Not Good Enough
FEAR OF ETERNAL suffering in hell and hope for everlasting bliss in heaven lead many to strive in doing good works. The belief runs that as long as people perform good works such as acts of charity, being kind and compassionate to one’s fellowman, and lead a righteous way and means of living, they can already please God and hope to be saved regardless of the church or religion they belong to.
But is it correct to think that doing good works is enough for one to be saved? To answer this, we must consult the final authority on what is good—the Bible.
Man’s inability to do good
Can man by himself do what is good? Apostle Paul enlightens us on this regard:
“I know that good does not live in me--that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it.” (Rom. 7:18, Today’s English Version)
Speaking not only for himself but for all mankind, apostle Paul said that he could only desire to do good yet wasn’t able to do it. He explained why:
“My inner being delights in the law of God. But I see a different law at work in my body--a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body.” (Rom. 7:22-23, Ibid.)
Since Adam, man has rejected the law of God in various ways. He let the law of sin reign over him. Man is, by nature, weak and as such, he has easily been enslaved by sin. Not even those whom society considers as righteous are free from this imprisonment. The Bible attests:
“Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Eccl. 7:20, New International Version)
No matter how careful a man may be with his thoughts, words, and actions, in one way or the other, he still falls into blunders, temptations, and even neglects to think, say or do what is lawful.
Hence, he sins (I Jn. 3:4). A man may be righteous by human standards but not before God. All men, except our Lord Jesus Christ, have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectation (Rom. 5:12; I Pt. 2:21-22). Thus, the whole world of sinners cannot avoid God’s justice:
“Now we know that everything in the Law applies to those who live under the Law, in order to stop all human excuses and bring the whole world under God's judgment.” (Rom. 3:19, TEV)
God’s decree is to destroy all ungodly men by fire on the day of Judgment (II Pt. 3:7, 10). Man’s goodness and good works which he has done by himself cannot be used as justification or basis for his salvation. Otherwise, it would be as though God is indebted to him:
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Rom. 4:4, New King James Version)
Salvation is by grace and not as payment for debt. God does not owe any man his salvation just because man has done good works. Quite the reverse, it is man who owes God because, however upright he may be, man still has sins which he must pay through death (Rom. 6:23). He will be punished in the lake of fire called the Second Death (Rev. 20:14).
The work pleasing to God
This must not lead us, however, to think that we had better do away with goodness and instead set our eyes on evil. The good works that man does by himself have some value, but the Bible mentions of good works that have great value before God:
“that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10, NKJV)
Apostle Paul tells us that there is a way by which we can be fruitful in every good work, that we “…may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him.” But how can we do such good work when we are by nature weak and sinful? Apostle Paul shed light on this, too, as he taught the first Christians to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philip. 1:11, NIV)
The good works that bring glory to God are the fruits of righteousness which can be done only through our Lord Jesus Christ. These are not the works conceived according to man’s design, but “good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us” (Eph. 2:10, Amplified Bible; Titus 3:5).
How can man be fruitful in every good work through our Lord Jesus Christ? Christ Himself explains:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:4-5, NKJV)
Just as a branch separated from the vine cannot bear fruit, neither can a person apart from Christ do righteousness in God’s sight. Therefore, one has to be connected to Christ as His branch for his works to be accepted and made worthy.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (Jn. 15:16, Ibid.)
But, merely believing or having faith in Jesus and accepting Him as Lord and personal Savior is not enough for one to belong to Christ. One has to be chosen or appointed by Christ to become His branch.
The “branches” of Christ whom He chose or appointed to serve the Father those called into the one body, the Church (II Thes. 2:14; Col. 3:15; 1:18). As Christ is the vine or in the illustration of Apostle Paul, the head of the body, His chosen ones—the branches—are the members of the Church of Christ (I Cor. 12:27; Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)
To have a true personal relationship with Christ is to join His Church. The Apostles further illustrate Christ’s inseparable relationship with the true Church:
“Because we are members (parts) of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning [the relation of] Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:30-32, Amplified Bible)
Only in the Church of Christ
Our good works are acceptable to God only when we are in the Church of Christ. Our good works or obedience to the commandments of God will result in our sanctification (Rom. 7:12; Jn. 17:17). We will be among those presented to Christ holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:26-27).
The Lord God greatly values the worship and service offered to Him by the Church of Christ members because they have been redeemed by Christ. The Bible declares:
“Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love. ...For by the sacrificial death of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God.” (Eph. 1:4, 7, TEV)
Those redeemed through the sacrificial death of Christ were forgiven of their sins. Christ paid the price of their sins and, thus, they are now spared from condemnation. They were purchased from being slaves of sin to being servants of God.
That which was redeemed or purchased by Christ is the Church of Christ:
“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)
We can only benefit from Christ’s redemptive act if we are in the Church of Christ. Outside this Church there is no redemption. Christ cannot answer for the sins of outsiders or nonmembers of His body. They will have to pay for their own sins with the Second Death as the ultimate punishment. Any good or service they would offer to God will be rendered worthless. This is why Apostle Paul said that many man by his own self cannot do good.
For a person’s good works to be counted worthy, he must first be united with Christ as his branch or as part of His body which is the Church of Christ. Unless he is redeemed through Christ’s blood, all his noble works and services to God will not be good enough to ensure him of salvation. As emphasized by the inspired writer of Hebrews, “And according to the law almost all things are purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb. 9:22, NKJV)
Pamphlets/Pasugo God’s Message/January 2001/Pages 21-22