Why did God choose death as the penalty for sin?
One Penalty #
Before we explore that, let’s explore a related question. Why did God choose just one penalty for sin? Couldn’t he have given Adam a more complex law, like the Mosaic law, with different penalties for different sins? Why did God classify all sin equally, and determine only a single penalty?
There are several reasons for this, but here is one that you may not have considered: The more complex the law of sin was, the more complex the work of the Messiah would have to be. A law with 100 penalties for different sins would have required Christ to undergo all of those penalties in order to save all people. A single penalty meant that Christ only had to be put to death once.
Why Death? #
But why did that penalty have to be death? To us this sometimes seems harsh. And it is. But that does not mean that it is unjust. As a just God, the LORD knows what is required.
But we might still ask why the nature of justice is such.
So let us imagine that God instituted a different penalty for sin. Let us imagine that instead the penalty was having to spend the night in jail. Then Christ could pay the penalty for all mankind just by spending one night in jail, couldn’t he?
But consider this: no Christ would be needed. Adam and Eve could have paid their own penalty by spending a night in jail, and they would still be alive today. If you were to lie, you would only have to spend the night in jail and your sin would be paid for. If you stole you would likewise only have to spend the night in jail, and then you’d be innocent from any guilt.
Consider the ultimate ramifications of this: if your mother were raped and brutally murdered, the offender would only have to spend the night in jail, and then he’d be free. You’d have to forgive him. He could do it again to someone else the next day, and again all he’d have to do is spend the night in jail. He could go on doing this, eternally, without any greater penalty than having to spend each night in jail.
All will readily agree that this is not justice. And this is the problem with every penalty other than death: the wicked would never have to cease from their wickedness.
Thank God for the penalty of death and damnation, for without it we would never be delivered from the wicked or the devil.