Why Did Christ Die?
The Cross was an act of Redemption
The NT speaks of the cross of Christ as an act of redemption. Redemption has to do with some kind of purchase. In the ancient world a price was paid to redeem slaves. The Apostle Paul writes, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). On the cross at the end of His suffering, Jesus cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and the word translated as finished was a commercial term. It was used when someone made a final installment on a series of payments.
The Cross Satisfied God’s Justice
Some people reject the Christian God because they think it is ridiculous to believe in a God who would require a blood sacrifice for reconciliation with human beings. They think that a truly just God would unilaterally forgive people for their sins and not impose a requirement. Many people prefer to think strictly in terms of God’s love, grace, or mercy, and they dislike the idea that God is a God of justice. But a judge who never punishes evil is not a good and just judge. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (Gen. 18:25).
God’s law imposes an obligation, and we are called to meet that obligation, which is perfection. If we sin even once, we incur a moral debt; we become debtors who cannot possibly pay our debt.
Imagine a boy who tries to steal an ice-cream cone but the store proprietor catches him and then calls the police. You feel bad for the boy, so you address the policeman saying, “Wait a minute, officer. Let’s forget about this. I’ll pay for the boy’s cone.” Then you hand the proprietor two dollars. The policeman looks at the proprietor and asks, “Do you want to press charges?” The policeman understands that the shop owner is not obligated to accept your payment for the cone because a moral debt has been incurred. The proprietor is therefore free to accept or to refuse your payment.
God the Father sent His Son into the world to pay the price of our moral guilt. The Father said to the Son, “I accept your payment on behalf of these guilty people who cannot pay their debt.”
God does not negotiate His justice. He does not sacrifice His righteousness or discard His integrity. He said, in essence, “I am going to make sure that sin is punished.” That is the justness of the cross. The mercy of the cross is seen in that God accepted the payment by a substitute. God is both just and the Justifier (Rom. 3:26).
[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]