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I came across an interesting quote in Lutzer, Erwin W. (2003-02-01). Cries From The Cross: A Journey into the Heart of Jesus (p. 20). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Jesus’ suffering was terrible for the simple reason that our sin is terrible. And we must ever keep in mind that the suffering of Jesus was not primarily physical—it was not the lacerations, the crown of thorns, and the nails. The spiritual suffering He endured when His fellowship with the Father was broken for three hours on the cross was the ultimate suffering, the kind of agony you and I have never experienced.

Here is my question: suppose we were to sort "Fellowship with the Father" in increasing order, would we get:

[1] (Sinner, God) < (Christ on the Cross, God) < (Christ, God)

or

[2] (Christ on the Cross, God) < (Sinner, God) < (Christ, God)

Lutzer seems to imply [2]. I suspect the logic goes something like the following (but am not certain) and would appreciate answers claiming either [1] is correct or [2] is correct.

Given that we're sinners, it's clear that our fellowship with God is less than Christ's fellowship with God. However, given that we're not thrown in hell, it seems that we have some fellowship with God (even as sinners).

Now, if we assume that Christ, while on the cross, bore and suffered for our sins, does that imply that Christ, while on the cross, suffered the wrath of Hell in our place -- and if so, does that imply that fellowship(Christ on the Cross, God) < fellowship(Sinner, God) ?

Thanks!

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Given that Christ bore the wrath due for sin--"became sin"--an appropriate ordering might be something like; Christ on the cross == sinner in Hell < unregenerate sinner on earth < Spirit-endowed sinner on earth < glorified saint < Christ in heaven. (By the way, the psych. suffering on the cross might include being truly righteous and seeing in himself sin--truthful self-loathing--[as well as a recognition of how wrong/unnatural death is].) –  Paul A. Clayton Apr 28 '13 at 18:52
    
<Using his Alex Trebek voice> Could you please phrase that as a question, please? –  Affable Geek Apr 30 '13 at 0:04

3 Answers 3

I'm Charismatic and we explain it in this fashion. This is not the only explanation. I'm focusing mainly on the attributes of sin.

Because Jesus was God forsaken on the cross (Mat 27:46) and numbered with the transgressors (Luk 22:37):

Fellowship(Christ on the Cross,And(God,Holy Spirit)) == Fellowship(Sinner,Trinity) < Unity(Repentant Saint,Christ) < Being/Unity(Trinity)

1Pe 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Gal 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Gal 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

1Co 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

niv Heb 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

If you are a sinner you are not saved and you are going to hell. 1Pe 4:1 is clear that those who have experienced the new birth cease from sin. Gal 5 goes into the details of all the things which believers must not practice listing works of the flesh. 2Co 5:17 and 1Co 1:30 detail our newness in Christ and how we have become in Christ and therefore made the righteousness of God. Heb 10:10 details how we have been made holy by the Blood of Jesus. That said take heart your probably not really a sinner because if you are joined to the Lord if you have become in Christ you are a new creation. The old man of sin has passed away and in its place a new man of God in Christ has been formed. The new man has been made the righteousness of God and because of that righteousness and holiness you can enter His presence unabated. God in his justice couldn't reject the presence of His own righteousness or those who have been made perfectly holy.

2Ti 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Rom 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Rom 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Now there is a difference between what we have been made and how we walk. Even thought we have been made perfectly free from sin we might sin again though we must not. Such sin is referred to in the past tense rather than the future tense. In 1Jn 1:10, Rom 3:23 all have sinned all are not sinners. Again were sinners now justified. Rom 5:8 points out that Christ died for us while we were (notice the past referal) sinners and describes us as now justified and saved.

Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Eph 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

1Th 2:12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

That said some believers walk just flat out unworthy of Christ though they would not properly be called sinners they walk unbecoming according to Col 1:10, Eph 4:1 and 1Th 2:12. Though I'm sure at times in the past we have all walked unworthy of Christ. We can however choose not to sin contently and constantly doing righteousness and be both now and eternally rewarded with more of God's presence.

Deu 25:16 For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.

Pro 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: Pro 6:17 ... hands that shed innocent blood, Pro 6:18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, Pro 6:19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Luk 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Joh 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Those who are not saved however are sinners but Christ's birth death and resurrection changed God's relationship to the world and all the sinners in it. Christ birth brought peace where there was war.(Luk 2:14) Before Christ's birth God was at war with not only sin but man kind. (Deu 25:16,Pro 6) The things and people which were abominable to God had to die in the old covenant but in the new covenant we are to call men to repentance. These sinners are still separated from God but they are able to come into fellowship with God through the Blood of Jesus and true turning from sin unto salvation. (Joh 3:16,Joh 9:31,Rom 10:13)

As an aside Catholics believe in Christs suffering not only on the cross but that He suffered in death harrowing hell till the resurrection.

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I will suggest an answer to your question and then I would like to offer you a different perspective about what happened on the cross.

On fellowship:

It depends on how you define "fellowship". 2 Corinthians 6:14 asks "what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" 1 John 1:3-7 indicates that the believer who walks in the light has fellowship with the Father, the Son, and other believers. Philippians 2:1 mentions fellowship of the Spirit as well.

