What did the suffering part of Christ's Passion accomplish?

Hello everyone,

Christ’s death on the cross obtained the possibility of our salvation but what did his suffering on the way to His death accomplish? Why did God allow Jesus to suffer more than He had to to make our salvation possible?

  • FG

We don’t have the full answer to this. What we know is that Christ suffered to make atonement for all the sins committed up to his time and for all those all human beings would commit in the future. That’s a whole lot of sin; hence, he took on more suffering than any human being could ever do. He is the sacrificial “lamb of God” whose atonement was perfect for all time.

Proof, for one thing, of exactly what He’d be willing to endure to prove His love for us. Jesus even foresaw His torture in the Garden of Agony, sweating blood over it, asking to have that cup removed for Him if possible-and yet resolved to willingly endure it. That love is what desires to save us-that love is what does save us-and that love is what we respond to as God reveals His true nature to us through Christ. That was God hanging on the cross.

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Adam and Eve suffered in Genesis due to sin. Jesus was sinless. His suffering is of great worth b/c he was sinless. He suffered willingly (he chose it). He did it for us out of love b/c it was in his Father’s plan to redeem us. It was also promised to us by God, so God fulfilled the promise he made through Israel via Jesus’s suffering/death.

When I use the word “redeem”, I mean that God brings us back to himself and away from evil.

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Suffering can be understood as an encounter with nonbeing. We have things including our lives, and they can be taken from us. We have honour and meet disgrace. Are loved, and rejected. We meet pleasure and happiness, and encounter pain and sadness. We are amongst friends and can be terribly alone. Jesus took on all the suffering that one man can experience, which is actually all the suffering in the world since it is not additive, each of us a person sharing our individual selves. Becoming every negation of being, He died and through His resurrection as one of us, as the True Vine, He brought us to salvation, a new life in Him.

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We have to suffer something for Christ - as Christians.
We cant live on earth in all comfort - and then expect to die and go to Heaven’s comfort.

Christ showed us - the way.
If there was an ‘easier’ way - he would of certainly had showed us.
There’s not.

We have to pick up our cross - and go along the straight and narrow -


But wasn’t His death alone enough for atonement? I always thought this was the teaching. If not, then couldn’t He theoretically have suffered a certain amount more than He did to make atonement for our sins without having to die in the process because His suffering would have been enough?

Thanks for your reply! :slight_smile:

Hi fhansen,

I understand the proof of love argument and I can see how there were other positive temporal consequences due to His suffering (such as greater faith among followers due to the lengths He went to) but if His death was enough for our salvation, then why would God allow Him to suffer even an atom more than He had to atone for our sins? That’s what I don’t get.


Salvation is not primarily about changing God’s attitude and position towards us, but mainly about changing our position towards Him. He already loves us-always has. We’re saved by coming to know Him, who He truly is, humankind having first, at the Fall, “conceived a distorted image of God” as the catechism teaches.

"Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3

Jesus came to reveal the true nature and will of God when the time was ripe in human history. In our personal histories we don’t perceive that light readily-we’re not sure we even want to. But we must possess this knowledge so that as needed we can navigate to this true God, and our hero can become the tortured God hanging on a cross. There’s just something very different about that God. We won’t find Him anywhere else, certainly not among the world’s conventional heroes and superstars. Love doesn’t demand; it beckons. And allows us to live without it if we choose, or, alternatively, to participate in it. But we must know of this radical love; we must know Him.

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@FortressGiant It seems you take an overly historical interpretation of Christ’s Redemptive Work. In the authentically Catholic view, it isn’t so much Christ’s historical suffering that redeems your sins now, but rather it is your act now of joining your suffering with His that redeems. In other words, Christ’s Work on the Cross is redemptive because it makes that possible. (The idea that Christ’s historic suffering in itself redeems your sins, is protestant, though by now many Catholics have been “infected” with this line of thought, even though it obviously contradicts other RCC teachings.)

I point this out because it invalidates your question. Christ’s suffering is not a compensation for our sins that is somehow “quantitatively” sufficient – that again would be protestant thinking – and about which we may wonder (as you seem to do) whether it could have been a little less or a little more. Christ’s suffering is a historical event and work that had to happen in order for you to be able to join your suffering to His now. (But I repeat myself.)

Very beautifully put. I still don’t understand the theological/philosophical reasoning behind why God would allow His only Son to suffer more than He had to though. Perhaps there is no exact answer any of us can understand or find, at least in this life. What is clear is God’s love and the sacrifice He was willing to bear for us and that is what matters most. As with many of these types of things, the exact details are part of the mystery and cannot be logically deduced by our simple minds. However, that shouldn’t stop us from trying to understand and know God and the world He has made better. I’ll have to give more thought to what you said, I feel like I might have some misconceptions about the Catholic view on salvation history or perhaps you have given me the answer I was looking for and missed it. Thanks! :monkey_face:


He suffered, not more than He had to, but precisely as much as He had to. "Consumatum est’ - It is consumated/finished indicates that His mission was accomplished in full. We cannot separate any part of the passion out, as it is a singular event - a seamless garment of salvation, as was His cloak, and as is scripture. It had to result in death as atonement for our sins - for every sin ever committed or that would ever be committed.

