Is Christ’s Death Sufficient to Pay for Sins? A Conversation Continued

A couple of days back, in a post titled Discriminating, Unfathomable, Precious Grace, I shared a theological conversation I have been having with someone from the Internet regarding hell, the Cross of Christ, and the nature of God’s grace.  Below, the conversation continues, since my friend wasn’t satisfied with the answers I have given him.  He writes,

Thanks for trying to answer, but you don’t see the logical inconsistency in your answer?

The penalty for sin is by definition paid by those who don’t repent – after all, those who repent have their penalty pardoned. So if Jesus was pardoned, he paid the penalty equivalent to those who repent, which is no penalty at all.

That means that Jesus didn’t pay the full penalty for sin that is and will be paid by sinners. In other words, he didn’t pay the price for sin, because if he did, he would still be in hell.

Corcoran, I will respond to what you wrote, point-by-point:

The penalty for sin is by definition paid by those who don’t repent

Do you mean by this that people who don’t have their sins atoned for by Christ must pay the penalty for their sins themselves?  If that’s what you mean, I agree.

… after all, those who repent have their penalty pardoned.

Yes, their penalty is pardoned through repentance, but only if by “repent” you mean that they place their trust and faith in what Jesus did for them at the Cross.  The repentance God requires is perfect obedience to His law, but no one except Jesus Christ ever achieved this. Repentance that saves is repentance that receives Jesus’ perfect record as one’s own, by faith.

So if Jesus was pardoned, he paid the penalty equivalent to those who repent, which is no penalty at all.

To say Jesus was “pardoned” is incorrect.   The Cross is the opposite of pardon— Jesus was punished there, for the sins of others, so that they might be pardoned through Him.  He achieved a pardon for sinners by paying their penalty. Contrary to what you seem to be saying, Jesus paid a penalty that was required because mere human repentance is imperfect and would never satisfy the demands of a perfectly righteous, holy God against sin and sinners.

That means that Jesus didn’t pay the full penalty for sin that is and will be paid by sinners. In other words, he didn’t pay the price for sin, because if he did, he would still be in hell.

No, the Bible teaches that He indeed pays the full penalty of sin for sinners who by faith appropriate what He did for them, but sinners who spurn and despise that salvation obviously won’t get the benefits of it, instead they will be punished by God for their disobedience.

Again the full price for all the sins of the elect (thereby giving the sinner eternal heaven in place of the eternal hell he deserved) was paid at the cross, for God chose to invest the action of Jesus Christ on the Cross with eternal authority, scope and power.  Therefore Jess does not need to “still be in hell”– I’m not even sure He went to hell at all in the sense you’re saying.  Certainly Scripture teaches that Jesus overcame the power of death and hell on behalf of many sinners, but whether He did this by actually going to hell is a matter of debate. If He did go to hell as part of this process, it was obviously for a few days only and Jesus did not have to remain there since He successfully accomplished the salvation of the sinners whom the Father gave Him and for whom He laid down His life.

You may find the above “logic” unsatisfying, but I think it’s what Scripture teaches.

Jesus pays the penalty for those who cannot repent in a satisfactory and complete way, because they are too sinful (Romans 3: 20, 23, 28; 4:13-14) to keep the law.  If anyone could have been justified with God by keeping the Law, there would have been no need for Jesus to sacrifice Himself on the Cross.  There is only one way for one’s sins to be paid for fully -to place one’s trust/faith in what Jesus did, seeing His death as something done for one’s personal sins. According to Scripture, not everyone will believe in this way, and those who do not will be condemned for not believing in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18). That condemnation is hell, where sinners will have to face the wrath of God apart from the covering or forgiveness of sins offered through Jesus Christ.

It’s my aim not to win the argument here but to give God glory because He is the One who purposed to use the death of Christ to save many, and I think it is dangerous and irresponsible to deny Jesus’ urgent warnings about the hell to come.  I hope then that you and everyone who reads these comments will be persuaded, if you do not already believe, to trust in Christ Jesus’ death alone as the death that saves sinners, since as Scripture testifies whosoever believes in Him will be saved from the wrath to come, and will receive eternal life.

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2 Comments

Filed under Grace, The Cross, Theology

2 responses to “Is Christ’s Death Sufficient to Pay for Sins? A Conversation Continued

  1. One passage that immediately comes to mind is Hebrews 10:1-18. The comparison of the priest’s necessity to continually offer sin is contrasted with the final sufficient sacrifice that was offered through Christ by his own willingness and obedience. I think this passage clearly expresses that no more sacrifices are needed, which means he paid it all.

    • Alexander M. Jordan

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks very much for the comment. Yes, these passages in Hebrews are most relevant to this discussion of the sufficiency and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice at the cross. I found Corcoran’s argument odd since 1) it doesn’t use biblical analogies and reasoning, and 2) I’m not sure it flows logically either. He seems to argue that those who repent receive salvation apart from Christ’s actions on their behalf, therefore Jesus need not pay their penalty, “So if Jesus was pardoned, he paid the penalty equivalent to those who repent, which is no penalty at all.” But as I countered in my post, the sinner receives pardon by way of a repentance that accepts Jesus’ obedient life and death as one’s own record. Only by such a means is God satisfied with the sinner’s repentance and pardoned.

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