Q&A: Was Jesus Necessary?

Was Jesus Necessary?

Question

God accomplished many things by sending his Son, but could he have done these things another way?

Answer

When we consider God's omnipotence, we must conclude that he is capable of anything but violating his own character. Is there anything in God's character that required him to do things exactly as he did them? In my judgment, the Bible does not answer this question. Still, it does tell us that certain things happened because they were necessary to accomplishing God's purposes (e.g. Heb. 2:17; 9:23). It does not, however, tell us whether or not these purposes could have been accomplished in other ways. It is possible to understand these verses to teach that it was necessary that these things be accomplished, and that these were just the ways God chose to accomplish them.

Could we have been forgiven if Jesus had not been divine but had still been a perfect man? Perhaps -- the passages that speak of Jesus' divinity do not tie it very tightly to the atonement. Rather, it is humanity that seems to have been the critical element for the atonement (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:5). After all, the atonement required a death, and God cannot die. Only in his humanity could Jesus fulfill that requirement, and only as the human descendant of David and Abraham could he lay claim to the covenant blessings that he shares with us (Matt. 1; Gal. 3).

However, God's plan was not just to free us from condemnation, but also to give us eternal, abundant life (John 10:10). Eternal life consists not only in living forever, but also in an intimate relationship with God (John 17:3). God could have figured out another way to accomplish this, but he does not tell us what that other way might have been. Also, because Jesus is God, and because we are mystically united to him, our union with Jesus is a very real and special union with God. Again, we may speculate that in his omnipotence God might have accomplished this union in another way, but the Bible does not answer that speculation for us.

The Bible is much more interested in what did happen, what ought to happen, and what should and will happen than it is in what might have happened. It is written to teach us how to exist in covenant relationship with God, and it generally informs our intellects and satisfies our curiosities only when doing so serves that larger purpose.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.