Is a mere man a sufficient sacrifice for all our sins?

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus was Michael the Archangel,1 the first and highest creation of God. They teach that Michael was transformed into a perfect, unfallen man exactly like Adam in every way and not retaining any heavenly, angelic, or divine nature. They claim that this allowed him to be the ransom for Adam’s fall and to provide us a way of redemption because he was exactly like Adam but made the right choice instead of the wrong one.2 Thus, they say, the scales of justice are even because one perfect man fell and another perfect man sacrificed himself to make up for that fall. The two men, therefore, must be precisely equal for the equation to work.

The Bible, however, makes clear that a mere man is not sufficient to atone for all the sins and transgressions of every man, woman, and child to whom God will grant salvation. If one offering is to bear all the sins of all the redeemed, that substitute must not merely be equal to Adam, but greater! Indeed we see that the Scriptures demand that, if any are to be saved, God Himself must stand in place of His people and bear the divine wrath on their behalf. Only He is worthy. Only He is able. Only He is enough.

For example, one of the most important verses to Jehovah’s Witnesses in their teachings about Jesus as the equal ransom for sins is Romans 5:19:

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous.”

If we look at the full passage, however, it is clear that while Jesus was indeed a perfect man, He also had to be something quite more than Adam was. Romans 5:15-17 reads:

“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

Notice that it twice says that the gift was not like the transgression, and twice counters that if death came through the sin of the one, how much more does grace and life come through the other. It clarifies that Jesus does not merely reverse the effects of Adam’s sin, but also atones for the countless subsequent sins of the many throughout the generations after Adam for whom Jesus died! This isn’t saying that Jesus is simply like Adam but opposite, but rather that Jesus is greater and opposite!

Given this information alone, we can already ask what mere creation could be of such holiness, purity, and tremendous value that he could offer himself for the sins of so many, and the answer would be obvious that no mere creature could do this! Paul, however, did not leave the Romans, or us, to have to guess. If we look just a little earlier in the very same passage, we read in 5:6-8:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The passage is quite clear. Christ died for the ungodly. While we would scarcely give our lives even for a good man, God shows His great love by giving His life for sinners. If Christ is anyone but God, the logic falls apart. Our unwillingness to give our own lives cannot be meaningfully compared to God’s willingness to give the life of some other person besides Himself. Jesus even said Himself in John 15:13 that:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

The greatest love is the sacrifice of one’s own life, and God demonstrates His own great love for us in this, that Christ died for us. Paul directly compares it to our unwillingness to lay down our own lives for another. The sacrifice cannot be anyone but God alone. Only He is worthy. Only His life is sufficient. Even His own perfect love only makes sense in light of it. Jesus could die for all of our sins only because He is the one true God.

  • 1. "What Does the Bible Really Teach" (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2014) 218
  • 2. Watchtower Magazine, March 2016 (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2016) 5