Paid in Full!
Alleluia! He is risen! Our God and King has conquered death by death and given us new life! As we enter into the Easter season and celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death, don’t we sometimes wonder why He had to die? If God is Almighty, couldn’t He have just forgiven mankind without sacrificing His Son? Or is Christ’s sacrifice the most fitting way for us to be redeemed?
Until the 1000′s A.D. many Christian scholars and authors believed that Christ died on the cross in order to ransom mankind from the grips of the devil. The belief was that the devil had essentially kidnapped all of mankind since Adam and Eve and would only release us if God would pay a ransom. This idea dominated Christian thought until St. Anselm of Canterbury came onto the scene in the early 1000′s.
He turned the notion of the ransom theory on its head as he began to delve deeper and deeper into the mystery of Christ’s salvific act. In his work Cur Deus Homo (Why God become Man), Anselm explains that Christ did not die on the cross to pay a ransom to the devil. After all, how could God owe the devil anything? He can’t… God isn’t the debtor in this transaction! Rather, it is as if man owes the debt of sin to God. This is a debt man is not capable of repaying on his own. Therefore, Christ became man pay the debt that mankind owed to God because of man’s sin.
Because God is perfect, He is all merciful and perfectly just. Through sin, man injured his relationship with God. God’s justice demands mankind to make the relationship right again. It was fitting that God would not relieve our debt without it being paid, but also that He would not let mankind perish without someone paying the debt.
All humans owed the debt to God, because all humans are sinful. And because all are sinful, none were capable of paying it. Only someone who did not owe the debt to God could pay it, i.e., someone who had not sinned. Therefore God himself became man in order to pay the debt that we owed in order that we might have eternal life with Him.
In the book of Genesis, as Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham says, “God will provide HIMSELF the lamb for the sacrifice.” Gen 22:8. Abraham is referring to the fact that God will provide a lamb in that particular instant, but he is also prophetically speaking to the fact that God will become the lamb for the sacrifice!