In Matthew 26:39 Jesus asked the Father that if it is possible let this cup pass from me. Out of all the people God would answer a prayer for you would think He would answer Jesus. But He didn’t because He couldn’t. The Cross was absolutely necessary for the salvation of man. The choice wasn’t between saving man through the Cross or something else; the choice was whether to save man or not. Thus the Cross was required.
Why was the Cross required? Because God is Holy. Most people view God as a God of love and He most certainly is that. But He is primarily a Holy God and holiness demands punishment for sin.
Plato recounts a conversation Socrates had with Euthyprho known as the Euthyprho dilemma. Socrates basically proposes a dilemma by asking two questions which I shall paraphrase in modern language.
- Is a thing good simply because God says it is?
- Does God say a thing is good because there is a moral standard outside of God which He recognizes?
If you choose the former then morality would be an arbitrary function of God’s power. That is, something is good only because God said so and nobody can tell Him otherwise because He is bigger and more powerful than us. Therefore, if God said rape, incest, murder, adultery, or slander was “good” then it would be.
If you choose the latter then you are forced to admit that there is a moral Law superior to God which He also adheres to. In other words, God is not the only eternal thing; there is also an eternal moral law. In essence you would get rid of the need for God in the sake of grounding morals since they exist outside of Him.
But this is a false dilemma. Neither choice is correct. The true answer is that morality, true morality, is a reflection of the very character of God. He declares murder evil because He is a God of life. Adultery is sin because it breaks covenant and God is a covenant keeping God. Lying is wrong since God always keeps His promises.
Therefore, to sin, in essence, even if you aren’t directly meaning it so, is an attack to the nature of God. You are declaring God’s character as inferior to the one you are proposing. You are attempting to kill God, take His place, and show Him how to really run the universe.
If sin goes unpunished for eternity then it ultimately prospers, becomes an eternally evil principle that co-exists with the eternally righteous God. Then God no longer is holy because holiness cannot commit sin and holiness cannot ultimately permit sin.
But plenty of parents permit their child to act these ways. No parent actively teaches their child how to throw themselves down in a grocery story screaming for a candy bar at the top of their lungs. But if they permit such actions without swift discipline then in effect they are teaching their child that this behavior is acceptable. And we hold parents ultimately responsible for their children’s behavior in this scenario. If God did not ultimately punish sin then He would be like this parent who is de facto teaching us how to sin and declaring sin as acceptable as righteousness.
Therefore, we absolutely needed the atonement for our salvation because God’s holiness demands punishment for sin. Jesus took the wrath of God on that cross so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2nd Cor 5:21). God’s wrath will catch you one of two places; Hell or The Cross. The choice is yours