 ‘It is possible that at some moment on the cross, when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son. It says in Hab. 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away. At that time, the Son may have cried out.’
Contrary to Matt Slick’s view, I believe:
a) Christ did not become sin; He became the sin-bearer and sin offering.
b) God can look upon evil.
c) The Father did not turn His back on His Son.
Christians generally accept the statement made by Matt Slick; personally, Adam Clarke clearly addressed this topic.
A Quote from Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
2 Corinthians 5:21 ‘Had our translators attended to their own method of translating the word in other places where it means the same as here, they would not have given this false view of a passage which has been made the foundation of a most blasphemous doctrine; viz. that our sins were imputed to Christ, and that he was a proper object of the indignation of Divine justice, because he was blackened with imputed sin; and some have proceeded so far in this blasphemous career as to say, that Christ may be considered as the greatest of sinners, because all the sins of mankind, or of the elect, as they say, were imputed to him, and reckoned as his own. One of these writers translates the passage thus: Deus Christum pro maximo peccatore habuit, ut nos essemus maxime justi, God accounted Christ the greatest of sinners, that we might be supremely righteous. Thus they have confounded sin with the punishment due to sin. Christ suffered in our stead; died for us; bore our sins, (the punishment due to them), in his own body upon the tree, for the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all; that is, the punishment due to them; explained by making his soul – his life, an offering for sin; and healing us by his stripes. But that it may be plainly seen that sin-offering, not sin, is the meaning of the word in this verse.’
Did God Treat Christ as a Sinner?
2Co 5:21 CEV Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God.
The Contemporary English Version goes to the extent of asserting ‘God treated him as a sinner’, such theories have led preachers to extrapolate fanciful and exaggerated sermons.
To have a clear perspective of the crucifixion, our answers are found in the Scriptures and not in imaginative sermons, preached to reach the emotions rather than the heart.
Isa 53:6 KJV All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The Lord ‘made the iniquities of us all to meet on him.’ TSK Cross References
Is God too pure to look upon evil?
Hab 1:13 KJV Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?
The Scriptures do not teach God cannot look upon evil. The Book of Habakkuk contains the prophet’s conversation with the Lord, similar to a soliloquy.
It is interesting to compare the King James Version of verse 13, which begins with ‘Thou art’ in italics, (meaning it is not in the original text), to commentators Keil and Delitzsch ‘Art Thou’; Habakkuk’s assumption is transformed into a question and is an equally valid rendition.
A Quote from Keil and Delitzsch commentary on the Old Testament
Habakkuk 1:13 ‘“Art Thou too pure of eye to behold evil, and canst Thou not look upon distress? Wherefore lookest Thou upon the treacherous? and art silent when the wicked devours one more righteous than he?’
A Quote from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible
Habakkuk 1:13 ‘Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity,…. The Lord with his eyes of omniscience beholds all things good and evil, and all men good and bad, with all their actions; but then he does not look upon the sins of men with pleasure and approbation; since they are contrary to his nature, repugnant to his will, and breaches of his righteous law: and though sin in general may be included here, yet there seems to be a particular respect had to the “evil” or injury done by the Chaldeans to the Jews, in invading their land, spoiling their substance, and slaying their persons; and to the “iniquity”, labour, or grievance, by which may be meant the oppression and violence the same people exercised upon the inhabitants of Judea; which, though permitted by the Lord, could not be well pleasing in his sight. The Targum interprets it of persons, workers of evil, and workers of the labour of falsehood; see Psa 5:4.’
Did God Forsake Jesus?
Mat 27:46 KJV And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
I have heard elaborate accounts of God the Father turning His back on Jesus while He bore the sins of the world on the cross, however, the Scriptures do not substantiate this concept of the Father. The fact is, the opposite is true.
A Quote from R C Sproul ‘The Truth of the Cross’
‘He was overwhelmed by the outer darkness. On the cross, He was in hell, totally bereft of the grace and the presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. He became a curse for us so that we one day will be able to see the face of God. God turned His back on His Son so that the light of His countenance will fall on us. It’s no wonder Jesus screamed from the depths of His soul. (134-135)’
When Matthew recorded the words of Jesus ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ he did so as part of his narrative of the events that occurred during the crucifixion.
Psa 22:1 KJV My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
When a Rabbi taught from the Scriptures, it was commonplace for him to read the introductory Scripture only, the congregation understood the whole portion or Psalm was to be considered. The Lord Jesus Christ effectively used this teaching method called ‘Remez’.
A Quote from Ray Vander Laan thattheworldmayknow.com
Remez ‘The great teachers (rabbis) during Jesus’ day used a technique that was later called remez. In their teaching, they would use part of a Scripture passage in a discussion, assuming that their audience’s knowledge of the Bible would allow them to deduce for themselves the fuller meaning of the teaching. Apparently, Jesus, who possessed a brilliant understanding of Scripture and strong teaching skills, used this method often.’
‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ King David first uttered these words during a time of severe trial; nonetheless, the Psalm contains a significant Messianic prophecy. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when He expressed His suffering with a cry of despair.
Psa 22:24 KJV For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
‘neither hath he hid his face from him’ The Psalmist continued by declaring God neither abhorred His affliction, nor hid His face from Him.
‘but when he cried unto him, he heard’ God the Father also heard His cry!
If the Pharisees had not been blind to the truth they would have realised fulfilment of prophecy was taking place in their midst.
Contrary to R C Sproul, in my opinion, God the Father did not forsake His Son.
I have admired and learned from the ministries of R C Sproul and Matt Slick, but I am compelled to disagree on this particular aspect of substitutionary atonement.
Joh 16:32 KJV Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
‘yet I am not alone’ Jesus told the disciples that they would forsake Him, but He assured them His Father was always with Him.
‘the Father is with me’ These were the words of Christ prior to His crucifixion; did Jesus get it wrong? Of course He didn’t!
What do you think?