What if Jesus really paid the penalty for every sin of humanity by His sacrifice on the cross? Why is it we're still warned of eternal punishment? What if all that was necessary for salvation from such a horrible future was faith alone? Why all the hub bub about repenting & seeking forgiveness for sins? Why wouldn't faith in Jesus' work on the cross be enough to save us despite our current sins? Could we even call sins "sins" anymore if Jesus effectively drained every single one of them of their power to condemn us? What if everyone's sin was absolutely, completely forgiven on the cross? Why bother with the Christian life at all if we're already saved from the penalty of eternal condemnation?
Some have said we live for God for the love of God, but this explanation seems far fetched to me. What human has the capacity to trust & love God so perfectly (aside from maybe a newborn babe untouched by the traumas of life)? Why do we really choose to submit ourselves to God & attempt to live Holy lives? Why are we still concerned about sin? Are we still trying to atone for it? Could it be that sin, though forgiven, still merits some kind of punishment? Did Jesus take the punishment or the wages of sin from us? Aren't they the same?
One verse says the wages of sin is death & the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. But why does 1 John 5:16 talk about the contrast between sin that doesn't lead to death & sin that does? If death is not always the end result of sin, then sin must have some other outcome. I submit that it might come in the form of disciplinary punishment. But doesn't God's grace release us from the punishment of sin? Again, I ask, why couldn't disciplinary punishment be God's grace & gift of life to us in lieu of death?
For a criminal offender, there is condemnation (life sentence, death penalty) and there is punishment (community service, fines and/or other reparations). The one has no hope of parole. The other is free, but that freedom has strict guidelines. In a sense, that one is a slave to the system. If we Christians are free, could it be said then that we're also slaves to God's system of Salvation? That is, are we, like Paul, bond servants & slaves to Christ because He set us free from a life sentence of death? What if we violate God's system by sin? What would happen to someone in our legal system? Well, honestly, maybe nothing. They'd have to get caught first. But if justice was served, they might face punishment via jail time. Under extreme circumstances, they might get slapped with the sentence they originally deserved, or they might be able to make a deal with their parole officer in exchange for repentance. Based on God's character, I think He opts to let us repent. He seems to prefer discipline first rather than the sentence of death we actually deserve. I think of King David when he slept with Bathsheba & had her husband killed; David should have died for this, but his punishment was the loss of the son born from that union. God is not unjust, but disciplines those He loves. He's not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. (See Hebrews 12:4-17, 2 Peter 3:9)