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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Can a Person Please God by Being Good?

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Can a Person Please God by Being Good?

God and Us – Question 9

Many people feel they have lived a life that will be good enough to get them to heaven if there truly is such a place. Since their life has been characterized by a certain degree of morality they assume that God will accept them. Indeed, when they compare themselves to others they gloat in the fact that they are good people.

Certainly their lifestyle and behavior should be enough to get them to heaven, shouldn’t it? But the Bible states otherwise. Indeed, nobody is good enough to get to heaven on their own merit. Nobody.

The following points need to be stressed on this most important of issues.

1. None of Us Are Good Enough to Stand before God

The Bible states it plainly. None of us, no matter how good we have been, are able to stand before the God of the Bible. Paul wrote the following to the Romans.

What then? Are we any better? Not at all! For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. (Romans 3:9-11 HCSB)

This could not be clearer. None of us are righteous none of us can match up to God’s perfect standard. Furthermore, none of us are seeking after God.

Paul says that each and every human being has sinned against a holy God. Again, he wrote to the Romans,

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God... (Romans 3:23 KJV)

Every one of us is a sinner. We have all fallen short of God’s perfect standard. There are no exceptions.

The Bible says that sin has its consequences. Paul further stated to the Romans,

For the wages of sin is death... (Romans 6:23a KJV)

There are many moral and upright people in the world who contribute much to the common good. But the Bible says that no matter how good someone is, no person is good enough to meet God’s perfect standard. This point cannot be overemphasized.

2. We Are Measured by God Not by Others

The Scriptures teach that humanity is not to be measured by other humans but rather by God. When the creature is measured by the Creator we are all found wanting. The psalmist made it plain just who it is that can come into the Lord’s presence.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. (Psalm 24:3, 4 NRSV)

This eliminates all of us. None of us have clean hands or a pure heart. We are all impure in the sight of the Lord.

Isaiah wrote of our righteousness, or good works, as fallen human beings. Clearly, it can never please the Lord. He said,

All of us have become like something unclean and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64:6 HCSB)

None of us is in a position to please God by our own goodness. A perfect God demands perfection. When compared with Him, all of us fall short.

Indeed, we need God’s help to become part of His family. Salvation is something that is from the Lord and Him alone. The prophet Jonah wrote,

Salvation is of the LORD. (Jonah 2:9b KJV)

The Lord alone can save us from our sins, we cannot save ourselves.

3. God Requires That We Put Our Faith in Jesus for Salvation

Salvation from sin only comes one way. This is through the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth that we might know what God is like and what He requires of us. When His disciples asked Jesus Christ about doing works that would please God, He made it clear what God wanted from humankind.

“What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked. Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:28, 29 HCSB)

The work of God is to believe in the One whom He has sent. The Bible is clear that we must put our faith in Jesus Christ as God’s provision for our salvation. The Bible says that human goodness is not enough for any individual to get to heaven. None of us will ever be good enough. We do not have that capability.

4. The Death of Jesus Christ Makes Salvation Possible

The reason God can offer this eternal relationship between Himself and humanity is because of the death of Christ. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. He died as our substitute taking the punishment we deserved for our sins. Paul wrote,

You were once dead because of your failures and your uncircumcised corrupt nature. But God made you alive with Christ when he forgave all our failures. He did this by erasing the charges that were brought against us by the written laws God had established. He took the charges away by nailing them to the cross. He stripped the rulers and authorities of their power and made a public spectacle of them as he celebrated his victory in Christ. (Colossians 2:13-15 God’s Word)

Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary paid the penalty for our sin. He suffered so that we do not have to.

Paul also wrote about Christ taking the penalty of our sins upon Himself. He said,

God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 God’s Word)

Since Christ paid the penalty for our sins, we do not have to suffer for them. He offers eternal life to everyone who accepts His sacrifice by faith. The requirement is belief in Jesus Christ. The Bible says,

And all who believe in God’s Son have eternal life. Those who don’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but the wrath of God remains upon them (John 3:36 NLT).

Paul wrote to the Romans about what is necessary.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9, 10 HCSB)

Jesus Christ made salvation possible. However, one must personally place their faith in Jesus to receive that salvation.

5. Salvation Is a Free Gift

Thus, there is nothing any of us can do to earn eternal life. Indeed, it is a free gift of God. Paul wrote the following to the church at Ephesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 TNIV)

There is no earning salvation. God gives it to those who believe. No amount of good deeds will earn us a place in heaven. We can only get there by trusting Christ.

In its most famous verse, the Bible says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NRSV)

To become saved we merely believe. There is nothing else to do.

Paul wrote to Titus about how salvation comes about by faith in Jesus Christ and not by our good works.

...he saved us, but not because of anything we had done to gain his approval. Instead, because of his mercy he saved us through the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us new birth and renewal. (Titus 3:5 God’s Word)

Therefore, we are saved by God’s grace. We accept His free gift by faith. It is not by anything which we do.

6. We Have a Choice to Believe or Not to Believe

God has done everything He can. The only thing stopping an individual from receiving eternal life is his or her own will. It’s up to us. Indeed, each of us must personally choose as to whether we are going to accept or reject God’s free gift of salvation.

When those in the city of Jerusalem chose to reject Him, Jesus said the following to those who had not accepted Him.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me (Matthew 23:37 NLT).

Note that they rejected Him because they were unwilling, not unable, to believe. They had a choice and they chose not to believe.

7. There Is Judgment for Those Who Do Not Believe

Those who reject the gift of salvation will spend eternity apart from God and His holy presence. While the unbelievers will exist eternally, they will receive the judgment of God, not His blessings. The Bible says of them,

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18 TNIV).

One of the offers that God makes to humanity is the gift of eternal life. God’s promise of eternal life includes living forever in God’s presence in a loving relationship with Him. Jesus defined what it means to receive eternal life.

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (John 17:3 NLT)

These benefits do not come from being good. Rather, they come from us acknowledging our sin and turning to Christ for forgiveness.

In sum, we can conclude that when it comes to pleasing God our goodness does not count. Believing in Jesus is the only thing which God will accept.

Summary – Question 9
Can a Person Please God by Being Good?

There are many people who think that they are good enough to get to heaven, assuming that heaven exists. While there are many people in this world who seemingly live “good” lives it is impossible to please God by our own good works. Scripture makes this clear.

The Bible says that God does not measure us by each other. Instead, His standard is Jesus Christ. Unless we measure up to Him we will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. Obviously, none of us can do that.

The reason that Jesus Christ came to earth is to do what we could not do. He lived the perfect life so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for sin. His death on the cross made it possible for us to know the Lord.

Consequently faith in Christ is the only way a person can please God and enter into heaven. Our good works alone will never be sufficient; no matter how good they may be. This is the plain teaching of the Bible.

Is It Necessary for Unbelievers to Know God? ← Prior Section
Does a Person Have to Approach God by Faith? Next Section →
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