(Un)Fair & (Im)Balanced

(Un)Fair & (Im)Balanced

Did Jesus Have to Die to Save Us From Sin?

One of the cornerstones in the belief of many Christians is that “Jesus died for our sins.” However, I often struggled with this idea on many levels. Why would a God of peace, love and mercy require blood atonement? Didn’t Jesus forgive sin before his death? And doesn’t this, in some ways, put the power in the hands of Jesus’ executioners?

What I also learned as I met other Christians was that I’m not alone in wrestling with these questions. While some argue you can’t be a Christian without claiming this belief, others quietly wonder if this might actually be a misunderstanding, or at the very least, a limited understanding of salvation.

So when putting together Banned Questions About Jesus, I wanted to make sure to include this question among the fifty I posed to my crew of respondents. Below are three reflections on this challenging but important question.


Jesus forgave people of their sins before he died. How could he do this if he actually had to die in order to save us from sin?

Phil Snider: For many years I sat in church quietly wondering why God’s forgiveness was based on the idea that awful violence had to be inflicted upon Jesus in order for God to save us from sin. I was never comfortable with this idea, but I feared voicing my questions would make my Christian friends think I was a hell-bound heretic.

It was only when I went to seminary that I learned this wasn’t the only way to view Jesus’ death, and I’m glad to say I no longer believe Jesus had to die in order to save us from sin.


As it turns out, the idea that Jesus had to die on the cross in order for God to forgive our sins took nearly a thousand years to develop, and numerous theologians have pointed to its problematic implications. Chief among these concerns are questions related to God’s power and God’s character. In terms of God’s power, why is it necessary for God to sacrifice God’s Son in order to grant forgiveness? Is there “some higher authority or necessity above God with whom God has to comply in doing this?”

In terms of God’s character, can’t such a belief make God out to be “a perverse subject who plays obscene games with humanity and His own Son,” like the narcissistic governess from Patricia Highsmith’s “Heroine” who sets the family house on fire in order to be able to prove her devotion to the family by bravely saving the children from the raging flames?


Instead, my Christian faith is grounded in the affirmation that God’s love is unconditional, which leads me to believe that God’s forgiveness is unconditional as well. All of which means that Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness – offered before he died – is one of the things that makes him most God-like!

Amy Reeder Worley: I’m a lawyer. My first reaction upon reading this particular banned question was to leap from my desk and shout, “Objection! This question assumes facts not in evidence.” Yes, I know that is weird. But it’s also true. The question as posed assumes that Jesus had to die to “save” people from sin. I don’t find much biblical or historical evidence to support this “substitutionary atonement” theory of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.


Rather, I agree with Marcus Borg and other post-modern theologians who argue that Jesus died because of human sin, not in the place of humans who sin. As it relates to the question at hand, my view of the crucifixion means necessarily that forgiveness of sin emanates directly from God, and it existed before, during, and after Jesus’ life and resurrection. Like many religious ideas, God’s forgiveness operates outside of our limited view of space-time.

So how is it, exactly, that Jesus had the authority to forgive people? Sacred texts throughout the world speak of forgiving our enemies as a sacred and holy act. When Jesus forgave the unclean, criminal, and gentile he embodied God’s preexisting forgiveness of us all, teaching his followers that forgiveness was not limited to the religiously “in” crowd of the day.


In Matthew 9:1-8, Jesus forgives and then heals a paralyzed man. The rabbis accuse Jesus of blasphemy for claiming the authority to forgive sins, an authority they believed was reserved for YAWEH. Jesus responds, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’ But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Jesus turned to the paralytic and healed him. The crowd was “filled with awe; and they praised God who gave such authority to men.” Here, as throughout the gospels, Jesus reaffirms the message that God’s love and forgiveness are available to all of us, all of the time.

Tripp Fuller: One could answer the question by saying that Jesus knew he was going to die and rise so he could forgive with the future known and certain, or possibly that Jesus’ divine identity gave him the ability to forgive sin at will, or one could even suggest that if forgiveness could be given before the cross, then the cross may not have been necessary.


It is important to recognize that in forgiving sins Jesus is acting on behalf of God and was one of the reasons Jesus was opposed by the religious leaders, thus forcing one to explain how Jesus’ identity is tied to that of God. To understand this I have found it helpful to see how Paul re-imagined the sacrificial system in light of Christ’s work.

