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Some point to a blood-payment mechanic, but I wish to look deeper than this. If payment for sin is required, then why have that in the first place, even before Old Testament ritual was established.

I've learned that the blood-payment mechanic is only one of many theories of atonement (the penal substitution theory of atonement), and these theories may be relevant. In some theories of atonement Jesus' death is an example to us, and the answer to my question may be "he didn't have to die, but God chose it". However, in many theories of atonement, there was a specific consequence of Jesus' death (propitiation, ransom payment, victory over death, etc.). In each of those cases, I cannot see the necessity for Jesus' death, because without it God can still act if he chooses to. Whatever Jesus' death allowed or changed could be allowed or changed anyway, right?

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Because no greater love hath a man than this... Or Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin –  Affable Geek Jun 5 '13 at 11:53
Welcome btw- this is a great question! It might take a book to answer, but it is a superb question. –  Affable Geek Jun 5 '13 at 11:54
I'm afraid there can be no better answer than that short comment given by Affable Geek. Putting a "why" on those two points will be like asking "Why is 1+1=2 ?" –  Mawia Jun 7 '13 at 8:30
That sounds like "just accept it because it's true". Do you really mean that? It sounds a little circular. Not everyone would liken this question to a simple, clear, mathematical equation. It seems to me to be the opposite... –  user4659 Jun 7 '13 at 19:37

6 Answers 6

When God created man He was sinless, and would have remained so had he not disobeyed the one restriction God gave him. God also told him what he would face as a penalty should he disobey that command.

Genesis 2:9, 16 & 17 KJV

9  And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 

16  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 

17  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 

Had man not eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would never have needed Redemption, because the Law of God would never have been evoked.

Romans 5:13 KJV

For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

That one sin alone is sufficient to bring the Law into force, however that was only the beginning of man's disobedience of God as we see in the statement of Jesus.

Luke 11:49, 50 & 51

49  Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: 

50  That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 

51  From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. 

As a further infuriation to God man not only continued to commit greater sins, but also rejected God himself.

Luke 12:47, 48, 49 & 50

47  And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 

48  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. 

49  For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 

50  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

A Loving and compassionate God in whom is no evil, would have been perplexed (if that is a proper term) as to why man would reject an opportunity to regain that friendship and closeness that God and man had in the Garden before man first sinned.

Ezekiel 18:23 & 24 , 13 & 14

23  Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 

24  But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. 

13  When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. 

14  Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; 

God being a just God, and would then have formulated a method by which man should be judged fairly. Since God cannot be tempted by Satan as man is it seems only logical that he provide a means by which man could be judged by a peer (that is to say one who also could be tempted by Satan).

Romans 5:12, 15 & 23

12  Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so 
death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 

15  But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 

23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Therefore it would be necessary that someone whom Satan had tempted would be needed to sit in judgment of mankind. That Judge of mankind would not only have to be a peer, but would of necessity be without Sin himself otherwise he would be in the position of having to judge himself. The way God chose to accomplish that is in the form of Jesus (the Christ).

John 5:22, 27 & 30

22  For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 

27  And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of

30  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just;
because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

God as one part of the tripartite God (in the form of the son or if you will Jesus) then assumed a human body in the infant born to the Virgin Mary.

At this point it must be understood why it must be a virgin birth.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden; Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam was not. Adam had willfully sinned against God, while Eve sinned out of ignorance.

It is that willful sinning against God that is in need of forgiveness in that that is an exercise of free will, while Eve's sin was through being gullible and not the willful sin as was Adam who was not deceived.

When Jesus died on the cross he did so of his free will as a human, took on the burden of willful sin against the Tripartite God. In his accepting our burden of sin he negated all willful disobedience of God for anyone willing to allow him to do so.

For this reason it is necessary that mankind willingly accept Jesus death on the cross as his redemption from Sin.

The sentence of death God proscribed for man when said in that day you shall surely die was in reference not to physical death but to the second death described in Revelation.

Rev_21:8 KJV But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

That is why Jesus warned us in:

Matthew 10:28 KJV

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear
him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 
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Thanks for this answer. But it seems to be more history and details about the system God set in place: the restriction, the rules, the Law of God, and not about why that system exists in the first place. The Law is not something which exists apart from God - something to which God subscribes - or he wouldn't be God because there would be something "higher" than him. It still seems to me that Jesus only needed to die because God had made his rules/system/Law, and had decided to stick to them. And actually, he could forgive, without Jesus' death. –  user4659 Oct 28 '13 at 16:50
@ user4659 I disagree that God could forgive without a blood sacrifice (Jesus). After having Lucifer and one third of the Angels in Heaven revolt against him; why would God not require that if man were to be allowed into Heaven he not be proven loyal before hand? It would only seem logical to me that he would set some kind of standard to decide whether or not to allow entry into Heaven. –  BYE Oct 28 '13 at 17:15

I submit that the blood->payment mechanic you mention is a direct consequence of the nature of sin.

