Being a good person without doing anything?

Was he crazy? Was he smoking something? Yes, I mean the so-called “apostle” Paul. Did he know the evil he would create by proposing such a immoral notion, a notion that his followers continue to spout?

Ok, just here me out! I’ve put you on the defensive. I know. But just, just hear me out.

Setting definitions

So God gives the Law to Israel and a standard for humanity to aspire to. When God gives you a law, it’s no joke. It’s purposeful. As far as limited words go, it tells you what God “wants,” what he expects of us.

It’s more that that. A standard, such as a law, tells you what is a right and acceptable act or deed and what is a wrong and unacceptable act. When you remain committed to such a standard, when you internalise such a standard that your actions generally comply with such a law, because you are living consistently, you are righteous. That’s the normal understanding of a good man, a righteous person: a person who consistently does actions that are good.

No, I’m not accepting an inhuman definition of righteous that means “absolutely perfect”. Nothing apart from God is perfect. And it is foolish to expect perfection from imperfect beings. So people make mistakes or do wrong things, but being righteous realistically speaks of general consistency, not something no man can achieve: absolute perfection.

So remember, being righteous, as shown by law, by God’s law, is based on what you do. If a person does bad things consistently and generally, no matter if they claim to believe in the purest doctrine ever, they are wicked. It’s what you do that makes the difference.

That’s why no human is irredeemable, totally hopeless, until they are dead. Why? Because a person can change their actions to stop doing what is wrong and become committed to doing what is right. That’s also why no one should ever think that they’ve made it and are forever righteous while they’re still living, since it is not difficult to lose your way and to create a wicked lifestyle.

For those who don’t mind reading the Bible, and for those that enjoy it, just check out Ezekiel 18.

But in the end, it’s what you do that counts.

Along comes the madman

Then along comes the so-called “apostle” Paul. He decides to write these fateful words that are swallowed by his followers hook, line, and sinker. After misrepresenting what the Jewish Bible teaches to make it seem as if every – and I mean every – every human is wicked (even though the same Jewish Bible calls people righteous), Paul writes the following:

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in [God’s] sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets …” (Romans 3:20-21, King James Version)

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (ibid 3:28, King James Version)

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16, King James Version)

Now I know this is all old English and some of you may wonder what it’s actually saying. But I wanted to quote this because I’m going to paraphrase it and make it clearer, and I need you to see the source that I’m quoting from so that you can judge whether I’m misrepresenting the text. Ok, here goes!

Paraphrase of Romans 3:20: So doing what God tells you to doesn’t make you good in his eyes. His law just tells you what the bad actions are. But now we can see God’s way of being good without doing anything, being spoken of in the Jewish Bible …

Paraphrase of Romans 3:28: So we conclude that just by believing [in Jesus] a man is good without doing anything that God commands.

Paraphrase of Galatians 2:16: OK, we know doing what God says doesn’t make anyone good; it’s only believing in Jesus that does that …. we’ve believed in Jesus so that we might be good in that belief and not by doing what God says, because [like I said,] no one gets to be good by doing what God commands.

Anyone with a shred of decency, who hadn’t already bought into Paul’s hogwash, would be at the very least puzzled by what Paul has just pushed onto them. I mean, come on! Think in human terms. The Bible’s written in the language of man, so we can do that sometimes. What father would tell his son, even if you do everything I tell you, that doesn’t make you good in my eyes? Generally we know a father takes happiness in an obedient son, and obedient means that the son does what his father tells him. Take it to any industry or part of life that you can think of. For the vast majority of cases, a person is praised for doing what they are told to do.

But then Paul takes us to the Twilight Zone, that outside place where a person loses touch with reality, and tells us that doing what God commands you doesn’t make you good in God’s eyes. A normal person who uses words normally and has a normal expectation of people (that nobody’s perfect) would and should take one look at that and say that this is a stupid, a foolish statement.

