God the Father sending His only Son to die instead of Himself is an act of selfishness.
It is easy to see how one could come to the conclusion that God the Father committed an act of selfishness by sending His only Son, Jesus, instead of Himself to die on a cross. This can be a major hang-up for a non-Christian. The confusion however, stems from a lack of understanding who the God of the bible is as well as His makeup. What typically happens with unbelievers is they attempt to relate God the Father and God the Son (Jesus), to earthly fathers and their sons to draw this conclusion. A typical example plays out like this:
Unbeliever: “If a father here on earth sacrifices his son instead of himself would that not be considered selfish?”
Believer: “Yes it would.”
Unbeliever: “Well didn’t God the Father send His Son Jesus to die for the sins of the world?”
Believer: “Yes He did.”
Unbeliever: “That’s selfish then. Why not send Himself instead of His Son?”
Believer: “Well no because Jesus volunteered.”
Unbeliever: “But the Father still sent Him knowing He would die. Why not send Himself to die instead?”
The unbeliever has a point. It does seem selfish, more so to an unbeliever, despite the fact that Jesus volunteered. Again, this conclusion stems from a lack of understanding of God’s makeup. So how do we answer what appears to be a conundrum? It is actually quite easy to provide an answer for this riddle.
God’s Ontological Nature
The first thing we must understand is the Doctrine of the Trinity. The bible makes it plain that God is made up of 3 distinct persons that make up the one true God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each person being fully God and each acting as their own independent ego. Where many unbelievers go wrong is they assume God the Father is above the Son in power, or that the Father and Son are somehow not equal. Another incorrect assumption is thinking that the Son and the Father are independent beings existing as two separate deities. They are not. The Son and the Father are one. All three persons make up the one true God. This is different from an earthly relationship between a father and son. An earthly father and son are two separate entities representing and making up only themselves. An earthly father and his son does not make one being or entity. They are not co-equal in power. An earthly son can carry out tasks with the father having no knowledge of the task and vice versa. An earthly father can destroy his earthly son and vice versa. This does not happen with God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. They are all one, co-equal in power and are completely aware of the actions committed by each other. So we see that this is where the earthly father and son analogy begin to break down. We’re simply not taking about the same thing. It is an apples to oranges comparison.
Who Died On the Cross?
So who died on the cross? Was it the Son or was it the Father? It was the Son and He was fully God. All 3 persons of the trinity have distinct roles and can become subordinate to one another. That however, does not make one more equal in power vs another. A modern day example of this would be a designer and a programmer. They are both co-equal and necessary to create an application, however they have different roles to accomplish this goal. Another example would be a husband and wife. They’re both co-equal, but simply have different roles in order for them as a couple to accomplish specific goals or tasks together.
When Jesus Christ entered into the world, took on the nature of man, died on the cross and rose up three days later He was fully God the entire time. In fact He was fully God and fully man. The case that God the Father was selfish in sending His Son simply can not be made as we see that the Son is co-equal in power with the Father, simply carrying out a different role. We also see that an earthly relationship between father and son is not the same as God the Father and God the Son’s relationship. The case that can be made is that when God sent His Son, He in effect sent Himself. The case can be made that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all co-equal and make up the one true God. Finally we can also make the case that the Son, Jesus Christ, who was fully God, volunteered to die for our sins. Meaning God Himself, died for our sins, voluntarily on the cross.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ” (John 3:16-17)
There was nothing selfish about what God did. If anything, what took place on the cross was selfless. A selfless act of love we did not deserve.