Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
By Carlton Foster – August 8, 2019
There seems to be confusion about what are justice and mercy, and these confusions stem from a person’s definition of justice or mercy. So the first thing to do is to define them. Justice is the application of a stated outcome when an infringement occurs. Mercy is modifying the stated outcome when an infringement occurs with the goal of benefiting the offender.
In defining justice, we can explore the nature of the definition: the application of a stated outcome when an infringement occurs. Here are some synonyms to infringement – contravention, violation, transgression, breach, breaking, nonobservance, noncompliance, neglect, dereliction, failure to observe; infraction, undermining, erosion, weakening, compromise, limitation, curb, check, encroachment, disruption, disturbance. When do these occur? They happened because of sin! And since we are living in a sinful world, these are a reality to every living entity on this earth.
What are the stated outcomes of an infringement? The answer is in looking at God, who created by nature some of these outcomes, as well as mankind, who created (or made) some outcome or laws. For example, the laws of gravity by nature have a gravitational pull on the earth, so objects at a certain altitude will fall (or pulled) down if there are no other forces altering it. This is the stated outcome when the object infringed on the laws of gravity. Some refer to this phenomenon as “design law”. The downward descent of the object is the application of the stated outcome. Another example of a stated outcome from human creation is what will happen (as stated on paper) when there is an infringement of human law (or agreement). For example, if an unauthorized car (not a police car or emergency vehicle) is traveling at 100 miles an hour in a 45 MPH zone (which is a violation), the application of the stated outcome is to do to the offender what is listed for this violation.
From these two examples, we see where the application of the stated outcome is the “justice” or the just action for the violation or infringement. Any action that varies widely from the stated actions to do more harm to the offender would be considered as unjust or injustice. Since modifying the stated action could be unjust, let us look at the definition of injustice.
Injustice applies to any act that involves unfairness to another or violation of one’s rights. Unfairness is the infringement of the law that protects people or places, and that the justifiable actions are not enforced by the governing authorities. Since injustice is some act “in place of justice”, mercy is not applicable because the law was not put into action against the infringements. So what is mercy?
Mercy is modifying the stated outcome when an infringement occurs with the goal of benefiting the offender. Since the modification of the stated outcome is to benefit the offender instead of doing more harm to him or her, then this action is referred to as mercy. Here are some synonyms for mercy – leniency, clemency, compassion, grace, pity, charity, forgiveness, forbearance, quarter, humanity, humaneness, humanitarianism; mildness, soft-heartedness, tender-heartedness, kindness, sympathy, liberality, indulgence, tolerance, generosity, magnanimity, beneficence.
The degree of modifying the stated outcome depends on the power of the person (or persons) that has control over the stated outcome of an infringement. So, for the example of the object falling because of the violation of the laws of gravity, mercy could be giving the object an engine (or force) to move the object (like a plane or spacecraft) in a direction counter to the stated laws of gravity. Or another example of mercy could be that God allows the object to descend, but he removes the acceleration – speed of falling, just to avoid the destruction that would occur when the object hits the earth or another object.
In the case of the offender going 100 MPH in a 45 MPH zone, the police, the judge, or whoever has the highest authority or control can modify the stated outcome, and remove actions that would follow, or modifying the action to impose a lesser fine. Remember that any action given must have in it the goal of benefiting the offender. This is mercy. Can you have mercy without justice?
Note that mercy follows justice! Mercy is the modification of justice for the benefit of the offender. So you cannot have mercy without the act of justice. Let us take the driving example; if the person was driving below the speed limits (40 MPH in a 45 MPH zone), what sets of actions (mercy or justice) that the police or judge could apply to that person? None! Because the person did not infringe on the speed limit laws. If the plane or spacecraft were sitting or parked on the ground, then the application of mercy or just actions are not applicable to the plane or spacecraft because it is not in violation of the laws of gravity. With this in mind, the question was asked, “Why did Jesus have to die?”
Dying is a stated outcome of some infringement as stated by God in Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Therefore if Jesus had to die, then some other soul other than Jesus had sin, because the Bible stated that Jesus was sinless. In John 11:51, it is noted that the high priest at that time was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. He died — which is the application of God stated actions for our sins. Please note that to enforce these stated actions of justice or mercy, a controlling body or force is needed to apply these actions.
In the case of the falling object, the law of gravity has in it the force to carry out the stated outcome – which is falling. In the case of the offender driving 100 MPH in a 45 MPH zone, the police (or other lawful bodies) are needed to apply the stated actions for that violation. I am saying this because some people believed that sin created the forces to apply justice to sinners when they violated “designed laws”, and that God will not and does not apply justice to offenders. They believed that sin in of itself has the power to apply justice to the offender. While in some cases this is true, however, in some cases, the person or body of people who have the highest control over the laws can by themselves apply the stated outcome to the offenders. When the natural outcome of a sinner is controlled by the sin, then mercy is not applicable, but when the ruler or controllers apply the justifiable actions, according to the stated outcome, to the offender, then that person has the ability to apply mercy. We have seen where God applied mercy to humans by sending Jesus to die for our sins, instead of letting sinful humans (those who have NOT repented), die the second death.
In summary, justice is the application of a stated outcome when an infringement occurs, and mercy is modifying the stated outcome when an infringement occurs with the goal of benefiting the offender. You need a justifiable action to apply mercy. Natural sinful forces apply justice without mercy, but rulers (including God) can let nature apply justice to offenders, or they can apply the justifiable actions to the offender with or without mercy. So at the end of the ages, God will apply justice to offenders of his laws, either by natural design or personally using angels or hellfire (as stated in the book of Revelation.)