Now this person may not have even read the Jewish Bible yet (no, not just proof texts). But they may be shocked to find that the Jewish Bible agrees with them in such an assessment of Paul’s words. They would see that there is a group of people that are called righteous all over the books of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. They would see God expressing to an angel that He sees that Job is an upright man. He would even say that the Jewish Bible directly contradicts Paul, since Paul says that no one is good, yet the Jewish Bible overtly calls Noah good/righteous and has God saying to Noah, “I’ve seen you as righteous before me in this generation”. We have God saying to Isaac that Abraham did what God told him to do which is why Abraham got such a blessing and it was passed to Isaac. Over and over and over and over again we see God seeing a person’s deeds or the deeds of a people and declaring them as acceptable to Him. Sure, people do bad things. No one denies that. But what Paul is preaching can only be hogwash unless …. unless you tweak the definition of words, unless you tweak the understanding of God’s words to be demanding of people what it is not possible for anyone to do. Remember, this is the same God of whom it is said “he knows our frame, that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

Look, I can’t even pin this on Jesus. Yeah, I know this blog is called “Leaving Jesus” but that doesn’t mean we hate everything the guy said. As opposed to Paul, we have Jesus saying stuff answering people’s questions about how they get eternal life by “keep God’s commandments” (Matthew 19:17; Luke 10:25-28). Although reinterpreted by Paul’s followers, Jesus’ blunt words say that whoever breaks God’s commands and teaches men to do so is least in God’s kingdom (Matthew 5:17-19).

Now hold on! Just because Jesus said some good things, that don’t make him Messiah. Even idiots say good things at times. But at least Jesus said them. So no, I can’t pin this “only believe and then you’re good before God” on him. I can’t even pin it on his brother James, someone who is supposed to have lived around the guy, being his brother and all. James said faith alone ain’t good enough; it’s by doing, by deeds, that a person is good (James 2:14-26, especially verse 24).

No, this is all on Paul. It’s Paul that’s pulling the Jewish Bible inside out and on its head to tell a person that it’s only what’s in your head or heart that makes you good, not what you do, in total contrast to the law of God in the Jewish Bible.

But what’s so wrong with it?

OK, let me explain.

God tells you – normal human experience tells you – that it’s what you do that makes a difference. It’s what you actively do that makes you good or bad. That’s what a law is about. That’s what a standard is about.

Paul has just told you it’s not what you do that makes the difference but what’s in your head or what’s in your heart that makes a difference.

Again, understand the Jewish Bible a bit better. It acknowledges that it is important to have the right internal convictions. The very law itself says to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself. It not only tells you this but it tells you the actions to perform to show this. But it is the action that makes the difference.

But for Paul, actions don’t make a difference. I know, I know! He said some stuff about doing good and the law on people’s hearts. But he paints all humanity as wicked because everyone makes mistakes. For him, it’s all what’s in your head that makes a difference.

Now see the natural follow-on from Paul’s logic. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you do: that won’t make you righteous. It doesn’t matter if christians promote a righteousness that is of the law (doing good deeds). Paul’s words undermines it all by telling you that these deeds don’t mean diddly-squat. Just believe! That’s what is meant by the words “righteousness without deeds of the law” which only means “being good without doing anything”. So you could be a mass-murderer, a Hitler, a rapist, someone who has done worse things than that with your actions, but you only have to have a mental conviction, a belief, and you’re good!

Get ready for it!

For what?

For the armies of Paul-followers who will complain and voice ardent disagreement with what I just said. They will all of a sudden tell you how deeds are important, but it just won’t “save” you. They will tell you that when you live “in the spirit” that you’ll have all these “spiritual fruit” from which good deeds come.

OK, so I hear them out. I read their books of refutation. I hear their earnest and heartfelt arguments that deeds are still important. Then it comes to the crux of the matter, the important part of it all and questions remain:

According to Paul, will doing any of these good deeds make me good?
NO!

So the question remains, why are you arguing with me? You undermine every deed with just that answer. Because Paul has made his point boldly, no matter what I do, I’m wicked. No matter what I do, I’m a sinner. Whether I feed a hungry nation with every ounce of my money and strength, I’m still a sinner. Whether I destroy a nation and violate all of its innocents/innocence, I am still a sinner. But if I am mentally persuaded (that’s belief) that Jesus’ sacrifice and death washes away all of my sins, then I’m righteous? What’s in my head or heart makes me righteous? Then what’s the point of deeds?

I know, Paul tries to dig himself out of this hole in his own letters, but as far as I can see, he’s already pull the rug from under his own feet. He has shot himself in the foot with his foundational statements.

Don’t you see why it’s so easy for certain people to think that they’ll live their young lives or the majority of their lives doing whatever they want because when they get older, they can believe then? I know some will give the “maybe” argument that maybe they won’t live that long, but so what? When you feel like you’ve got time and a get-out clause by simply convincing yourself that the death of a man makes everything alright, the “maybe” argument becomes a weak argument!

You see, at the end of the day, Paul’s notion of “nothing you do makes you good, just leave it to someone else [Jesus]” takes responsibility out of your hands. In the Torah, in the Jewish Bible, you are responsible for your own actions. What you do makes the difference. Taking responsibility for what you do is the determining factor between you and your God, between you and your fellow man, not some mental conviction, not some belief.

Conclusion

I don’t know what Paul was trying to do. Maybe he thought that by changing a person’s insides, their habits may change. Maybe, based on the latter points of Romans 7, he thought that it doesn’t matter what you do, it will always be wrong or end up wrong so it’s better to not focus on the actions so much when it comes to righteousness before God. Who knows? We can only go by what he said.

But the Jewish Bible doesn’t agree with Paul. The Law of God doesn’t agree with Paul. Almost no law agrees with Paul. No aspect of real life agrees with Paul. Doing good in a consistent fashion is what makes you righteous. You can even fall sometimes, but the Jewish Bible says that a good man may fall even seven times, but he gets right back up again. Being obedient gets you places, good places, and God’s word promises it. It’s not a belief on its own that can make you good. I think back on all the churches I’ve been to where people will profess Jesus to you one day and then stab each other in the back with gossip the next. Did I say “day”? Maybe I should say “minute”! I’ve seen churches that preach love, but don’t specify the right actions that go along with love, which only breeds confusion. Beliefs are important, but it’s what you do that counts.

So to end, Paul said something that shoots himself and his followers in the foot again:

“… for if righteousness [is] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

That’s just another way of saying:

“If you become good by doing what God commands, then Christ died for nothing.”

And you know what? Based on that logic …. I can’t argue with that.

About hesedyahu

I'm a gentile living in UK, a person who has chosen to take upon himself the responsibility God has given to all gentiles. God is the greatest aspect of my life and He has blessed me with a family. I used to be a christian, but I learnt the errors of my ways. I love music. I love to play it on the instruments I can play, I love to close my eyes and feel the groove of it. I wrote my songs when I was single and not so happy and since I've been married, I haven't written as much. I guess that shows how happy and blessed I am. What else is there?
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8 Responses to Being a good person without doing anything?

  1. rachav7 says:

    Great article. God gave all mankind our own Covenant. It is found in Gen. 9. This Covenant is Perpetual, verse 16. See Gen. 9:1-17. There was no reason for a separate Covenant as Christianity claims, because we non Jews always had the Covenant God made with Noah and all mankind in perpetuity.

  2. Jennifer Evans says:

    I have been a signed up Christian for 36 years (I am now 66). I went through a phase of asking a lot of questions and when I took the step of leaving my marriage of some 23 years it was because I found constant discrepancies. Not so much in the Bible funnily enough, but in the set up of ‘church’. On leaving my marriage I embarked on what is now 11 years of dismantling of Christianity. I reckoned that you cannot really know how an engine works and propels a car, until you have dismantled it and put it back together again. So, I knew what the Manual said, but I sort of rebelled and wanted to find out how the cogs worked, so to speak. In so doing I read and researched a lot books, sites, communications with others of the same ilk. For the first time I fraternised with Buddists, Jews, Hindus and Moslems and had many a debate. I have now found a new partner who happens to be a Humanist/Agnostic. The range is endless of those who perceive our Creator as this or that. Even New Agers have taken to calling God The Universe, or Divine Energy and even scientists have alluded to God in desperation (prompted by questions of “who CAUSED the big bang in the first place?”) as ‘Intelligent Design’. Suffice to say that having dismantled all I came to this conclusion: – that which you believe because you have intellectualised it, been ‘sold’ it, been driven into by fear of hell or whatever – however ardent a believer you become, you can be ‘un-believed’ intellectually. If the belief is not originally from the heart, then you are on sandy ground. What you were persuaded into, you can be persuaded out of. Now, this is my amazing dilemma. My belief was not intellectual in the first place. It was an encounter of the heart. It went deeper than the deepest ocean. What rocked the boat was bitterness, people judging me, years of perhaps being misunderstood. I felt HURT coupled with an inordinant guilt that I was a failure as a Christian. My only obstacle was fear that having left a marriage and the church I would be headed to hell for apostasy. You see, try as I might (and believe me, I have tried) I could not leave Jesus and neither could He leave me. In every argument, in every book I have read against Jesus (including yours) – He calls me back. He does not call me back to a religion, He calls me back to a loving, compassionate, forgiving and understanding relationship. I have measured Him and not found Him wanting. I beg of you, do not turn your back on Him, for He truly is the image of God in human flesh, no matter how ANY religion has tried to turn Him into for their own purposes. I cannot leave Him. I know now I never will, but I have the assurance now of being loved for who I am . I can see that my reactions sprung from hurt and bitterness. The psychology of the human being is complex. If we were rejected, abused and/or abandoned at birth we can understandably turn to a religion who purports to know God. If your fellow believers hurt you or despise you for any reason, then we are in danger of throwing baby out with the bath water. This is the danger.

