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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2002

"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).


Someone asked me this question recently:   

God makes the rules. So why did Jesus have to die on the Cross?  I know it was prophesied.  But God could have given man a second chance, instead of making Jesus pay for it.

This is such a profound question that I am going to take several sermons to answer it. This is the first one.

The root of this question lies in a post-modern view of God, rather than a Bible view of God.  Post-modern people think God ought to be fair instead of just.  “Fair” means treating everyone the same.  “Just” means treating people by the rules.  The main thing that’s wrong with post-modern people is that they think in terms of fair and unfair – instead of thinking in terms of just and unjust. 

Fairness demands that God treat everyone with sweetness and kindness who asks for a second chance. 

Justice, on the other hand, demands that sin be everlastingly punished, whether or not a person asks for a second chance. 

It is a terrible thing that justice has been replaced by fairness in the post-modern mind.  This makes it extremely hard for people to have a real conversion today.  You have to “break out” of post-modern thinking about God if you want to be converted.  Here is a brief answer to that question that will help you, if you think about it. 

The question was this: 

God makes the rules.  So why did Jesus have to die on the Cross…God could have given man a second chance, instead of making Jesus pay for it.   

The answer is this:  God could not be just and the justifier in any other way.  Turn again to Romans, chapter three, verses 24-26, 

“Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).  

God could not be just and, at the same time, be the justifier, without Jesus paying for sin on the Cross. 

Listen to a fifteen-year-old Charles Spurgeon.  Think how differently his mind worked when compared to a post-modern person today.  The post-modern person says, “Why can’t God just give me another chance, man?”  But young Spurgeon said,

I sat on the judgment seat and I condemned myself to perish, for I confessed that, had I been God, I could have done no other than send such a guilty creature as I was down to the lowest hell…I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly.  The sin I had committed must be punished… I asked my heart, “How can He be just and yet the justifier?”  I was worried and wearied with this question; neither could I see any answer to it.  Certainly I could never have invented an answer which would satisfy my conscience. 

The doctrine of the atonement is to my mind one of the surest proofs of the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture.  Who would or could have thought of the just ruler dying for the unjust rebel?  This is no teaching of human mythology or dream of poetical imagination.  This method of expiation is only known among men because it is a fact.  Fiction could not have devised it.  God Himself ordained it.  It is not a matter which could have been imagined. 

I had heard the plan of salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus from my youth up, but I did not know any more about it in my innermost soul than if I had been born and bred a Hottentot.  It came to me as a new revelation, as fresh as if I had never read the Scriptures, that Jesus was declared to be “the propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:2), that God might be just. 

When I was anxious about the possibility of a just God pardoning me, I understood and saw by faith that He who is the Son of God became man and, in His own blessed person, bore my sin in His own body on the tree.  I saw the chastisement of my peace was laid upon Him, and with His stripes I was healed (Isaiah 53:5) – Have you ever seen that?  Have you ever understood how God can be just to the full, not remitting penalty nor blunting the edge of the sword, and yet can be infinitely merciful and can justify the ungodly who turn to Him?  It was because the Son of God, supremely glorious in His matchless person, undertook to vindicate the law, by bearing the sentence due me, that therefore God is able to pass by my sin. 

“Jesus has borne the death penalty on our behalf!”  Behold the wonder!  There He hangs upon the cross!  This is the greatest sight you will ever see: Son of God and Son of man!  There He hangs, bearing pains unutterable – the Just for the unjust – that He might bring us to God.  Oh, the glory of that sight!  The Innocent, suffering!  The Holy One condemned!  The Ever-blessed, made a curse!  The Infinitely Glorious, put to a shameful death!  The more I look at the sufferings of the Son of God, the more sure I am that they must meet my case.  Why did He suffer, if not to turn aside the penalty from us? 


The basic supposition of that young person’s question was wrong.  God could not have given man a “second chance” without Jesus going to the Cross.  God could not have been a just God without paying the price of sin Himself, by sending Jesus to the Cross. 

The young person says,

But God could have given man a second chance, instead of making Jesus pay for it.   

What folly!  What a false doctrine!  What a twisting! 

No!  There was no other way for God to be just and the justifier.  The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God Himself, must pay the penalty for sinful man!  There was no other way for God to be both just and the justifier of sinners! A human being can only be justified by God Himself paying the penalty for sin!

Amazing love, how can it be

That thou, my God, should die for me!

("And Can It Be?" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788)  


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 3:21-28.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: 
                                                              "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness"
                                                               (by Count Nicolas von Zinzendorf, 1700-1760).

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