; Why Did Jesus Have to Die
Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Your Federal Quarterly Tax Payments are due April 15th Get Help Now >>

Why Did Jesus Have to Die


  • pg 1
									Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
A Bible Study of Christian Atonement

                by Ken Coughlan
            Ten Minas Ministries, Inc.
All materials in this Bible Study are (c) 2007 by Ten Minas Ministries, Inc. All quotations in
this Bible study are from the New International Version.

They may be reproduced only for individual or group Bible studies, as long as they are not
altered in any way and full credit is given to the author. Neither this Bible Study, nor any
portion thereof, may be reproduced for profit without the express written permission of the

      Most people are familiar with the concept that Jesus died for our
sins. Even many non-Christians have probably heard that phrase before.
What many people may not understand is, "why?" Why did Jesus have
to die? Why was His death sufficient to pay for the sins of all believers?
Why does God have to punish sin in the first place? This Bible study is
going to help you understand the "why" behind Christ's sacrifice.

      I do no claim exclusivity on this issue. Many theologians disagree
as to how this whole thing works. Everyone agrees that Jesus died to
pay the price for our sins, but not everyone agrees on the specifics of
why this worked. This Bible study presents one viewpoint that I believe
is coherent and supported by scripture. For the curious Christian who
wants at least a basic understanding of how Christ could pay for the sins
of the world, this study should help you out.

       In order to fully understand the New Testament, you first have to
understand the Old Testament. After all, God's plan for this world is
being carried out in phases, and the new covenant is just the next step in
the progression after the old covenant. Jesus' sacrifice follows directly
from the Old Testament sacrifices. I believe that one of the biggest
mistakes in trying to understand the atonement is when you try to come
up with an explanation that does not give consideration to the old
covenant system. Unfortunately, this is a mistake that far too many
people have made. Remember that the entire Bible is about Christ, not
just the New Testament.

      This study will begin by examining the nature of God and why He
has to punish sin. Next, we will turn to the system God set up under the
old covenant to atone for sins and why that system was inadequate.
Finally, we will examine the nature of Jesus Christ and why His sacrifice
was the logical and necessary resolution of the old covenant sacrificial

      By the time you have finished the last section of this study, you
should have a basic understanding of the nature and necessity of Christ's
sacrifice. Not only will this provide you with an excellent backdrop for
more in depth Bible study, but it will also give you hope so that you can
look forward to your salvation.

Lesson 1: The Nature of God

     "Atonement" is one of those fancy words you hear
preachers throw around a lot. But what does it mean?
Basically, "atonement" means paying the "price" for sin so you
can reconcile yourself to God. By sinning, you have essentially
committed a "crime" against God. Just like we punish crimes in
our justice system, God also punishes sin. There is a price that
must be paid.

     But does sin really have to be punished? Is there really a
"price" that we have to pay? After all, if there is no "price",
there is no need for atonement.

     You'll learn as you work your way through this study that
God set up two different systems of atonement. He put the first
system in place before Christ was born as part of the "old
covenant". A "covenant" is basically a promise from God. He
made the old covenant with Israel. But in order to benefit from
God's promises, there were a few things Israel was required to
do, including the Old Testament sacrifices (discussed in more
detail in Lesson 4). We call it the "old" covenant because it is
no longer in place.

     With Jesus' death and resurrection, God ushered in the
"new covenant", with a whole new system of atonement
(discussed in Lesson 6). The new covenant is what is in effect
today. But if sin does not need to be punished, if there is no
"price" that we have to pay, atonement is unnecessary, whether
under the old or the new covenants. Atonement pays the price.
But if there is no price, there is nothing to be paid.

      Therefore, in order to understand why Christ's sacrifice was
necessary, we must understand why sin must be punished in the
first place. To answer this question, we first need to know
something about the nature of God. Specifically, we must
realize that God is perfect, eternal, holy and just. That is the
subject of this lesson.

Read 2 Samuel 22:31 and Matthew 5:48.

1. What does it mean to you to say God is "perfect"? In what
ways is He "perfect"?

2. Matthew 5:48 tells us to be "perfect, as your heavenly Father
is perfect." Is it possible for us to live up to this standard?

Read Genesis 21:33.

3. What do you think is meant by "the Lord, the Eternal God"?
What does it mean to say God is "eternal"?

Read Leviticus 11:45

4. What does it mean to say God is "holy"?

5. Compare Leviticus 11:45 to Matthew 5:48. Is there any
connection between the description of God as "holy" and the
description of Him as "perfect"?

6. Is it significant that both verses call on us to imitate those
attributes of God? Is this possible?

Read Deuteronomy 32:3-4.

7. What does it mean that God is "just"?

8. Why do you think Deuteronomy mentions that God is
"perfect" in conjunction with saying He is "just"?

Read Deuteronomy 32:6.

9. What impression do you get of God when you hear Him
described as a "father"?

10. What do you think of a human father who does not
discipline his child? Is such a father "just"?

11. Are human fathers perfectly holy and just? If not, and if
they are still required to discipline their children, what does that
say about God who is perfectly holy and just?

      When we sin, we are disobedient to our Father God, just
like misbehaving children are disobedient to their human
fathers. If a human father does not punish a disobedient child,
he is not just and does not exhibit the virtue that holiness
implies. If God is perfectly just and perfectly holy, He must
punish sin just as a human father must punish disobedience.
Otherwise God would be no different than a human father who
lets his child "get away with everything."

Lesson 2: The Fall of Man

     Question #2 in the last section asked if you thought it was
possible to live up to a standard of perfection. Obviously, it
seems impossible for any human being to be perfect. But why is
that? This section will explore how sin entered the world and
why we can never be perfect.

Read Genesis 3.

1. Compare Genesis 3:3 to Genesis 2:17. Did Eve accurately
recount what God said?

2. Who is the serpent? What does his temptation of Eve say
about how we decide to sin? Did Eve still exercise her free
will? Did Adam?

3. What do verses 3:12-13 say about how humans react when
they are confronted with their own sin?

4. Look through each of the punishments imposed by God in
verses 16-19. Are these punishments confined just to Adam and
Eve personally, or do they apply to all humankind?

Read Romans 5:12-14.

5. Who is the "one man" through whom sin entered the world?

6. Look back at Genesis 3:20. If Eve is the "mother of all the
living", who is Adam?

7. Why does the apostle Paul say (in Romans 5:12) that death
entered the world through sin?

Read 1 Kings 8:46 and Romans 3:10-12

8. Comparing all the scripture passages we've read in this
section, do you believe there is any connection between Adam's
sin against God, and our inevitable tendency to sin as described
in 1 Kings 8:46 and Romans 3:10-12?

9. If we all sin, what does that say about whether we are
obedient children of our Father God?

10. Do we deserve to be punished?

      Sin first entered the world because the earliest man (Adam)
disobeyed God's direct command. In that one act Adam
exhibited his sinful nature, which he then passed on to all the
rest of us as his descendants. This is true whether you believe
Adam was a literal person or a symbolic representation of all
early mankind. Thanks to our inherited sinful nature, we will all
inevitably sin, meaning we are all disobedient children of our
Father God. As we learned in the last section, if our Father is
perfectly holy and just, He must punish disobedience. Because
we are all disobedient, we all deserve to be punished.

Lesson 3: Punishment for Sin

     So far, we have learned that in order to be perfectly holy
and just, God must punish sin. We also know that we all
inevitably sin, meaning we all deserve punishment. The next
logical question is, "What punishment have we earned?" In this
section we will explore the punishment we all deserve as a result
of our sin.

Read Ezekiel 3:16-21.

1. What is the punishment God lays down for sin when he is
speaking to Ezekiel?

Read Leviticus 20:9-16, 27.

2. What is the punishment God lays down for the sins outlined
in these verses from Leviticus?

3. When people sin, whom do they ultimately offend?

4. Should people be punished for offending Satan?

5. Should people be punished for offending their fellow man?

6. If there is a difference between the degree of punishment for
offending Satan and offending a fellow man, should there also
be a difference between the degree of punishment for offending
a fellow man and offending God?

7. Is there anyone more perfect, holy, or just than God?

8. Is there anyone whom you can offend for whom the
punishment should be greater than the punishment for offending

9. If offending God is the most severe offense possible, does it
deserve the most severe punishment possible?

10. What is the most severe earthly punishment?

Read Matthew 5:21-24, 27-28.

11. In light of Jesus' discussion of murder and adultery, do you
think anyone can escape sin?

12. Based upon your answer to question #11, and the Bible
verses we have read previously in this lesson, what punishment
do we all deserve for our sin?

13. If God carried out that punishment on everyone who
deserved it, what would be the result?

Read 1 John 4:7-12.

14. If "God is love", and God is our Father, do you think He
wants to inflict upon us the punishment we all deserve?

The penalty for much sin is death. Based upon how Jesus
defines some of those sins, we have all committed at least one
sin that deserves the death penalty. Obviously, if God were to
kill everyone who deserves to be killed, the human race would
no longer exist. But God loves us like a father loves his
children. Even though we all deserve death, He wants to give us
an opportunity to live. Graciously, God has given us this
opportunity through His plan of "substitutionary atonement",
which we will begin to discuss in the next lesson.

Lesson 4: Atonement Under the Old Covenant

      We now know that God must punish sin, we all sin, and the
punishment we all deserve is death. But we also know that God
loves us like a father to his children, so He does not want to kill
us. Fortunately for us, God has given us an opportunity to
present ourselves to Him as if we were sin free. The name for
this opportunity is "substitutionary atonement". "Atonement",
as discussed in the introduction to Lesson 1, refers to paying the
"price" for sin so you can reconcile yourself to God. We now
know that the "price" for much sin is death. The term
"substitutionary" refers to a system in which God allows
something or someone else to die in our place. We deserve
death, but our punishment is inflicted on something or someone
else instead.

     Before Jesus was born, God entered into a covenant (i.e., a
promise) with Israel. As part of this covenant, He set up a
system of substitutionary atonement. This lesson will explore
how this old covenant system worked, and why it was
inadequate to really atone for our sins.

Read Leviticus 4:1-4, 13-15, 20b, 22-24, 26b, 27-29, and 31b.

1. Why is the animal killed?

2. Why did God command the Israelites to lay their hand on the
sacrificial animal?

Read Genesis 1:27-28 and 9:6.

3. Do these verses illustrate any difference in nature between
God and animals?

4. If the "deserved" punishment is the death of a man, can the
death of an animal ever be an adequate substitute?

5. Look again at the passages from Leviticus at the beginning of
this lesson. How often must the sacrifices be made?

Read Leviticus 16:29-34.

6. Why did God require a day to make atonement each year?

7. Look again at 1 Kings 8:46 and Romans 3:10-12 (from
Lesson 2). If we will all sin, will people inevitably sin after the
day of atonement?

8. If atonement is necessary for sin to be forgiven, what
happens when someone dies in between two days of atonement
(as most people undoubtedly did)? Has God forgiven the sins
they committed since the last day of atonement (i.e., those they
never got the chance to make a sacrifice for)?

9. If God is perfect, why do you suppose He set up an
inadequate system of atonement?

10. Do you think Jesus' sacrifice would have been understood
or accepted by anyone if the old covenant sacrificial system had
not been set up first? If you don't have an answer yet, ask
yourself this question again at the end of Lesson 6.

     God so loved His people that He set up a method by which
they could avoid the death penalty for their sins (at least their
unintentional sins - notice that the punishments in Lesson 3 did
not distinguish between intentional and unintentional sins but
the animal sacrifices were for unintentional sins). The old
system suffered from some major problems, though. First, an
animal can never be an adequate substitute for a man. Second,
inevitably people will commit more sins after the animal
sacrifice, requiring another sacrifice and another and another.
The old covenant required a never-ending cycle of sacrifices.
Inevitably, people would die with non-atoned sin on their heads.
However, as you will see in the next two lessons, the old
covenant sacrificial system laid the foundation for the perfect
sacrifice that was to come, and that would solve these problems.
Without the Old Testament sacrifices being ingrained in the
Jewish culture, it is unlikely anyone would have understood the
necessity for Christ's sacrifice.

Lesson 5: The Nature of Christ

     Through the old covenant, God introduced mankind to the
concept of substitutionary atonement in order to prepare them
for what was to come. But if the sacrifice of animals was
insufficient to atone for our sins, why should we believe that the
sacrifice of Jesus would be any better. After all, if Jesus was a
man, couldn't he at best only atone for the sins of one other man,
and even then only those sins of the man that he had committed
prior to Jesus' sacrifice? How does the death on the cross fix
any of the problems with the old covenant system? The first

part of that answer lies in understanding the nature of Jesus. He
was no mere man.

Read Matthew 1:18-21.

1. Does Jesus have a human father? What does this mean in
relation to the inheritance of original sin from Adam?

Read John 1:1-18.

2. Compare John 1:1 to Genesis 1:1. What does John mean by
"In the beginning"?

3. Compare verses 1 and 14. Who is John referring to by "the

4. What does John mean when he says "the Word was with
God, and the Word was God"?

Read Isaiah 45:18 and Colossians 1:15-20.

5. Look carefully at John 1:3. Who made all things? How do
you reconcile Genesis and Isaiah saying "God" created
everything, but John and Paul (Colossians) saying Jesus created

6. Look at John 1:18. Who does John refer to as "God the One
and Only"? Can he be referring to our Father God if he says
"God the One and Only" is "at the Father's side"?

7. Look at Colossians 1:17. What does it mean that Christ is
"before all things"? How does this relate to the concept that
God is eternal (from Lesson 1)?

Read John 10:30.

8. Who is "the Father"?

9. How is it possible for Jesus and the Father to be "one"?

Read John 12:44-45.

10. Who is the "one who sent" Jesus?

11. How is it possible that believing in Jesus also means that
you believe in the one who sent him, or that to see Jesus is also
to see the one who sent him?

Read John 14:6-11.

12. Why does knowing Jesus also mean that you know the

13. How does Jesus react to Philip when Philip asks Him to
show them the Father? Can you paraphrase His answer?

14. What does it mean when Jesus says, "I am in the Father and
the Father is in me"?

     These verses barely scratch the surface of the evidence of
Jesus' true nature, but they make the point abundantly clear.
Jesus is God. He is one of the "persons" in the Trinity that
makes up the one true God (God the Father, God the Son and
God the Holy Spirit; a full analysis of the Trinity could fill up an
entire Bible study of its own). Because Jesus is God, He is
perfect, holy, just, and eternal. There is no end to Jesus'
existence, nor is there any end to His virtue. Because Jesus is
perfect, He has no sin (Jesus had no human father, so He did not
inherit original sin from Adam). Because He is perfectly
virtuous and eternal, He is infinitely more virtuous than any
human. This leads into the next lesson on atonement under the
new covenant.

Lesson 6: Atonement Under the New Covenant

     Sin must be punished. As a result of sin, we all deserve to
die. But God loves us like a father and does not want us to die.
So God established a system of substitutionary atonement. If we
take advantage of the opportunity God has given us, we can
appear to God as if we were sin-free. The original old covenant
system was never sufficient to completely atone for our sins, but
it was set up only to prepare us for the perfect sacrifice that was
to come in the form of Jesus Christ.

