Is being ‘good’, good enough for God?
Many people think that God will reward them just for doing ‘good works’ in their lifetime and that, if their good deeds outweigh the bad, when they die they will ‘go to Heaven’.
But what does the Bible actually say about this?
Good enough for what?
Let’s start with the ‘going to Heaven’ bit…
The New Testament makes numerous references to ‘the kingdom of God’. In fact, the Gospel message can be summed up as something like: ‘the things of the kingdom of God and the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ’. Here are some examples from the book of Acts:
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptised.” [Acts 8:12]
“And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” [Acts 19:8]
“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” [Acts 28:30]
Earlier in the book of Acts we are told that when the risen Lord Jesus appeared to the apostles he spoke to them of ‘the things pertaining to the kingdom of God’. When they asked him:
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1:6]
“It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” [Acts 1:7]
“…Now when he had spoken these things, while they watched, he was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:9-11]
So, there will be a future kingdom on Earth (centred on Israel) and ruled by Jesus when he returns. This glorious kingdom age will be a time of praise and honour – a place in this kingdom is the reward to be sought by believers.
By God’s Grace…
Returning to the ‘good works’ question:
Salvation based on good deeds alone is not what God wants – that would fuel our natural tendency to pride.
We all suffer from the human condition of sin and death inherited from Adam and Eve. But God has freely provided to each of us a means of salvation through our faith and the life, death and resurrection of His beloved Son, Jesus:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 6:23]
“That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” [1 Peter 1:7]
So we are being offered the wonderful hope of being raised to eternal life and a place in God’s kingdom when Jesus returns, as God has promised he will. This amazing gift is because God is loving and merciful and He wants to reward those “who diligently seek Him” – the Bible uses the word ‘grace’ (meaning ‘unmerited favour’):
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:4-10]
How should we respond?
If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God then the Bible is clear that we need to associate ourselves with him by being baptised and then attempting to follow his perfect example throughout our lives. We will always fall short but, through repentance – a genuine regret for our wrong-doings – we will be forgiven.
“He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” [Mark 16:16]
To demonstrate the fundamental importance of baptism, the following passage from the book of Acts shows how Cornelius the centurion was baptised by Peter, even though he had just received Holy Spirit gifts and is described as already being a God-fearing man who always prayed and was full of good works:
“…Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.”Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him…
…Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord.” [Acts 10:22-48]
We are not saved by our actions but by our faith.
Even though we all fall short of the perfect example set by Jesus, God wants to reward anyone who genuinely seeks Him. By His love and grace we are all offered the amazing gift of eternal life and a place in His kingdom to come, when Jesus returns.
This wonderful hope has only been made possible through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.