Penalty of Sin
Since before the Fall of man in Genesis chapter 3, the penalty of sin has been death.

Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat [fn] of it you shall surely die."

Sin then requires death, as also seen in Romans 6:23. This is a foundational Christian belief, without which we would not need redemption. In the Torah/Old Testament, God provides a means of atonement: an animal may die in the place of the sinner. The animal dies so the penalty of sin is satisfied, and the blood of the animal then "covers over" the sin. In fact, the word atonement coming from the Hebrew word kaphar (Strong's H3722) means "to cover".

With the concept of sin requiring death established, we can now look at the specific death of Jesus. As Mawia stated, Jesus was not just another sacrifice to atone for sin. Jesus was The Perfect Sacrifice. Because of this perfection, His blood atones for all of humanity (who accepts) for all of eternity.

Another example of this is the Passover lamb in Exodus chapter 21. The lamb was killed on the eve before Passover (the day of Preparation), and the blood smeared on the door-frame. All houses which had the blood on the door-frame were "passed-over" and the occupants spared the death penalty of the tenth plague. This was made into an annual sacrifice to atone for the sins of the nation (Leviticus 16). Roughly two-thousand years later, Jesus was killed on the eve of Passover.

John 19:31 (ESV)
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

Jesus was then quite literally the Perfect Passover Lamb, and all who believe in Him are atoned by His blood.

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Thanks for the response. I do not dispute the biblical evidence for a blood->payment atonement system, such as that described here. But why does God keep to this system? What cost to God is there from my sin? If by one mechanism God can ignore my sin, why not just ignore it anyway? I do not mean to be obtuse: my motivation here is to understand what Jesus' death on the cross really achieved, why it was necessary. The responses so far seem to expand the history and detail of the blood->payment atonement system, but not why it exists at all. Why not just forgive? –  user4659 Jun 5 '13 at 19:24
May I suggest that Christ's death on the cross expresses the utter abhorrence of sin in God's eyes? If He could just forgive, then sin isn't so bad, and we would not work with Him so hard and long in overcoming it. Where would be the motivation to self-denial and self-discipline to become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ? –  Steve Jun 6 '13 at 4:21
It may express that. But that means that Jesus' death isn't necessary, and God could forgive without it. Additionally, Christ's death is still not a motivation for some, as was commented elsewhere in this thread. It still seems to me that Jesus didn't have to die; that God made a set of rules up and stuck to them, and Jesus' death only has meaning in the context of that set of rules. –  user4659 Jun 6 '13 at 9:44
@user4659: But we make up rules for all kinds of things and stick with them. There are standards of beauty in a beauty contest; we don't apply them to mathematics tests. There are standards of weightlifting we don't apply to moral behavior. And there is a moral standard by which we judge, and we apply death for the most egregious violations of that standard. I'm afraid you are applying the standard of intellectual reason to a problem where we are to supply a moral standard. This question can't be answered by logic alone. –  Steve Jun 6 '13 at 13:33
@user4659 Sorry, I misinterpreted your question then. I'm going to try answering here with a philosophical point. If we could be redeemed/forgiven because of something we as humans can achieve, then not only would Jesus' death have been unnecessary, but there would be no point in God's existence. Without a mechanism for forgiveness that is unattainable for humans (we could not take the place of Christ as atonement), then Christianity would be nothing more than a branch of Deism. –  Walter Jun 6 '13 at 14:31

Your question has become a complex in nature in a sense that there are multiple question to be answered from question as well as from comments. It would have been better if you had broken them down into separate questions.

Why the blood->payment mechanic in the first place,if payment for sin is required? I assume you mean to say: Why to spill only blood to overcome this eternal death?

We have answer in Leviticus 17:11:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

A “sacrifice” is defined as the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason. Making atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. The Leviticus verse can be read more clearly now: God said, “I have given it to you (the creature’s life, which is in its blood) to make atonement for yourselves (covering the offense you have committed against Me).” In other words, those who are covered by the blood sacrifice are set free from the consequences of sin. See this related question for more detail

God while creating this world and everything therein did established certain attributes with some purpose in mind. One of of this is freewill. God could have created us without it and programmed us to choose only that which is good. The result: There would be no evil among us but only good and we would be like puppets. But that did not fix in the plan/scheme of God. If He was to create us without freewill, then we would be like computers. I cannot experience love from you unless you have the capacity to do otherwise. If you have the capacity to, not to love me, and you choose instead to love me, then that choice has validity and meaning. You cannot have a love relationship with a computer. It is pre-programmed to serve you.

In the processes when God started His act of creation, some unwanted by-products also came into existence (similar to any chemical reactions). Some mechanisms come to exist because of creation of some other mechanisms. In the system that God created some things were not necessarily required by God but they were inevitable by-products of other good things. One by-product was choice for us to choose evil because of freewill. So your presumption that Jesus didn't have to die because God made a set of rules up and stuck to them, and Jesus' death only has meaning in the context of that set of rules is not tenable.

When man chooses evil, he sins against God. God hates sin because it is the very antithesis of His nature. In one of your comment it is said: If by one mechanism God can ignore my sin, why not just ignore it anyway? To say it in other words: Why sin is considered as something which is against God? God is holy and good, there is no bad in Him. If God were to accept sin as nothing against Him there would be no need for any penalty to pay for that. Here there is a problem but. If God were not to demand penalty for sin then God would have to just accept whatever sin that we commit and He would forgive us. That would mean no difference between good and bad and reward for doing good or bad would be same. This would be utterly wrong and God cannot allow this to happen. So sin is against the nature of God since God is holy and good, just and righteous.

That is the reason why penalty for sin is death. Cost of sin to God is that, it is an act against His nature.

Why not some other mechanism of atonement?

We would in reality never know the exact reason for God for having only this mechanism but we can only speculate. One thing is however clear from the scripture, that this was God’s plan even before the creation of the world: that Jesus would die and spill His blood to deliver us from the clutches of sin.

1Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake.

As I said earlier we can only speculate. Visualise it as something similar to so many other scientific laws (Laws of nature) devised by God. Laws of physics and other laws are applicable to this entire universe. All the celestial bodies including earth are governed by them. These laws are such that the behaviour of any object would be as per these laws or unless you satisfy some precondition or act in a certain way, you would not get the desired result. Like for example, if you drop something it would always drop down and will never go up by itself. But of course God can defy this law. Another example is a simple case of work done. It is a product of force and mass. Unless you apply a force there would not be work done. Here also God is able to defy this law. We work for our provisions. There would be some who will say that God could have done everything for us. We can just lie down and wait for Him to send us a plate of food at the designated time of our requirement without working/paying for getting it. Just because God is able to do everything, it doesn’t mean that we should expect Him to do everything for us without actually ‘us’ doing anything. That was how the system was when Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden before their fall. So though God is able to do everything yet He wants us to put our efforts for getting our provisions in this world because that would require God to break HIs established (Natural/physical) laws.

In the same way, may be it would be possible for God to forgive and forget without spilling of blood or He could have devised some other mechanism for us to pay for sin. Yet God is not doing it possibly because it just breaks the established law (not to be taken as moral law) of God.

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Thanks for your post jayyeshu. I disagree that "If God were to accept sin as nothing against Him there would be no need for any penalty to pay for that". The penalty is the consequences of sin, because sinful actions are by definition destructive. But just as if my own children wrong me, I can still forgive them, without requiring payment, or restitution. They may live with the consequences of their actions, but I don;t hold it against them; I love them. I don't see why God can't do the same. (So I suspect he just chooses not to.) –  user4659 Jun 7 '13 at 19:30

After having posted the following as a comment, I on reconsideration decided that I needed to expand that into an answer.

I disagree that God could forgive without a blood sacrifice (Jesus). After having Lucifer and one third of the Angels in Heaven revolt against him; why would God not require that if man were to be allowed into Heaven he not be proven loyal before hand? It would only seem logical to me that he would set some kind of standard to decide whether or not to allow entry into Heaven.

It is my belief that God is all knowing (omniscient) That God knew even before the rebellion in Heaven, God knew that things were going to unfold as they have since before time began.

I have considered that God did not create excess Angels, and that each Angel was created with a specific duty in mind. And if that assumption is true there are some duties in Heaven which are being unfulfilled.

From my reading and studying the Scriptures I have pretty much decided that those duties are in the worshipping of God since that seems to be the ultimate position we will occupy in Heaven.

As far as I can determine Lucifer revolted against God and instead of worshipping God convinced one third of the Angels to worship him. I draw this conclusion from:

Rev 12:7 through 9 KJV

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.


Revelation 13:4 KJV

And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

Revelation 16:2 KJV

And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

Revelation 19:4 KJV

And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.

Revelation 19:20 KJV

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.


Revelation 5:14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

Revelation 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

Revelation 11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,

When God created man it occurred to me that God may have created man to replace those fallen Angels in the worshipping of him. # I have nothing but my assumptions to base that upon, but I let that fit into my logic anyway. #

So when God created man he gave him free will to either choose to worship God or Satan as had the Angels before him, and just as he had cast the rebellious Angels out of Heaven and Created the Lake of fire for the ultimate punishment of Satan and his Angels:

Matthew 25:41 KJV

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

And so when man like Lucifer and the rebellious Angels reject God, they too are given the same punishment as the Devil and his Angels.

