“Thank you for inviting me to church, but I’m not much of a church-goer. I am a pretty good person, though. Fact is, I’m a little better than some of the people you go to church with.” Has anyone ever told you something like this?
Many people in the world are indeed “good.” They obey the law, pay taxes, work hard, transact business honestly, and donate money to worthy charities. They love the United States and train up their sons to serve in the military. They cherish their families and friends, and stand by their neighbors in times of adversity.
But does the Bible anywhere suggest that moral uprightness secures salvation? Are our sins canceled out by generosity, compassion, and hard work? If salvation could possibly be attained through personal goodness, then the anguish of the cross was absurdly pointless. Jesus “saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration [rebirth] and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).
Even church-goers find this difficult to believe. Consider a common response to our insistence that biblical faith includes immersion in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16). “My mother was never baptized for any such reason,” a friend says, “but she went straight to heaven when she died. She was the best and kindest person I’ve ever known.” I understand these feelings. My mom is an exceptionally kind and gracious person. But even the kindest people on earth are still sinners. As Paul says, “None is righteous” (Rom. 3:10). We have “all sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v. 23). This is why we all need God’s forgiveness, the grace extended to every man or woman who yields to Jesus Christ.