Why Do We Need Penance When Jesus Died For Our Sins?

As the title asks. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Why do we have to do something to try and atone for them? Doesn’t that then insinuate that Jesus was imperfect sacrifice?

No, not at all.
For example:

When you do something that upsets your beloved greatly…do you say
“Well he/she should just KNOW that I’m sorry. Why should apologize and make amends?
Why should I try to reconcile. They should just get over it.”

People do forgive. Not as often or as completely as Christ does.
Christ doesn’t remember our sins. He lets it go. Truly.
His sacrifice was perfect.
We in turn, show our gratitude by repentance, restitution, if necessary and a firm resolve to do better. Which is what a penance is.

Jesus died to open the gates of Heaven and make reparation for the sins of the world.

We still have to repent of our personal sins & ask God for forgiveness. It is only common sense.

I was thinking about this just the other day. Could it be that Christ died for our sins committed before baptism, since they are washed away in baptism?

It certainly makes sense to me that Christ did not die so that I could sin with impunity. Just thinking that way seems horrid to me.

Would not that be a mockery of justice?

We should die as the result of our sins. YES, check in the Bible what is the wage of sin? DEATH!

Jesus died for us so that we might live and be reconciled with GOD. Does that mean that we can just forget about all the broken glass we caused?

First of all we need to be repentant “Sincerely sorry for having broken the glass” and more important “Sincerely sorry for having acted against the will of GOD”.

In the old testament sin always carried consequences. They had to pay a penalty for their sins. Make a sacrifice that was proportional to the sin committed AND correct or try to correct the wrong they had done to other people.

Jesus died for them too!
HE came and took the souls of the just that awaited their saviour in Abraham Bosom.

If GOD intended for us to be freed from having to pay penalties wouldn’t that be wholly unfair with the generations that came before Jesus?

Why would we think that we could just go on our merry way and do nothing because Jesus died for our sins!

Look at the King David. He sinned gravely against GOD by having one of his servants killed in battle in order to possess the wife. He did it an had a child with her.
The Prophet of GOD went and told him that he could not fool GOD.
David repented of the sin, the Prophet told him that GOD had forgiven him. BUT as a consequence the child would die.
Do you think that this was unfair for David? He was forgiven, but as a consequence of his sin that child would not live to comfort him in his old age. The wage of sin is death we try to push that truth aside.
Do not try to fool GOD! HE knows what we have in our hearts. And if we truly love HIM and are sorry for the sins we commit, we know we have to make it right. Mend our ways, correct or try to correct the wrongs we have done.
And be grateful that the real price of our sin was paid by HIM.

Christ’s obedience redeemed us before the Father. However, people often misunderstand the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. He didn’t suffer so we don’t have to. His suffering is a model for us of Jesus’ love and how we can confirm ourselves to God’s image.

Jesus’ sacrifice was not a substitution. God did not take out his wrath over sin on Jesus. God, if he desired, could have forgiven everything without such sacrifice. That’s not what he did.

It’s also a matter of what God wants for us and what’s best for us. A father doesn’t punish his neighbor’s kids (even though the neighbor’s kids are asking for it), he punishes his own kids (thanks Scott Hahn). This punishment isn’t anger or hate, it’s love. It’s a father disciplining his children.

Penance isn’t just a punishment, it’s discipline. It’s to better reorient ourselves to God after we transgress against him. It’s to conform ourselves better to Christ. It’s the Father’s love. This is only possible BECAUSE of Christ.

And it’s not because God or Christ has limits, but because God desires that we conduct ourselves a certain way, and it is good for us in walking that path. If we want to be co-heirs with Christ and share in his glory we must suffer with him, as Saint Paul tells us. I don’t mean to imply self-mortification, only that Paul understood that being Christian was not just intellectual belief that he is God and he died for you, but is about a life long transformation to conform yourself to Christ. Jesus came not just to die for us, but to show us how to live to please the Father. And God is a Father, and we are his children, and a good, just, and merciful Father does not just let his children run amuck.

Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect. Many just misconstrue what was being done for us.

Regarding the thread title, Why Do We Need Penance When Jesus Died For Our Sins? In reply to “Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Why do we have to do something to try and atone for them?”

The State of Sanctifying Grace means that we are in a deep serious loving relationship with our sole Creator Who is the Eternal God.

Source of information: Genesis 1: 26-27; universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, paragraphs 355-358; *CCC *1730-1732; CCC Glossary, Sanctifying Grace, page 898.

When we freely decide to destroy our own State of Sanctifying Grace, (CCC Glossary, Mortal Sin, page 889) we, by our free will, choose the State of Mortal Sin which destroys our part in our relationship with our God, Who, by the way, continues to love us. Jesus, Who is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, by His human obedience, made it possible for all humans to seek restoration of their chosen brokenness with our loving Creator.

In the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation is the means of restoring our shattered relationship with God provided we renounce our State of Mortal Sin with our sorrow and our sincere seeking God’s mercy. Within the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation, God, in loving mercy, restores the State of Sanctifying Grace which gives us a true share in the Divine life of the Trinity. (*CCC *Glossary, Sanctifying Grace, page 898) Our love for our God is solidified by our human penance and resolve to avoid Mortal Sins in the future. As the Priest absolves us, our relationship with God is restored.

Links to the Catechism


Thank you for your responses.

But what about this verse?
“The eternal sin debt was paid in full. Since it was an eternal debt, it was impossible for man to pay. But God forgave us “all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14)”

You cannot read 1 passage and build the total theology of atonement on it.

You have to also read all the rest of the Bible only then it all makes sense.

Yes Jesus has paid for all our sins however that does not mean that we don’t have to do anything. Otherwise if you take that passage to the extreme nobody can be condemned.
We read that Jesus said to those who believed in HIM but did not do the will of the Father, “Depart from me I never knew you”.

You see there that Jesus does make a distinction between those who just “believe” in Him and those that “Follow Him” by picking their respective crosses. After all the demons do “believe” in Jesus but they will not enter Heaven.

Also I would like to point out that St. Paul is telling them that yes all debt was paid for the believers reading him.
What event could have such a portentous outcome?

BAPTISM! If you read the passages he talks about the “Circumcision of Christ”

And further he tells them NOT TO SIN again.

So when you sin AFTER your baptism you need personal atonement and penance for having wounded the Body of Christ. Remember St. Paul was thrown down from his mount by Jesus on the road to Damascus where Saul was going in order to persecute Christians. And what did Jesus tell him? “Saul, Saul what do you persecute ME”

Collossian Chapter 2
20 So then, if you have died with Christ to the influences of this world, why do you still make decisions as if you were living in the world? 21 Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle these things, 22 which all lead to destruction by their very use, in accord with the precepts and doctrines of men. 23 Such ideas have at least an intention to attain to wisdom, but through superstition and debasement, not sparing the body, and they are without any honor in satiating the flesh.


Colossians 2: 9-15 is an awesome example of John 3: 16-17; Romans 5: 12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:12-22; and 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55.

When we review the context of these citations, we see Jesus restoring the broken relationship caused by the Original Sin of Adam. In a sense, Original Sin was nailed to the cross by the human obedience of the Divine Jesus. In addition, the debt which engulfed all descendants of Adam was cancelled with the Resurrection of Jesus.
[INDENT]"Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15: 54-55

[/INDENT]Following the fundamental mission of Jesus Christ, we take notice of the words all trespasses or transgressions which, because of their universal application, do not apply to individual personal sins. The truth that there are individual personal sins in addition to the contracted state of Original Sin, is often overlooked.

In Colossians 2: 13-14, “obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims” is an universal application signifying that the dead relationship between humanity and Divinity is brought to life for all, present and future.

Let’s back up a little and start with verse 11.

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Paul is quite clearly and explicitly speaking about baptism, where all our sins are forgiven, even Original Sin, that sin of Adam by which all men died and no normal man could redeem himself, and contrasting the new covenant with the old.

Please also keep in mind that in Baptism we die with Christ on the cross. Paul says it here, and it’s always been a teaching of the Church. We are baptized into Christ’s death, we ourselves die, and rise again a new and regenerated person.

You are forgiven the eternal consequences of your sin. But that doesn’t mean that the temporal consequences are gone, or that you don’t need to make amends for your sin. If I break your window, I need to apologize to you and seek your forgiveness. Hopefully you forgive me. But I ALSO need to fix your window.

This faulty understanding of forgiveness would require that any criminal who asks forgiveness be released from prison. That’s absurd. We can forgive him, but still lock him up as punishment. Same with our sins. God has forgiven them through His perfect sacrifice, but we must still work to correct the damage done by our sin.

Even King David, after he had sinned greatly, was forgiven by God through the prophet Nathan. But notice what happens. David, even after being forgiven, is still punished by God.

I think it also must be noted that Catholics don’t see scripture as being our only revelation. The traditions passed on by the apostles are just as infallible, and it’s clear that the Church from its very earliest days gave penances (very harsh penances). Penances is a very Christian concept.

This doesn’t contradict scripture, which is infallible, and we can certainly find the basis for many things in scripture, but the Church predates the new testament writings and the establishment of any canon (which we really only decided on to determine what to read during the mass). We did not evolve from a book, we practice the religion handed down by Christ and his apostles. Scripture is wonderful, but it’s not the be all, end all of being a Christian.

Please, please don’t take this as me dismissing scripture. I think we addressed your concern above, and can do so on scripture alone. But we have more than that.

After Jesus rose from the dead He gave the apostles the power to forgive or retain sins. Was it because His sacrifice was perfect, but more was required from us?

The reason Jesus gave the Catholic Church the power of forgiving mortal sins through the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation is because within that sacred Sacrament, Jesus restores the State of Sanctifying Grace in the sinner.

I’m wondering if Protestants have ever seen this verse Colossians 1:24

For some background
*]Paul was being guided by the Holy Spirit to say that. John 14:25-26
*]Which means it came from Jesus John 16:12-15
*]Jesus not only says what the Father wants Him to say but He says it exactly how the Father wants Him to say it John 12:49
[/LIST]So when Jesus said to His apostles

Jn 20:
21 “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Why is Jesus doing that If Jesus has forgiven all our sins already?

Because Jesus commanded us to.

Luke 9:23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

Penance is given for the betterment of oneself. Many times it is an wonderful opportunity for self-reflection, contemplation, and prayer. Why would one not want to do penance for all the sins one commits? Afraid of the little bit of effort?

Saying “why do we need penance?” is yet another example of evangelical Protestants to trivialize the importance of anything that may not directly be necessary for salvation. The whole “I don’t have to do anything except believe in God” mindset. You know, along the same lines as “why do you ask the saints to pray for you? It doesn’t save you.” I don’t understand their insistence on minimalism.

Colossians 3:22-24:

“22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters* in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.[j] 23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,[k] 24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve[l] the Lord Christ.”*

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