Author Tim Barnett
Published on 05/29/2017

Is God Really Forgiving If He Required Payment for Sins Through Jesus?

If forgiveness is letting a wrongdoing go instead of requiring payback, how can God genuinely forgive us if He first required payment through Jesus?


I thought forgiveness was letting a wrongdoing go instead of requiring payback. So how is it that God can genuinely forgive us if He first required payment through Jesus? Isn’t requiring payment for sins the opposite of forgiving sins? The danger here is taking a human action, forgiving my brother for sin he commits against me, and applying it in an identical fashion to God.

True, you and I extend forgiveness not expecting payment for the wrong others have done to us, and that should be easy for us to do because we know how often we wronged others in the same way. Whenever we forgive, we forgive sinners as sinners. And that means when we forgive, it is possible, even commanded to us, to just ignore the wrongness of the sin we are called to forgive.

God’s forgiveness is different because He isn’t a sinner and cannot, according to Scripture, even look upon sin. He is the one Person in the universe who can’t forgive sin as a participant in it. So His dilemma is absolutely unique. How does an absolutely holy and just God forgive sin? How does a sinless God forgive sinners? God forgives our sin by taking our sin upon Himself. He forgives sinners by paying for their sins. Notice that it’s the same God who demands the payment who also pays the payment.

In a similar situation would be the way the Scriptures forbid us from taking vengeance for sins committed against us. we are forbidden to do this, again, because we are always sinners taking vengeance. We also bring injustice into our vengeance, but just because God forbids us from taking vengeance doesn’t mean it’s wrong for Him to take vengeance. In fact, and this relates to forgiveness, the only reason we can forgive sin and not take vengeance is we can rest in the fact that the price of sin has already been paid and will finally be judged when Jesus comes again.

This is why it is simply impossible to always make parallel cases for what we are called to do as creatures and what God must do as Creator.