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Did Jesus Really Die For Our Sins?

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  • Format: Folded Tract
  • Size: 3.5 inches x 5.5 inches
  • Pages: 8
  • Version: NIV
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The full text of this tract is shown below in the NIV version. (Do you want to print this tract in a different version than the one listed? Contact us and let us know what you're looking for—we may be able to create the alternate version for you at no charge.)

One cold and blustery November day in Chicago, I met an interesting and hungry old guy named Charlie. Over Subway sandwiches I learned about his years of pain, addiction, sin, and survival on the cold hard streets. When the conversation turned to spiritual things, Charlie said that despite his lifestyle, he was “a big fan of Jesus because He died for our sins.”

Charlie left soon after that, eager for a drink to wash down his sandwich, and it got me wondering what he really understood about his statement that Jesus died for our sins. Those four little words were so easy for him to say, but had he ever taken time to think deeply about the shocking truth behind them? Have you?

Did Jesus really die for our sins? My conversation with Charlie made me realize that the correct answer depends on your understanding of those four little words.


Jesus did not “die for our sins” as in a death from natural causes, an unfortunate accident, or old age. There is a big difference between saying “Jesus died” and “Jesus was killed.”

The truth is that He was sentenced to death and violently executed by crucifixion at the age of 33, in the prime of His life. Though perfectly sinless and undeserving of the death penalty, that is how His earthly life ended. That is, until He rose again to life three days later.

Wikipedia says crucifixion was:

“Intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful, gruesome, humiliating, and public.”

In fact, the word “excruciating” comes from the Latin word meaning “to torment, crucify.” Roman politician Marcus Cicero, a contemporary of Jesus, described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.”

No, Jesus did not merely “die” an easy or passive death. Rather, He was brutally executed, suffering one of the most horrific forms of capital punishment ever invented. The question is—WHY?


Jesus did not “die for our sins” if you are thinking of it merely as an act of kindness and generosity, as in: “The church raised money to purchase a house for the immigrant family,” or: “I bought a sandwich for Charlie.”

According to, the word “for” has 32 different definitions and is one of the most versatile words in the English language. In this case however, only one of those 32 definitions fits: “in place of; instead of,” as in “A substitute teacher taught for Mr. Smith while he was on sick leave.”

No, Jesus’ execution was not merely “a lovely gesture” for mankind. It was a cruel and agonizing crucifixion suffered in place of, or instead of, someone else. The next question is—in WHOSE place was He crucified?


Jesus did not “die for our sins” if you are thinking that it was for the great mass of humanity as a whole, but has little relevance for those of us living more than 2000 years later.

The truth is that He was not executed as a substitute for “everyone,” but for “every one.” It was an intensely personal and sacrificial act for every … single … one of us, including you and me. The cross on which Jesus was crucified only had room for one person. The Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard of perfection (see Romans 3:23). If He had not been executed there, I should have been, as punishment for my own sin. It should have been you. It should have been every … single … one … of the billions who have ever lived and sinned on earth.

No, Jesus was not brutally executed instead of my family, or my group or even for humanity. It was in my place, instead of me—so that I would not have to pay the penalty my sins deserved.


Jesus did not “die for our sins if you are thinking that He was executed “instead of my sins.”

In other words, Jesus was not crucified “instead of my sins,” but rather “instead of me, because of my sins.” There is a big difference. I am a sinner, but it was not “my sins” that should have been nailed to the cross, because that would be quite painless. Rather, it should have been me. My sins disqualify me from having a relationship with God and they make me worthy of the death penalty.

If, since childhood, a shovelful of dirt was added to a pile every time you committed a sin, how big would your pile be right now? A mound? A hill? A mountain? A mountain range? The bad news is that even one shovelful is enough to disqualify you from an eternity in heaven. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The good news is that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, Son of man, and creator and sustainer of the universe, took your punishment on the cross instead of you, because of your pile of sins—no matter the size.


So, did Jesus really “die for our sins”?

Shocking Truth #1: His Death

If by those four words you understand that “Jesus Christ was brutally executed instead of me because of my sins, voluntarily paying the death penalty I deserve,” the answer is a definite and enthusiastic YES! The Apostle Paul wrote “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

Take a minute and repeat that truth several times aloud: Jesus Christ was brutally executed instead of me because of my sins, voluntarily paying the death penalty I deserve.

Shocking Truth #2: His Love

Why would He do such a thing? Because of God’s undeserved love for you and me. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Note that His life was not taken from Him by the Roman soldiers or the religious leaders—God gave His Son. And Jesus Himself said “… I lay down My life…. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord” (John 10:17-18).

Shocking Truth #3: His Gift

If you wholeheartedly embrace these truths and believe that Jesus took on Himself the judgment and death penalty that you deserve, and then rose again three days later, His gift of eternal life is being held out for you to receive. But like any gift, you must reach out and take it. It is a valuable gift that can never be earned or deserved. Simply believe and receive His gift by faith, and you will be born again and pass “from death to life” (John 5:24).

If these words express the sincere desire of your heart, you can call out to God and pray something like this: Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God, and that You were executed in my place because of my sins. I believe You paid the death penalty that I deserve, to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to Life. Father, by faith I receive the good news of Your love and Your gift of eternal life. Come reign in my heart and turn me from my self-centeredness and every part of my life that does not please You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

To learn more about God’s love for you and Jesus’ life and death in your place, a good next step would be to read or listen to the Gospel of John in the New Testament section of the Bible. (– JKH (2024)

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