Romans 4:4-5. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
What if we could actually earn our way into Heaven? What kind of eternal Hell would that make it? Think about how much time you would spend bragging about all you did to get there? What if it was a points system like in TV show The Good Place (one of my favorites by the way)? It would mean endless imposter syndrome, and a whole lot of shame.
This is, of course, how most of the world sees life. Be good to get to Heaven. And it is even the way many Christians see life after they are saved – be good to get blessings.
But the gospel, and union with Christ, eliminates all earning of righteousness. Righteousness does not, and cannot, come from work or worthiness. It is only the ungodly that can be counted as righteous.
It is not the spiritual person who is declared righteous.
It is not the moral person who is declared righteous.
It is not the sorrowful person who is declared righteous.
It is not the knowledgeable person who is declared righteous.
It is not the praying person who is declared righteous.
It is no the repenting person who is declared righteous.
It is not the church going person who is declared righteous.
It is not the godly person who is declared righteous.
It is the ungodly person.
The one who knows that all of their good deeds, crying, confessing, praying, church going and learning, apart from faith in Christ alone, will never do them a bit of good before a holy God.
Therefore, all classification systems for people or behavior must be abandoned. They spit in the face of a holy God. There is no difference between you and Hitler. There is no distinction between the one who prays five times a day and the one who shoots up five times a day. There is no score other than F in God’s classroom. All have sinned. All are doomed. All are ungodly. If you want a wage based system, then prepare to die.
Or at least prepare for a whole lot of measuring up here on earth until you die. Which is precisely what we have created. Which is why we are all so messed up. We are destroyed by our failures and we are destroying others with our successes. We’ve made life a measuring tape. A sliding scale of achievement. And all this does is serve to lessen sin. We’ve turned the atomic bomb of our sin into a cap gun. No big deal. Haha, at least I’m not that guy. Laugh it off.
This is why the righteous life has to come from Christ. Why only faith can be counted as righteousness. Faith in Christ’s grace given life alone. When we try to turn righteousness into a thing that can be earned, it will always, always, always lighten sin and cheapen grace. If I can earn it (and even if I can earn it after I’m saved), then why on earth would I need Jesus?
“To live is Christ” is the constant realization that I never did earn it, I never will earn it, I am not currently earning it. Sin is too massive. But grace is more massive.
What are the ways in which you are still trying to earn it? How does union with Christ alone count you as righteous?