We have been asking What is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? (207) We have already seen that there is no salvation for those who don't need it. That is not to say that there are any who do not need salvation, but there are vast multitudes who do not think they need it. In some ways God deals with us according to our own beliefs. If we don't believe we have sinned sufficiently to need salvation, He refuses to save us. However, whatever we believe, we will face the extensive evaluation of His judgment because Jesus said that we would give account for every idle word that has come out of our mouths. If we realize that He said every and meant every, we just might begin to realize how desperately we need to be saved. There is an eternal penalty for every word that does not conform to perfect righteousness. The backdrop of the Gospel of salvation is two-fold: the reality of our sin; and the reality of God's demand for our sinlessness. Many people, being deceived by the fact that the Gospel offers us an escape from the penalty of sin, think that God does not require perfection of those whom He allows to enter His Heaven. But He does. And if we do not come to that perfection, we will perish forever.
How can this be? How can those who have sinned ever be accounted as perfect by God, Who knows they have sinned? The answer is in the Gospel. In the Gospel we are told that there is such a thing as the great transaction; a decision by God to grant a decree of perfection to those who depend completely upon the death of the Son of God to make them right with God. This is called the doctrine of justification. Justification is the teaching of the Scriptures by which men come to understand that they must be perfect in the eyes of God and the only way they can be is if they are totally united with the perfection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus did not come primarily to give us an example of how to live; though He did set such an example. Jesus did not come to show us how to realize our potential; He knew that apart from Him we had no potential. Jesus did not come to be a baby to be oohed and ahhed over in the typical lack of realism of most of our Christmas cards. He came to die. He came to become sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares this great transaction. Jesus takes our sin and we get His righteousness. Since His righteousness is perfect, those who receive it, receive the perfection that God demands.
The kicker in this whole issue is how this transaction takes place. That it can take place is clear. How it takes place is where most of the debate rages. Most people honestly do not know. Jesus said that the narrow gate on the narrow way was not easy to find. The tragedy these days is that most people not only do not know; they don't know they don't know. Sad fact, made more so by the clarity of revelation in the Bible.