What Jesus does in forgiveness is not just the work of man, but the work of God, and is therefore of final and ultimate validity. Only God against whom we sin can forgive sin, but the deity of Christ is the guarantee that the action of Christ in the whole course of his life is identical with the action of God towards us. It is not something of God that we have in Christ, but God himself, very God of very God.In short, the significance of the deity of Christ lies in the fact that it is God himself who acts in Jesus. As Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9) (Torrance, 2008:187; cf. Kelly, 2007:79, 80). As Torrance (2008:188) notes, if Christ is not God, then God has not come and dwelt among us:
Thus as the obverse of the fact that Christ’s real humanity means that God has actually come to us and dwells among us, Christ’s deity means that God himself has come to save us. The dogma of the humanity of Christ asserts the actuality in our world of the coming of God, and the dogma of the deity of Christ asserts the divine content of our knowledge and salvation, the objective reality of our relation to God himself. The dogma of the deity of Christ means that our salvation in Christ is anchored in eternity: that it is more sure than the heavens.The reality and validity of our salvation, therefore, is dependent upon the reality of Christ’s deity. Man’s salvation must be an act of God. If Jesus is man only, then his actions are not the actions of God on our behalf. Human salvation depends on the fact that it is God in Christ who suffers and bears the sin of the world, and reconciles the world to himself. Torrance (2008:189) continues:
The validity of our salvation depends on the fact that he who died on the cross under divine judgement is also God the judge, so that he who forgives is also he who judges. The reality of our salvation means that its reality is anchored on the divine side of reality, that the lamb is slain before the foundation of the world, that he has ascended to the right hand of God the Father almighty, and sits down with God on his own throne because he is God. Everything depends upon the fact that the cross is lodged in the heart of the Father.To deny the deity of the incarnate Son is to separate the work of Christ from God and make a “monstrosity” of the cross. If we put God in heaven and only Jesus the man crucified at Golgotha, we destroy all hope and are left with a doctrine of despair. But if we put God on the cross, the cross becomes salvation for the whole world. As Torrance argues, “The whole gospel rests upon the fact that it is God who became incarnate, and it was God who in Christ has reconciled the world to himself” (Torrance, 2008:189, 190; cf. Kelly, 2007:81).
Kelly, D.F. 2007. The Realist Epistemology of Thomas F. Torrance. In G. Dawson, ed. An Introduction to Torrance Theology: Discovering the Incarnate Saviour. London: T & T Clark. Ch. 4.
Torrance, T.F. 2009. Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ (edited by R. Walker). Downers Grove: IVP. 489 pp.