It is sometimes asked whether God couldn’t have just forgiven mankind by a direct miracle following the Fall. Whether He couldn’t have simply declared that man was saved and foregone the Cross. I’ve heard many people, including priests and writers I respect, saying that He could have, but chose the Cross for other reasons.
With due humility and under correction, I don’t think He could have.
It all hinges on the fact that God is Truth; He can neither deceive nor be deceived, and He cannot say that something is when it in fact is not. He also, by a staggering condescension, allows His creatures to participate in creating and shaping the world that He has made; what we call ‘free will’: the power to actually do this or this according to our own discretion.
Put them together, and God cannot say that someone has not done something that he in fact has. Nor that what he has done does not have the character that it in fact has. God isn’t like us, where we think we can just slap a label on a thing – e.g. ‘marriage’ or ‘free citizen’ – and that will change its nature. It is what it is, and He can’t call it otherwise. Before His throne, all weasel words and evasion ceases and a spade is a spade.
Once mankind had sinned and rebelled against Him, therefore, it would not have been possible for Him to simply say that this was not so. Man in fact owed a debt of obedience to Him that was in fact not paid. The act of rebellion had been done and no equivalent act of restitution had been made.
Something to get clear is that God deals in reality, not in hypotheses. He may know what someone would do under a given circumstance, but what they would do doesn’t mean anything to Him; only what they actually do do. We should be very grateful for that, given that if God judged us by what we would have done under all conceivable circumstances we’d all be in big trouble.
Anyway, the point is that the debt created by Adam’s sin had not, in fact, been paid. And part of the problem, of course, is that it would need to be paid by someone in an equal or higher state of authority than Adam (because even if Joe Doakes somehow makes a perfect restitution for his own sins, that means nothing if it can’t be applied to me). Adam’s fall affects all mankind because Adam is the head of the human family.
Hence the coming of Christ and the Cross: the necessity to actually pay the actual debt of mankind. Hence too the necessity of being in Christ – being subject to Him – to benefit from it. Again, it is not an arbitrary exclusion but a matter of honesty; are you, in fact, under Christ’s rule? Are you in fact one of His members, His subjects, His people? Do you in fact follow Him?
Again, it all comes down to the fact that there is no ambiguity or quibbling with God; the thing is either so or it is not. At the end of the day, we will have to face reality as it is, whether or not that is how we would like it to be. After all, that’s exactly what He did when faced with the need for a real man in real authority to make a real act of restitution for the sins of mankind.