Why Doing Good is No Good and Not Good

It is the common teaching of so many religions, as well as being the common-sense notion most people have – the way of salvation is by being good. Although this is widely held, sincerely believed and often preached, it’s not biblically based.

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The Bible stands apart from every other message and says that salvation is not by good works. In fact, the Bible teaches that if you seek salvation by good works you will get neither.

To help you understand what I mean, I will tell you about a conversation I recently had with a very religious man (Alan).

Doing good is no good

I asked Alan for his opinion on what I needed to do to get to heaven. His answer was, “Be good.”

Alan said he believed the Bible was God’s word, so I showed him that the Bible teaches that we all have broken God’s law and fallen short of His standard of goodness, and for that reason no one will be accepted by God based on the works we do and the life we live (Romans 3:20).

If we are as good as we should be then God will accept us, but we aren’t, so He won’t. The fact is, all of us have sinned, repeatedly and deliberately. Trying harder and doing better won’t pay for our sins. Even if we never sinned again, we are only doing what God demanded for the whole of our lives. It would be like someone offering the following defence in court, “Yes, I did break the law, but I keep it most of the time and intend to keep it from now on.” It’s not much of a defence, is it? You are meant to keep it all of the time. And that is why, as far as getting to heaven is concerned, doing good is no good. If you seek salvation by good works, you won’t get salvation.

"If you seek salvation by good works, you won’t get salvation."


Doing good is not good

Alan then asked me how I thought people could get to heaven. I told him that God has provided the answer. His Son, Jesus, came to be the substitute for the guilty and pay the penalty for sin. That’s what He did on the cross. He bore the judgment from God against sin. As proof that the price has been fully paid, God raised Him from the dead. If we make Him all our trust and our only plea then God will write over our whole record of sin, “Paid in full.”

Alan got the point that he was depending on the life he lived, while I was depending on the death Christ died. He then said, “Well, if that’s it, then there’s no point in being good, doing charity and helping the poor.”

I told him, “What this shows me is that, as far as you are concerned, the only point in being good, doing charity and helping the poor is so that you go to heaven. That tells me that you aren’t really being good – all these things you do are done for yourself. The only way good works are even possible is if salvation is not by works. I can be good, do charity and help the poor, not for my sake, but for their sake, for God’s sake, for goodness’ sake. So, all these good works you thought you had done aren’t actually good works at all – they were just done for you.” If you seek salvation by good works, you won’t get good works.

"If you seek salvation by good works, you won’t get good works."

Alan told me he had never considered this before but could see what I was saying. Can you? As far as getting to heaven is concerned, good works are no good – we are guilty and need a Saviour. And if you are trying to get to heaven by good works then your good works are not good.

Step off the treadmill of works-based religion, and step into salvation by grace. It’s the only way salvation is possible, and the only way good works are possible too.