God is an enigma, a mystery, - being ineffable, immutable and infinite in His mercy and love.

Yet, we are parts of Christ’s mystical Body on earth. Actual, living, breathing parts. We all suffer and for this reason, we are able to add to the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church. (Colossians 1:24)

Ever hear “Officer it up”? We have the possibility, even the requirement to offer our suffering for the sake of others. We are then most Christ-like and participate in His saving and redemptive mission.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen often lamented “wasted suffering” - that which was simply absorbed or tolerated and which was not offered to God for the sake of others.


He chose to take on the full suffering that we would have (ie separation from God in hell) had he not died for us. So his suffering would have been our suffering. when you look at how bad it is, makes us more grateful to be saved!

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Hi Roguish,

Just to clarify I thought that Christ’s death, not His suffering, was the only thing that redeemed us. I may be wrong but I personally haven’t seen an official teaching to the contrary and I feel like I’ve read this before (although memory is imperfect). Because I thought Christ’s death alone was enough and would have been enough even without the suffering He went through, I was confused by why He was allowed to suffer so much then. The answers you have all been posting have been helpful in reshaping the way I view and understand all of this.

In regard to the “quantity” involved, I would think that everything has a quantitative aspect although not always in the mathematical sense we are used to. For example, Good Deed A can be greater in God’s eyes than Good Deed B so the quantity of goodness would be greater in Good Deed A. Since our sins, as horrible as they are, each have a certain quantity of badness tied to them, then all of these summed together would have had to be made up by Christ in order to have all of the sins be redeemed. I figured that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was of infinite “value” all on its own and so therefore would be more than enough to cover all of our sins, hence invalidating the need for His suffering.

I am now very confused about all of this but nothing that’s worth it is easy to understand. Did Christ’s death alone, His suffering alone, or both together accomplish our salvation and where is the official teaching on this? Also, when it comes to us joining our suffering to His, this doesn’t make sense to me either because there are baptized babies that die and go to Heaven without ever knowing about Christ, let alone choosing to join their suffering with His.



Hi po18guy,

You made some good points. I don’t understand why Christ would have to suffer if His death was enough for our salvation. If I am incorrect and His death wasn’t enough, then why wasn’t His suffering enough? I’m just having a hard time putting all of this together in my head. Your first sentence makes a lot of sense to me, that He didn’t suffer more than He had to but precisely as much as He had to, but if His mission was accomplished in full at that time why did He have to die? Or was He indicating that it would be accomplished with His death which would follow shortly after He said this?


Our Blessed Lord could have saved us in any which way. He chose to willingly suffer so that we could suffer with Him. Suffering for someone and with someone is the greatest act of love; it creates a most radical and intimate solidarity. Our Lord chose to suffer to infinitely magnify love!

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Adam died (became mortal) out of disobedience to God such that he might become a god on his own.

Jesus died out of obedience to God’s will such that men might become partakes of the divine nature according to God’s will, and he conquered the death that was the result of Adam’s disobedience.

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Bear with me a bit. He atoned for all sins that had ever occurred and would ever occur. That atonement opened the gates of heaven. That, in no way, guarantees us heaven. We have to persevere to the end in faith, performing works of charity, for we will be known by our charity and judged according to our works.

Now, as to suffering, our suffering may be added to that of Christ, since we are, in the mystical sense, actual parts of His Body - that is why the Eucharist nourishes us - it nourishes His Body so that His mission continues unto the end of the age. For this same reason, the Eucharist does not spiritually nourish animals, but only we who are made in the image and likeness of God and have been incorporated into Christ’s Body.

Even though he opened the gates of heaven, His mission continues, and we are grafted into His Body. This is the gap, the chasm which must be understood. We are continuing His mission of suffering and redemption in each generation. Thus, just as He suffered for the sake of His Church, so can we also suffer for the sake of His Church.

A popular but erroneous view is that He is in heaven and we are in His waiting room here. Partially true, but we must act to build the Church. In that building up, in that mission, we will suffer.

Just as Christ offered His suffering to the Father for our sake we, being incorporated (corpus = body) into both His Body and His mission, can offer our suffering to the Father for the sake of others - the Church. God knows who will be saved and who will not. For that reason, we must assume that all have the potential to be saved.

Therefore, offering our suffering for the conversion of sinners is part of that “eventual” Church - the Church which does not yet exist, but is being built by our faith and perseverance in our mission. Salvation is on-going in each age, and while the gates of heaven are open, no one carries us through them. God’s grace gets us there, but we must cooperate with that grace in the building up of God’s Church.

"“Offer it up”

Darned auto-correct!

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to fulfill the prophecies, to fulfill the will of the Father, to demonstrate the great love of God for humanity

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