Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Did Christ’s Sacrifice Appease the Father or the entire Godhead?

Part A

Sam Shamoun


According to historic Christian doctrine, Jesus offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice for sin in order to propitiate or appease the wrath of God (in this case, the Father). Christ is believed to have absorbed God’s wrath on behalf of sinners so that God could show mercy to them by forgiving their evil deeds (provided that they repentant and believe) while still maintaining his perfect justice and righteousness in doing so. However, this raises certain questions and objections. Since Jesus is believed to be part of the Godhead does this mean that he offered himself as a sacrifice to appease his wrath and satisfy his justice as well? And what of the Holy Spirit whom Trinitarians believe is also God? Did Christ appease him as well? If not then how can either of them be God? How can only one Divine Person of the Trinitarian Godhead be appeased and not the rest? Doesn’t this destroy the supposed essential unity of the Godhead?


Even before answering these specific objections it is vitally important to summarize the Biblical evidence for the Trinity being a divinely revealed truth of Holy Scripture.


The Holy Bible testifies that God is a Tri-personal Being and that Christ is a Divine Person possessing two distinct natures.

The NT is emphatic in its affirmation that the Father is fully God, going so far as to even call him the God of our Lord Jesus Christ!

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” 2 Corinthians 1:2-3

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:1-3

“He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” 2 Peter 1:17

The fact that the Holy Bible teaches that the Father is God is something which even anti-Trinitarian and pseudo-Christian cults and sects readily admit. As such, there is no need to go into a full Biblical exposition to defend it. The foregoing verses should suffice. What these heresies normally deny is the eternal, uncreated Deity of Christ and/or the Divine Personality of the Holy Spirit.

There is also no need to spend time proving that the inspired Scriptures affirm that Jesus has a human nature. The NT documents are crystal clear in teaching that Christ became a true flesh and blood human being who experienced genuine human frailty and limitations, i.e. hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, death etc., with the exception of sin:

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters… Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:9-11, 14-18

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:14-15

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:23-28 – cf. 5:7-9; Matthew 1:24-25, 2:1-6; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 1:26-35; 2:4-15; John 1:14; 4:1-8; 11:33-35

The inspired Scriptures also proclaim that Christ is fully God in essence and that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person who has all the essential attributes of Deity and personhood.

For instance, both are identified as and are even called Yahweh (LORD) and God:

The Son – Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 1:21-23 (cf. Psalm 130:7-8); Luke 8:39; John 1:1, 18; 5:16-18; 10:27-33 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 95:6-8; Isaiah 43:10-13); 20:28 (cf. Psalm 35:23); Romans 9:5; 10:9-13 (cf. Isaiah 28:16; Joel 2:32); Philippians 2:5-11 (cf. Isaiah 45:23); Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:1-3, 7-13 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:43 [DSS, LXX]; Psalms 45:6-7; 102:25-27; 110:1); 1 Peter 2:3-8 (cf. Psalms 34:8; 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16); 3:14-15 (cf. Isaiah 8:12-13); 2 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:17-18; 2:8, 23; 22:12-13, 16, 20 (cf. Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Isaiah 40:9-11; 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; 62:11; Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 16:27).

The Holy Spirit – 2 Samuel 23:2-3; Acts 5:3-4; 28:25-27 (cf. Isaiah 6:8-10); 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Hebrews 3:7-11 (cf. Psalm 95:7-11); 10:15-17 (cf. Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Both are said to have participated in creating all things and also share in the responsibility of sustaining all creation:

The Son – John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2-3, 10-12.

The Holy Spirit – Genesis 1:1-2; 6:3; Number 11:16-17, 24-29; Job 26:13; 27:3; 33:4; 34:14-15; 37:10; Psalm 104:29-30; Isaiah 32:14-15; 34:16; 44:1-3; John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Both are also said to possess God’s essential attributes such as eternality, omnibenevolence, omniscience etc.:

The Son – Matthew 11:27-30; 18:20; 28:16-20; Mark 2:5-12; 7:24-30; 14:58; 15:29; Luke 7:48-50; 24:44-47; John 1:45-49; 2:19-25; 5:19-29; 6:35-40, 44, 54; 10:17-18, 27-28; 11:25-26; 14:6, 12-15, 20-23; 15:4-5; 16:28-31; 17:1-2, 5, 12, 20-24, 26; 20:24-29; 21:17-21; Acts 1:24; 7:59-60; 9:4-5, 14, 21; Romans 2:16; 8:3, 10, 35-39; 1 Corinthians 4:4-5; 10:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 13:5; Galatians 1:4; 2:16, 20; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:13-20, 27; 2:2-3, 9; 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:8-12; 3:10-12; Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 1:1-3; 5:18-20; Revelation 1:17-18; 2:1, 8, 18-23; 3:1, 7-8; 5:6; 17:14; 19:11-16; 22:12-13.

