According to the Scriptures, “good” and “evil” really do exist in the world. Not every activity is good in the Lord’s sight, but it is equally true that not every activity is evil, either. Jesus said that a good man brings forth good from a good heart, while an evil man brings forth evil out of the evil treasure of his heart (Luke 6:45).
As we discuss religious matters with others, it is quite common to hear people express the idea that all people who “do good” [行善] will go to heaven. There is a widespread notion that any man or woman that has done any type of kind deed for another human qualifies as one that does good, while the term “do evil” [作惡] is often assigned to those who are in prison because they have broken civil law. The problem, though, is these concepts are subjective and do not harmonize with the Bible.
Christians are told, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Again, God says, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). In both of these passages, we see (1) “evil” put in contrast to “good,” (2) “evil” is something that we are to avoid, and (3) “good” is that to which we are to hold on. Here is a key question: “Good” and “evil” in whose sight, according to what standard? Listen to God’s statement to ancient Israel in Moses’ day: “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you . . .” (Deuteronomy 6:18). In this verse, the phrase “in the sight of the LORD” is mighty important! God, and God alone, has the right to determine what is good and what is evil. Today the New Testament sets forth the universal, unchanging, objective standard of what is good and what is evil in God’s eyes.
When the Christ spoke about raising the dead, He said that all that are in the graves will hear His voice “and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29). Some people have heard these words and jumped to a false conclusion, giving themselves the false comfort that, as long as they do some deeds of kindness or charity, then they are certainly going to make it to heaven. Why? Because they “have done good,” and the Master said that those who “have done good” will be raised to enjoy life, that is, eternal life.
Where is the flaw in the reasoning noted above? It assumes that to “do good” is limited to helping others or doing kind deeds. Without doubt, to “do good” involves helping the poor and others who stand in need (Mark 14:7). But, when we compare John 5:29 with a couple of other New Testament passages, we quickly see that in God’s sight, to “do good” includes more than showing courtesy and compassion. Consider these truths which Jesus stated: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46), and, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Let us make a brief comparison:
|John 5:29||Do good||Raised to life|
|Matt. 7:21||Do the Father’s will||Enter kingdom|
|Matt. 25:46||(Be) righteous||Eternal life|
What should we conclude? Answer: In the sight of God, a person who truly does “good” is one that is righteous, that is, he does the Father’s will. To be righteous means to practice righteousness – do what is right in God’s sight (1 John 3:7; Psalm 119:172).
The message of 1 Peter 3:11,12 reinforces the idea that, before our Creator, “good” people are “the righteous,” and not just those who lend a helping hand to others in their time of need. Hear this: “(11) Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. (12) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” [underlining mine, rdc]. There is a distinct contrast between those who “do evil” and those who “do good.” But note further that, while “evil” is used in both verse 11 and verse 12, those who “do good” (verse 11) are then re-identified as “the righteous” in verse 12. Again, those who are categorized as people that “do good” are only those that live a righteous life. They do more than kind deeds – they live in harmony with the will of God.
In view of what we have seen, it is not enough to tell children to “be good little boys and girls.” And, it is not enough to tell adults to “be good people.” Every person needs to hear and accept the truth that, according to the Bible, “do good” includes doing what God wants us to do – it means to do His will.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.