“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
—John 3:16

All Christians have heard this verse time and time again, but sometimes familiarity can make us dull to the amazing truth of this verse… this divine grace act of God.

In His triune being, one that is expressed in three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to live as a mere man. (You can liken this act to a human being becoming like an ant – a very humbling thing.) God did this because He knew He must serve holy justice against human rebellion. When humanity rebelled against God’s authority, wanting to be our own “little gods,” this was an offense against Him, the Creator of it all. And because of who God is, the offense must be punished.

Complainers
Lots of complaints about this abound. Without a fuller understanding of the theological concepts within this act of divine incarnation, some question why God must punish? All of those Old Testament practices, where the Jews had to kill animals as a sacrifice for sin, seem unnecessary and downright cruel. Why couldn’t God just let us go without setting up blood sacrifices? Worse yet, why did God end up allowing His own son to be killed, as the final sacrifice for sin? That seems really harsh!

Theological Point
Here’s the thing — God is holy…. so holy that sin must be punished. God cannot do otherwise because of who He is: the Moral Lawmaker. And it’s important to understand that justice is a mode of holiness. God cannot go against His own nature of holiness.

What would happen if our earthly judges decided not to punish offenders? Murderers, thieves, and all sorts of criminals would go free, and most likely continue to wreak havoc on society. It would be utter chaos. We would not want that to happen because we want justice!

Justice is that sense of right and wrong we all have inside us, put there by our Creator. If we have this sense of justice, how much more does God have it? This holy justice, where God takes our sin upon Himself in the person of Jesus, is called “Retributive Justice.” It’s not like vengeance. Unlike revenge, retribution is directed only at the wrongs. It involves no pleasure of the suffering of others. A penalty must either be inflicted on the transgressor, personally, or on a substitute, vicariously.

Another Theological Point
God became our substitute, suffering for us because He loves us enough to take it. And punishing sin as a form of purification, or ridding the world of evil. And because life is in the blood, it was blood that had to be shed as the penalty.

God’s own blood was shed for the entire human race for all time. Only His blood could pay that kind of price. Only God has that kind of power, that kind of purity, that kind of forgiveness. Only God is big enough to cover the sins of the world.

God’s sacrifice is a gift to be received by faith because God is love and love gives.

Think Divinely: The most amazing thing God has ever done 
for us is to become our substitute and to pay for a crime that
He did not commit.