Is being good not enough?

George Barna's survey of religious beliefs in America discovered that 85% of people think they will go to heaven when they die.

However, our Lord urges caution on this subject in Matthew 7:21-23 by saying that not everyone who thinks they are going to heaven when they die is actually going. Knowing what Jesus said brings up two very important questions:

Question #1: If you were to die today would you go to heaven?

If you answered “yes”, then that brings up Question #2: If you were to die today, WHY should you get in heaven?

What does it take to go to heaven when you die? Is it enough to live a good, moral, ethical life? Now, it is certainly better to live that way than to be an immoral and unethical person.

But is it enough? Is being good good enough?

Ephesians 2:8&9 gives us a straightforward answer.

From this statement we note that it is possible for someone to believe they will go to heaven when they die - and yet find themselves clinging to a false hope.

Therefore we need to consider:

A 'Salvation' based on what is false?

George Barna found that 57% of Americans believe that salvation is an outcome to be earned through their good character or behaviour - that “if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their lives, they will earn a place in heaven.”

Salvation is not a human achievement

Salvation is "not of ourselves."

Man is able to do some amazing things. His achievements in the fields of science and technology are nothing short of amazing.

>Give him enough time and enough resources and there is little that man cannot do.

But there is one thing that man cannot do - irrespective of how long time stands and how much money he has - and that is achieve his own salvation. Salvation is NOT a human achievement; it is “not of ourselves.”

Salvation is not by human accomplishments

Again, Ephesians 2:8 has its finger on the pulse of this subject when it declares, “... Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

The thought that, if we are good enough and do enough we will get into heaven when we die, is pretty much the philosophy of the frog that fell into a large milk can. It tried hard to leap out but found it was trapped. With nothing else to do, it just kept paddling and paddling, until it had finally churned a pat of butter - and, hey presto! - saved itself by leaping from this self-made launching pad.

It is amazing how many people entertain this very philosophy about Christianity. It can be summed up in statements like:

“I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the best I can”

“I try to do what’s right and consider myself a pretty good person”

“There are plenty of persons worse than me”

“I think I’ve done more good than I’ve done wrong; I should be okay.”

This is diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches about true salvation, plus it reveals a terrible misunderstanding of the nature and importance of spiritual and eternal things.

Sin should not be treated so lightly that some good works of ours are enough to neutralise it.

According to the verses leading up to our text, we were born with a sin-blasted and contaminated nature (Ephesians 2:1-4). We are described as dead, disobedient, depraved, and doomed. It will take more than a few surface polishings to clean up this degree of mess! Nothing short of a spiritual transformation is required.

In an attempt to address this, some redirect their good works into a spiritual arena. They substitute religious ceremonies for ordinary good works. Baptism, confirmation, communion, etc., are all wheeled out in an effort to please God.

But these are merely other forms of good works - and, due to the false sense of security they give, religious works are the most subtle and damning of all.

All works, even religious works, FALL WELL SHORT of God’s perfect standard.

Good works do not save man’s soul (Galatians 2:16; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

The highest good works can rise to in comparison with God’s perfect standard is the level of “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)! You can be a good church member and live a religious life; a grand citizen and live a reputable life; a great companion and live a reliable life - but you cannot be good enough and you cannot do enough to be saved. Salvation is most decidedly NOT by works.

A salvation based on what is free!

Our text reveals that salvation is not that something that we do, but it is something that has been done for us.

(a) JESUS GRACIOUSLY PURCHASED SALVATION. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved.”

The word “grace” speaks of that which is undeserved yet has been provided for us. Being saved by grace means that Jesus has done all that is necessary for salvation. One preacher has defined grace using an acrostic:

When our Lord exclaimed on Calvary, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was saying, “I have purchased salvation for men. I have paid sins’ debt.”

There is nothing to work or pay for - because all the work has already been done for us!

God gloriously presents salvation

Ephesians 2:8 tells us that salvation is “the gift of God.” Salvation is something purchased by Jesus and presented by God. Salvation is freely offered to men (cf. Romans 6:23).

Though some people expect to receive it in exchange for something that they can offer, the truth is that God’s salvation can only be obtained as a free gift. Which means ...

We gratefully possess salvation

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith.”

All that is left is for us to accept what Jesus has purchased and what God has presented.

A salvation based on faith

But what is faith?

Faith is not merely intellectual knowledge: I need more than my mind filled with tidy facts about Jesus; I must embrace Him with my heart. Nor should true faith be confused with mere sentiment either. Many people equate faith with feelings - ‘warm glows,’ nostalgic and fond memories. But faith is much deeper, more solid, than that.

I. Faith means accepting Christ as a gift (John 1:12).

Just as we receive a present, offer thanks, but do not pay for it (the moment payment is made it ceases to be a gift), so faith simply reaches out an empty hand and takes Christ as Saviour.

II. Faith means receiving Christ as a guest (Revelation 3:20).

Just as we would never dream of keeping a guest standing on the doorstep, we invite Christ into our hearts to transform us.


As the prodigal son came to his father - with nothing - in rags - just as he was - and threw himself on the mercy of his father, so we approach Christ.


As a drowning man makes a grab for the lifebelt that is thrown to him, so we must rest our weight on Christ and His work. The answer to our question, “Is being good good enough?” is clearly this: Being good is not good enough to get anyone into heaven. Everyone who reaches heaven gets there by only one way:

But is Christ good enough for me to get to heaven? That is a completely different question - and the answer is a resounding “yes!”

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
HE ONLY could unlock the gate of heaven,
And let us in.

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