Many believe that they’ve done enough good to go to heaven, but who goes to heaven? Do only good people go to heaven?
Who is Good?
If you ask a person on the street if they’re a good person, almost every one of them will tell you, “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person,” and then they’ll give you what is supposed to be evidence of that, by telling you about a few circumstances where they helped someone out or did some good things, but what does the Bible say about the goodness of man? Are there any people that we can say are really “good?” Does doing good things for others count for anything? Can it help us in our relationship with God? Yes and no, but that will be made clear later. A friend of mine was with me when we ask a man on the street if he thought he was a good person and good enough to go to heaven. He didn’t think he was a good person but said, “I’m great person! The ladies love me,” so that’s when I thought, this man doesn’t understand that none of us are good. We might do some good things, but so can a thief or bank robber. I doubt very seriously the good things he did in his life will help him in front of a judge. Neither will the excuse, “Well, I was deprived as a youth, my mother didn’t really love me,” or, “It’s the way I was raised, so it’s my parents fault” work on judgment day.
None are Good
If you think that there are good people out there, by our human standards, yes, there are many, but it’s the biblical view we want, and we are asking, “Do good people go to heaven?” and that critical question deserves an answer. The Apostle Paul quotes the psalmist in writing, “as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10). I think Paul and the Psalmist both say, “no, not one” because the guy we met on the street thought he was the one exception, but there are no exceptions. We all fall infinitely, and I would say, impossibly short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). That’s too far a bridge for us to gap by ourselves. We need the cross of Christ, so works not done for Christ won’t help you at all. In fact, many will claim good works as evidence of their faith, as in the case of Matthew 7:21-23 where many (not a few) will say, “Lord, Lord,” but these same many will be turned away forever. It is only when a person’s been regenerated by the Spirit of God into a new creation (2nd Cor 5:17) that they can do any good works for Christ, but not to be seen by others, but as unto Christ Himself (Matt 25:40). The dangers of not doing anything for someone who claims to be a believer are clear that those who do nothing for Christ will end up separated from God forever when Jesus tells them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt 25:45-46), so “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
We like to compare ourselves with others, don’t we? I know I have, and others have done the same thing with me, my children, and other people I know, but are people the right standard before God? I’m certainly not a standard for someone to live up to. Its Christ Who is the supreme example for our lives. We must imitate Him, and not others. You can pick up on godly attributes of others, but it’s Christ that is the gold standard for what God desires in us. The Apostle Paul says that should not “dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2nd Cor 10:12). It’s fine to live up to what others do but to use others to compare ourselves as to whether we’re a good person or not is flawed to begin with. The excuse I hear is, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as Joe Smith down the street who did such and such,” but Joe is not our standard….we need the very righteousness of God. We might not have done as much bad as Joe, and compared to him, we might look like saints, but Joe is not the standard.
The Importance of Works
James would tell you that works have a lot to do with our faith, and in particular, whether it’s real faith or it’s an imagined faith. We don’t want to be deceived about this, and we know the hearts susceptible to this (Jer 17:9), so this is why James thought it important to write, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). That’s as if we see someone in need and we can help, but we only say, “I’m so sorry, I will pray for you,” and then do nothing. That person’s deceived and their faith is dead. What’s worse, their dead faith won’t help them on the Day of Judgment. Jesus was once asked by someone how they might do the works of God, and Jesus told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). That’s the only work you can really do to be saved, and it’s essentially putting your trust in Christ after having repented.
No one is good outside of Christ. Our works are nothing more than filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6), but that doesn’t mean we don’t do any works at all. That would contradict Scripture. Someday, “the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:34-36). What’s the difference in these works and the works we do on our own? Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). When we do things for others but do them for Christ and not to be seen by others, He will reward us with the sweetest words we’ll ever hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21). This is infinitely greater than hearing, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me” (Matt 25:41-43).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.