    • hesedyahu says:

      Thank you for your comment. But this website is not about simply belief, it is about truth. The idea of jesus calling you back or even keeping a hold of you means nothing if he is not who he claims to be. And a belief that strong may simply be a delusion. What matters most is the foundation: if he did what the Jewish Bible says that the messiah must do then you have a point. But he didn’t. And to place belief in him before the foundational scripture, the Jewish Bible or what you call the “old testament,” before the foundational revelation of God at Sinai, such belief is idolatry. God said he was not a man and he had no physical form. That’s what the foundational revelation says in Deuteronomy 4.

      So feel free to keep your belief. I prefer to put my trust in the words of the Jewish Bible, in the God of the Jewish Bible. And based on these, jesus fails miserably.

  3. Jennifer Evans says:

    Thank you for your reply. I actually understand where you are coming from funnily enough. Are you saying that only the Old Testament is to be believed – but the New is a load of old what’s-its? What are the use of words alone? is it not the spirit of the written word that matters? I mean, take the Ten Commandments for instance – they are there as a guideline for how we should live, but they are also there to demonstrate that man is incapable of perfectly upholding them all, all the time, which therefore in turn means sacrificing umpteen animals on an ongoing basis for atonement. The letter of the Law kills, but the spirit of the Law – now that is a different matter. The Old is revealed in the New – that which was concealed in the Old and which we could not keep no matter how much we religiously observed with all our strength of purpose. Jesus (to me) is the image of the invisible God. It is He who has written the Law in our hearts, not just in our minds. One must try to lay aside what the Catholic Church introduced (or omitted) once they evolved under Emperor Constantine of Rome into the only official representation of Christianity for hundreds of years. This adaptation of what it meant to be a Christian then was indeed built on pagan sites, pagan rituals and pagan ‘holy’ days. A complete travesty. They by-passed the glorious message of freedom from Law and turned back to Law again – for the purposes of power, greed and control over the masses. If one has a beef against Christianity, then blame the Catholic Church – but Jesus? No! Jesus did not seek to instigate yet another religion – quite the opposite in fact. Why are you still following a religion therefore? Personally if I were to be ultimately persuaded that Jesus is a fraud and all the others things this site says about him, then I would chuck the whole lot out and become an atheist. Because having once known the power of the Spirit of God in my life – I could not revert to slavery, ordinances and religious practices.

    • hesedyahu says:

      No, I don’t think you know where I’m coming from yet.

      “the ten commandments are guidelines for how we should live” – who is “we”? The text refers to God speaking to Israel (the literal nation descended biologically from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nation who was taken out of the literal physical land of Egypt). If you’re a literal descendant of Israel or have taken the necessary means to become a citizen of the covenant country, then this may apply to you. But the text doesn’t make itself open to anyone taking the book and saying “oh these are nice guidelines for me to live by.” The words of the Law itself refutes the idea that it is impossible to be kept, as God doesn’t give people what they cannot handle and there have been many who the Lord said was righteous in the past during the age of “sacrifices”. In fact the Law says “the law is not beyond you, but it is near to you for you to do it.” Sorry, but if God tells people that they are to do something, then they can do it. And you putting yourself as judge over them, and only looking at their flaws to condemn them isn’t becoming of you. God doesn’t make slaves, he liberates them. And if you understood the Torah more clearly, you would see that there is a different way for gentiles to live acceptably before the Creator.

      No, I don’t have a beef with the church. I don’t care about it. I don’t care if it’s called Catholic, Protestant, Church of God, Church of Christ, Baptist, Lutheran, whatever. I don’t care about names or structures. I’m more concerned with the words of the book, the words of the new testament and the claims it makes. I’m more concerned with a guy claiming something that he didn’t fulfil. I’m concerned about truth, the truth of whether his claims match the scriptures that came before the man Jesus set foot on this earth. And the scriptures have to be read in the natural context, not by re-reading Jesus back into them. Unfortunately for christianity, when read naturally, the scriptures – the Hebrew/Jewish Bible – don’t point him out as any “messiah” at all.

