It seems to me that Paul says Christ had to die on the cross for our sins. He, Jesus, was given over to die for us.
We cannot believe that Paul meant his statements about Jesus’ death in the way they are commonly interpreted. In Romans 6 Paul explained clearly his position on Christ’s death, that the important death was Jesus’ own death to sin, a death which every follower of His must copy. “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts”‘ (Rom. 6:10-12).
Christ died to His own will and every believer must likewise “reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.” Jesus’ death to His own will included His death on the Roman cross; this was His final act of obedience. But the giving up of His physical life benefited us in no way except as an example of a total surrender. The apostle Peter makes this very point: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). And this verse is in a passage which deals directly with the believer’s own responsibilities in taking suffering with the right spirit, following the flawless example of Christ. Christ’s was not a death in our stead but in our behalf, to show us the way to the same total surrender of ourselves. His death in no way relieved us from any responsibility for our own record before God. The important death which Jesus died is a death which every believer must copy. “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:11-12).
God wants our total obedience, just as much as He demanded the obedience of His Son. And obedience is an individual matter. Nothing Christ did can remove the stains from our record. We ourselves must remove them by doing right. The prophet Isaiah stated God’s formula clearly, that we must “Cease to do evil, Learn to do good” then, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient” (Isa. 1:16-19).
There is no easy, painless way to follow Christ in His death.