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Why does God require the shedding of blood to forgive sins?


Thanks so much for your question about why God needs blood to be shed in order to forgive us. We could ask why can’t God simply choose to forgive without bloodshed or the threat of hell?

Your understanding of the Bible is right in that it says in the book of Hebrews,

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:22)

Why not? It’s important to note that it is not the physical act of shedding blood that is the key. If that were the case, Jesus could have just had a cut on the arm and shed blood for us all! No, shedding blood is just a way of referring to the fact that without death, there is no forgiveness of sins.

Throughout the Bible, the punishment for sin is death. This starts right back in Genesis 2, when God said to Adam, "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17)

That day Adam suffered spiritual death, separation from God. Later on he also experienced physical death, and that has continued to this day. This is powerfully shown in Genesis 5, which is a list of Adam’s descendants. We are told the name of each one, how long they lived, and then the refrain, and he died.

This is also affirmed in the New Testament. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

So blood has to be shed because the punishment for sin is death. However this leads us to another question. Why is the punishment for sin so serious? Isn’t death a bit over the top?

To answer this question, we need to look at what sin is. Sin isn’t just a few silly things that we’ve done that can be ignored. Sin is rebellion against God, and it is so serious because of the greatness of the one we are rebelling against.

In most countries, the severity of a crime depends not just on your actions, but also who you are committing the crime against. In the UK, hitting someone would count as common assault. Hitting a police officer is a separate and more serious crime. Hitting the Queen would land you in jail for a long time! The seriousness of the offence depends on the one to whom it is against.

God is the one who made us and gave us life, and continues to give us life and breath each moment; He is our Creator. Years ago, if someone committed treason against their government or their monarch, the death penalty would have been given. How much more then, if each one of us has rebelled against the one who made us and enables to exist, is this a treasonous act, worthy of the death penalty? We may think this is harsh, but that’s because we’re not unbiased. We’re the ones who deserve to receive God’s justice!

That’s the crime each one of us is guilty of and the punishment does fit the crime. So why can’t God just let us off? Why can’t he ignore sin? It is not because he lacks compassion or mercy or a desire to forgive. It is because God is a God of justice.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. (Psalm 89:14)

If he were to ignore all sin, it would be as outrageous as if every murderer in the country was let out of jail with their criminal records wiped clean. Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done. If it was possible to ignore sin, don’t you think God would have done so? If there was any other way to forgive sinners while still upholding justice, would he not have taken that option rather than coming in the flesh and suffering the unspeakable agony of dying on the cross?

God is not a harsh God who just tells us that this is the punishment and leaves us to it, although He would be within his rights to do so. But the Bible tells us that God is

A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Exodus 34:6-7).

He is merciful and gracious to his very core, and this is why he came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty that our sin deserves. He didn’t have to do that, but he longed to bring sinners back to him. He offers eternal life to everyone who comes to Jesus to be united to him and have their sins forgiven. There is no one who is excluded – the offer is open to all.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Would you like to ask Jesus for forgiveness, that your sins may be forgiven? Do you want to thank him for shedding his blood for you? If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

Here are some more Bible verses for your further consideration:

  • "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23)
  • "The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4)
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

Please feel free to submit a question to us or to read our answer database: Ask a Question

*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at

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