Did Jesus pay for our sins?

by Matt Slick

Yes, Jesus paid for our sins in the sense that He took our sins upon Himself and died with them. He took our place and made a legal payment according to the Law. Payments are made to legal debts. We incur a legal debt to God when we sin because sin is breaking the Law of God (1 John 3:4). Note that it is the LAW that we break--laws like the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17 ). Laws have punishments. Laws are legal requirements and boundaries. Therefore, we sin by breaking God's law when we lie, steal, etc. When we sin, we incur a legal debt to God, and we deserve to be punished. But Jesus, who was God in flesh ( John 1:1, 14), took our sins upon Himself and bore them in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and Jesus died on the cross and paid our penalty, then that is how He paid for our sins.

Furthermore, if we were to offend someone, then that person is the one who forgives. Let me give you an illustration. Let's say I was over at your house, and I ended up breaking your lamp. You are a nice person, and you say, "Matt, I forgive you for breaking my lamp but pay me $10." Now, is that true forgiveness? Is it true forgiveness to ask for a payment from someone whom you have forgiven? No. What should we do since the lamp needs to be replaced? You see, in true forgiveness, who is left to pay for the replacement of the lamp? It would be you. Who is my sin against? You. Who forgave? You did. Who paid? You did. When we sin, who do we sin against? We sin against God. Who forgives? God forgives. Who pays? God pays.

Now, I know that in a real situation with a lamp I would offer to pay for the replacement. The illustration is meant to show that when someone truly forgiveness that he cannot require a payment, otherwise, it is not true forgiveness. And, he is the one who pays. Jesus, who is God in flesh, is the one who paid on the cross.

So, back to our original paragraph, we can say that Jesus paid for our sins in a legal sense. All who trust in Christ, by faith, will be saved from God the Father's righteous judgment. All we need to do is trust in what Christ has done on the cross and be justified (made legally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone.

  • Rom. 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."
  • Rom. 4:3, "For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
  • Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness."
  • Rom. 5:1, "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
  • Gal. 3:8, "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you."
  • Gal. 3:24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.