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The Two Transactions at the Cross

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
–Romans 4:5

The Bible tells us that there were two amazing transactions that took place when we trusted in Christ as our Savior.

In the first transaction, God gave Christ our sin. In other words, Jesus assumed the obligation for our sin when He died on the cross. Jesus didn’t become a sinner, but He took responsibility for our sin. Some years ago, the movie “The Last Emperor” told the story of a young emperor in China. In one scene, the emperor’s brother approached him and asked, “What happens when you do wrong?” The young emperor said, “When the emperor does wrong, one of his servants suffers.” To illustrate he took a vase and smashed it on the floor, and then he ordered that one of his slaves be beaten. Philip Yancey says Jesus reversed that formula. When one of the king’s servants does wrong, it is the King of kings who suffers. And that is exactly what happened when Christ died on the cross. He took our sin. He took the punishment we deserve.

There is a second transaction that took place when we became Christians. God gave us Christ’s righteousness. Not only did He take our sin and place it on Jesus Christ, but He took Christ’s righteousness and credited us for that. Paul explained that transaction in Romans 4:5. He said, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” The moment you trusted in Christ as your Savior, He not only took your sin and placed it on Jesus, but He took Jesus’s righteousness and credited it to you. In the great accounting room of heaven, your faith was exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.

There is only one way for you to secure a home in heaven. If you apply for your home in heaven based on your righteousness, then you won’t have enough, because God demands absolute perfection. You don’t have enough. I don’t have enough. Now, you may have more righteousness in your spiritual bank account than I do. But guess what? It doesn’t make any difference, because none of us has enough. All of us “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That’s the bad news. The good news is that God says, “I have more than enough righteousness to make up for your deficit.” When you trusted in Christ as your Savior, God took all the perfection of Jesus Christ, and placed it in your spiritual bank account. Your entrance into your heavenly home is based not on your righteousness but on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That’s what grace is. When God forgave us, He gave us what we don’t deserve–eternal life. That is why Christians ought to be better at forgiving than non-Christians.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Basis for All Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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