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Questions & Answers > General concepts > What's the place of the cross, if Jesus' teachings are THE way to enter the Kingdom?

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Question:  If following Jesus' Teachings is THE way to enter into the Kingdom of God, then doesn't this significantly downplay the role of Jesus dying on the cross?  Does the cross still have a place?  Did Jesus really need to die if all we need to do is follow his teachings?  (Nina)

Graham answers:  A very good question, and a lot of people puzzle over this.  Keeping Jesus' teachings is indeed the requirement Jesus said was necessary (eg Jn 8:51, Lk 10:25-28, Jn 12:47-50).  (The short summary of his teachings is loving God with all my heart and everything I've got, and loving my neighbour as myself.)  However, doing this would never by itself make me fit to stand in God's presence.  There would still be the major problem of all the sins I'd committed in the past, and the problem of all the sins I still commit despite doing my best to follow Jesus' teachings and the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus' sacrifice on the cross provides forgiveness for. Jesus requires my best effort, but he doesn't expect faultless perfection which would be impossible for me.  The cross covers the (substantial) gap between the two.

There is a similar setup in God's covenant with Israel (the Law):  the Israelites have to keep the Law's commandments wholeheartedly in order to gain the blessings of that covenant, but God knew they would never be able to do them all perfectly and so provided a mechanism to deal with that -- in that covenant, animal sacrifices for small-medium sins, or the person's own life for major sins like murder and adultery.  In that covenant too, he required their best effort, not faultless perfection.  God doesn't ask people to do things which are impossible for them.  
I see it this way:  the cross opens the door to the Kingdom, and Jesus' teachings tell me how to enter through it.  The cross makes it possible for anyone to enter, as without the cross no-one could enter at all.  But it's my response and obedience to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit say that determines whether I personally will enter.
If you like modern day analogies, it's like someone saying to me, "If you go to the airport by a certain time, I will give you a free ticket to Hawaii."  It's up to me to go to the airport (ie keep Jesus' teachings as best I can -- though even there the Holy Spirit helps and guides), but then the rest of the trip is covered (ie forgiveness of sins).