How did death pay for sin?

Mature Christian here so I’ve got a good grasp in general. But one topic has always nagged at me. It seems all the Christian’s around me don’t struggle with this:

I understand THAT death on the cross paid for our sins, but HOW? Why death (vs something else)? What about that act pays our debt? What about that satisfied GOD? Death on the cross can sadly almost become a cliche one just “accepts” when they become a Christian, but my black & white brain was never fully able to grasp the how’s of it all.

Like if a friend drove his car through my yard and ripped it up (a sin), it makes sense that him paying to re-sod my yard would pay for that debt. So I don’t understand how someone else’s death is warranted/needed given our sins? Our death for our sins I understand, his death for our sins I don’t?


Blood, because of its tie in to sanctified life, and man, whom God breathed life into, is the most valuable thing in the universe. It wouldn’t be right for God to pay for our salvation for anything BUT blood.

Like you acknowledge, it is a payment, not a debt. In my mind, and this may be controversial, God, through Jesus, paid Satan for the salvation of man. NOT to say Satan is on equal par with God. It is somewhat synonymous with the way Job goes.

The lesson we learn is one of sacrifice and how important it is as a fundamental law of the universe.

Sorry if this all seems basic to you.


It’s a good question and an important one. @Jesse_Means_God_Exists is correct that it is established in the sacrificial system for the atonement for sin. In Exodus 29 God gives Moses very specific instructions for atonement with a system of sin offerings—sacrifices involving the blood of firstborn animals.

It shows the gravity of sin that blood is required for atonement. God’s instructions include directions for the priest(s) and their holiness so that they may represent the Israelites before God in presenting the sin offerings. In our case Jesus is both the priest who is holy before God AND the spilled blood of a firstborn without blemish (perfect).

We believe God to be both just and consistent. To fulfill the requirements of the law that would make us right (through Jesus) before God He who was without sin paid the penalty for my sin with His blood.

To more fully understand this spend some time in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus to see how explicitly how the Israelites were to live out the mosaic covenant (the law). Then study Romans to understand the limitations of us concerning living out the law and how Jesus death and resurrection is/was required to satisfy the law and establish the new covenant.

Another aspect is that covenants were also sealed (not sure if that’s the right word) via the blood sacrifice of an animal. Once again as a symbol of the gravity of a covenant. A promise so permanent that a life was sacrificed to secure it.

All of the OT leads to the cross. When God spared Isaac from Abraham’s hand and provided the ram, that ram was Jesus being sacrificed for all mankind. Once I read through the OT with that in mind I saw the work of Jesus everywhere, as well as a human history of sin and depravity that time and again proved our need for a savior.

Hoping I’m making sense with this. Truly, in Romans Paul makes a brilliant case for all of this. It would be a very beneficial study for understanding this.


@Citykid3785, you might find the discussion in the thread below helpful which is along the same lines.


Very very good question Brian and trust me youre not the only one thinking that to be a little strange. It actually makes me wonder if God doesn’t allow it because we seem to need it.
We want something tangible to feel better, we never believe his word if he just said you’re forgiven, just be obedient and trust him. I think we needed it to feel better from the Garden Eden, right until Christ comes and becomes the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices…

@Citykid3785 My short answer is that I do not think Jesus atoned for our sins by the amount He suffered - so we deserved to be punished for 5 quadrillion years and He bore 5 quadrillion years of pain. I do not think that is the point. I personally believe Jesus was a spotless sacrifice who did not deserve to die - He was worthy of glory and honor and yet He died in our place. Like the splotless lambs offered in the Old Testament, I believe it was Jesus’ righteousness that made Him able to suffer the penalty of sin - death - in our place.

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.


I go back to the word old and new Testament. “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 3.23. Our sins separate us from God. He is Holy and the Light of all mankind. The LORD gave Israel Atonement through the Blood Sacrifice of an unblemished Lamb. When we pray and acknowledge Yeshua, Jesus, as LORD and believe in our Hearts God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. Romans 8. Adonai says over and over and in Ezedkiel that every person will have to answer for their sins. God provides forgiveness. He reigns. His science. His world. His fallen image bearers. He tells us what is needed to be restored to Him. Isaiah 53 details that the Messiah will be whipped, beaten for our iniquities. The LORD God, YHWH, is righteous and holy. He needs us to be alive in Him and without His eternal blood no man is justified. When we surrender ourselves to the LORD, He makes all things new.

Grace of the Holy Father given as Jesus the sinless son of man sacrificed is life for all of our sins.
Abraham was told to stop the sacrifice and then God said I will provide.

Hi Brian, I feel your struggle. :slight_smile:

Bible is clear I think when it says the penalty for sin is death. I think we should train our minds to accept that as a Biblical axiom.

Whenever I think about God as a perfect Being, I can never escape the thought that there is really no way that I, the imperfect man that I am, can ever be reconciled back to God. Because how can the perfect be joined together with the imperfect without the perfect becoming imperfect? But I don’t think that our imperfect state can make God imperfect but rather that we will be extinguished by the presence of the Perfect One. Bible does speak of God as a Consuming Fire.

To your question how? says “The word ‘propitiation’ carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God.” To illustrate, I want to tell you a recent personal experience. My sister in law always spends the weekend with us. But she and my wife always fight over many things. The sister in law has an attitude. So there’s always shouting in the house every weekend. Until 2 weeks ago I told my wife I’ve had enough of the sister in law and I don’t want her to come to the house for a whole month. She’s grounded. But my wife said, no, no, no, pretty please no. And she explained how her sister is going through some things, etc., etc. And because I love my wife, I am pleased with her, so my anger was appeased. I think it is the same way with God. He says, this is my Son in whom I am well pleased. And the Lord Jesus, by His blood covers us from the wrath of God.

Hope this helps.

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