Non-Christians raise many objections to the atoning death of Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God. One of the most important objections is that God being the Almighty and Sovereign should be able to do whatever that pleases him to do, except illogical ones. It is God's prerogative either to forgive or not forgive anyone. Therefore, if God the Almighty wants to forgive a sinner He should be able to do that without having to make a payment or a substitution on behalf of the sinner. If the God of the Bible cannot forgive sinners this way then how can He be the Almighty God?

My above question is mainly to the protestant Christians.

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    You will need to address this question (which absolutely requires to consider the matter of the righteousness of God ,see multiple texts) to a particular group of self-identifying Christians as opinions on this matter are many and various. I would suggest editing out the last sentence of the main paragraph as it gives the impression of being adversarial to whom you call 'the God of the BIble'.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 16, 2022 at 9:26
  • I did edit the last sentence of the main paragraph. Jan 16, 2022 at 14:10
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    It is because of the inviolability of the law of God - law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It guarentees the freedom of will of all moral beings. God cannot disregard violation of the law without a price. That price was the life of Christ - one who was above the law and therefore could pay the price the law demanded. God needed a ransom to save man and that was Christ
    – One Face
    Jan 18, 2022 at 4:20
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    The Law of God flows out of God's own nature. God is neither above the Law nor the Law is above God. His Law is an extension of Himself so to speak! Jan 18, 2022 at 17:59
  • @One Face, Jesus came to fulfil the law, which pointed to him. He was not above the law but the exemplifier of it. Gal.4:4, God sent forth his Son, come out of woman [it is ek/ginomai and should not be rendered 'made of'] come under law (or 'rule'). He upheld the law of God so that it served its purpose. The law is not a standard that we can keep. It’s a bench-mark that we fail. Christ did not fail. He set believers free from its condemnation. Nor does God ‘need’ anything. We need God and how Christ nailed the fulfilled law to the cross Col.2:14.
    – Anne
    Jan 19, 2022 at 16:10

5 Answers 5


Basically, it is because God is Righteous and judges totally righteously, which means he cannot sweep sin under the carpet and dismiss it. Now, a capricious, man-made idea of a god predominates pagan religions. The Greeks had a pantheon of deities who would act on whim, generously bestowing favours, or with (very human) feelings of revenge or jealousy. Sinful humans who dreamed those gods and goddesses up, had those deities made in their own image, but with greater powers.

For instance, when you compare the flood legend of Gilgamesh (dated 1900 B.C.E.) with the biblical account (the event dated circa 2500) you see such differences. With Gilgamesh there's a 'Noah' figure instructed by the gods to make a boat to survive a flood, and to search for eternal life.

In the Gilgamesh story, no explanation is given for the flood, though in another Akkadian source (the Atrahasis Epic) the gods decide to destroy people because they are making too much noise! In the Epic of Gilgamesh the Noah-type character was Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh was a king and main character in the story who meets Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh never goes through the flood, only this character Utnapishtim does. Gilgamesh was supposedly part God and part man (as one of his parents was a god). It never says Utnapishtim was a God, though he does have eternal life in the story and helps Gilgamesh find the plant that gives eternal life at the bottom of the sea (which Gilgamesh loses on his way back to Uruk). But in Genesis, God sends the flood as a judgment on gross evil done by humans. Its recurring theme is that there is only one God. Unlike Babylonian gods, the God of Genesis is not afraid of the flood. He is in complete control of it. Nor does he deal with people in an arbitrary way. Saving Noah is as much the outcome of God's just nature as is the destruction of everyone else. This is a moral God, and his dealings with men and women depend solely on his own standards of justice and love, not on capricious self interest.

If you or I had any idea of the extent of the wicked depravity of humanity leading up to the flood, we would take the Genesis account seriously. Jesus did. He said that it is a warning for how things will be just before he returns. Now, back to the main point of the question - why God will not forgive sinners without sin being dealt with, God's way, which is by punishing his sinless Son, in our stead.

Protestants are agreed that all humanity is sinful and that sin alienates us from God, who is sinless. We cannot do anything that will remove our sin from ourselves. Only God can do that, as the account in Isaiah 6:1-8 shows:

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. And above it stood the seraphims... 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory'... Then I said, 'Woe is me! for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.' Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth and said, 'Lo, this hath touched thy lips and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged'." [Emphasis mine]

Although God is loving and forgiving, he cannot lovingly forgive sin by contradicting his own righteous law, that sin incurs a debt which, if not fully purged, will result in divine punishment. This would mean that all humanity would be doomed. So, God sent his only-begotten Son (who agreed to come) to be the one and only perfect sacrifice for sin the world has ever seen. Now all who trust in that one and only means for having the punishment for their sins borne by Christ instead of by themselves, can be pardoned legally. Justice has been seen to be done, at the cross. God's righteousness was demonstrated at the cross, for those with eyes of faith to see it and to trust in it.

