Question 274:

Why does God need Jesus, His Son, for forgiving sin, given the fact that he is so powerful, gracious and loving?




It is helpful to read the way Topic 3 deals with this question:

Belief in redemption through the cross has in reality led to some questionable ways of thinking and some unhealthy forms of religious practice: whether a kind of spiritual glorification of suffering which at times leads to masochism; or the ideal of a passive obedience; or a mentality which seeks to make calculations about divine justice; or the demand for reparation through voluntary suffering of punishment in place of others; and so on. One could even add to this category the way in which some contemporary revolutionary leaders praise the ultimate sacrifice of a person’s life in the holy struggle for justice and liberation. It is therefore appropriate to call to mind some basic Christian truths.


The life of Jesus is itself liberating and redemptive. He displayed inner freedom towards the practice in his day of the religious Law, which had in part been interpreted contrary to the original will of God and so laid unnecessary burdens on people (cf. Matthew 11:28; 23:4; Luke 11:46). This approach, along with the faithfulness with which Jesus revealed the true face of God as a father who loves all people without preconditions, brought upon him the hostility of the leaders of his people. Collaborating with those who had become disillusioned with Jesus, these leaders condemned him to death. They handed him over to the power of the Romans, who killed him in accordance with their laws, employing the traditional, cruel punishment of crucifixion. The violent death of Jesus was the inevitable consequence of all that he had set in motion in his life.


In answer to the question above, it must be said that God could forgive our sins directly. However, God chose to demonstrate that our sins are forgiven through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Not only did Jesus openly forgive sins, his parables spoke eloquently about God’s readiness to forgive. Take, for example, the parables of the prodigal son and the search for the lost sheep (cf. Luke’s Gospel, chapter 15). Jesus also had meals together with those who were recognized as sinners in society (Luke 5:29 – 32). There are many other examples of Jesus manifesting God’s mercy and forgiveness (e.g. the woman who was a sinner, Luke 7:36 – 50). In all these ways, Jesus wanted to help us believe in God’s readiness to forgive sin. Believing in God’s forgiveness may lead us to change our way of life accordingly.


The most remarkable demonstration of God’s forgiveness occurred when Jesus himself was called a blasphemer and died the shameful death of a sinner outside the city walls. He himself became the victim of the jealousy, arrogance and hatred of those who killed him without showing any respect for justice. Like the “suffering servant” in the Book of Isaiah (cf. chapter 53), Jesus accepted this suffering and shame without demanding retaliation or vindication. In so doing, Jesus broke the cycle of violence and revenge that had plagued human society since the beginning. Jesus forgave those who killed him (Luke 23:34), thereby opening up a new way for mankind to deal with sin and the effects of sin. In this way, Jesus became the most remarkable sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness.


In short, God did not need Jesus to forgive our sins but God has opened up a whole new way of life for us through the example of Jesus’ humble surrender to shame and death. 

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Prof. Dr. Christian W. Troll,

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