Jesus, when He died on the cross, said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the Greek language this can also mean “paid in full.” The question then arises: Did Jesus really do enough to pay for sin? In Galatians 2:21, it says that if righteousness came through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Grace and works as a way of salvation is like oil and water: they do not mix (Romans 11:6). But there are those who would minimize Christ’s work and feel they need to add something to it. The question we then need to ask is: What is the requirement? And if Christ did not pay it all, what is left? Now God’s standard is absolute perfection (Matthew 5:48; James 2:10; 4:17). He says that the one who continues angry with another or calls him names is guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22). He says that the one who takes a long look at a woman to desire her is guilty of adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). He demands total honesty with no attempts at equivocation (Matthew 5:33-37). He says that anything we do for the purpose of impressing other people rather than pleasing God is worthless (Matthew 6:1-18). He says that if we live our life ruled by the desire to make money, we cannot serve God (Matthew 6:19-24).
As a result, God concludes that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), that none of us do good (Romans 3:10-18), that our hearts are deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9), and that even our righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, Scripture portrays us as helpless (Romans 5:6-8) and dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:13). In this condition, does it make any sense that we can do something in order to earn our salvation? But Christ came to pay the penalty we deserve for our disobedience to God (Colossians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24,25; Ephesians 1:7) so that He could offer salvation as a free gift (Romans 3:240; 5:16,17) to those who have faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Acts 16:31).
Does this mean that, being saved by grace, we can just go out and sin? No; while we cannot obtain salvation by our good works (Titus 3:4-7), putting genuine faith in Christ results in good works (Titus 2:12; James 2:20; 2 Corinthians 3:18). But we cannot use them to earn our salvation. And Christ, by His death on the cross, paid the penalty for sin so that the consequences of the sin that entered the world through Adam’s fall (Romans 5:12-14) can be undone by the cross of Christ (Romans 5:15-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22) for those who have faith in Christ, that they may have access to the tree of life (Revelation 2:7). Christ, in His death on the cross, offers a new kind of righteousness to those who have faith in Him (Romans 3:21-28), leaving no place for boasting (Romans 3:27; 4:2; Ephesians 2:8,9).