She is kind to her friends and neighbors. She volunteers regularly and often donates to charity. She is concerned with helping the hurting and broken. She doesn’t steal and she rarely lies. I’m guessing you know someone like this. Or maybe this is a pretty accurate description of yourself. You’re a good person. But, good people still need the gospel.
Many of us mistakenly think that we are in right-standing with God simply because of the good works we do. However, that is far from the truth. If you are wondering why good people need the gospel, keep reading.
What is the gospel message?
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Romans 5:6-11 ESV
The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth and lived among men, died a painful death on the cross, and resurrected on the third day to forgive the sins of mankind. The gospel was God’s eternal plan from the very beginning.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they became deserving of the wrath of God and estranged from his presence. Sin caused the world to become a difficult place to live in. We experience hardship, sickness, pain, and death. However, God intends for all people to live united with himself, each other, and creation.
Yet, God is holy and we are not. Since God is holy, sinful humans have no place in his presence.
God selected a group of people called the Israelites and set them apart to be holy unto him. God gave them specific commandments and promised to be with them if they kept his laws. Even so, Israel could not live up to God’s holy standards. When they sinned, God required a spotless lamb as a sacrifice to cover their sin.
For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”Leviticus 11:44-45 ESV
The thing is, this was only a temporary system that foreshadowed something greater. When Jesus died on the cross, his perfect sacrifice set us free from the debt we owed God and gave us access into his presence. He did not just die for the sins of Israel, he died for everyone who would receive him:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.John 1:12-13
The eternal sacrifice of the Son of God covers all of our sin — past, present, and future. It takes the weight of us. Instead of striving to be holy, God has declared us holy. When he sees his Son, Jesus, he sees that our debt has been paid. One day, Jesus is coming back again for his people and we will be united with him forever. This is the gospel message in a nutshell.
See Isaiah 53:5, Acts 13:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-7, Titus 3:4-7, John 3:16-17, and 1 Peter 2:24-25 for more bible verses that explain the gospel.
Why can’t I just be good in order to be saved?
Well, the Bible tells us that no one is good except God. (Luke 18:19) We all sin and come short of God’s glory. We might not see our sins as great but God does. Compared to a murderer, our white lies every now and then aren’t really such a big deal. But compared to an infinitely holy God, it’s another story. The thing is, God measures us against his standard of holiness, not our own. So we think we’re good because in our own eyes, we are. But in God’s eyes, we’re nowhere near good. We could never come close to the holiness of God on our own. Since God is God and we are not, his standards hold much more weight than ours do.
Regardless of how moral and spiritual we have been, the debt of our sin is enormous. The damage to God’s glory by our sin is determined not by the severity of our sin but by the value of God’s glory.Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins (134)
In his book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges speaks about the overwhelming debt we owe God because of sin. He went on to give a metaphor about spilling ink on a regular rug from the store. Definitely a problem and comes with consequences, right? But the same mistake of spilling ink on a priceless Persian rug has far greater consequences. Why? The value of the Persian rug is greater.
Even if our sins were small – and they’re not – they would greatly offend God because God is great.
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”Isaiah 6:5 ESV
After the King of Israel died, the Prophet Isaiah had an amazing vision of the Lord exalted and enthroned in heaven. Angels were worshipping him and crying out “holy, holy, holy!” Isaiah immediately recognizes his own sinfulness in comparison to God’s holiness. It’s not that Isaiah was a bad man – he was a prophet and prophets had to be moral and law abiding people. But he realized that regardless of how moral he was, God was infinitely greater and he would always be unworthy.
We must recognize that we are sinners
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.Psalm 51:5 ESV
Original sin is a real thing. We inherited it from our parents — it’s in our blood.
Many of us have been fed a works-based “gospel” that teaches us that if we’re just good enough or if we can follow all the rules, we can be saved. That’s not true. We can’t keep all the rules and even if we could, we’d still be guilty because of the sin passed down from our parents.
The need to be born again
Instead of being good, we need to be born again.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.John 3:5-6 ESV
In this passage Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and told him that in order to see the kingdom of God, he needed to be born again. Now, Nicodemus was a religious leader. He kept all the laws. Yet, even Nicodemus needed to be born again.
What does it mean to be born again?
Being born again means that we are made new by the Spirit of God. When the Spirit comes into our hearts, he empowers us to live righteous and holy lives. When we try to do it without the Spirit, it’s practically impossible. We’re always going to fail. But, when we are born again, the Spirit sanctifies us and makes the impossible possible.
Why do “good” people need the gospel?
The gospel is so more than the good that we do. The gospel is the good that Jesus did. Our original sin separated us from God and nothing we do can change that. The Scripture tells us that we were dead in trespasses and sin. (Ephesians 2:1) Spiritually, no matter how good we are, we are dead without God. Jesus’ death is what makes us alive.
Good people need the gospel because without it none of us have access to God. We were created for fellowship with him. God wants to restore his people to a right-standing with him.
Even if we are good, our lives are meaningless without him. We were created for him. Each moment we live without God is a moment we spend outside of our purpose.
Finally, God isn’t calling us to be good, he’s calling us to be holy. But, only God can make us holy. We become holy by believing the gospel and choosing to follow Jesus.
You might feel like your life is okay without complete surrender to God but the truth is, it isn’t okay. There’s so much you are missing. The gospel comes with joy and peace like you’ve never known. There is so much freedom in becoming a child of God.
Walk by faith, not sight
If God is tugging on your heart and letting you know that your goodness isn’t enough, I encourage you to surrender. He wants to give you his Spirit and he wants you to have a real relationship with him.
Don’t go based on what you’ve always known. Walk by faith, not sight. Do you believe that God is who he says he is and that his promises are true? If so, it’s time to embrace the gospel and begin a real relationship with him.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.Jeremiah 31:33 ESV
Christianity is not merely a religion with a set of rules to follow. God wants to make us more like him. He puts his law in our hearts and actually helps us to love his law. True Christianity is not burdensome. It’s hard sometimes but it’s not a burden. I invite you to stop settling for “goodness” and embrace the freedom God has for you.