There are a number of recurring questions Christians get asked by their unbelieving or faith-exploring friends. If God exists, why is there evil in the world? Why was the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden? What proof do you have that Jesus existed?
(Fortunately, I’ve explored a couple of these questions. I’ve linked the questions to the articles with the answers I’ve provided.)
These are great questions we should expect and shouldn’t shy away from. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Sometimes this might be in the form of rational queries. Exploring these questions can be affirming to your faith and help in planting the seed for possible future believers as well, so it pays to contemplate them.
Now, I will give the caveat I believe you should really only spend time answering sincere questions. Sometimes you should use discernment to know when the person asking you genuinely wants to know, or if they are wasting time you could be using more effectively elsewhere.
Among the most popular of these questions is this: Why did God need to use Jesus to forgive our sins? I mean, if He is the Law Maker, why doesn’t He just forgive without that sacrifice? Also, I thought He was only good. So why did Jesus have to suffer and die?
Let’s look at this from the ground up. First, God is good. As such, all good things are encompassed in His nature as they come from Him. Among other things, God loves, heals, saves, forgives, and administers justice. Wait a minute! He forgives and administers justice? How can He do both?
Another good question.
Here is where the answer to our original question lies. There is no denying justice is a good characteristic. If it were not, there would be no reason for good to exist. If you could steal someone’s Ferrari without consequence, what would keep you from doing so? We’re all going to Heaven anyway if there is no justice, right? And with no justice, the Ferrari’s original owner isn’t going to retaliate and the law won’t touch you. So, there must be a price paid if there is to be good, or at least something other than bad.
This isn’t to say that without justice no one would do good, just that we would have no reason not to do bad. An environment with no justice would create a survival-of-the-fittest mentality in humans, in which case there would be little to distinguish us from animals.
We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) though, and sin is an offense that requires justice. So, for God to be just, we must all be punished. Now this is where forgiveness fits into the picture. If we have all sinned, that means there is a price to be paid. And doing good deeds doesn’t pay for a past wrong.
You wouldn’t be able to steal that person’s Ferrari, then give money to a widow and pay off your debt to the car owner. The judge would still be slamming their hammer down with an accompanying “guilty” shout faster than that Ferrari could get you from 0 to 60. Even giving the car back wouldn’t negate the theft. (I know there is court-ordered community service, but that’s a form of earthly justice.)
That leaves it up to the debtor to forgive the debt… but justice still must be served if the Debtor is all good. Enter Jesus of Nazareth, the Great Payer of Debts. By putting on flesh and coming to Earth to live life as one of us in the Messiah, God paid our debt for us. In that one merciful act, God both served justice and offered His forgiveness.
You see, sin isn’t just some philosophical wrong; it’s a tangible debt that can only be paid for with death. (Romans 6:23) Jesus literally took the weight of the punishment of every sin on His shoulders when He died on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). In principal, rules and laws are created to keep us within safe bounds so we don’t harm others or ourselves (particularly God-made ones.) A sin is an offense against that law, and if justice is good and God is good, that sin has to be paid for. We’re fortunate to have been created by a God that loves us so much He wants us to be with Him in Heaven, so He was willing to pay that debt for us.
This does beg the question: Why such a serious penalty? Aside from the obvious, “God made the rules, He can make the punishment,” what would be the longest and most gracious length of time God could give us to come to Him and be forgiven of this debt you can think of? How about all of our lifetime? And what penalty is there after death? And what reward is there after death? Heaven, Hell. Caught up? Good.
So why Jesus? Why not Noah, Moses, David, or any other great man? You see, every other person has their own sin to pay for, and no one else could bear the weight of the world’s sin. That is why God stepped down in Christ and offered Himself as the death to pay for the sin. He was without sin, but took on sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Knowing this, nonbelievers must see why we are so grateful for Christ. There is quite literally no way we could redeem ourselves, so God did so for us. We no longer have to live our lives in the bondage of death and sin; we are reborn into life everlasting the moment we repent and follow Jesus. Christians, rejoice today in knowing what your Savior has done for you!
Of course, this doesn’t account for how we get to Heaven and some other similar questions. Christ’s resurrection is key for a lot of other aspects, but maybe we’ll explore those later. You can research some of this in Hebrews 9.
If you’ve had this question asked of you, or know someone who might be pondering on it, please share this. You never know what God might do in someone through it.
You might also like
God may be silent, but he's always beside us. GUG writer Tyler Hummel pontificates on the movie and novel Silence and the dilemma the story presents to Christians.