Why Do We Need a Sacrifice? Can't Allah Just Forgive?
Although we say “Allah is almighty and can do anything,” there are some things the Most High cannot do.
Imagine a just policeman who is being bribed. Suppose he says, “Accepting your money would be against the law. I cannot do it.” By that he does not mean he is physically unable to accept the money. He would only need to stick out his hand.
Though obviously much greater, Allah ta'ala is like a good policeman. He cannot sin because he will not sin. If Allah did wrong, he would cease being good. Likewise, if the Most High were to let sin go unpunished, he would violate his integrity. Therefore, because Allah is righteous, he always requires justice.
Suppose a brutal, murderous dictator is arrested and tried. And suppose the judge, after hearing all the arguments, rules like this: “The evidence proves that this man has done many terrible things. He has murdered our fellow citizens and even some of our own relatives. But I'm in a good mood today, so I'm going to set him free. He may return to his position. Hopefully he will not murder again. But if he does, oh well. C'est la vie. That's life.”
If we lived in such a place, we would feel insulted, angry, and treated unjustly. We would consider the judge to be as evil as the dictator. Allah feels about our sins like we would about the dictator's. The Creator cannot simply ignore wrong or forgive what we've done.
On the other hand, suppose that we ourselves stand before a righteous judge. And suppose he says to us: “In my courtroom, not only are murderers found guilty, those who want to murder are also guilty. Not only are thieves condemned, so are those who covet the possessions of others. Not only are convicted liars sentenced, so are all those who have lied about anything. Not only are ….” In such a courtroom, none of us would be set free.
So it is with Allah. Even though he is almighty, his holiness requires that he cannot simply forgive us, no matter how small our sins might seem. A pardon for sin might appear to be the nice thing to do, but to the Most High it is plainly wrong, letting evil go unpunished. Allah can forgive us only because the price for our wrong has been paid. How? Because justice has been served by the sacrifice of Isa al-Masih, the unblemished lamb of Allah, who poured out his blood to pay for all our sins (John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:18-19). For as we saw in the discussion about Isa's death:
… he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5, 6, NIV)