His Own Son
Malcolm Horlock, Cardiff, Wales
'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?', Rom. 8. 32. This verse speaks of the Lord Jesus as God's 'own Son' and tells us three things about Him. First, He was 'spared not. Second, he was 'delivered up'. Third, He was 'freely given' (note that the 'all things' are freely given to us 'with Him'). In the present article we will consider the first of these.
'Spared not' There is a serious risk that our familiarity with these words robs us of their true force. To help us feel something of the impact of such an amazing statement, we ask two simple questions - and let Scripture answer them for us.
Who was it that spared not His own Son? It was the God who, according to Scripture, on many occasions 'spared not' others. With the exception only of 'his own Son', we have no difficulty in attributing God's unsparing judgement in each case to the evil behaviour of those He punished. We will select three examples and contrast each with statements which the Lord Jesus made concerning Himself in John 8.
1. This is the God who spared not the angels who sinned. 'God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains (pits) of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement', 2 Pet. 2. 4. There is much that we do not know about these angels - such as the precise nature and timing of their sin, the precise form and place of their imprisonment, whether or not they are to be identified with the 'sons of God' of Genesis 6. 2, etc. But one thing we do know - they fully merited their punishment.
For, Peter informs us, they had 'sinned'. Interestingly, it is the same New Testament writer who (with his eye on the Septuagint of Isaiah 53. 9) tells us concerning the Lord Jesus that He 'did no sin', 1 Pet. 2. 22. In John 8, Jesus threw down the gauntlet to the Pharisees,.'Which of you convinceth (convicts, reproves) me of sin?', v. 46. No one could take up the challenge. No one could bring sin home to Him.
We have no problem in understanding why God spared not the angels who sinned, but we do well to ask why He spared not His own Son who never sinned.
2. This is the God who spared not the old world. He 'spared not the old (ancient) world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly', 2 Pet. 2. 5. This time, we know that we are dealing with something in Genesis 6! Scripture makes it clear that, as was the case with the angels, the men and women of the ancient world fully merited their punishment - 'And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart', Gen. 6. 5-6.
By way of contrast, Jesus claimed, 'He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him', John 8. 29, and what great pleasure the Lord Jesus had 'always' afforded Him. At Jesus' baptism, the Father looked back on 10,000 days (30 years) of uninterrupted, unbroken pleasure; 'And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased', Mark 1. 11; cf Matt. 17. 5.
We have no problem in understanding why God spared not those who 'grieved' Him 'continually', but we do well to ask why He spared not His own Son who 'pleased' Him 'always'.
3. This is the God who spared not the Egyptians. God 'wrought his signs in Egypt . . . he made a way to (for) his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; and smote all the firstborn in Egypt', Psa. 78. 43, 50-51. As was the case with the angels and the old world, we know that the Egyptians altogether deserved their punishment. Consider the arrogant defiance of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, 'Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go', Exod. 5. 1-2. The sequel was that Israel were no longer to be provided with the straw to make their quota of bricks. The 'rigour', 'bitter lives' and 'hard bondage' of the children of Israel, 1. 14, was further intensified.
By way of contrast, the Lord Jesus claimed, 'Whosoever practises sin is the bond slave of sin . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed', John 8. 36, lit. We have no problem in understanding why God spared not those who brought His people into 'hard bondage', but we do well to ask why He spared not His own Son who came to 'set us free' from an even more oppressive slavery.
Who was it that was not spared? It was God's 'own Son'. We note in passing that the word translated 'own' is a relatively strong word and differs from that used by Paul in verse 3, 'God sending his own Son'. Our verse stresses the intimacy of the bond between the Father and the Son. That God should 'spare not' His own Son is all the more astounding because on many occasions God 'spared' others. We will select two well-known cases.
1. The city of Nineveh. The prophecy of Jonah concludes with a section devoted to the patience and consideration which God showed towards His once reluctant, and now very angry, servant, 4. 1-11. The book closes with God's argument, 'Thou has had pity on (lit. 'spared') the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?', 4. 10-11. (For detailed comments on the whole chapter, see the author's contribution to The Minor Prophets, pages 112-114, published by Precious Seed Publications.)
God's actions and words were aimed at helping Jonah to understand (and maybe come to share) His feelings towards the people (and cattle) of Nineveh. To this end he had directed His prophet's anger away from something which was 'spared' (and which he had thought should not have been - the city) to something which had not been 'spared' (but which he wished had been - the gourd).
We are left to marvel that the God who 'spared'the evil and violent people of Nineveh because they repented, 'spared not' His own Son, who was holy and had done no violence and therefore needed no repentance!m
2. Isaac. 'Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me', Gen. 22. 10-12. The Septuagint renders the end of verse 12, '. . . thou hast not spared thy son, the beloved'. Verse 13 records how God provided a substitute for Isaac. That is, in faith and obedience, Abraham had 'not spared' his own son - but God did!
We are left to marvel that the God who 'spared' Abraham's son, 'spared not' His own Son! No substitute was found for Him.
Before we leave Genesis 22, there are two further points of interest. First, if the first recorded example of love in the Old Testament was that of a father for his son (Abraham for Isaac), vv. 2, 12, the first recorded example of love in the New Testament is that of the Father for His Son, 'This is my son, the beloved', Matt. 3. 17 lit.
Second, in all probability it was in the vicinity of the very spot where God 'spared' Isaac from the knife of Abraham that He 'spared not' His own Son from the sword of justice.(2)
It is natural to 'spare' one's own. Following King David's horrendous sins of lust, adultery and murder, God sent Nathan the prophet to bring home his sins to his conscience. Listen to the story with which Nathan began: 'There were two men in one city, the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe iamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him', 2 Samuel 12. 1-4. The rich man 'spared' his own; God 'spared not' His Own!
It is natural to 'spare' one's son. Consider the sad and gruesome account given by the woman to King Jehoram during Benhadad's siege of Samaria; 'This woman said unto me, give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son tomorrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son', 2 Kgs. 6. 28-29. The second woman refused the demand, 'Give thy son'; she hid him. God did not hide or 'spare' His Son; He 'gave' Him.
There was no alleviation of the Lord's suffering. God spared Him nothing of the judgement which was rightly mine. He 'spared not His own Son' one single thrust of His sword, Zech. 13. 7, one single drop of His cup, Mark 14. 36, one single stripe of His rod, Isa. 53. 5, one single wave of His vast ocean of wrath, Psa. 42. 7. Oh, how much He must have loved me!
References: (1) Jonah 3. 8; Matt. 12. 41; Isa. 53. 9. (2) Gen. 22. 2; 2 Chron. 3. 1; Zech. 13. 7; Matt. 26. 31.