The Holy Spirit – Psalm 139:7-12; Isaiah 11:1-2; 40:13; Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:12-14; 39:29; Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 4:6; Mark 13:11; John 14:16-17, 26; 16:5-15; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 17-18; 10:19-20; 13:2-4; 16:6-7; 20:23-25; 21:10-11; Romans 1:4; 5:5; 8:9-16, 26-27; 14:17; 15:13, 16, 18-19, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 12:3-13; 3:16; 6:19; Colossians 1:8-12; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; Hebrews 2:4; 9:14.

Both are further involved in the salvation, sanctification, and glorification of believers:

The Son – Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 1:21; Mark 10:45; 14:24; John 3:14-18, 36; 5:21, 25-29; 6:27-29, 32-51, 53-58; 10:7-18, 27-28; 11:23-27; Acts 2:37-38; 3:16; 26; 4:5-12; 5:31; 10:43; 13:23, 38-39; 15:11; 16:30-31; 26:18; Romans 3:21-28; 5:8-11, 15-19; 8:3, 31-39; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 17-24, 30; 6:9-11; 15:1-4, 12-28, 45-49; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 1:4; 2:16, 20; 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:3-7; 2:11-22; 5:1-2, 23, 25-26; Philippians 3:8-11, 20-21; Colossians 1:13-14, 19-20; Colossians 2:8-15; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-18; 5:1-2, 9-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; 2:5-6; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:3; 2:9-18; 4:15-16; 5:5-9; 6:19-20; 7:24-28; 9:22-28; 10:5-14; 1 Peter 1:2, 21-23; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 1:7; 2:1-2; 4:10, 14; 5:18; Revelation 7:9-17.

The Holy Spirit – 1 Samuel 10:6, 9-11; Psalm 51:11; 143:10; Isaiah 63:7-14; Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:12-14; 39:29; John 3:3-8; 7:38-39; Romans 2:26-29; 8:1-2, 5-16, 23; 14:17; 15:13, 16; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 9-15; 6:11; 12:1-4, 7-13; 14:1-2, 12; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 3:17-18; 5:5; 13:14; Galatians 3:2-3, 5, 14; 4:6; 5:5, 16-26; 6:1; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:18-22; 4:3, 30; 6:17-18; Philippians 1:19; 3:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2.

It should therefore be clear from the foregoing data that the doctrine of the blessed and most holy Trinity is based on the explicit testimony of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine is based on the following three clearly revealed truths:

  1. There is one eternal God whom the inspired writings call Yahweh (LORD).
  2. The Holy Bible affirms that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are fully God, and that all three Divine Persons possess every essential attribute of Deity.
  3. The same inspired Scriptures attest that the Father is not the Son who is not the Holy Spirit who is not the Father. Rather, these three are engaged in intimate loving communion and perfect fellowship with one another.

The Holy Bible proclaims that God is an incomprehensible Being who is utterly unique in terms of his existence and actions.

It is also important to keep in mind the fact that, according to the Holy Bible, even though God can be truly known he cannot be fully known since he is an infinite Being that is beyond the ability of any finite creature to fully comprehend. The inspired writings attest that there is nothing in creation that is identical to God and that his essence and characteristics are simply incomprehensible.

Read the following for the Biblical evidence: 1 Kings 8:26-27; Job 5:8-9; 10:4-5; 11:6-11; 12:6-25; 35:5-14; 36:26; 37:5, 16, 23; Psalm 86:8-10; 89:5-9; 113:5-6; 139:1-16; 147:4-5; Isaiah 40:13, 17-18, 25-26; 55:8-9; Jeremiah 10:6; 23:23-24; Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; 6:44-46; Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 3:17-19; Philippians 4:7.

The Holy Scriptures also affirm that man only sees or perceives God dimly for now. However, things will be different when the Lord Jesus returns since he will transform the saints by perfecting their souls, minds and bodies:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

In light of this, we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that we may not be able to fully understand or make sense of how the atoning death of Christ affected the Divine Persons of the Godhead. We should actually expect to find that the different roles that the Godhead assumed in this divine transaction, in the economy of redemption, will be quite difficult to completely fathom, especially in all its glorious details. Therefore, we need to approach this subject with great humility and a recognition that perfect comprehension of this majestic work of the Triune God in saving mankind will be beyond our finite minds to completely absorb or take in.

With the foregoing in perspective we are now ready to embark on our investigation of the Holy Bible in order to see what it has to say in regard to the objections raised concerning Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice.