How can Jesus pay for my sin?

I heard a pastor say today to think of Jesus paying for your sins as this: someone committed a murder, but another man served time in prison in his place.
In this circumstance, the actual murderer would live his entire life knowing he killed another person.
If someone sins but another person bears the consequence, the sinner will still feel guilty or shameful.
Do Christians use this idea that Jesus paid for their sins as a crutch to make them feel better for the wrong they have done? Can someone really take the punishment for another person? Aren’t people responsible for their actions?
I mean no disrespect but I am genuinely curious to your responses.


@Sgpage this is an excellent question and extremely important as it is the heart of the gospel. Some famous preacher called it the great exchange. We give Him all our junk and he gives us his righteousness.

I believe that there are two levels to answering your question. If somebody does a crime they gotta do the time, or reap and sew as the bibke puts it. I abused my body playing rugby and working construction for years and now have two worn out discs in my back. Similarly, if I murder somebody I would go to jail.

The second level and the significantly more important/higher level is the great exchange or atonement. To understand this I believe we need to study it through the bible using the biblical theology method. From Abraham on the mountain to the passover to the cross. There is so much in it.

I have done a lot of bad things in my life, and the day I was born again I remember feeling washed white as snow. It was not a crutch or excuse but he gave me his Spirit! I used to wake up each morning for years checking if he was still there. I hope I have kind of answered your question, basically what I am getting it is that regeneration is everything and the most important magical moment of my life.


Hi @Sgpage, here’s a thread from a previous discussion on a similar question that should be helpful to you. Please do post additional questions that you may have.


@Sgpage Great question :slight_smile: I think the mistake most people make when they think about Jesus’ death is they think that Jesus only died for people who have done bad things. Actually, the Scripture makes a far stronger claim - the Scripture says that apart from Christ we are dead in our trespasses and sin; slaves to the powers of this world. Christ, through His death and resurrection, broke the chains that kept us in slavery to the elemental forces of this world and to our own flesh, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we could walk in newness of life!

G. K. Chesterton said it this way: “Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come alive.”

Ephesians 2:1-5 -As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Let’s take a look at a few theories of the atonement. When Jesus died He atoned for our sins, but there is some disagreement about what ‘atonement’ means.

  • Ransom theory - Jesus died as a ransom to either the devil or to God
  • Christus Victor - Jesus died to defeat the powers of evil - sin, death and the devil - setting us free to live in His Kingdom
  • Satisfaction theory - Christ died to satisfy God’s justice
  • Penal substitution - Christ was punished in our place - He took our punishment upon the cross - He did not just pay a debt of justice but literally suffered in our place

Jesus’ death is described as a ‘ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). Over the cross were the words ‘King of the Jews’ and Colossians 2:15 is clear that Jesus triumphed over the powers and authorities on the cross - a victorious King. It is also clear that Jesus died as a propitiation for our sins (I John 2:2), the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18) - that looks like substitution. So each of these theories as some Biblical basis.

Here are 2 ways I personally try to describe what Christ did on the cross using Biblical language. I am still wrestling with this idea.

Atonement is chiefly about one life for another - the sacrifice was never required to suffer emotional or physical torment in proportion to the offense committed. However, the lamb was required to be spotless. Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for all people not because of the amount He suffered, but because He was a perfect sacrifice undeserving of death - the perfect lamb of God foreshadowed by the old covenant sacrifices. Christ saved us not by absorbing the Father’s wrath, but by dying in our place to set us free from the law’s condemnation so that through Him we can die to ourselves and live unto God.

Jesus is the victorious king who reconciled us to God by His blood and in whom we become Spirit filled children of the Kingdom of Light, free from the law’s condemnation and sin’s power. The law of sin and death is replaced by the Spirit’s laws of life in Christ Jesus.


Excellent question and some good observations, Sadie. The fact is, trusting the Lord Jesus and what he did on the cross as payment for your sins IS a crutch “for the wrong they have done”. We cannot walk without him. We cannot reach the Father without him because he is as he stated, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). All of us have failed God, been selfish and lied at some point, disobeyed our parents, taken what we shouldn’t have, or wanted something somebody else had. We’ve disobeyed the commandments and remain guilty. The punishment for this, death, is first and foremost a spiritual separation from God – a disconnect – a chasm, gap which people try to bridge all kinds of ways, but can’t. God made that way. He provided an innocent lamb who DID obey all the commandments and who could provide the way to connect with God. Not so we could feel better, though he takes our guilt and shame away, but so that we could walk with him – in spirit and in truth – the way he desires. When we ask God to forgive our sins because of what Jesus did, he does. Then when we give our lives over to him to make them the best life possible, he does because Jesus is the bridge he gave us to himself.

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Think of this. A teenager commits a crime. His father goes with him to court and pays his fine. The expectation is that the teenager will recognize his error and strive to avoid repeating it.

When one accepts Jesus, repents, and asks forgiveness, God, the Father, looks at his heart. If he is sincere, and has truly repented, his sin is covered.


I think one thing that might be important from a Muslim point of view is what Quran 3:3 means when it appeals to the messages of the Law and the Gospel. The Torah cites the skins being taken from animals to cover the shame of Adam and Eve immediately after their sin. Abel’s sacrifice of sheep was pleasing to God. Abraham offered a ram in the place of his son (they believe the son to have been Ishmael). If it has always been the will of Allah for the innocent animals to suffer the consequences of sin, is the will of Allah unjust? Muslims believe the law is corrupted, but the law can hardly be appealed (as the Quran does) to if the Torah is wrong (and all the following writings) about the need for sacrifice of an unblemished creature. The Law was given to Israel after the Exodus when the blood was applied to the doorposts and the judgment of God passed over the blood-stained houses. The Torah claims that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” The Quran also says the Psalms of David were inspired, and David did not discontinue the sacrifices of the Tabernacle and neither did his son. There doesn’t seem to be any point in the Quran appealing to the Gospel message when the understanding of Jesus’ mission since the Resurrection has always been to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” if the Quran does not recognize the validity of a substitute. The sacrificial connection between the Law and the Gospel has consistently been understood from the Resurrection up to the time Mohammed wrote down the Quran.

The other thing that I think a Muslim would have to explain is whether Allah’s will is always just, if everything happens according to Allah’s will. I think Muslims have a more difficult job with this. But, for the sake of argument with regard to the Quran, either God must be just in ways that go beyond our comprehension, or He possibly does not subscribe to human notions of justice. If it is His will for a sinless substitute to be offered and the benefit to be received by the truly penitent, who is man to object? I haven’t engaged Muslims so I’m not sure how they would generally respond to such thoughts… but they might give a Muslim some thoughts to chew on.

There is no point in the Quran appealing to revelatory messages that have not been generally recognized by Jews and Christians. A Muslim isn’t going to immediately attribute this to Mohammed’s apparently shoddy understanding of these scriptures, but it might be helpful to wrestle with what the Quran could possibly be communicating about the rightness of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Isaiah was presumably one of the messengers that God sent after Moses and Isaiah 53 spoke of the man of sorrows that God was pleased to bruise for the iniquities of his people. Jonah was a messenger and the message was that justice would be averted with true repentance. What Quran 5:46 gets right is that the Gospel was accepted due to the light it shed on all that had come before in the Judaic tradition.

This is a topic that I once struggled to understand. I only knew the ways that the world operates and had no understanding of the principles of the Kingdom of Light. Then I started to experience the Love, Grace and Mercy that the Father has for us, and all of a sudden I realized that it’s all about LOVE. God is Love.

The sacrifice, the atonement, the forgiveness, the punishment, all of that was put on the His Son.

You might be asking, “Why would a loving Father do this?”
I do not pretend to completely know why, as the thoughts of God are unsearchable but He does reveal more and more of His Love and nature to us as we desire to know more.

Because His ways are not the ways of this world, and He desires for us to receive the fullness of His Love, we have to consider this from a different perspective. Looking from the outside in, or looking at the big picture. He wants us to be amazed and fascinated by His unconditional and sacrificial love that challenges every lie about love that the devil has presented to us. The very thing that seems so different and incomprehensible is the very Glory of God.

The gospel of Jesus reveals the very heart of our Father. His heart is undying, never-fading, never-changing sacrificial Love.

God knew what the devil was going to bring in attempt to deceive us and lure us to doubt whether God is really for us. So He provided an actual physical example of His Heart and that is Jesus. What happened on the cross is so much more than “He took our deserved punishment” it’s more like “He displayed the essence of God’s Love”.

Hopefully this helps. In the future I will add to this post with scripture reference for each statement.

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I love this. Thanks for sharing. I believe the Gospel is so simple, it’s offensive. I am a naturally intellectual person. But I refuse to complicate what God has made simple in my explanation. The devil desperately wants us to believe less than what Jesus paid to give us. Watch!

“In this circumstance, the actual murderer would live his entire life knowing he killed another person.”

We all murdered Jesus; our sin hung Him on that tree. He was pierced for our transgressions. The Gospel doesn’t end at that place though, because we too die with Christ when we come to Him, so that we can be raised with Him as well.

Until the Holy Spirit of God convicts a person of this reality, they go on unaware of their guilt sentence before a Righteous God. I am thankful for conviction, because it leads me to restoration. This is the Cross.

“Can someone really take the punishment for another person? Aren’t people responsible for their actions?”

You are so RIGHT. And so is God. Only a Person can take the punishment that people reaped. So Jesus was fully man. Jesus fit that qualification. Fully man, fully God.

The Gospel is we reap what He sowed, not we we sowed.
After we receive that glorious, unfathomable promise through FAITH, now we sow seeds of the Gospel in faith… we go on sowing seeds of restoration of the Gospel among those who are perishing, so that they might be saved.

We grow up trained by the father of lies, so it is natural for our earthly minds to be at odds with heavenly realities. Here are some examples of popular sayings that are 180 degrees from the pure Gospel.

“You made your bed now you’ve got to lay in it.”
The Gospel: Jesus made you a new bed. Go crawl into that.

“What you see is what you get.”
Gospel: “Walk by faith, not by sight. What’s seen is temporal. What’s unseen is eternal.”

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”
What you don’t know can kill you actually.

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Dude, you are SOOOOOO right!!! The devil desperately wants us to believe less than what Jesus paid for!!!

I am almost in tears reading what you wrote. It is such a heavenly reality my mind has to catch up with.

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@AO77 To God be all the Glory. It’s all accredited to the divine inspiration of our helper, Holy Spirit! Our Father’s Love is so amazing! I was quite moved in my Spirit by your response as well. One Love! Jesus is King!

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Yes!!! Me too!

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With civil liability, this is very much possible. A person can easily pay for the debt of another, especially that of a loved one. :wink: With criminal liability, this is hard to see. Maybe this is also possible but I am not aware of any actual jurisdiction which allows it. Or maybe that it’s just unthinkable for another person to voluntarily assume the criminal liability of another that is why we don’t see it in actual practice. It is a question philosophers can ponder on. But this is what the Bible is clearly telling us, that “he took on himself the iniquities of us all.” So is it valid if God did it? Assuming you can, will it be valid if you did it for a friend?


Your question, “how can Jesus pay for my sin?” is a great question, because it implies a substitute for payment for something. In this case it is our sin. What is sin? It is an outward action of our very nature, in an action that transgresses the moral law of God. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because it is our nature to do so thanks to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

So your question how can Jesus pay for it, implies another question. Who is Jesus that He could even accomplish making such a payment? Was Jesus a great man and only a great man? Or is He God in human flesh, fully God and fully man. For if He is fully God and fully man, and our sinful nature is an affront to God, and we read both in the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22) that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” In these verses of both the Old and New Testaments, we see that there had to be a sacrifice. Ever since the Levitical law of the sacrificial system there were the killing and the shedding of blood of unblemished animals to atone for the nation of Israel and individual persons and families for century after century.

And then Jesus came, lived a sinless life. Those who eyewitnessed Him, declared Him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus numerous times states that He was going to be handed over to sinful men to be crucified for our sins but then conquer sin, death, hell and the grave for our justification. Only God can make such demands and fulfill them for you and for me. So how can Jesus pay for my sin? He can, because He is God in human flesh. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life.” (loose paraphrase of John 3:16).

I pray this answer helps answer your question.

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