In November of last year I started reviewing a paper about the deity of Jesus that was written by my friend John Carroll. I covered the earlier sections of the paper in my first and second posts on the subject; and I recommend reading those first if you haven’t already. Now, I am going to finish reviewing his paper and give my final thoughts.
This last section of Carroll’s paper is a culmination of his former arguments. Now that he has demonstrated that the Word is the personal presence of God the Father himself, Carroll moves on to discuss how that works in the context of intercession. All of us are sinful, and need an intercessor to advocate for us before God (Romans 3:23, 1 John 2:1-2). Since Jesus (the Word) is the personal presence of God, and since Jesus acts as our intercessor, we may say that God became his own intercessor on behalf of humans.
This is important to realize. Jesus is not merely a human who intercedes to God for us; he is—even in his incarnation—the God to whom the intercession goes. As Carroll notes, Jehovah became his own intercessor in the person of Christ:
“In Isaiah 59:16, [Jehovah] wondered that there was no man, and that there was no
intercessor. And because he couldn’t find a man that could intercede, his own arm brought salvation unto him. Therefore, [Jehovah’s] arm became [Jehovah’s] intercessor” (¶22).
The analogy of the arm is a powerful analogy for representing what happened in the incarnation. Paragraph 23 of Carroll’s paper is especially worth considering here. We reach out our arm to accomplish a task; it is not a different person from us, but an extension of ourselves. In just the same way, Christ is God reaching himself out in order to accomplish intercession. Christ is not a different person from God, so much as a personal extension of God into the world. “Christ was the incarnational and intercessory arm of [Jehovah]. Therefore, whatever the mechanics of Christ’s intercession to God looks like, Christ and God are not two separate persons” (¶25).
But this conclusion is potentially a problem for those who believe in a plurality in the Godhead: If Christ and God are the same person, how can Christ and God relate to one another in the way that two persons would? Carroll does not specifically answer this objection, but some of his statements deal with this objection when his statements are properly understood.
“[The] intercessor [God] wondered for was a man. Therefore, for [Jehovah’s] arm to be the required intercessor, his arm had to be a man. And a man is what [Jehovah’s] arm became. Isaiah is particularly helpful in understanding a systematic theology of the divine arm. Isaiah 53:1 asked the question, ‘To whom is the arm of the LORD, revealed?’ Isaiah 53:2-12 uses over 30 personal pronouns to refer to the arm of the LORD. The arm of the LORD is a him, a he and a his—a human” (¶22).
Christ is able to relate to God as a separate person from God—not because Christ is a different person in his deity—but because humanity was added to his nature. God “flow[ed] out of himself incarnationally as his own human intercessor” (¶23, italics original). According to Isaiah 59:16 God wanted a man to be his intercessor, a man who could stand between him and the sinful people. But he could not find such a man. So God became the human intercessor that he could not find otherwise.
Normally three parties are involved in an intercessory situation: the offender, the offended, and the intercessor who goes between. And, normally, these three parties are personally distinct: the offender is a different person from the offended, and the intercessor is different from both. Most importantly, the intercessor is a different person from the offended party.
When we talk about Christ interceding to God for humanity, we need to understand that this is not a normal situation. In this case, the intercessor is the same person as the offended party: with respect to his deity, Jesus is the Lord God against whom man has sinned. But by adding humanity to his nature, God was able to assume the role of an advocate who could go between God and sinful men. In the incarnation, Jesus was able to act as an intercessor between the Deity that he was and the humanity that he had become.
The idea of God reaching out himself in the person of Christ, as Carroll notes, is echoed by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19:
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
God is the one who does the work of reconciliation and intercession through, in, and as Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the human Son of God who intercedes to God for us, we may say that Christ is in some sense distinct from the Father. But that does not negate Carroll’s conclusion, which bears repeating: “Therefore, whatever the mechanics of Christ’s intercession to God looks like, Christ and God are not two separate persons.”
I really appreciate good men like John Carroll who can think logically and theologically about the Scriptures and unpack doctrinal truth. If you have read his paper and followed his arguments through our posts, you will realize that his reasoning is tight and his conclusions true. I hope his paper has blessed you (and it has blessed me), and caused you to think carefully about the oneness of God as it was demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ.