by Rayola Kelley
Q: I know that Jesus died for me, but my question is why did He have to die to deal with my spiritual plight?
A: The answer comes down to the Law. God’s Law reveals three realities: that God is just and holy, man is found in transgression to it, and there must be some type of retribution made to satisfy it. Sin clearly offends God. His holiness will not tolerate it, His justice will not let it go unpunished, and His righteous ways demand retribution for such offenses. Romans 6:23summarizes this very point when it declares that the wages of sin is death.
This brings us to the wages of sin. Death implies that the exchange of life will be required to pay the wages for sin. Since life is in the blood, it is the only way to make atonement for the soul. It is also the only means of cleaning and purging something; therefore, blood must actually be shed in order to remit sin (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 1:7).
“Remission” means to pardon. It is obvious to maintain the integrity of justice the great Judge of the Universe had to have the means to pardon us. However, to secure such a pardon, blood must first be shed to satisfy the demands of the holy, righteous Law.
In the Old Testament, the blood of unblemished animals was spilled on the Altar of Burnt Offering. These sacrifices simply covered sin or made atonement for it, but they could not take it away (Hebrews 9:12-13). The result is that many innocent animals were offered up to cover the sins of men. The altar was in continual use, the priest forever standing in intercession, and man forever paying in some way to make atonement for his unacceptable ways.
The Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice: God’s sacrifice of His Son on the altar of the cross. Jesus would become the propitiation, substitute, or payment for our sin. He would redeem us back from the tyranny of sin with the payment of His blood. His blood would not only fulfill and satisfy the Law’s requirement and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but His sacrifice would take away sin once and for all. He would satisfy the Old Covenant of the Law, and usher in a better or more excellent covenant. After all, the Law could only condemn, while in Christ we can be forgiven and stand justified before God(Matthew 5:17-18; Romans 10:4; Hebrews 9:11-28; 1 John 1:7).
The Apostle Paul tells us that the Law was simply a schoolmaster that pointed us to the Person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ as a solution to our sin problem (Galatians 3:24). We are also told that the priest continually offered gifts and sacrifices on behalf of others and themselves. It was clear that their work was never done. It was a temporary fix until the next gift or sacrifice had to be offered up to make atonement. However, after Jesus offered His sacrifice, He was able to declare, “It is finished,” and was able to cease from such work and sit down on the right hand of majesty (John 19:30; Hebrews 8).