“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”Romans 3:23-24
Many believe that salvation is a matter of canceling out a giant set of scales in the sky. We know we’ve been bad, but if we can just do enough good, then maybe the scales will balance out and God will accept us. Yet as we work to obey the law and even out that scale, we come to realize the scale is so weighed down with our sin that it’s like trying to balance out Mount Sinai with a tiny grain of sand.
In fact, this exercise in futility shows us that the problem is deeper than we first realized. The problem isn’t only that we’re more sinful than good. The law shows us we’re sinners by nature. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). But God made a way both to satisfy His justice and mercifully declare us righteous. God’s justice and God’s mercy meet in Christ. It’s the great exchange! Christ took our sins upon Himself and was punished in our place. In return, we’re declared righteous by faith in Jesus. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (see Romans 3:22).
“By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins; we get His holiness.” (Martin Luther, 1535)