Traditionally an act of sacrifice began with the sinner transferring their identity to the animal through an act of consecration. Afterward the animal was killed so that the person was reincorporated into the people of God. Paul reverses the process so that the process begins with Christ identifying with us and ends with the consecration, us identifying with that which is sacrificed.

In a sense Paul sees, in Christ, God coming to put an end to sacrifice by turning it upside down and beginning with God’s coming to sinner with Good News. From this perspective it would make sense that Jesus could forgive sin without having died because God had come in Christ to consecrate the world as God’s beloved.

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posted May 1, 2014 at 7:38 am

While I don’t consider myself educated enought to post to this site. I have, nonetheless, had a few beers and want to try to express something that has bothered me with regard to this subject for most of my life; Coming from a Christian upbringing (first assembly of God) I was told, and took it on faith, that Jesus was one of the Trinity. That is to say that he is, and was, the “Son” part, of the Father, Son,and Holy Ghost trinity. For me the acceptance of this idea with regards to Jesus’ death on the cross has always brought me to the question of: Wait; If Jesus IS God, this sacrifice of “God’s Son” is actually a sacrifice of himself. And therefore; Big deal. I mean, if I’m God and I am sacrificing myself and then immediately seating myself in the form of Jesus at the right hand of myself; personally I don’t think I’ve actually done much of anything. It seems to me that this idea expects us to be , very humanistic and empathetic in our interpretation. ie: God sacrificed his only son!( how selfless) and at the same time;contradictorily,very literal. ie: Jesus is God. I’ve spent most of my “Christian” life trying to reconcile the two points of view. Quite clearly to me we can’t have both. This and other questions have and are moving me to view an alternative hypothesis, if you will, that Jesus, in fact, did not at all die for our sins. I’m sure most of the people reading this would agree that its a difficult assignment for us as humans to sort through all the varied thoughts and issues that surround these types of subjects. I, for one, am and have been quite confused by all this for some 45 years now. However, I must add; I still have a personal relationship with an other worldly entity in my head that I refer, to in the deeper parts of myself, as Jesus.

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kellie mahaffy

posted March 5, 2012 at 1:48 am

I can only look at this question in the simplest of terms because God is simple, not complicated. Jesus was the physical embodiment of God, His ‘son’, sent to earth to show us the amazing love and mercy He has for each one of us and how we can show each other those same gifts if we choose. We, however, are human and therefore unable to impart God-like gifts with complete abandonment; we sin. God knows and expects this so He demonstrated to us in the purest and rawest way how much He loves each one of us…He gave us a chance to touch and hear and talk to Jesus, and when we wouldn’t accept that gift, He sacrificed His ‘son’ mercilessly saying that His death gave us forgiveness for all our sins upon our own death. Whenever I hear this question about whether Jesus had to die or not, I ask myself this and there’s never a doubt that He did: Would I take the life of one of my own children in hopes that all of mankind will be free of sin for eternity? I’m too selfish, I don’t think that I could. But God could, and Jesus knew He had to.

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posted March 4, 2012 at 2:31 am

i too, wondered through the yeats about our God and how could he forsake his son????? we, as humans,cannot understand this mind of God!!!!! all i know is that this shows the most beautiful love for mankind, that one would give his life and suffer such a death as Jesus did for us and our sins!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i as, a mother had to watch my son die of cancer and not be able to do anything, so i know the pain of others as they watched their beloved die, especialy Mary…..and all the pain,,jesus suffered for you and i and all the future mankind… i try so hard to live as Jesus would want me to, because when i do wrong, it’s like i add another stripe to Jesus’s back and give him more pain and i never want to do that……without jesus sacrafice for you and i, there would be nothing to actully live for and also die for, because i actually live to die!!!!! so that as jesus was resurrected, i too, will upon my death be born into a new life with Jesus and loved ones with the most beautiful light always shining for ever more….God knows the best for all and i thank him everyday for his sacrifice!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Benjamin Mubiru

posted March 4, 2012 at 1:08 am

Though God is all merciful, all powerful and all forgiving, God is also holy, righteous and just.