Sinners are pursued by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11) and they are exposed to God's revelation through nature (Romans 1:20), conscience (Romans 2:15), the nation of Israel, Jesus, the church, and the Bible as it is preached. But to say that they have fellowship seems in scripture to imply a level of harmony reserved for believers.

Clearly Christ was more in harmony with the Father than we as believers are, because we see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

So far then: (Sinner, God), (Believer, God), (Christ, God)

Now I would like to suggest a different perspective on what happened on the cross for your consideration:

The idea that God and Jesus were separated on the cross, fellowship broken; is based on Habakkuk 1:13 where it says of God, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity". So on the cross Jesus "was made sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21), so God hid His face and did not look at Jesus (or broke fellowship), so Jesus said "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46. Then the idea that Jesus suffered in hell is based on Acts 2:27 which says he didn't stay in hell and the reasoning that Jesus had to suffer eternity in hell for every man in order to take the punishment for sin in our place.

When you read the entire verse of Habakkuk 1:13 it says "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?" Habakkuk was complaining, not because God wasn't looking, but because He was looking and not doing anything about it (yet). In other words, the verse means that God can't look on iniquity and not do something about it. It doesn't mean He can't look on iniquity at all. This is supported by Jeremiah 16:17 where it says "For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from my eyes."

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is a quote from Psalm 22:1. That Psalm describes the crucifixion. Verse 24 of the same Psalm states "For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard." The idea that God was hiding His face from Jesus and not looking goes against the very Psalm that Jesus was quoting at the time. It also goes against Isaiah 53:11 which says "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied". This is supported by John 16:32 where Jesus said that everyone would scatter and leave Him alone, "yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me."

This is also supported by 2 Corinthians 5:19 which states that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself". Romans 5:10 and Ephesians 2:16 make it clear that this reconciliation took place during His death on the cross.

In what way then was Jesus "forsaken"? Well, we know that His body was broken and his blood was shed, and He was mocked and rejected, and His human life was ended. So his human life was forsaken for us. There is no mention of His fellowship or connection with God or any form of spiritual suffering. God forsook Him in His human body, blood, and life.

Some might object to this view and say "Why would Jesus ask the question? He already knew the answer to why He was suffering physically." Well, Jesus already knew why He was suffering period, so that question could be applied to any point of view. I will suggest an answer to it later.

There are multiple verses including Hebrews 10:5-10 and Hebrews 9:12-14 that say that the human body and blood and life of Jesus was offered for our sins, and that was enough. There is not one verse that says that Jesus had to suffer in hell or suffer spiritual separation from God in order to pay for our sins. The whole point of the incarnation was to provide a human body, blood, and life.

Acts 2:27 says that Jesus was in hell. But Jesus said in Luke 23:43 "today shalt thou be with me in paradise." So Jesus went to the paradise side, not the suffering side of hell (see Luke 16:23).

So why did Jesus say "My God my God why hast thou forsaken me?" If His human body, blood, and life were being forsaken for our sins; and He already knew the answer; then He asked the question again because He wanted God the Father to answer it again. We always assume that God didn't answer the question, but Psalm 22:24 says that "when he cried unto him, he heard." Right after this, verse 27 says that "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." In other words, God showed Jesus all the people who would have the chance to be reconciled to God and be saved through His sacrifice. This is supported by Isaiah 53:10 which says "when thou shalt make his soul (his human life) an offering for sin, he shall see his seed".

Some may say "If Jesus was forsaken in His human body, blood, and life; and was not cut off from the Father, why would He pray 'let this cup pass from me?'" I would say they underestimate the crucifixion and what it meant to Jesus to have His sinless body broken, His sinless blood shed, and His innocent life laid down and the suffering that He would endure on the cross being fully man as well as fully God.

Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus endured the cross "for the joy that was set before Him". Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 show that the joy set before Him was to be able to make salvation available to you and me and all who will believe. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) By this perspective, when He asked "Why?", God heard Him (Psalm 22:24) and showed Him why (Psalm 22:27) so that He for the joy set before Him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2) out of love for us (John 15:13).

So from this perspective:

(Sinners, God), (Believers, God), (Jesus, God)

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It seems this question is attempting to establish an eternal economy by which relationships with God are in variance. The assumption seems to be if God allowed Christ on the cross to be separated from Him so that we (sinners) might be in fellowship with Him, then He must value sinners more than Christ on the cross.

Of course “Christ on the cross” was even yet “Christ”. Christ makes manifest the will of the Father: John 5:19 “…the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise”. This was also true in creation: Ephesians 3:9 “…which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”. And this is also true in us: Ephesians 2:10 “…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”.

God is eternal; therefore He does not make decisions from contingencies as the question implies. In Revelation 13:8 we know that God from eternity allowed “…the Lamb (to be) slain from the foundation of the world”.

God (Christ on the cross) cannot be < God and still be God!

The sacrifice spoken of by Lutzer allows us to imagine the eternal magnitude of God’s love, not because we are lovely but because He is!

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