If God wanted to forgive sinners, why didn’t He just forgive them and declare it done?
I think the question implies a few other questions. Why couldn’t God simply forgive anyone who sins without all the gory bloodshed? Doesn’t God have enough forgiveness in His heart? Is He not powerful enough to do good without doing evil first? Is God so malevolent to demand the death of His own Son? Does God just enjoy punishing others so much? The was-Jesus’-death-necessary question (WJDN?) points a finger at the motives of God and the nature of God.
Was Jesus’ Death Necessary?
1. WJDN? is not an objective question.
First, we need to be honest and admit that this is not an objective query. It proceeds from assumptions that indicate the anticipated answer. The questioner has a bias and inserts his agenda into the question. The questioner may not want you to examine his assumptions. He may be leading you to his conclusion: if there is a god, he is bad.
I ask you to keep an open mind, examine some of the premises of the question, maintain an open mind about the nature of God, and reach your own conclusion.
2. The premises under WJDN? may or may not be accurate.
To me, the apparent premise is: a person that intentionally kills his own son is an evil person. I agree with that. [a]However, I do not apply human measurements of good or evil to God, the Giver and Taker of Life. That might be a good topic for another day. However, that truth is not the only plank in this platform. Don’t the best illusions need an element of truth to make them credible?
In the question, there are some inaccurate assumptions that we need to consider:
- Sin is only in the angry mind of an offended God.
- God is unwilling to simply forgive sin. [b]Saying “I’m sorry” does not reverse the effects of an offending action.
- Sin is how God feels about my freedom.
- My sin is a small thing.
- Punishment of sin is an act of vengeance.
- Sin is God’s problem, not mine.
- God is a selfish tyrant.
- I do not need God to tell me how to live.
Here are some accurate counter-assumptions that will help us understand the question:
- Sin is in me, not in the mind of God.
- God is willing to forgive sin AND to cleanse me.
- Sin is how I feel about God.
- Sin separates me from God, so it becomes the greatest problem that I will ever face.
- God is not vengeful; rather He is willing to go to great lengths to remove sin from my life.
- Sin is my problem.
- God is generous and compassionate.
- I need God’s intervention in my life.
Now, let’s use these true premises to move toward an understanding of the question.
God is willing to forgive sin.
A person too weak to save himself could not force Almighty God to do something against His will. Therefore, if God were unwilling to forgive you, He would never accept any sacrifice for your sins.
In fact, the Scriptures indicate that God collaborated in the ultimate plan of salvation before Jesus was born in Israel where He was crucified. (Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 2:10; John 1:29)
God is actually a loving Being with a tendency toward grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s idea.
Sin is human nature.[c]Being forgiven does not remove the source of sin.
We humans are inextricably tangled up in a sinful nature. Sin is not external to us. It is in us. We may be tempted to sin from the outside, but the decision is actually made on the inside. (Jeremiah 17:9,10)
Sin is not insignificant because it separates me from God. God’s presence is life and light while sin is death and darkness. Separation from God is so utterly horrible that Jesus was willing to die. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” [d]John 14:6
If I am sinful in nature (and I am), God’s plan of forgiveness would need to involve removing the root cause of my sinful behavior, not only the removing of the penalty of sin.
As a human father, I would forgive my child for not mowing the lawn if the mower was broken. Then, I would take steps to get that broken mower working again. That’s probable not an accurate analogy but I think it helps understanding a little anyway.
God can’t just look the other way and let his children continue to rebel and spread wickedness everywhere. God needs to offer a solution the real problem. God needs to provide a way to transform a sinful, rebellious human nature into a righteous, lovingly-obedient holy nature.
…and that is the message of the New Testament: we can be miraculously transformed by God through the death of Jesus Christ. [e]…and just accepting my sinful old self for who I am is not sufficient when God knows a way to change human nature.
Why couldn’t God just decree that we are holy?
Isn’t God strong enough just to declare that no one would disobey Him? If God wants everyone to be holy, why didn’t He make us that way, instead of causing us to be born with a sinful nature into a sinful world?
I can only think of two ways to accomplish this. One, God is strong enough to force us. Two, God removes our ability to sin.
The problem is that God is love. [f]Romans 5:8 It isn’t loving if someone is forced to love. God is not love if everyone is forced to obey God against their own will. We need to choose to obey God because we love God. This means that we must be born into an environment where each of us can actually choose to reject God if we so desire.
If God were an Vengeful Tyrant, perhaps Jesus’ death would have been needless.
However, we live in the real world. Sin is in us. We need a miracle. God provides the necessary miracle of transformation through Jesus Christ, [g]Romans 6:5-7 and furthermore, God offers the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit so that we can produce ongoing spiritual fruit.
Was Jesus’ death necessary?
Based upon the gravity of sin and the true nature of a holy and loving God that includes a plan for the transformation of my sinful nature… yes.
|↑a||However, I do not apply human measurements of good or evil to God, the Giver and Taker of Life. That might be a good topic for another day.|
|↑b||Saying “I’m sorry” does not reverse the effects of an offending action.|
|↑c||Being forgiven does not remove the source of sin.|
|↑e||…and just accepting my sinful old self for who I am is not sufficient when God knows a way to change human nature.|