Who is your God: God the Father or The Godfather? – The Punishment Narrative

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Who you believe God to be is the most important thing about you. In this second part of this series, Eric preaches how the belief that Jesus was punished for our sins on the Cross is troubling. This punishment narrative is not only harmful to God the Father’s character, but is also an unreliable interpretation of the Bible. Instead, Jesus died on the Cross to create a new covenant of forgiveness.

This matters because so many of us have a different view of the character and nature between Jesus than the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father and is the perfect image of Him. When we have fear of the Father, we are not perfected in love and believing the Father punished Jesus on the Cross contributes to our unexplained fear.

Eric’s speaking notes are below.

Who is your God? God the Father or The Godfather?

Tonight is the second part of a message I started last month called “Who is your God? God the Father? Or The Godfather”

As I read the life of Jesus, it’s impossible to miss that Jesus’ mission.

  • To reveal who the Father truly is, and reconcile the world to Him.
  • Jesus says, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.
  • Jesus says, I only do what I see the Father doing
  • Hebrews says that Jesus is the perfect image of the Father

Jesus walked among us so that His life would inform what we believe about the Father’s character and nature.

  • Jesus is perfect theology
  • Therefore, our ideas and concepts about the Father must match what Jesus gave in way of demonstration.

But our ideas of Jesus and the Father don’t match do they?

In reality, our beliefs about the Father’s Character and Jesus’s Character paint two wildly different pictures

People are great with Jesus. They get him. You don’t even have to be a Christian to like Jesus and what he stood for. (Great moral teacher, A Prophet).


But when it comes to the Father, people have some real “daddy issues”

  • We are okay with Jesus, but don’t really know what to think of the Father
    • Its kinda like good cop / bad cop
  • For a lot of people, their descriptions of what God does to them or on earth sound more like the GodFather instead of the God the Father.
    • Or as Jesus says, we cry out Abba – which means Daddy.

If our beliefs about Jesus’s Nature differ from what we believe about the Father’s, then we have missed what Jesus desired to reveal about the Father.  

Jesus says, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.

  • What does that mean?
  • We can inform every thought we have about the Father by looking at the character and nature of Jesus

I mentioned last time, that we have an unhealthy fear of the Father

  • 1 John 4:18 tells us that any of us who fear, are not perfected in love
    • But yet, inexplicably, I believe a lot of us have an underlying fear about God the Father. And our beliefs about him make him like the GodFather

Where does this underlying fear come from?

  • I was always bothered deep down… there is something that was bothering that was keeping me in unexplained fear
  • I believe it comes from the narratives we believe.

Narratives create the foundation of what belief about God’s character.

  • What we believe to be true about the Father determines how we will relate to Him
  • And so much of that belief is built from the narratives we believe.

And so this series is about trying to replace the broken narrative we believe about humanity’s relationship with God that has produced a GodFather like character.

Part 1 of this message, I talked about the Fall and how the narrative we have believed for millennia is that humanity failed, the Father separated.

  • That his Holiness demanded separation from us
  • An all good God cannot co-exist with evil

It does not even seem weird to us that the narrative of the Fall is basically a narrative of child abandonment

  • God is so holy, that He separated from man as sin entered
  • And we justified this belief idea by Jesus hanging on the cross bearing sin, screaming, my God my God why have you forsaken me.

If this is true, no wonder we have an underlying fear of the Father.

And I believe there is something in our humanity that distrusts anyone who leaves us in the middle of our brokenness.

  • The friends we call the closest are the ones who remain with us through the brokenness. And that is why it’s so important that we revisit these narratives that make up what we believe about ourselves with the Father.

So last time we looked at how that how this narrative of sin and abandonment is a completely inaccurate depiction of the Father. 

  • God didn’t separate. Man did.
  • Its really a narrative of man’s shame and estrangement
  • Go get it from the podcast.

But at the end, we looked at Jesus’s final words “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?

  • And He certainly did not abandon Jesus on the Cross
  • He was quoting Psalm 22 telling the world that he was the crucified messiah.

Tonight I want to go back to that moment on the Cross and talk about the other narrative that confuses us and ultimately creates an undercurrent of fear

What exactly was the Father accomplishing by sending Jesus to die on a Cross?

  • For the first 1500 years, the Church believed one thing.
  • And then for the past 500 years, the church has believed another.
  • What we are talking about here is about the doctrine of Atonement

Disclaimer – I am going to stretch you tonight

  • Theologians have debated on this topic for hundreds of years. So I am not offended if you disagree with me
  • I actually held the opposite belief I am sharing tonight until a few months ago.

I don’t like venturing into nuances of theology – unless they are foundational for defining who God is.

  • I do believe this narrative is important.
  • But you don’t have to agree with my view of it either.
  • So take what is good, and spit out the seeds. And if you have verses or better information, I would love to hear from you.
  • At the minimum I am going to make you think and be curious.

So what exactly was the the Father doing with sending Jesus to die on a Cross? What does the atonement really mean?

The current belief held by the traditional denominations, the reformed denominations, believes the doctrine of “Penal Substitution”

  • Penal Substitution is the belief Jesus was the substitutionary recipient of our punishment for our sin.
  • The Father needed to punish our sin, and therefore Jesus steps in and takes our punishment that was intended for us.
    • This is what I learned as a child
    • This is what I was taught in colleg

John Calvin was the one who introduced this concept in 1500. John Calvin was an attorney

  • He brought forth the imagery of a God as a judge in a courtroom issuing the verdict of death. And then Jesus stepping into the courtroom to take our place. And was led off to and received the punishment in our place

This is the modern view of atonement.

  • I will refer to this as the “Punishment Narrative”
  • We even sing songs with this theology

If you have stepped into a church in the past decade, you probably have sung the song, “In Christ Alone”  

  • “In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song”
  • Till on that cross as Jesus died, “The wrath of God was satisfied.”

So our modern era has established a narrative that Jesus was the recipient of our punishment for our sins.

  • In the punishment narrative, we still have salvation but the narrative contains a poison pill that estranges us from the Father.

One of my biggest challenges to developing an intimate relationship with the Father was getting over the belief that before Jesus got involved, the Father was on his way to kill me for my sins.

  • I am putting it in blunt terms, but deep down, that is how it felt.
    • God the Father full of wrath brings down punishment on Jesus.
    • What that does it is makes Jesus a martyr for us, while creating a bit of an awkward relationship with the father

Tonight I want to show you how I believe the punishment narrative …

  • #1 Is damaging to the Father’s Character
  • #2: Is damaging to our ability to interact with the Father
  • #3 I believe it to be an unreliable interpretation according to the Bible


Jesus as Punishment is Damaging to the Father’s Character

Problem #1: In the Punishment narrative, Jesus and the Father are not unified

  • Jesus standing in our place taking the Father’s wrath places Jesus and the Father on opposing ends.
    • The Father brings judgement and Jesus acts as a human shield
    • This is probably why our picture of Jesus is fine, but why we have a dysfunctional picture of the Father

We forget that Jesus was fully God.

  • Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am”. Meaning Yahweh.
  • Jesus is stating He and the Father are one. Jesus was not the one who was punished by the Father as if he was apart from the Father
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
    • God was in Christ. He was not on separate pages as Jesus. He was unified.
    • God is reconciling the WORLD to himself – not counting their sins against them.
    • It doesn’t say God was punishing Jesus for the sins of the world.
    • And we are told us to be the carriers of the message…

The meaning of the cross is not that God punished his Son in substitution for punishing humanity…but that in Christ, God Himself took responsibility for the world’s evil and absorbed its consequences into itself

Problem #2: In the punishment narrative, God reveals His character as thirsty for punishment

  • There is something wrong about a Father who is so thirsty for punishment that He would punish His own innocent son in our place.

When I became I Father, I knew the narrative was off. It never made sense that I would punish someone else in place of my own kids to save them.

A few questions come to mind…

Question 1: If God is so consumed to punish, what makes me believe He won’t punish me in other ways? Or reconsider if I really mess up?

Behavior makes a statement about someone’s character.  

  • This why we suspect someone to commit a similar crime again. Because behavior often is an outflow of character.
  • If someone cheats on you, you will likely suspect they will do it again. Their character tells you they are more than capable of doing it again.
  • Why wouldn’t we believe God to punish us again or in other ways for new sins?

Question 2: If God is okay punishing His innocent son, how just is He?

  • Is God really satisfied in His justice by punishing someone who was really innocent?
  • You and I would not consider Jesus taking our punishment as legitimate justice.
  • Justice by this definition is flawed.


Jesus as our Punishment is Damaging to our Ability to Interact with the Father

We have a few personal problems with this narrative.

Problem 1: In the punishment narrative, your salvation is secure but your heart is estranged

Our narrative is…God the Father is both judge and execution.

  • God the judge sentenced you to death sins. He then begins the execution procedures. At the final moment, Jesus runs in and sits in the execution chair and God the executioner pulls the lever so that the death penalty is satisfied.
  • But according to Jesus’s stated aim, in this narrative Jesus dies in execution chair so that you could have relationship with the judge and executioner.

Our heart knows better. In reality, we distrust the Father even more because He let an innocent person die for us.

  • We distrust the character of the person who was carrying out the justice, because the wrong person died.
  • We both know I should be dead (me!)
  • I distrust your view of justice and still fear you

It is my belief that in our hearts we hesitate to be reconciled to the one who’s was about punish us with death.

  • In this narrative, we are being reconciled to the person Jesus rescued us from.
  • You cannot be reconciled to someone you still fear. Fear is the dividing mechanism creates separation.
  • We know from 1 John 4, you who fear are not perfected in love.
    • Because fear involves punishment.

Here’s the connection …

  • We have fear, because we still fear punishment. We still fear punishment because Jesus was punished in our place.
  • This is why we are not perfected in love

Problem 2: I don’t feel any less in trouble.

  • In the punishment narrative, I am freed of the consequence of sin, but not freed of my guilt.
  • I am let off the hook of the consequence, but I am not freed of my guilt.
  • I actually feel more guilty –
    • guilty of my sins – and guilt that Jesus died for them

Someone being punished for something I did actually makes me feel more guilty.

  • This explains why people can receive forgiveness in Jesus but can never really let go of their guilt.
  • Even if someone stood in my place, I still feel in trouble.


Finally, let’s talk about how Jesus as punishment for our sins is an unreliable interpretation of the Bible

Problem #1 The Definition of Atonement does not imply punishment

1 John 2:7 – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And not only our sins but the sins for the entire world.

  • This idea of atonement… it’s an Old Testament concept from the sacrificial system.
  • I was taught that atonement made means that something was paid for.
    • That justice was served. That it meant the wrong was satisfied.
    • It doenst mean that at all.
  • Atonement means – one-ment – to be reunited.
    • The idea is reconciling. Not debt payment.

Problem #2: Old Testament sacrifices were never means of punishment

If you believe Jesus’s sacrifice was symbolic of the Old Covenant sacrificial system, you must abandon the idea that Jesus was punished in our place.

In studying the sacrificial system, the animal sacrifices were never about punishment. They were ceremonies to renew forgiveness.

  • Sacrifices created and renewed covenants.
  • The Old Testament sacrifices were renewing a temporary covenant of forgiveness not the fulfillment of justice through punishment.

How do we know?

  • Because an entire nation’s amount of sins would not be balanced by one goat once a year. Maybe every household’s goat. But an entire nation for one goat?

In fact, in the system, they would sacrifice 3 animals. A bull and 2 Goats

  • A bull would be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins the priest.
  • One goat would have its throat slit for the renewal of forgiveness of sins of the nation. That blood would be placed on a second – representing the people.
  • The second goat would be set free. The scapegoat.
    • This was an annual ceremony to renew a covenant of forgiveness

The death of the animals never represented punishment. They were the ceremonies of an the ancient people of Israel for how they made covenants.

  • If Jesus’s death on the Cross was a shadow of Old Testament sacrifices, we must not apply principles that were absent in the Old Covenant System

Jesus affirms himself that his blood was not punishment.  

  • When he breaks bread for communion with the disciples says, this is blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.
    • He didn’t say, my blood is poured out as your punishment of sins

When you understand the historical lens of sacrifices as a covenantal ceremony, the book of Hebrews makes a lot more sense.

Let me string together a couple key verses in Hebrews 10

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins… Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified…Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:3-4; 11-12; 14; 18)

Let me translate that for you…

  • Bulls and Goats can never take away sins.
  • Jesus has taken away our sins and perfected us.
  • Therefore no more sacrifices will ever be needed

Again, we see the absence of punishment. Sacrifice from Old Testament to Jesus on the Cross was a means of creating forgiveness.

The blood of Jesus created a never ending covenant of forgiveness for all time.

  • In this new covenant, you were pre-forgiven of every sin. And when you do sin, you are under an eternal covenant of forgiveness.
  • In the new covenant, the Father says I am committed to you for eternity and to show you how much I love you I have pre-forgiven every sin inside this covenant relationship for eternity.

But Hebrews makes an unusual statement about the atonement. Not only did it sanctify us, it perfected us.

But this brings up a very powerful point of the Cross…The blood of Jesus not only creates forgiveness, but the blood of Jesus has the operational power to transform.

  • I went on a study of every verse in the Bible about the blood of Jesus and the outcomes because of the Cross.
  • What really happened on the Cross?
  • There are 88 passages speaking to the blood of Jesus and the results of the Cross.
  • Not one verse could does it say he was the punishment for us.

