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Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

The reason Christ had to die was to earn our salvation. As sinners, we deserve the penalty for sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). Because God is holy and just, He demands a punishment for sin. A penalty must be paid, and we aren’t capable of paying the penalty because we are sinners. The only one who can offer an acceptable payment is Jesus, because only He is without sin. The Bible clearly tells us it was love that caused God to send Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin (1 John 4:10).

The work that Christ did in his life and in his death to earn our salvation is called the atonement. The death of Jesus by crucifixion was the pivotal event that allowed sinful humankind to get back into a right relationship with the holy, almighty God. The crucifixion of Christ wasn’t a tragedy. It wasn’t a series of events gone out of control. It was the divinely designed plan of God. Here is a list of some of the fundamental accomplishments achieved by Christ’s death on the cross. Each one is a vital part of God’s plan of salvation for humankind:

  • Substitution.  Christ died so that we don’t have to. This is what Christianity is all about, and it required the death of Christ on the cross (Romans 8:3-4).
  • Propitiation.  Christ’s death on the cross turned God’s wrath away from us. Because God is so holy, He hates sin and is radically opposed to it. As sinful beings, that would place us as the objects of God’s wrath. But Christ’s death on the cross appeased God’s wrath (Romans 3:25).
  • Reconciliation.  God was alienated from humankind because of sin. That alienation was removed when Christ died on the cross. Reconciliation between God and humanity was made possible (Romans 5:10-11).
  • Redemption.  Before Christ died on the cross, we were slaves to sin. We were in bondage. We couldn’t escape sin’s snare. Think of it as if Satan had kidnapped you and was holding you as a hostage. Your release was dependent upon someone paying a ransom. That’s exactly what Christ did on the cross. He paid the ransom to redeem you (literally, to purchase you back) from slave market of sin. The ransom price was high. It cost Christ His life (1 Peter 1:18-19).
  • Destruction.  Satan was behind all of this sin stuff from the beginning. (Remember the serpent in the Garden of Eden?) Not only did Christ’s death on the cross free us from Satan’s bondage, it also demolished Satan in the process (Hebrews 2:14-15).
  • Perfection.  In the Old Testament times, the priest had to offer a sacrifice on behalf of the people each year (in a ceremony referred to as “the Day of Atonement”). When Christ died on the cross, His sacrifice was enough to cover the sins of all people—past, present, and future (Hebrews 9:26-28).

Salvation comes from what Jesus did without any help from us. He did everything that was necessary. There is nothing else required of us but to accept what He did for us.

To God the cross says “enough” because God is satisfied. To humankind the cross says “forgiven” because we are. To Satan the cross says “shut up” because it puts God and us on the same side (Fred Sanders).


Thanks for this article, inspiring and so many lesson to learn into. I really enjoy reading this one. - Brenda Lee Reed

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Christianity 101 is a collection of books and digital resources by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz that talk about God in a way that encourages people to grow in their faith.