The more I study Yeshua’s words the more I believe what would appear to be works based salvation is closer to what Yeshua actually taught. Though, as I am prone to say, I don’t mean by that what you would probably think I mean. In a nutshell, what I mean is no one earns their salvation because of their works, but no one is going to get saved without them. And teaching a works-less salvation is really teaching conversion without repentance.
I’m not really here to debate that (though, I am open to that debate). But, as I work out that understanding, it leads to a question my inner Christian doesn’t like. “Doesn’t that mean a person could be saved merely by being good enough? Doing enough good deeds? And not bowing the knee to Yeshua?”
The first response is of course, can the creation truly be good without acknowledging the one who created it? Can someone be good without loving the one who gave them everything good they have ever had? And if that Good One sent you a Rabbi to teach you what is good, could you ignore that Rabbi and still be Good?
But suppose, you could somehow sidestep that. Assume God could accept someone who was “Good enough” while ignoring his roadmap for goodness…
Could someone be good enough? The normal evangelical response would posit that no matter how good you are, a perfectly just God could not overlook your past failures. Even if perfect now, God would have to hold your past against you.
Really? God doesn’t care if you’re perfect now, but would rather punish you for your past? What did Yeshua say? Who did the will of the Father, the son who said no and then repented or the one who said yes and then didn’t? He says it was the penitent. And that lines up with Ezekiel, where God says that if the wicked repented, his sins will no longer be brought up.
God seems much more concerned with your current trajectory than your past.
So could someone be good enough? The answer seems to be yes.
[Insert theological meltdown with sputtered and blurted “Then why the cross?”]
Calmed down? But why then evangelize? Why tell about Yeshua? If someone says, “I think I’m pretty good. I’m no Jeffrey Dalmer.” Do we just shuffle away?
One could start pointing out places where their morality doesn’t line up with Torah. Show them where they fall short. But if God can accept the wicked who turns from their sin, then is the standard sinlessness or penitence, even if imperfect?
Suppose that God will accept “trying” to do good as the standard. Most people, probably would claim to be in that camp. But are they really trying? If I “try” to be on time to work, but don’t set an alarm, stay up too late, and decide Facebook needs my attention before I look at the clock. Did I really try?
Without needing a divine revelation, I think we’d conclude they weren’t trying. How did we reach that conclusion? Because we each know from our own experience, that what we want to achieve we take steps to achieve. If I don’t take any steps to be on time, other than wishful thinking, then it wasn’t trying and it wasn’t important to me.
That’s going to work on time. If you are facing cosmic judgment before a judge who is perfectly just and sees all, are you going to roll out of bed minutes before that appointment? No, you would reasonably be expected to take steps toward making yourself ready. So can the average person say honestly that their highest priority each day is to actually be good?
Or are most people just “trying” to get by while they get the most out of life? Turns out, the trying standard isn’t so great. It’s almost like no matter what standard you use, you’re going to need some help from someone better than you. You’re going to need some mercy.
Still think you can be good enough without that Rabbi? See, rather than saying works are a part of salvation equals earning salvation, the one who truly repent and brings forth fruit worthy of repentance, will have to conclude they are not worthy. They haven’t earned a thing. Rather obedience is about a growing hunger for righteousness…seems like that might be a blessed attitude to be…
What does the cross have to do with this? I believe the answer is somewhat mystical, but reasonable. I think the short answer is not that Mashiach died as a payment for sin (And yet I also think he did), but that he was taking our place in doing righteousness to the final degree: remaining righteous as a man, even when feeling abandoned by God. If man can be truly good, then man must be able to remain righteous when even He abandons him.
Yeshua did, so then when we entwine ourselves with him (becoming “in Mashiach”), we draw from his power. Or perhaps, reproduce his power (before you scream heresy, remember, the sower went forth to sow…why? Not to hide seed in the ground, but to produce fruit which has…? The seed reproduced). I say this is mystical and reasonable, because you can watch Braveheart and the result is that you want to pick a sword and fight for the Scottish against the English. When you identify with a hero, some part of them becomes a part of you (almost like you were drinking their blood…). How much more when the hero is real and better than any hero?
By putting our eyes on Yeshua, because of him being man and fully righteous, we partake of his character and therefore his power. And he was good enough.
So, repenting and thus trying to do works of righteousness, will convince you that you aren’t good enough. That leads you to Yeshua, and from him you get the power to do the righteousness that completes your repentance, which is why Elohim has been lavishing his mercy on you in the first place.
So, if you think that you’re good enough doing it, your own way, then you’re far from good enough.