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As a result of the crucifixion of Jesus, all who truly accept Christ will receive salvation and have their sins washed away. But how is it just that the guilty person not be held accountable for the sin they committed?

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  • What particular Christian denominations are you asking here? I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess you're not asking Catholics. But you need to make it explicit in your question.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Apr 7 at 18:42
  • Also, I don't think the content of the question quite matches the title, I think I know where you're going with it, but it requires a mental jump from one concept to the other.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Apr 7 at 18:45

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The question is addressed and fully answered by Paul the apostle in Romans Chapter Three :

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26 KJV

The sufferings and death of Jesus Christ were the will of God, in order to save lost sinners. And it was the only possible way. None other way could, justly, resolve the issues of law, sin, guilt, condemnation and distance (this vast distance being the proper and lawful separation of the fallen creature from the just Creator).

What was accomplished was accomplished righteously, by God himself who is righteous, acting upon his own Son who is called 'Jesus Christ Righteous', 1 John 2:1.

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  • I had wondered this in another persons answer but, I would also like to ask you the same question. That is, Do you think that also depends on the interpretation of what justice is? That is, should justice primarily punish all fairly or should it primarily rehabilitate all fairly.
    – User2280
    Commented Apr 7 at 20:50
  • @User2280 Rather than consider concepts ('justice' etc) I prefer to receive what is said of God, himself, in his own word. In answer to your comment : 'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ?' Genesis 18:25. God does right according to his own rightness. There is none can tell him what to do. There is no law that is greater then he. He will do what is of his own nature and being. And that will be what is right.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 7 at 23:44
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Psalm 30:5

His anger lasts only a moment. But his kindness lasts for a lifetime. Crying may last for a night. But joy comes in the morning.

In Paul's soteriology, it is presumed that the person has sincerely repented prior to baptism and has committed themselves to reform their behavior. On that foundation, Christ's sacrifice atones for their sin and they are forgiven. But one need not turn to Pauline theories of justification to understand that in God, mercy is a primary attribute, while justice is secondary. God is love, and a Parent's love trumps justice.

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  • Do you think that also depends on the interpretation of what justice is? That is, should justice primarily punish all fairly or should it primarily rehabilitate all fairly.
    – User2280
    Commented Apr 7 at 20:47
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In one sense the beauty of grace is that it is not just at all and necessarily so. However, to answer any doubt conerning the justice itself: It wold not be just at all if Christ did not willing suffer for us. However, as he willingly suffered for us, it is just that his will be honored in the work of salvation. It would be extremely unjust to neglect his offer to those who have no power to save themselves.

In a similar way if I saw a teenager who having drunk too much alcohol wandered into the street with a fast car approaching and someone forced me to try and rescue him, against my will, and in my attempt I saved the teenager but died myself, it would be very unjust. However, if I, by my own will offered to risk my life to save the teenager's life and I died in so doing, then it would be unjust not to recognize and applaud my mercy and love.

On a different line of thought, there was also no greater justice on display than in Christ's death because it manifested the very sinfulness of sin, in that only a divine being was able to endure the infinite punishment due to sin, that Christ as man was slain, as a sacrifice to appease God's infinite anger against it. Christ must have been a man to pay for human sin but also must have been God to endure it. Without Christ being man and God he could not have been a savior of those dead under the Law. God both exemplified his justice and his love and all his glory, in the most amplified way, in Christ’s death on the cross.

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The guilty person is held accountable. That’s why Jesus takes responsibility for the sin upon himself.

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Christ was unfairly judged on Earth but bore the judgement meekly and magnificently and (simplistically) that gave Him the moral high ground upon which He could judge everyone else.

But does that mean everyone else is no longer accountable? That somehow the Crucifixion led to an unfair condition in everyone's favor? The forgiven will tell you yes! But in the words of Paul:

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? ...

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

From the scripture of my own tradition we learn a supporting phrase:

What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. (Source)

No one is simply let off the hook. A price must be paid to satisfy justice. The Atonement of Jesus Christ allows Him to pay that price on our behalf.

This may seem trite (because what bank in the world would actually act this way!) but Christ's salvation can be exemplified by a bank loan. Bear with me.

The recipient of the loan is always responsible for the loan until paid or forgiven. If the bank does nothing, the recipient must act to repay the loan within their lifetime, even if the loan is more than could be repaid in one lifetime.[1] [2]

But nothing stops the bank from recognizing the effort of the recipient to be good members of the community, loyal to the bank, hard workers, and willing to help others repay their loans through education, encouragement and sharing. In such a case, the bank may choose to forgive the loan.

Only the bank has the authority (and even the ability) to forgive the loan and no loan recipient has the right to demand the forgiveness. In other words, there is no decision the recipient can make or action he/she can take that would force the bank's hand in the reecipient's favor. The laws governing the bank and the loan are strong, clear, and well enforced (even if the recipient never reads them).

However, such a bank might encourage loan forgiveness so that the community can grow stronger! As the community grows stronger, more people use bank services beyond taking out loans. The productivity of the bank grows with the strength of the community and the community grows stronger with increased bank productivity.

So the bank establishes rules and expectations that allow it to judge the deserving (compared to those who simply want the ease of having the loan forgiven so they can party more...). That judgement must be predictable and just with clear goals. Simplistically: help build the community and make it stronger and the loan will be forgiven.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is like that. Repent of your sins, follow His commandments, build His kingdom, and enjoy the benefits of forgiveness. At no time were you not responsible for your actions and everyone who has received that forgiveness will tell you that the deal was unfair in their favor! Jesus shouldn't have had to suffer for anyone's sins just so the disobedient could get a shot at a better life.

But He did.

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