I recently came across the following proverb. The proverb is superficially witty:
“Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.”
This proverb is partly correct. While one is sleeping, for example, one is generally not out stealing, murdering, fornicating, and telling lies. Sins, however, are not limited to positive acts (sins of commission), but also to the absence of positive acts.
The greatest commandment is
Deuteronmy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
This commandment is a positive one. It is not simply prohibitory, it requires one to act positively toward God, not just refrain from certain sinful acts. Through sleep one can avoid becoming a murderer, but one is also failing to engage in the positive acts commanded in Scripture.
Furthermore, it is the positive acts that are commanded by God that prevent us from ever being able to merit from God. The sixth commandment (“Thou shalt not kill”) not only forbids murder, but also implicitly commands us to take actions to preserve life. Thus, when we rally against laws permitting infanticide, we are not performing a meritorious act, we are simply obeying God’s commandment.
For recall what Scripture commands:
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
The proverbial “Good Samaritan” may feel warm and fuzzy after helping out his neighbour, but even the Good Samaritan is simply doing that which God commands. Thus, even the best mere man who most perfectly loves God and his neighbor can only hope to have a very small number of sins on his account: he can never hope to have anything more than debt to God.
Because of this principle, there is only one source of merit. To use a timely analogy, there is only one $700 Billion bailout plan. That one source of merit is Jesus Christ, the righteous. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law of God, thereby earning (under the covenant of works) life. Nevertheless, Jesus sacrificed that life to suffer punishment in place of sinners: punishment he did not personally deserve.
This bailout plan is not a redistribution of wealth from workers to bankers, but is instead redemption for slaves. Even the best mere man is a sinner in God’s sight, deserving wrath and hell forever. Christ, by dying redeemed for himself a people out of all parts of the world.
If you are trusting in anything except that one acceptable sacrifice, you will appear before the judge of all the earth in debt, and will be justly sentenced to hell. So now, while there is time, turn from your sins, and embrace the Lamb of God, by whose blood you may be cleansed from your guilt.
You cannot measure up to the law of God on your own. You cannot do so through drinking, through sleeping, or through any amount of effort on your own part. You cannot do so through the assistance of other mere men, for they all (like yourself) are debtors to the law (as it is written “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”). There is only one hope of salvation:
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
Trying to live a good life by avoiding sin is not enough. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel.