The Father’s Bargain

John Flavel, an English minister during the Puritan era, once speculated about a verbal exchange between God the Father and God the Son. In this exchange, the Father was considering the hopeless plight of fallen man — how they were open to His wrath. The Son offers an alternative to the Father.

This exchange is known as “The Father’s Bargain.”

Father: My son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls and thus Christ returns.

Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee…

We need to pause right there and recognize one fact — we could never, ever pay God what we owe. That is why hell is forever. Our debt could never be paid if it were demanded of us. Let’s continue…

Son (continued): Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I would rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements…

Please take careful note of the next thing the Father says…

…if I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Brethren, for us to be spared Christ had to suffer ALL of the wrath due us. We can’t overlook this — we are blessed because HE was cursed.

Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it…

Also realize that Christ is the ONLY one who could make such a statement. He is the only one able to discharge our debt.

Son (continued): And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, (for so indeed it did, 2 Cor. 8:9, “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”) yet I am content to undertake it.

The content of this exchange in the heavenly realms should drive us to the floor, prostrate before God and His Christ in awe.

John Flavel concluded “The Father’s Bargain” with this word to Christians…

Blush, ungrateful believers, O let shame cover your faces; judge in yourselves now, has Christ deserved that you should stand with him for trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties, and complain, this is hard, and that is harsh? O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in  this wonderful condescension for you, you could not do it.

Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before we do, however, we would do well to spend some time considering what it was that put Him in the grave in the first place.

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

2 Responses to The Father’s Bargain

  1. Wagner Menzori says:

    Terrible! That “conversation” suposes that neither Jesus nor God are the authors of the History of this Universe and this reality we live in. Those two characters are neither eternal nor sovereign.

    Shame on this infralapsarian week and contemptible view about the Gospel and the character of God.

  2. Chip says:


    I am afraid you completely missed the point of this post. Please note the title John Flavel gave to this little illustration is not “A Comprehensive View of Systematic Theology” — it is “The Father’s Bargain.” The purpose of this illustration is not to provide an accurate portrayal of every biblical doctrine. It is to illustrate the substitutionary nature of Christ’s atonement — that’s all. The title let’s us know that this “bargain” is the point of the whole thing. Flavel wants us to understand the nature of the transaction that he describes between God the Father and His Son Jesus. He did this using anthropomorphic language so as to make the concept a little easier to understand for his listeners. Scripture does the same thing.

    In 2 Chronicles 16:9 it says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth…” And yet Scripture declares that God is a Spirit and does not have physical eyes. We don’t freak out over the 2 Chronicles passage, but instead realize this is an anthropomorphism designed to communicate to us that God sees everything. Nothing escapes his notice.

    If you know anything of John Flavel you know he was a staunch believer in the absolute sovereignty of God. I’m fairly certain he did not mean to give the impression that God the Father one day discovered the hopeless plight of men and then went to Jesus to figure out what to do. I KNOW he didn’t believe such a thing on the basis of his other writings. He merely placed his illustration in the context of an imaginary discussion to communicate a couple of things to us…

    1) That Christ’s sacrifice was more than a physical death on a cross. He endured the wrath of Almighty God — the very thing we deserve — and in so doing, transferred His own righteousness to our account. This was the nature of the exchange that is the whole point of the illustration.

    2) That Christ was the only one worthy to undertake this exchange.

    I very much appreciate your comment. If you made this mistake, I can safely assume that others have, too. Hopefully our comments will clear up any misunderstanding.


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