Many people today consider themselves somewhat religious. They may have been baptized as an infant, went to a religious school as a child, or were married in a church. They have a Bible in their home or put out a manger scene at Christmas. We all like to believe we’re basically good people. We stop to help an elderly woman cross the street, welcome a new neighbor, or give to the needy. Our culture afrms that way of thinking. As long as we’re sincere and have some kind of faith, we hope we’ll end up in the right place.
But the Word of God is very clear on the subject. God’s standard is perfection, and not one of us measures up: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No one will make it to the presence of God unless they’re holy and perfect. Our self-measured goodness will not shield us from the judgment of God. We all need a Savior. In his letter to the Romans, Paul was writing to people living in one of the biggest cities of his time. Rome was home to the rich and the poor; the educated and the illiterate; the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul was writing about the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was concerned that many of his Jewish readers believed their obedience to the law of Moses made them right with God.
To them, Paul writes that “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin” (Rom. 3:9). Paul observed that those who considered themselves “good people” were often quick to “pass judgment on someone else” (Rom. 2:1). While we think we’re pretty good when compared to others, Paul says we are the ones in need of God’s forgiveness.
Isaiah 64:6 says that before God, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We have done nothing to deserve forgiveness, but God’s kindness leads us to make the U-turn of repentance. God says to us, “You can’t make it on your own. So I’ve given you my Son, and only through His perfect sacrifice, you can be saved.” In Romans 6:23, Paul declares this life-transforming message: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”