If Jesus had to PAY the debt for sin, then there was no true forgiveness. Many will say that Jesus paid for our sins. This is so wrong. If a debt was paid then it was not cancelled as the Bible says. Nowhere in the Bible does it say Jesus “Paid” or was “Punished” for our sins. In fact, quite the opposite is said. In Matthew chapter 18 we see where a debt was cancelled without anyone having to make payment or punished. If someone has to pay for sin, then sin is not freely forgiven. All this teaching about Jesus paying for our sin or that He was our substitute is nothing more than Post-Reformation theology and not true Biblical teaching. It is called the “Penal Substitution” theory.
Some people may say that the Penal Substitution does speak of forgiveness, in that God can forgive sins because He punished Jesus. Just the thought of this should concern us. God punished Jesus? Let’s use the analogy of a mortgage to put things into perspective, and will show that such an act does not represent true forgiveness. Imagine a letter from your bank saying, “Your mortgage does not need to be repaid and is forgiven, so long as it is repaid in full by one of your relatives.” Obviously the bank has not cancelled the debt graciously at all! The bank is allowing someone else to pay it. Likewise, penal substitution suggests that God will ‘forgive’ so long as there is punishment in full. This is not true forgiveness. All that has happened is that punishment was transferred to an innocent person. This is not a picture of a loving God graciously forgiving repentant sinners. All through the Bible God freely forgives all those who sincerely repent of their sins. The Penal Substitution says that forgiveness is not free and is in fact impossible and that God must punished sin.
If Jesus had to pay for all sin, then salvation cannot be of grace. The cause of salvation is by the merit of payment. If Jesus paid for all sins, then logic dictates that there must be universal salvation and that we must teach Unconditional Eternal Security. And if Jesus had to pay for all sin, there is no such thing as pardon or forgiveness!
Such words as propitiation, reconciliation, justification, redemption, being brought near, putting away sin, suffering, dying for sin, ransom, and offering oneself up, is not payment.
What happened on the cross is that Jesus suffered; He was not making a payment or being punished. (Mark 8:31; Luke 22:15; 24:46; 17:25; Acts 3:18; 26:23; Heb. 13:12; 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1; 5:1; 2 Cor. 1:5)
For further reading (before quoting other verses out of context) see:
“The Vicarious Death of Christ?”