But here is a list of transformational outcomes the blood of Jesus causes

  • It made us new, It was an atonement, It redeemed us, It justified us, It adopted us as children, It saved us, It purified us, It sanctified us, It took away our sin, It reconciled us, It canceled our enemy status, It freed us from Sin, It freed us from death, It gave us an inheritance, It caused us to die to the law, It caused us to die to sins, It caused us to fulfill the requirement of the law, It made us righteous, It made us alive to Christ, It hides your life with Christ, It paid a ransom, It purchased us, It made us at peace, It rescued us from the evil in the age, Released us from our sin, It removed condemnation, It Heals us, It created a new covenant, It protects us from future desolation, It destroyed the works of the devil, it triumphed over the demons.

The blood of Jesus is a lot of things, but one thing it is not, is the punishment on our behalf.

  • The blood of Jesus brought forth forgiveness and transformation. Not successful punishment of sins
  • Folks, Jesus did not go to cross as punishment in our place, He and the Father conspired together for our redemption and our transformation.
  • Jesus became what we are so that we might become what He is.
  • Righteous and one with the Father.

The wages of sin is death. But praise God that the Father and Jesus together  conspired together to develop an antidote to sin and death.

  • We were all terminal by sin. Sin when it is complete, brings death.
  • Jesus gave his life not as punishment, but as the reversing agent to my terminal condition.

When we correct our narrative, we are left with the truth that The Cross is the biggest statement about God’s character.

  • You either believe Jesus is taking the punishment of God in our place
  • Or you believe the Father and the Son conspired together to create a covenant that would forgive the sins of every person on earth forever.

Why does what we believe on atonement matter? 

1: It resolves our fear of punishment so we can be perfected in love

2: It eliminates the character flaw of the Father – of His justice and His intent to punish us with death.

To be truly reconciled to the father means we must trust his character

  • It is impossible to be reconciled to someone you are still terrified of.

3: It creates for us the correct narrative in which we have been entrusted to share with the world

  • It changes it from God already punished you by sending Jesus on the cross to… God made a covenant with all people to pre-forgive all their sins if you would simply believe in Him.

That is the good news. That is story of the Father who is God and redeems the narrative from the God who is the Godfather.



  • It made us new (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • It was atonement / propitiation (1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10)
  • It forgave our sins (Matthew 26:28 / Mark 14:24, Luke 1:77, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, Acts 5:31, Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Colossians 3:13, 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 9:22, Hebrews 10:18, Revelation 1:5)
  • It redeemed us (Luke 1:68, Luke 21:28, Romans 3:24, Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesian 1:7, Ephesians 1:14, Colossians 1:14 Galatians 3:13, Galatians 4:5, Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 9:28, Titus 2:14)
  • It justified us (Romans 3:24,Romans 5:9, 1 Corinthians 6:11 )
  • It adopted us as children (Romans 8:23, Galatians 4:5)
  • It saved us (Luke 1:77, Acts 13:26, 1 Thessalonians 5:9,
  • It purified us / cleanses us (1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:22, 2 Peter 1:9, Revelation 7:14 )
  • It sanctified us (Hebrews 10:29, 1 Corinthians 6:11)
  • It took away our sin (Romans 11:27, Acts 3:19)
  • It reconciled us (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 1:21-22)
  • Canceled our enemy status (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 1:21, Ephesians 2:14-17)
  • It freed us from Sin (Romans 6:17-18, Romans 8:2, Revelation 1:5)
  • It freed us from death (Romans 8:2)
  • It gave us an inheritance (Acts 26:18, Hebrews 9:15)
  • It caused us to die to the law, so we can live to God (Galatians 2:19)
  • It caused us to die to sins so we can live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:1-2)
  • It caused us to fulfill the requirement of the law (Romans 8:3-4)
  • It made us righteous (Galatians 2:21, 2 Cor 5:21, Colossians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Peter 2:24)
  • It made us alive to Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)
  • It hides your life with Christ (Colossians 3:3)
  • It paid a ransom (1 Timothy 2:6; Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28)
  • It purchased us (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Titus 2:14, Revelation 5:9)
  • It made us at peace (Colossians 1:20, Acts 10:36, Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:14-17)
  • It rescued us from the evil in the age (Galatians 1:4, Colossians 1:14)
  • Released us from our sin (Revelation 1:5)
  • Removed condemnation (Romans 8:1)
  • Heals us (Isaiah 53:5; Malachi 4:2; 1 Peter 2:24)
  • It created a covenant (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:20, Romans 11:27, 1 Corinthians 11:26, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 7:22, Hebrews 8:6-8, Hebrews 9:15-20, Hebrews 10:16, Hebrews 10:29, Hebrews 12:24, Hebrews 13:20 )
  • Protects us from future desolation (Matthew 23:37-39)
  • It defeated the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)
  • It triumphed over the demons (Colossians 2:15)