Righteousness vs Good Works: Which is the Requirement for Eternal Life?

Righteousness vs Good Works: Which is the Requirement for Eternal Life?

Imagine a scenario where you were asleep at home and so all your relatives went out without you. A few hours later, you wake up to discover you are home alone. Now, because of all the movies you have watched, especially the Left Behind series, you become afraid that the rapture has happened and everyone has left you behind. Sounds funny right? But sadly, it is the reality of many believers who are ignorant of what righteousness really is.

What is Righteousness?

There is this popular saying in the world, “Heaven helps those who help themselves.” This saying couldn’t be further from what the gospel stands for. The message of the gospel says we could not help ourselves; we needed a saviour and so, Christ saved us (Romans 5:6). Therefore, there is nothing more you have to do to be righteous before God as a Christian other than to believe (Romans 4:3). This is why true righteousness is also called the righteousness of faith. 

The world today is rife with teachings on righteousness that are not biblical. Instead of birthing peace, these teachings birth fretfulness because righteousness is taught to be conditional, not eternal. However, the word of God sets the record straight. It says true salvific or Biblical righteousness gives peace, quietness and assurance forever (Isaiah 32:17). This means that when you receive the gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus, you are assured that you are His forever (Ephesians 1:13-14). 

What are Good Works?

This is also called the righteousness of the law. It is a self-conscious outlook to life where you look at how much “good” you have done recently and how that will move God’s hand to respond to your requests. It makes people question if they have behaved well enough to receive that which they have prayed for or declared. Furthermore, this makes Christians, who are the righteousness of God, struggle with accepting the fact that they already have eternal life. 

When a person focuses on how their good works can get them eternal life, three things ‌ happen to them:

  1. Self-righteousness: This leads to boastfulness like the Pharisee at the temple (Luke 18:9-14). Self-righteous people also make spiritual matters a contest between themselves and others.  
  2. Self-pity: Here, people find themselves always apologising for their wrongdoing or sin and still carry the guilt and shame, even after praying. This also translates to condemnation or guilt, even for not doing enough spiritually.
  3. Comparison: This is a way they compensate for their shortcomings, especially by the failure of others. Instead of admitting their frailty, they compare their seeming “strengths” with other people’s failures.

You can be zealous for God, do good works, and not be saved. An example is Cornelius in Acts 10, who God in His mercy asked him to send for Peter, who would tell him the words he needed to hear to be saved. This just shows that you can be very moral and generous and still be unsaved. God is no respecter of persons, and if you must be sure of eternal life, then you must be saved (through faith in the finished work of Christ). 

The requirement for eternal life is believing in the sacrifice of Christ. Once you believe, you automatically have eternal life (1st John 5:13). According to God’s soteriological design, you receive eternal life first before stepping into eternity. No one will enter heaven surprised. In other words, you know you will enter heaven because salvation has made you the righteousness of God. Likewise, you have the Holy Spirit as an assurance that you are saved.

This blog post was inspired by a sermon by Apostle Emmanuel Iren. You can listen to it here.

Read Also: How to Strengthen your Spiritual Life

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