God’s Forgiveness and the Cross

Someone asked this question in Yahoo Answers – “Why did God have to let people kill his Son instead of just forgiving everyone’s sins from Heaven? Does that even make sense?”

This is a good question. God’s heart has always been to forgive everyone because God is love and love keeps no records of wrong.

I think God created human beings to enjoy relationship, fellowship and communion with Him, without having any sense of good and evil, or right or wrong. The first humans, Adam and Eve, didn’t have a conscience.

But when they partook from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve developed a conscience. They began to feel guilty and condemned.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil is a picture of the law. It is not meant for human beings to live by because it causes them to become self-reliant and independent of God, wanting by their own efforts to do good and shun evil. Eating from this tree (or living by the law or deserving system) also caused death to reign. God had wanted them to eat from the tree of life and live by His unmerited favour so that they can reign in life.

So back to the question: Why couldn’t God just forgive everyone’s sins instead of letting His Son die? I think there are several reasons:

Firstly, Jesus came to be our Representative – He came as God in human flesh. Jesus came to die in our place. In order to redeem us from death, He needed to become like one of us, so that He died our death, and we would not need to die. Instead, we will live by His resurrection life because Jesus rose from the dead as us.

Secondly, Jesus’ sacrifice is meant to cleanse our conscience. Forgiveness is free for us, but the law requires that sinners must die. The cross is the answer to the demands of the law. Jesus’ sacrifice fully paid the penalty of the broken law, so that we can have full assurance in His finished work that we are completely and legally forgiven. Without the cross, we may never be sure that all our sins are forgiven, even though God can forgive our sins without the cross. It is not to satisfy God’s so-called “bloodthirstiness”, but to satisfy our human sense of justice in our human conscience, which came from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

So, knowing Jesus’ sacrifice is perfect and complete will give us the assurance that God remembers our sins no more. We should never be sin-conscious again, knowing that God has reconciled us to Himself through His Son.

Besides, Jesus willingly laid down His life for us because He considers us His friends. “No greater love there is than this: that to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Last but not least, Jesus showed us how to forgive others when He was beaten and hung on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Today, we are all in the Father because He has made us one with Him as we are one in Christ. In effect, Jesus was also saying to us, “Forgive those who have hurt you because they know not what they do.” We can forgive ourselves too because we know God has forgiven us in Christ.

(Post updated on 28 September 2010)

Related links

Another Look at the Cross – How the Message Portrays God

Hebrews 9-10 Our Conscience Has Been Cleansed Once For All

Reflections on a Trinitarian View of the Cross

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