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    The reference from Isaiah is from the sixth chapter, not from the first chapter! A gentle reminder to edit it. Jan 18, 2022 at 13:01
  • 1. Is not the punishment of an innocent contradictory to God's perfect justice? 2. What other sacrificial victim in the Bible is victimized as a punishment? Where is the precedent for that in God's own law?
    – qxn
    Jan 18, 2022 at 21:29
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    @ken Jesus was not victimised. He willingly laid aside his glory to be born of woman, to do for us what we could never do for ourselves, to save us. The biblical precedent is in Jn.15:13. The greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends. That's what Jesus chose to go through with. He knew what his 'becoming sin' on our behalf meant, though he'd never sinned, and he accepted the consequence. Would you take a bullet for a person you loved? Or even for a person who hated you? Or would you say, "That's illegal and offensive to my way of thinking"? Love surpasses law.
    – Anne
    Jan 19, 2022 at 15:46

The early church father Anselm might have provided the best answer for that in his "Faith and Reason."

As he reasoned it out, man could not be one with God because of his sins (God cannot be one with sin), but man was incapable of paying for those sins. Therefore, God, whom the sins were owed, became man, and as a man paid the penalty for us so that we could be one with him.

Now, its still a brain teaser on how this works. The perplexity of the problem is beyond our understanding, but we know it works.


At it's heart sin is a disposition of rebellion which produces behavior that incurs debt. The debt of actions may be forgiven as OP suggests and yet the disposition remains:

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. - Matthew 18:23-35

The Son of God became flesh in order to neuter the disposition within us and give us a new disposition, not of flesh (wherein dwells sin) but of spirit (wherein dwells life):

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. - Romans 6:12-18


I would like to add a bit to Anne's answer above.

Rom 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 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; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

The death of Christ brought out a righteousness that is beyond that of the law. To put it in perspective:

Righteousness is right actions. The law is the standard of Righteousness - it tells what is right and what is wrong.

The law puts in a demand and gives a guarantee. The demand is:

Matt 22:37-39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The guarantee is:

Lev 18:5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

So demand is to love the Lord with all heart and your neighbour as yourself and the guarantee is that you will live if you do it.

Jesus loved us more than He loved himself - because He laid down His life for us. Thus exceeded the demand of the Law. Exceeded the righteousness of the Law. However He died for us - the law guaranteed life but this did not happen with Jesus.

Because of this act of Christ, God has gained another righteousness which is apart from the Law, the righteousness which is by the faith of Christ. This righteousness allows God to be just and yet justify the sinner. This is one of the reasons why Christ had to die.

Hope it gives a different perspective of the same issue.

  • Excellent Romans text! Re. keeping the perfect Law of God (Ps.19:7), only a perfect person could do that, the only perfect person being Jesus Christ. Yet he gave himself over to death despite death only having a claim over sinners, which was why he had to be resurrected! Death could not hold him but was conquered by him. Christ did not gain another righteousness apart from the Law but demonstrated the eternal, unchanging righteousness of God. See Ps.9:7-10. Those who seek him in faith find mercy, truth, righteousness and peace kissing each other, as stated in Psalm 85.10 - at the cross.
    – Anne
    Jan 18, 2022 at 17:05

Other respondents speak of God's justice and humanity's debt, which is part of the answer. A vital reason has to do with the definition of love. God acts justly, but "God is Love". (See 1 John 4:8) Thus God is the definition of love. So what does love do?

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 ESV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 ESV)

The ultimate act of love is to give your life for your friends. God goes beyond this by giving his life for his enemies to make them friends, if they will have it.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

If a person thinks that it is beneath God to die for his creatures, they are right, but to do things that are beneath you is a sign of humility. False religions have proud gods. Christianity has a humble God.

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

One final observation. Firefighters die rescuing strangers from buildings. Police die fighting criminals to protect their communities from evil. Doctors succumb to illnesses that they contract from their patients. Soldiers die defending their homeland. If giving your life for your friends is the highest form of love and God did not do that, it would mean that some humans are more loving than God. It would mean that some of us are more righteous than God. That cannot be! So since we have these examples of virtue among us, God, who is greater than man, must also give His life for His friends.

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