Speaking with a Modalist (Those who reject the doctrine of the Trinity) over the Gospel they gave me an interesting illustration. It follows:
Take for example, you are in your house with your wife and your son. Some men barge into the house and say “If you want your wife to live, your son will have to die!”
The person telling me the story breaks from it, then asks “Now is that the Gospel? God sending someone else to die for someone else isn’t love!”
My initial response was “You’re correct.”
What they were right about wasn’t the illustration. Because the illustration is stupid and frankly I don’t know what they were trying to say is happening. They were correct because the one thing they said rightly was that it was NOT the Gospel. The reason is was not the Gospel, was because the person using this silly illustration obviously didn’t understand the Gospel nor what Scripture had to say in regards to the event of the Cross.
Perhaps the best way to understand this is to properly understand what did happen on the Cross then it is easier to see what didn’t happen on the cross.
The popular verse in Isaiah 53.10 says:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
This prophetic verse written to speak of Christ, tells of the Father crushing His Son. This is key in understanding, take note that all heresies fall apart at the cross. Modalism, is no exception.
If Christ pays for the sins of the elect, how does he pay for those? Did the soldiers whipping him, pulling his beard, and thrusting a spear in his side count for the eternal punishment of all believers. The physical pain inflicted by sinful men would equal eternal punishment sufficient for all mankind and satisfy the wrath of God?
The clear and better understanding, is that God the Father placed on God the Son, the eternal punishment that would be sufficient for all mankind. It was God the Father who would have to execute the judgment because He is the one who has been offended.
God the Son paid the price willingly. He wasn’t taken and forced into this as a child kicking and screaming.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
The illustration at the beginning of the discussion starts to become obviously wrong. Because that is not what the Gospel communicates. In their story, a crime is being committed. Men have broken into a house and seized a child. They are threatening to kill a child for a woman to live. This is not the Gospel! This illustration doesn’t even make sense.
What the Modalist fails to see is that men are condemned by God already. All men are sinners because we’ve broken His law. He is angry at their sin and judgment will come. But God in His compassion and grace God enters creation and pays the penalty man owes. A penalty man could never pay. The Cross is a cosmic act transcending all history. A proper understanding of the Triune nature of God ends up being a solution and not a problem.