     Jesus is God. He is the Word of God, one of the "persons"
in the Trinity. So why would sacrificing God Himself atone for
the sins of all believers? Remember that Christ does not just
need to atone for the sins of the people who were alive at His
time. He also needs to atone for the sins of all believers in the
future and in the past (because as we discussed in Lesson 4, the
old covenant system was insufficient to atone for past sins; if
Jesus does not atone for them, all those people are condemned).

This final lesson will explore why Jesus' sacrifice succeeded
where the old system failed.

Read John 19:17-18, 28-30 and 20:1-18.

1. Why are Jesus' last words before He dies on the cross, "It is

2. If death came into the world through sin (from Romans 5:12
in Lesson 2), and if Jesus' death on the cross made it possible for
the sins of all believers to be forgiven, what is the significance
of Jesus' resurrection?

Read Hebrews 10:1-18.

3. What does Paul mean when he says Christ's sacrifice was
"once for all"? How does this differ from the old covenant

4. According to the Bible, is time infinite or finite? Is there a
beginning to time? Is there an end to time?

5. According to what we learned in Lesson 5, is Jesus' virtue
infinite or finite?

6. Based upon your answers to questions #4 and #5, what is it
about Jesus' nature that makes His sacrifice sufficient to atone
for the sins of all believers from all time?

Read Romans 3:21-26.

7. What does Paul mean when he says (in verse 25) that God
"had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished"?

8. Under the old covenant, were a person's sins automatically
transferred to the sacrificial animal, or did they have to do
something to transfer their sins? If so, what did they have to do?

9. If someone did not transfer their sins to the animal, would the
sacrifice do them any good? Would their sins be forgiven?

10. Do you see a parallel under the new covenant? According
to this passage from Romans, is there something that we must do
in order to have our sins transferred to Christ?

11. If we do not "participate" in Christ's sacrifice by transferring
our sins to Him, are we forgiven?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-23.

12. Why does Paul say that if Christ has not been raised from
the dead, our "faith is futile" and we are still "in" our sins?

13. When Paul discusses resurrection, is he simply talking about
survival of the spirit after death or is he describing something
more? For more information, look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

14. Look again at 1 Corinthians 15:22. Describe how this entire
Bible study is summarized in this one verse.

     The old covenant sacrifices were inevitably insufficient
because the object being sacrificed was always of lesser worth
than the person who committed the sin. Even if an animal could
atone for human sins, there is a limit to the number of sins it
could atone for (i.e., no more than those committed by one
particular person, and even then only the sins committed through
the date of the sacrifice). The animal sacrifice system would
inevitably be a never-ending cycle. But God wanted to offer one
sacrifice that would end the cycle. In order for this sacrifice to
be sufficient, the sacrificial "lamb" had to be of greater worth
than every believer ever born, and had to have sufficient virtue
to atone for every sin believers ever committed.

      God is eternal. Only God is eternal. There is no end to His
worth. There is no end to His virtue. Because there is no end to
God's worth and virtue, there is no end to the number of people,
or the number of sins for which He can atone as a sacrificial
"lamb". The only sacrifice that would be sufficient to atone for
the sins of all believers, past, present and future would be to
sacrifice God Himself. This is why Jesus was sent to earth.
Jesus is God. Therefore Jesus is infinite and He can atone for an
infinite number of sins. Because time is finite, the number of
sins that can be committed is also finite. Thus, Jesus' worth
exceeds the number of sins that can ever be committed.

      This is the problem with any religious system (i.e.,
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) that denies Jesus was God.
If Jesus was not God, He was not infinite. If He was not
infinite, He could only atone for a finite number of sins. Some
of us will inevitably be left out. Because we cannot be perfect,

we will be condemned to Hell. Fortunately, Jesus was God (see
Lesson 5). Therefore, we can all live with the hope Paul
encouraged us to have.


To top