Question:I am a Christian visiting my Muslim family in Pakistan. My sister, who is a Muslim has asked me a question that I'm not sure of the best way to answer and I was wondering what you would say.
The question is: If Jesus was crucified to pay for our sins, who was the payment made to? In other words, if Jesus is God, did He pay Himself with the sacrifice of His death for us? She says it's not logical that He would pay Himself, and if the payment went to the Father, then she says that we believe in three gods.
I think I know the answer, but I'm not sure how to best explain it to her.
What would you tell her?
Christians believe in only one God, who is made up of three beings.
Jesus died on the cross because of justice. Sin carries a penalty of death (Romans 6:23). It would not be just to arbitrarily remove that penalty. Instead, the Son of God offerred himself as payment for sin's penalty. "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:6-9). Notice the phrase: "justified by his blood." The concept of justice was maintained, God remained true to His nature, and yet Jesus pure sacrifice allowed God to offer salvation to people from sin without violating the concept of justice. See "The Judge of All the Earth" for more about the concept of justice.
The idea of redemption comes from the days of warfare when soldiers were held captive by the enemy, or when a family went into debt and had to sell itself to cover the debt. Relatives were expected to buy or redeem a person back. This concept is extended to Jesus, who through his death redeemed us from sin. We were slaves to sin, but we have been bought back by Jesus, "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). See "The Living Redeemer" for more details. The redemption or salvation was from sin, not from God.