Was it really necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? Could God have saved the world any other way? You may have asked these questions before, and the good news is that the answer is found in the Bible. The Bible explains why the cross was necessary, and why it is our only path to salvation.
God Is Infinitely Holy
The Bible uses many words to describe God: loving, compassionate, merciful and just. But one of the main words it uses to describe God is holy. Holiness refers to God’s moral perfection. He’s totally good in everything that he does. He is completely without sin. We find God’s holiness mentioned all over the Bible.
Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
We Are Sinful
When we do something wrong, we often shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, no one’s perfect.” And that’s true. Nobody is perfect because everybody sins. Sin doesn’t just involve our actions, but also our words, thoughts, and motives. When we do the wrong thing, it’s sin. When we fail to do the right thing, it’s sin. And sin is a universal, human condition.
God Can’t Overlook Our Sin
Here is why sin is such a big problem. God is opposed to sin. It’s against everything that he stands for. Remember, God is holy. He’s also just. This means he must punish sin. Imagine a judge who freed everyone who committed violent crimes. Instead of sending offenders to jail, he just let them go in the name of forgiveness. We wouldn’t consider this judge to be just. We’d kick him off the bench. If God ignored sin, then he wouldn’t be just. It would violate his holiness.
Jesus Is God’s Answer to Our Sinfulness
With this background, we can now understand why Jesus’ death was necessary. Jesus was sinless. He is the exception to the universal, human condition. And Jesus came to die in our place. Just as animals were sacrificed in the Old Testament world to atone for the sin of the Israelities, Jesus died in our place to pay for our sins.
Romans 3:22-25 (ESV) For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
This passage is packed with information, but let’s focus on verse 25. Jesus was “put forward as a propitiation by his blood.” The word propitiation refers to a sacrifice or payment that appeases the wrath of someone, particularly a god. This means that Jesus’ sacrifice appeased the wrath of God by taking the penalty for our sins. Instead of receiving God’s wrath, we now receive God’s favor. And all of this was possible because Jesus went to the cross. Without the cross, we wouldn’t have forgiveness for our sins and we’d still be alienated from God.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Read Isaiah 6:3. What does the Bible mean when it says that God is holy? Why is it important to understand God’s holiness?
- How would you explain sin to a person who believes that they’ve never sinned?
- Read Romans 3:23-25. What does this passage teach us about humanity? How is justification a gift from God?
- What does it mean that Jesus was “a propitiation”? How does the death of Jesus atone for our sins?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.