Being a nice man can’t get me eternal life. Having solid character won’t make me right with my Creator. It won’t unstain what I’ve stained. Being a good guy won’t fix me.
We are in a much deeper hole than common wisdom suggests. And a much different kind of hole. Specifically, this hole is a grave.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
We are born spiritually dead, all of us. Lovely and human and valuable, but also wicked and spiritually dead. And so the world needs much more than deeds of kindness. The Middle Ages had deeds of kindness. But what they thirsted for was a power that their churches had long obscured, and the Reformation was the rain that fell on that parched ground.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’
The world needs salvation. It needs regeneration. It needs people who have been taken as one thing and remade into another. And since mere good works won’t do, a mere teacher won’t do. It needs someone who can undo what we have done and who can remake us from the feet up.
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Only God can remake a man. Only God can kill the worst in him and bring him back something better, and not only better but something altogether different. Only God can pay a man’s eternal debt, a debt incurred from breaking the best of laws, willfully and daily.
The world doesn’t need more mere good works. The world needs the power of God. It needs a Messiah, a Χριστός. It needs someone who will do what we cannot, and who can make us what we should be.
The world needs something it cannot offer itself: A death and a resurrection. A divine rescue. It’s a great need. Impossible, apart from a miracle.
But thankfully the only thing that can outpace that need is His grace.
As deep as our grave is, His grace is deeper still.
We have the Gospel we need.
But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’