Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 3.12


Knock, knock, knock. Knock, knock, knock. “Yes? May I help you?”

“Hi, ma’am. My name is John Waldrip, and this is my friend, Ignatius O. We’re from the Calvary Road Baptist Church, and we are going from door to door talking to folks about the Lord. May I ask you a question?”

“Well, I suppose so. What’s your question?”

“Ma’am, when you die and stand before God, and He asks you, ‘Why should I let you enter into my heaven? what will you say?’”

“Let me think. I know. I’ll tell God that He should let me into His heaven because I have done my best to live a good life.”

Does that dialogue sound familiar to some of you? If you are something like me, you used to engage in a great deal of door knocking to reach people with the Gospel message that Jesus Christ saves sinners. At my first pastorate, I knocked on multiplied thousands of doors and engaged people in that kind of conversation. Perhaps you have heard that kind of response many, many, many times.

Not everyone indicates they have lived a good life. Some will suggest that their attempts to keep the Ten Commandments, or their devotion to their Church or religious organization, are sufficient grounds for admittance into heaven. But if you compile all of the different answers, and if you analyze all of the variations and twists that individuals will use to spice up their version, you discover that the overwhelming majority of folks who are asked are of the opinion that doing good is the way a person gets into heaven. That is if they offer an opinion of any kind and don’t dismissively express their utter lack of concern about the hereafter.

I don’t at this time want to examine whether or not good works is the way a person gets into heaven or even the relative merits of evangelism using the modern technique of door knocking. I remember being taught that if you did not knock on doors, you were not right with God, using Acts 2.46 and Acts 5.42 as justification. After all, those verses contain the phrases “from house to house” and “in every house,” do they not?[1] I want to start with a more basic question than that. What I want for us to do today is to examine the whole issue of doing good.

You see, I am of the opinion, I am of the persuasion, I am of the conviction, that after we attend to the issue of a person’s good deeds, we will already be well on our way to answering the question of whether doing good gets anyone into heaven or not. Are you with me?

Three main points in my message: 


About the whole issue of a non-Christian doing good to gain an eternity in heaven, what does the Bible say about a non-Christian, what does the Bible say about a lost man, what does the Bible say about an unbeliever, doing good things, anyway?

As for his preference. What do I mean by preference? By preference, I am referring to the thoughts of a man, to his desires, to his inclinations. What does God’s Word show us about an unsaved man’s preferences, about every unsaved man’s preferences? It shows us a great deal, both by description and by declaration. As for the description, one has only to open the Bible to almost any page, to read almost any chapter, to see described the wicked preferences of any man who is separated from God. Whether it be the continually evil thoughts and imaginations of man’s heart, as recorded in the distant past of Genesis 6.5, to the jackal laughter and making merry over the deaths of God’s two witnesses in the future, as predicted by Revelation 11.10, lost men’s preferences are for those things that are contrary to God, are rebellious toward God, and are antagonistic toward God. There is probably no clearer example of this than any and every unsaved man’s preferences about communion with God. Knowing God and having an intimate relationship with God is, without a doubt, the highest and noblest privilege possible for a man. But notice what has occurred from the beginning. Adam and Eve preferred to be alone rather than enjoy the company of God. And thus it has ever been with unregenerate man. So characteristic of an unsaved man is this perverse preference that the Bible rightly concludes that “there is none that seeketh after God,” Romans 3.11.

And don’t think that this preference doesn’t greatly affect the lost man’s performance because it most certainly does. How many of your children had to be taught how to lie to you, parents? How many of them had to be taught how to take things not belonging to them? Or for that matter, how many of you had to be taught that as children? Why was the Ten Commandments given to the Jewish nation? Would the Ten Commandments have been needed or desirable apart from unsaved man’s undeniable performance? First Timothy 1.9 informs us that 

“the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and for profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers . . . .” 

And on it goes. My friends, using the righteous standards of God’s Word, it simply cannot be maintained by any sane and right thinking person that the human race’s performance is anything but sinful. This is why the Scriptural verdict of Romans 3.23: 

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

This is why the Scriptural verdict of Romans 3.12: 

“There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” 

And if there is any doubt regarding unsaved mankind’s performance, Romans 5.6 completely settled the matter: 

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” 

Totally incapable of doing anything good.

We have examined unsaved mankind’s preferences as well as his performance. We have seen a glimpse of both his thoughts and his actions. Now let us look at a Biblical snapshot of unsaved mankind. In Proverbs 21.4, we are told that 

“the plowing of the wicked is sin.” 

Do you see that? 

“The plowing of the wicked is sin.” 

What a picture of the unsaved man this is. So impossible is it for an unsaved person to do good that the most innocuous, the most innocent, the most benign, thing he could ever hope to do, plow a field so that he can raise food to feed himself and feed his family, is sin. That is the pronouncement of God. Do you realize what this means? This means that no lost man can do good. This means that somehow and in some way, something so contaminates and influences what the lost man either thinks or does, that it completely disqualifies his behavior from being judged good by God. This is verified by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesian congregation when he reminds them of their spiritual condition before they became new creatures in Christ, Ephesians 2.1: 

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” 

And it is illustrated by the question Job asked in Job 14.4: 

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” 

The reason for man’s condition is the moral defilement of sin. 


Three quick things to note about the deeds done by the saved man. We know the lost man cannot do good. What does the Bible tell us about the saved man, the man who has trusted Christ as his personal savior?

First, regarding the saved man doing good deeds, the plan is God’s: In Ephesians 2.8-9, Paul is rehearsing some things to those Christians about their salvation, when they came to Christ. But look at Ephesians 2.10, where Paul tells us something about the plan God has in mind for the person who trusts Christ as his personal savior: 

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” 

Though we have seen that unsaved people cannot do good deeds, for there is none that doeth good, we see here that God’s plan in saving lost sinners is for them to then to do good works. So, the plan is God’s.

Okay, the plan is God’s. But what if you don’t want to do good? That’s okay, too, for we see that the preference is God’s, as well: Philippians 2.13 states, 

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” 

God works in the Christian’s life so that God’s desires become the believer’s desires, so that the believer begins to want to do God’s will. Of course, that suggests something about the professing Christian whose desires never seem to come around to God’s will for their lives. Second Corinthians 5.14-16 backs this up in a powerful way. The non-witnessing Christian is a contradiction in terms. And the reason for this is that God has such love for lost people that Christ’s love flows through us, resulting in us being His instruments to reach the lost with the truth that will result in their salvation: 

14  For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15  And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

16  Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 

Christians don’t do good deeds just because they decide to, in reality. Christians do good deeds because their Lord alters their desires so that what their Lord wants them to do they also now want to do. And the specific good deeds He wants them to do always end up in the direction of people being saved.

“Pastor, I realize that such behavior is God’s plan for the believer. I also agree that such behavior is God’s preference for the believer, that God works in believers to do such things. But pastor, I can’t do those things.” Let me correct you. Lost people can’t do these things. Saved people can do these things. And how can I say that? Because the power to do these things is God’s. Philippians 4.13 says, 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

So, unless the believer has made the mistake of believing the lies of Satan, he knows that God’s grace is sufficient, and that because it is God’s plan, because it is God’s preference, and because it is God’s power, the believer most certainly can do the good works that no one who has not trusted Christ could ever hope to do. 


The reason for the difference, contrasting the evil deeds of the unsaved man with the good deeds of the Christ-trusting man, is the good deeds of Jesus Christ. Christ makes the difference. Let me share with you, briefly, three things that my Lord Jesus Christ did which makes all the difference between what an unbeliever cannot do and what the believer will do.

First, Christ substituted. When Jesus Christ went to Calvary’s cruel cross, He went as our sin bearer. He bore our punishment for sin for us. That is why He was referred to by John the Baptist as 

“the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[2] 

God’s righteousness demanded that the just penalty for sin be paid. Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, took our place and paid the price for us. First Peter 3.18 phrases what He did in this way: 

“Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” 

Christ’s substitution for us resulted in us being saved from the penalty of our sins. Christ substituted. Christ saves. You see, having paid the just penalty for sin, having satisfied the demands of His righteousness, God may now pardon the guilty sinner without doing violence to His just nature. So the Bible tells us that 

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” 

Romans 10.13.

Christ substituted. Christ saved. Third, Christ sent. Our message has to do with the subject of doing good. Unbelievers cannot do good. Believers can do good. But how is this difference to be accounted for? When Christ substituted Himself for us on the cross, He secured our salvation. When the sinner receives Christ as His personal savior, Christ then saves him by cleansing him of sinfulness and unrighteousness. First John 1.7; Isaiah 1.18: 

“. . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

But to this point, the difference in behavior between the nonbeliever and the believer is not yet accounted for. Why is the believer able to do that which the unbeliever is unable to do? And why does he desire to do things the unbeliever does not desire to do? What accounts for the difference? The Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit, sent by the Lord Jesus Christ into believer’s lives, is the Agent responsible for the believer’s good works. It is His power for living a life pleasing to God which enables the Christian to do good as the unsaved person cannot. This is because the Spirit of God imparts life through the new birth, and to the person now born again the indwelling Spirit provides enabling grace. 

Unbelievers cannot do good. That’s an undeniable Bible fact. Believers not only can do good works, but they do also do good works. That’s also an undeniable Bible fact. And what accounts for the difference? The good work was done by Jesus Christ in dying for our sins and sending the Holy Spirit into the lives of those who believe on His name.

Though we did not directly address whether or not one can be saved from sin by doing good and though we did not deal directly with the question of whether one can acquire eternal life by doing good things, we did discover enough to settle the issue once and for all.

If a lost person cannot do good how can he do anything to merit salvation? The fact that he is unsaved disqualifies every single deed he could ever perform. He cannot do good to go to heaven. That must mean that the way to heaven is not by doing good. That must mean that the sinner has to rely on the good works of Jesus Christ to obtain eternal life, by faith, since his deeds are not good.


[1] A careful examination of both passages in context suggests something other than cold call door knocking was being described.

[2] John 1.29

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