What About People's Goodness?
What about all the good things that people do for others, regardless of their denomination? Doesn't the Bible tell us that they will be rewarded for that? I mean, doesn't all that "good" count for something, regardless of what their faith is? Come to think of it, what does the Bible have to say about the good that people do and their eternal destiny? Searching the Scriptures is the best way to know what exactly God wants for His children.
There are the verses that say, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) And then we also see in Philippians 2:12, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Such verses, when taken by themselves, surly do appear to mean that one can do enough to merit their salvation. However this is not the case, even when you add the verses from James chapter 2 into the picture. James 2:17 says, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone," and verse 2:24 also says, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
The problem is that when one quotes from Scripture, they must use all of the Bible and they must avoid taking the "selected" verses, while ignoring the others. Here are some of explanations that can give you further insight about how God feels about our "goodness" especially when you add them to the verses that I've already given you. Matthew 25 (above) was about the judging of the nations, a short period in which the nations of the world will be judged according to how they treated Israel immediately after the seven year tribulation. The Philippians verse given above, Paul is encouraging the Philippi members to earnestly continue striving to do what is right, but he is not saying that they can work their way to Heaven.
The main verses to remember when piecing this together, is Ephesians 2:8-10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Galatians 2:16 adds more insight to this with, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." But the real "kicker" is Romans 11:6, which clearly says, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Don't misunderstand us. Gospel Light encourages you to "strive" to do good, but knowing how Jesus responded when asked by the young man about what one must do gives us a much better overview in this. He said, "And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Mathew 19:17) Paul clearly understood that the flesh is weak, that as much as we desire not to, we'll still occasionally sin, that he'd strive to do what is right, but, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." (Galatians 3:11) The reality of this is that when trying to merit salvation, our works are self-centered, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." (Isaiah 64:6) "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28)
Therefore, it isn't what we can do, but what Jesus did at Calvary nearly 2000 years ago that one must trust in to gain salvation. Sin separated us from an eternity in Heaven, but Jesus was the remedy. Jesus is the only solution, no matter how righteous one tries to live. As the Bible says, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) Unless someone places their faith in what Jesus did, not what they can do, they are lost, regardless of how many or what kinds of "good" things they do. And as John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
That is the first "good" that anyone can really do - to believe in Him!