When God created Adam and Eve, He put them in the Garden of Eden—a beautiful place where they had all the food they needed, and a special friendship with God. God told them they could eat the fruit from any tree—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and ate fruit from that tree anyway. This sin caused Adam and Eve to lose their special relationship with God. When we disobey God, we “sin,” because we do not follow God’s instructions (1 John 3:4). Sin always causes our relationship with God to be damaged. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah told God’s people that their sin caused them to be separated from God so as to be lost (59:1-2).
One of God’s attributes is that He is an absolutely holy Being (Revelation 4:8). Since He is holy, He cannot, and will not, ignore sin. The prophet Habakkuk wrote: “Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing” (1:13). God also is absolutely just. Righteousness and justice are the very foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14). The truth that results from the fact that God is both holy and just is this: sin must be punished!
If God were a vengeful Creator, He could have banished mankind from His presence forever. But He is not that kind of God! He is loving (1 John 4:8) and “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). So, how could God be just, and yet at the same time be merciful to sinners (Romans 3:26)? The answer: God would find someone to “stand in” for us—someone to endure His justice, and to bear our punishment. That “someone” would be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God “loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “Propitiation” (pro-pish-ee-AY-shun) means “a sacrifice that substitutes for another.” Since Christ was tempted just like we are, yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15), He alone could satisfy Heaven’s requirement for justice. Just as the lamb without blemish that was used in Old Testament sacrifices could be the (temporary) propitiation for the Israelites’ sins, so the “Lamb of God” (Jesus) could be the (permanent) propitiation for mankind’s sins. In spite of the fact that all sinners deserve to be lost, God provided a way to “escape the judgment of hell.”
But what does this have to do with us as humans? Jesus was the only One Who was qualified to serve as a sacrifice for our sins, because only His pure blood could wash away our sins, allowing us to stand justified before God on the Day of Judgment (Titus 3:7; Hebrews 10:19). What an amazing thought: Jesus saves!