Dear Church Family,
“It is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it – unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place” (1 Corinthians 15:2).
The Good News includes the statement “Christ died for our sins.” This is Good News because our personal “goodness” cannot overcome the consequence of sin, which is eternal separation from God. It is at this point that we encounter one of the beliefs that Paul describes as having been “never true in the first place,” namely, you and I can be “good enough to go to heaven.”
The false belief that we can be “good enough to go to heaven” is based on three assumptions, all of which are contradicted by the Bible: 1. God will accept people who try hard to do the right thing. He understands that no one is perfect, so He accepts people who are doing their very best. Conversely, he will reject bad people like Adolph Hitler simply because they’re bad. 2. Human beings are mostly good and God loves us because of our goodness. Our goodness can outweigh whatever evil is in us. 3. We can earn God’s favor by obeying his rules. This assumption follows from the first two: since God accepts those who try hard and we are mostly good, we can earn our way into heaven.
What does the Bible say about these three assumptions? First, God’s acceptance is based on our belief in his Son, Jesus Christ, not on trying hard to do the right thing. Those who believe are given the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Second, God opposes all sin to the point that he cannot be in its presence. Even if we are ninety-nine percent good, the one percent sin in us will cause us to remain separated from God. “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Third, we cannot earn God’s favor. We can only accept his grace by faith. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a free gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
The basic truth of the Good News is to the church what a foundation is to a building. Just as every structure built on a crooked foundation will eventually topple, when Christians build their version of the gospel on the foundation of personal goodness their faith will topple into works-based self-righteousness. So, let us build our faith on the truth as taught in God’s Word, and let us share that faith with others so they, too, may hear, believe and be saved.
Yours in Christ,