Isaiah 5:16
But the LORD Almighty is exalted by his justice. The holiness of God is displayed by his righteousness. (NLT)
Sin and Holiness are Incompatible

Sin entered the world through one man’s disobedience – Adam, and now all of us are born into this “sin nature.”
Romans 5:12
When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. (NLT)
Romans 3:23
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (NLT)
Sin Separates Us from God

Isaiah 35:8
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. (NIV)
Isaiah 59:2
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (NIV)
Sin’s Punishment is Eternal Death

God’s holiness and justice demand that sin and rebellion be punished. The only penalty or payment for sin is eternal death.
Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NASB)
Romans 5:21
So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (NLT)
Atoning Sacrifice

Our death is not sufficient to atone for sin because atonement requires a perfect, spotless sacrifice, offered in just the right way. Jesus, the one perfect God-man, came to offer the pure, complete and everlasting sacrifice to remove, atone, and make eternal payment for our sin.
1 Peter 1:18-19
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (NLT)
Hebrews 2:14-17
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (NIV)
Only Through Jesus Christ

Only through Jesus Christ can our sins be forgiven, thus restoring our relationship with God and removing the separation caused by sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 1:30
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (NIV)
The Messiah – Savior

The suffering and the glory of the coming Messiah was foretold in Isaiah chapters 52 and 53. God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah that would save them from their sin. Though he did not come in the form they expected, still their faith looking forward to his salvation saved them. Our faith, looking backward to his act of salvation, saves us. When we accept Jesus’ payment for our sin, his perfect sacrifice washes away our sin and restores our right standing with God. God’s mercy and grace provided a way for our salvation.
Romans 5:10
For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. (NLT)
In Summary, when we are “in Christ Jesus” we are covered by his blood through his sacrificial death, our sins are paid for, and we no longer have to die an eternal death. We receive eternal life though Jesus Christ. And this is why Jesus had to die.

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posted March 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm

In the old testament you had to sacrafice a goat on a brunt offering to be forgiven of your sins. When Jesus died his blood covers the sins of the people who believe and ask him for forgiveness. The bible clearly states yeah shall not be saved but by the blood of Jesus Christ. Who knows entirley the reasons, I believe some of the reasons was that God wanted to make the devil think that he had won the battle. The bible also says the half has not yet been told.
One more thing for thought. At one time the devil was second in command until he tried to defeat his creator “God”. A big big mistake, God kicked the devil out of heaven, and 1/3 of the heavenly host. This could be a trial for us, so God won’t have to go through that again. He “God” will illiminate the people that someday would go against him. I believe he knows already in advance. Your thoughts on this? “God is Great Amen”

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posted March 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm

God made a covenant with man that said if you sin you shall surely die. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. A covenant is a “legal contract” between God and man. The Bible also tells us that God is not a man that he should lie; which means that once God said it, he was “legally” bound to abide by his covenant. In order to “legally” keep mankind from having to pay the wages of sin, which is death, he had to devise a way to do it “legally”. In the story of Ruth we learn that a close relative could “legally” pay the price for that relatives servatude, by paying the price for their servatude and thus freeing them of their obligation. We are all children of God and Jesus being the only begotten son of God, makes him our close relative and thereby giving him the right to pay the price for our redemption. The price for our redemption was death! Jesus had to die to pay the price for our redemption!

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posted March 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm


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i am

posted March 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm

jesus said father why has thou forsaken me ,considering he was in excrutiating pain one must assume god asked jesus to take the sins of the world onto his godly shoulders but as man,in any event he wasnt complaining god had forgot him he was stating his body in human form had had enough pain,the fact that only the one who gives can occanmpany the the one who gave can mediate for all our lives seems historically correct in his excellent godly manner as no other sacrifice could amount to our forgivness unless the father sacrificed himself,summing up ,he didnt give his son up for sacrifice,man took him and god knew that in jesus death the aworld xcoulgbe saved

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Pagesof MyHeartMinistry

posted March 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm

The Question asked is -Did Jesus Have to Die to Save Us From Sin?

The Old Testament laws concerning Feast days, new moons, Sabbaths, were anticipating the reality in God working out His salvation plan;

The Old Testament tells of the important observance of Passover.

JesusChrist was/is known as the Lamb of God.

John 1:29The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

It is written in Isaiah 53:

6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

It is written in New Testament:
John 10
14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

15As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

16And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

17Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

18No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

The Bible proclaims the following on Christ’s Sacrifice:
Hebrews 9
25Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

26For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Jesus Christ made His Sacrifice at Passover. This is all recorded in Scripture.

2 Corinthians 5
20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

So the question asked above is answered fully in Scripture. One only needs to humbly and prayerfully believe.

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posted March 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm

You should ask an Orthodox theologian for a good answer.

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