I also believe (but have no Scripture to back up that belief) that when God told man that when he disobeyed God that he would surely die, that was a reference to the second death described in:

Revelation 2:11 KJV

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:14

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 21:8

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

So what about physical death, why doesn't that fulfill God's demand that man die for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and Evil, you ask?

Well again I have no Scripture to give you concerning my conclusion, but it seems to fit into my conception of what the Bible says, So here goes:

When God breathed the breath of life into man and he became a living Soul, that breath was a part of God and since God is eternal so is that breath of life eternal. And that Soul will last throughout Eternity. I further believe that that breath of life is inherited from Adam down to every human being from Adam. As God has not breathed the breath of life into any one other than the first man that he created from the dust of the ground.

I may be alone in my beliefs, but they work for me.

I also believe That Jesus was both man and God, and the man part was the inheriting of that breath of life handed down from the first man to the man Jesus through his mother Mary.

I further believe that when Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her that he was telling her that the seed he would plant in her womb would be Deity.

Or in more earthly terms Jesus would have two distinct life forms, one would be the second part of the Trinity, and the other the Earthly extension of the breath of life breathed into the first man.

I believe that that Earthly extension was the life that Jesus sacrificed on the cross which fulfilled God's demand that man must surely die.

I further believe that when we accept the Salvation offered by Christ we are sacrificing that breath of life we inherited through our parents upon that same cross with Jesus, accepting a new eternal life given us by Christ as indicated in the following Scripture:

John 10:28 KJV

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

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If you sit down with a deck of real cards and play Klondike solitaire, will you know the locations of all the aces at the start? You, as a human being, are vastly more powerful than pieces of coated paper or acetate, and there's no reason you couldn't easily find out where all the aces were if you wanted to. No solitaire police would burst through your door if you picked up the cards and peeked, but despite the fact that you are vastly more powerful than mere slips of paper, you would in fact be completely unable to peek at the cards without ceasing to play Klondike solitaire. –  supercat Feb 6 '14 at 0:52
I view God's omniscience and omnipotence the same way. I believe that God could find out about everything that is going to happen, and prevent anything from happening against his will, but his ability to do either of those things without completely nullifying human free will is in fact very limited. God can call upon people to do things, and often they will, but sometimes they won't. If someone declines God's invitation, God will then have to find someone else. There are enough people God can call upon that His will can generally be done, even if not always exactly as planned. –  supercat Feb 6 '14 at 0:56
Christ had to die because there was no other way for God to save his creation without violating the rules he set for himself before Creation. While nothing would physically compel God to follow those rules, any deviation from them would totally negate Mankind's free will. The greatest gift God gives mankind is that even when the world doesn't go as God wants, He lets the world go as it will. –  supercat Feb 6 '14 at 1:02

Most of the answers to your question are not actually answering your question. You already know the mechanics of God's redemption system, that Christ had to die to pay our sin debt. You want to know why God chose this system which required those mechanics.

Well, I don't know if that is even a valid question. Maybe its in God's nature that He could not choose any other system. We know that God cannot lie, so maybe He cannot redeem sinners without sacrificing Himself.

However, There is an old Gospel song that covers this topic.

Here are the lyrics:

"I often wonder why God didn't choose an easy way to pay my debt, but to prove His love he chose the hardest way"

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I don't see how this is doctrine more than speculation. –  Matt Dec 28 '14 at 19:38

If a person dies for you or suffer in your place you will have emotional attachment to that person or even if it is just a dog that you barely know.

If Jesus just received 100 lashes and lived instead of being crucified and died, people would be like "meh...". But if someone dies, not to mention the torture of being crucified and lots of other mean stuff done to him, people would feel guilty and accept him more. Death was necessary for it to work. God will not save people if Jesus did not die. It was all part of the plan.

Jesus's death is meant to be a sacrifice for our sins to be purged. That's why he has to die and draw blood. But the question of why would God need a sacrifice first before he can forgive is a different one.

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(Just for an argument) Why would I have emotional attachment to some random man who died some 2000 years ago, whom I don't know if he even existed and has no relation with me? :-) –  Mawia Jun 5 '13 at 11:53
Thanks. I interpret this answer as "he didn't have to die (but God chose it)". –  user4659 Jun 5 '13 at 12:19
@Mawia, a valid point. Some people respond "meh..." anyway. Also, I'm not sure that God intends guilt as motivation for accepting Christ, as indicated in this answer. –  user4659 Jun 5 '13 at 12:22

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