- Rick LoPresti
When some is not good enough
“The good outweighs the bad” is a famous saying used to express acceptance of someone who has been less than hoped for but not an outright failure. This may be acceptable when it comes to earthly things, but when it comes to spiritual, eternal things, God is on His own rating scale. God does not base salvation on our works because then nobody could be saved (Rom 6:23). His standard is sinless perfection which none of us can achieve (Rom 3:23). God does not lower His standard to receive us. He justifies us through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:9). This does not excuse us from doing good works. Salvation empowers us to do good works (Eph 2:8-10). So for some that brings up the question, “How much good is good enough?” Only God can judge whether or not we will enter into His eternal kingdom, and there is no such thing in the Bible as unconditional eternal security. That is the doctrine of Calvinism which is false. There is eternal security, but it is not unconditional. There are over 100 verses in the New Testament that have the word “if” in them indicating we must meet certain conditions to be saved. You can read “Faith and Works: A Bible Study on Calvinism” by this author for further information on that subject.
There are many people we can study in the Bible whose good did not outweigh the bad. Let us look at two of them here. The first is Joab. He was king David’s cousin and the general of his army (2Sam 2:18, 2Sam 8:16, 1Chr 2:15-16). He fell in and out of favor with David depending on his behavior. I found 29 events in the life of Joab described in the Bible. In 19 of them Joab demonstrated loyalty to David. 7 of them show he did what David told him to. 11 of them show he reported to David. He even reported to David that Absalom had been killed (2Sam 18). There are only four errors recorded. He killed Abner the general of the northern army. Abner had been loyal to the house of Saul but had pledged loyalty to David (2Sam 2:23-31). He killed David’s son Absalom who had executed a coup against David, although David had ordered him not to (2Sam 18). He killed Amasa who had replaced him when he was demoted for killing Absalom (2Sam 20). He joined the coup attempt of David’s son Adonijah (1Ki 1). One of David’s last instructions to his son Solomon who was replacing him before his death was to execute judgment on Joab, which he did (1Ki 2). Joab was killed seeking refuge at the altar. Although his good outweighed his bad numerically, his 4 errors were so serious that they outweighed his good, and that cost him his job and his life.
Another person of interest is Zedekiah the last king of Judah before it fell to Babylon (2Ki 24-25, 2Chr 36). He too had a mix of good and bad deeds. Although his good deeds outnumbered the bad ones, his bad ones were bad enough to bring him down. The prophet Jeremiah told him that God was sending the Babylonians as a judgment for the sins of Israel, and that the only way to survive was to submit to it. Apparently, he did at first because later the Bible says he had made an oath to the king of Babylon (2Chr 36:13). He asked Jeremiah to pray twice (Jer 21, Jer 37). He brought Jeremiah out of prison twice (Jer 37, Jer 38). He promised Jeremiah he would not allow the princes to kill him (Jer 38). He called for Jeremiah twice to ask what the word of the Lord was (Jer 37, Jer 38). Yet he also made some major errors which cost him dearly. He put Jeremiah in prison (Jer 32). He let the princes put Jeremiah in the dungeon (Jer 38). He attempted to escape the Babylonians who caught him, killed his sons before his eyes and then removed his eyes, led him captive to Babylon where he died in prison, and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
All sin is sin and deserves the judgment of God, and when God forgives we are truly forgiven. Yet sometimes when certain principles are violated and certain seeds of evil are sown, there will be a harvest (Gal 6:7-9). When David was confronted by Nathan after he committed adultery and murder, he repented and was forgiven (2Sam 11-12). The punishment for both sins was death. David was not sentenced to death, but he did have to reap serious consequences for the rest of his life. The problems he had with his sons Absalom and Adonijah were the direct result of this. God decides what our punishment may or may not be for our errors. Sometimes it is far less than we deserve, and sometimes we need to learn a lesson. It is far better to be corrected in this life than to be left to our own devices now only to face judgment in eternity (Heb 12). We do not always understand the ways and judgment of God, because we do not know everything and see eternally like He does (Is 55:6-9, Eze 18, Lk 16:15, Jn 7:24, Jn 9:1-3). He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Heb 4:12). Joab and Zedekiah were men of high position who violated God’s will in serious ways, but that does not mean that we can forego the fear of God. It is better to have a sincere, repentant heart before God and let Him decide what we need to be right with Him than to try go on in our own righteousness. We do not read of either man’s repentance even at the end. How we finish is more important than how we begin (Ecc 7:8, Ecc 11:3, Rev 22:11). We must be careful that what we allow in our lives does not destroy us (Rom 14:22, 1Cor 6:12, 1Cor 10:23). We cannot rely on getting into heaven based on our good outweighing our bad. We need to strive to always do right in the eyes of God by keeping His commandments. When we err, we need to truly repent and make things right (1Jn 1:5-2:5).