The Bible is no stranger to paradox. Indeed, some base their unbelief in God on what they believe to be contradictions in the Bible! How can anyone believe in God if the Bible (that is supposed to tell you about God) is full of contradictions? Quite! If ‘All Scripture is God breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16a) and is ‘truth’ (John 17:17) then one has a right to expect the Bible to pass the ‘non-contradiction’ test. This is where the word ‘paradox’ comes in. In the following we shall touch on three ‘apparent contradictions’ found in the Bible.
How can God be one and many at the same time? The three Persons, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, are one God and each Person in the Godhead is of one substance, power, and eternity. Saint Patrick asked if a shamrock was one leaf or three. It is both! Therefore, why cannot God be three in one? The one does not lord it over the many or the many the one. Cornelius Van Til called this ‘equal ultimacy.’
It is on account of God’s triuneness that Jesus can be God and Man at the same time. The Son of God is also the Son of Man. He is of the same substance, power, and eternity as God while being of the same substance, frailty, and finitude as man. Contradiction? No! Jesus has a divine and a human nature. He is no alloy. Like oil and water, the two natures do not mix. Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time. As to His divinity He knows all things. As to His humanity His knowledge is limited. As to His divinity He is everywhere at once. As to His humanity He remains local, occupying only the space His body takes up. As to His divinity He is all-powerful. As to His humanity His strength is limited. Jesus is Creator and creature at the same time. Like a hand in a glove so the Creator clothed Himself in His creation when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. As it is with the Godhead so it is with the two natures of Christ. Each Person in the Godhead is distinct but not separate from the Others, so each of Christ’s two natures are distinct but not separate. Jesus is one Divine Person with two distinct natures forever.
How can God punish the innocent and pardon the guilty and still remain just? Or to put it another way, how can sinners gain access to Heaven without their earning it? Or another way yet again, how can God’s justice be reconciled with His grace? The answer is Jesus Christ is the substitute for sinners. ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ 2 Corinthians 5:21. ‘He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ Ephesians 1:4. In eternity past the Son was in agreement with the Father’s proposal that, a) the Son become flesh, b) live a perfect life, and c) lay down His human life to redeem a people innumerable from God’s justice on them for their sins. The Father chose the people. The Son redeemed them. And, the Holy Spirit with the Word testifies in time to the Good News of their salvation.
Substitutionary atonement is a legal transaction performed by God as Judge, whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners and sinners’ unrighteousness is imputed to Christ. The Father then pours out His wrath on the Son as He hangs on the cross. ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God’ 1 Peter 3:18a. The penalty we owe to God’s justice is thus paid. Therefore, because God’s justice has been satisfied believers are now free to live their lives to God’s glory without fear of not having done enough to earn their own salvation.
Jesus is the perfect Mediator between God and us. As the Middle Person in the Godhead He can identify with God and as a Man He can identify with us and all our frailties. When we look at God through Jesus Christ we see ourselves as sinners. When God looks at us through Jesus Christ He see us as saints! Paradoxically Christians simultaneously are saints and sinners!