Why Did Jesus Have to Die for Our Sins?
- Hope Bolinger Crosswalk.com Editor
- 2021 14 Jan
I have never seen the Passion of Christ, but from what I’ve heard from fellow Christians who have seen the movie, it ties your guts into knots. Why? Because it pains us, sickens us, to see someone so innocent endure such a horrible punishment and death … for us. I had a friend who once dated an atheist who claimed, “You know what’s unnecessary? A death on a cross.” He’d said this as a way to try and sway her from her Christian beliefs since those alone had been preventing her from wanting to pursue a further relationship with this man. So why did Jesus die on the cross for our sins? Could he not have found another way that didn’t involve the most painful method of death known to man during his time?
In this article, we’ll explore the necessity of the cross, and how the truth of the cross alone show that Christ stands as the only way to salvation.
What Does the Bible Say about Sin?
Before we can explore the necessity of the cross, we need to first understand the nature of sin. In our culture especially, we have a way of shrugging off sin. If you have not yet had a chance to, dive into a copy of Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be by Alvin Plantinga, Jr. This book explores the insidious nature of iniquity.
Sin racks up an eternal debt. The nature of sin itself tells God, “Not thy will be done. My will be done” (Paraphrased from C.S. Lewis). Not only do we choose to sin, but we delight in wickedness. We march ourselves into hell like peacocks (Proverbs 2:14).
According to Crosswalk, we can establish the definition of sin as such: “The Christian definition of sin is purposely disobeying the rules of God (1 John 3:4). The Bible says, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools..." (Romans 1:18-22). God commands us to follow moral law and has given every human a conscience for intuitively knowing right from wrong.”
Sin necessitates wrath. If we found ourselves in the presence of God, his holiness would obliterate us because of our sinful, wicked nature.
So we have two choices: either endure eternal punishment because of our sin debt or find someone to pay it. And the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23), so that means a perfect sacrifice has to die.
Could We Have Been Saved Any Other Way?
“This seems extremely unfair,” we may say. “Couldn’t God just ignore the sin, pretend it never happened, and just let us into heaven?”
For those people who ask this, first, I recommend reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. The book shows what happens when unrepentant, unsaved people get a chance to visit heaven. Spoiler alert: they hate it.
Secondly, if God ignores sin, he does not love. Love and wrath are often a two-sided coin. If sin had no consequences, people would murder, rape, commit genocide, etc. with, you guessed it, no consequences.
And something inside of us hates that notion. That someone can get away with literal murder and not face any judgment. Because God made us in his image, and he loves justice. Therefore, so do we.
“But what if we work to pay off our debt? Through good deeds?” every other religion apart from Christianity says.
Here’s why this doesn’t work. First, Scripture says good deeds are like dirty rags, completely worthless (Isaiah 64:6). Also, good deeds, no matter what kind of “debt” they pay (although arguably zero, because our motives would be corrupted by sin anyhow) they cannot repay an eternal debt. We cannot earn our own salvation. We stretched the chasm too wide, and our good deeds, at best, are a 2X2” block of plywood.
So if we go with the second option, that means someone holy and perfect has to die. Someone not tainted by original sin. Someone born of a virgin. God himself.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die on the Cross?
“OK, so maybe he had to die. But couldn’t he have died a less excruciating death? Even stoning (John 8:59) would’ve been way more preferable than a crucifixion.”
True. Even Jesus dreaded the crucifixion to the point where he sweat blood from his anxiety the night before his death. So why endure one of the worst (if not the absolute worst) deaths known to man.
We have to re-look at the punishment. Keep in mind, Jesus fills in for us when it comes to dying for our sins. When we’re talking about all the sins of the world, throughout all time, that necessitates a rather horrible punishment.
The cross would’ve fit the bill. The torture preceding the cross also did as well.
Although a difficult truth to swallow, Jesus’ death necessitated the scandal of the cross. Far few people would’ve awakened from their sinful stupor had Jesus died in a less painful way. The cross awakens us to the horrors of our sinful nature and our desperate need for our Savior willing to undergo that agony for us.
Why Jesus’ Death Proves the Truth of Christianity
Pastor Joe Coffey in his sermons had presented a really clear picture of why Christianity is the only way to God. I’ll paraphrase one of his most famous illustrations below. Make sure to check out his sermons. They convict and help you to see the Bible in a new light, every time.
Picture a burning house with lots of windows and doors. The family inside can easily get out. So, if your neighbor sacrifices himself by throwing himself onto the burning door, you would say, “Well, that was dumb. He died for nothing.”
Now imagine the house has no windows and only one door, the entrance. The family is trapped inside. If the neighbor sacrifices himself, you’d say, “He died to save that family.”
Christianity works the same way. God would not have died if another religion had a solution. Some religions have far easier ways to “get to heaven” than mandating that God die on a cross. But obviously, God died. So he marks the only way out of the burning house (John 14:6).
The cross disproves all other religions because God had to die for our sins. No number of good deeds could ever repay the debt we have accrued from sin. And our sins required a severe punishment. So, Jesus stepped in.
It can often be difficult to swallow, the necessity of the cross. Part of our pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality tells us to earn our own way to heaven. We cannot. We need God. And we needed someone to repay our debt.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/kckate16
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Crosswalk.com, literary agent at C.Y.L.E., and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,000 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in October of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.
This article is part of our larger Holy Week and Easter resource library centered around the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!