Is perfection actually possible?

Will Robinson

Most people understand that doing evil can keep us out of heaven. But few realize that the Bible also teaches that doing good cannot get us in. None of us could ever gain enough merit to deserve heaven. We are sinful, and God’s standard is total perfection. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). He added, “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Then who can be saved?The disciples asked Jesus this same question (Matthew 19:25). His answer? “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26). In other words, our salvation is not something we can accomplish. It is something God must do for us.

What if we are morally good? Will we go to Heaven? Not if we have failed to accept salvation through Jesus Christ. Sinners, even so-called morally good people, are hopelessly in bondage to sin and could not cease sinning no matter how hard they tried. Scripture says even our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, we are sinful to the core. Furthermore, a single sin would be enough to destroy us forever: “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). But even if we never sinned from day one, we were born sinners (Psalm 51:5) and we still bear the guilt of our sinful nature. And “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Is there any way to be free from the guilt of sin?The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus . . . cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).When God forgives, He doesn’t merely overlook sin but makes full atonement for those who trust Him. His dying counts in our stead if we believe. However, we still need perfect righteousness in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).

Where do we get that perfect righteousness?The full merit of Jesus’ righteousness is imputed, or credited, to those who trust Him alone for salvation. Scripture teaches that God “justifies the ungodly” by reckoning Christ’s righteousness to them (Romans 4:5). They are clothed in His righteousness, and God accepts believers solely and exclusively on that basis. That’s why Paul was willing to discard all his own efforts to earn God’s favor, preferring instead to stand before God robed in a righteousness that was not his own (Philippians 3:8-9). If you are not a Christian, accept this truth by faith. He tenderly offers us life, forgiveness and eternal rest. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Without Him, none of us are good enough to merit Heaven.

How can I be sure Jesus will save me? No one will be turned away: “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). All are invited: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

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