Christians often speak of the fact that Jesus died for their sin. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die for our sin? Or have you ever wondered how one man’s death 2,000 years ago can pardon you of your sins? It doesn’t seem fair that God would punish Jesus for our sins, and then let us off the hook knowing full well that we’re still guilty.
One thing to keep in mind is that our salvation is dependent upon God’s performance, not our own. People often make the mistake of thinking that they can somehow make themselves acceptable to God by living rightly or making themselves perfect. That’s a problem. By the time you recognize the sin in your life, it’s too late to do anything to earn your salvation. Earning your salvation is impossible; the stain of sin is already there and you cannot make it go away.
This is where Jesus and the cross come into play. He is able to bring God’s grace to our life in a way that nothing else ever could. Jesus was not just a “man” whose death 2,000 years ago gets you off the hook of your guilt for committing sin. Jesus is himself God as well as man. He is not only the one judged for the crime; he is the One against whom the crime is committed, and the One who passes out the sentence for the crime of breaking God’s commandments. Jesus makes the difference.
While the Bible does not explain why Jesus HAD to die for us, it does explain to us why he DID die for us. First, Jesus died for our sins because justice must be served. In other words, our sin must be “atoned for.” It cannot simply be overlooked. Our inclination to sometimes overlook sin is due to our imperfect moral character, yet even we usually feel wronged when serious crimes go unpunished. We want to see justice in such cases. God’s commands are clear, and we know them. When we reject him, his justice enters in.
But another reason why Jesus died for our sins is because we must be changed into beings who are compatible with God. We must become perfect as God is perfect if we are going to live in his presence, because he is an all-holy, perfect God. He cannot be inconsistent with his own character, and he must therefore be perfectly opposed to sin. When Jesus died on the cross, God’s love absorbed his own justice, setting us free from our sin so that we can live with God forever. Out of love for humanity, God himself satisfied his own moral standard by absorbing within himself the sin and punishment which that sin deserved.
As a man, God became sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:19). God reconciled us to himself through Jesus’ death on the cross, and he no longer counts our sin against us if we have been united with him through faith and baptism. As Gregory Boyd points out in his book, Letters to a Skeptic, “in Jesus, humanity pays for its sin, and God justly judges that sin, for Jesus is both God and man.” Because Jesus has atoned for our sin and removed it from our life, he can change us into “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17) who are compatible with God.
Praise be to God for the cross of Christ! Now let’s live up to who we are: the people of God.