      Now I’ve heard your sort of arrogance before: “if I’m persuaded that Jesus was a fraud, I would become an atheist.” The reason I call that arrogance is because the right thing to happen if you were persuaded that Jesus was not the messiah is to be humble enough to say “ok, maybe I misunderstood the Jewish Bible as well” and then seek the proper understand that is in line of the words of King David who was under the Mosaic covenant. Psalm 19 and 119 are from a person who was not a christian (actually David was a “messiah” himself, since the Hebrew word “moshiach” from which it comes simply means someone who is anointed with a specific oil and selected to be a literal king of Israel or an Aaronic priest) but obeyed the commandments of God, and even when he fell, he repented and God forgave him without a Jesus figure, a human sacrifice which is illegal according to God’s law. Psalm 119 and 19 emphasizes what you should have seen in the Law but people like the “apostle” Paul have distorted into something alien. The Torah, the Law of God, gives freedom and truth, not just empty religious practices but purposeful lifestyle. But it is arrogance to say “if Jesus is wrong, then the whole thing is wrong” because you are still stuck stubbornly in a mistaken assumption refusing to see your own wrong.

      If you were wrong about Jesus, then only the new testament falls, not the Jewish Bible. And if you humble enough to see that, then you can ask the experts on the Jewish Bible, the Torah, if you were mistaken about anything else.

      • Jennifer Evans says:

        Thanks for your reply, although contrary to your interpretation I am hopefully not arrogant, judgemental and stubborn! However if I came across that way, then please forgive me. I am just someone like you (I gather you were a Christian once? Forgive me if I have got that wrong). The one thing I have learned since digging around and asking questions of many different religions, atheists and agnostics alike is that they all believe only they have the Ultimate Truth, only they have got it ‘right’. It appears that when someone believes only they are right, ergo by default, everyone else is wrong. For argument’s sake, if I were to be able to prove to you that you had missed sailing in the boat of the one and only unalterable truth, you would probably feel angry, outraged and perhaps a little threatened. However, I cannot and would not say that to you, although you might be inclined to say that to me. I would not say it because I have learned to respect people’s choices and free will however much I might disagree with them. I cannot force anyone to alter their path, nor would I. Only God can do this.

        Truth is relative to the heart alone, for as I said in an earlier message, it is the heart of man towards God and his fellows that is ultimate. All mankind seeks truth – most initially are drawn to God through revelation of His love, rather than copious scriptures (scriptures will perhaps follow on from that first encounter). Truth comes by personal revelation and it is not for us to judge whose revelation is right, or whose revelation is wrong – that is for God alone to judge. We fulfil the Law when we love God with all our heart, mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves. Many have the concept that God is Love. He is indeed the ESSENCE of love. All love and our capability for love comes from Him. It is there in the order and beauty of creation, it is there plainly to be seen by all. I often say to those who don’t believe in God at all that they must have enormous faith to NOT believe, as His perfect hand is upon everything He has created – its there, literally staring them in the face.

        It is a relief that we do not have to judge anyone, and neither should we. We might enquire, listen and learn, vigorously debate and then perhaps still go our own way – that is our individual right of free will to do so. When people use scripture as a weapon to destroy or score points, then the very arguments they use do not come from a right spirit and renders the power of the Word of God invalid – as His words are meant for good, not evil.

        Perhaps you might like to add ‘patronising’ to the list (tongue in cheek here!) but I do wish you love and all the blessings that the good Lord has in abundance, to shine upon you, whatever your path – and I wish the same for me too.

      • hesedyahu says:

        I appreciate the nice tone of your reply. I don’t know if my reply will sound as nice.

        Once there is truth, there is right and wrong. It is true that all groups think that they are in the right. The thing about life is that once you’ve made your decision, for whatever reason, to settle for one choice as true, it is inevitable that all other choices are wrong, are false. That’s life. You may not say out loud to another person that they are wrong; you may respect their right to choose, but in the end, the decision that they’ve made is wrong. You wouldn’t have challenged my article if there was no right and wrong or you didn’t feel I said something wrong or false. As you implied, no one can change another person. But as long as there is truth and a standard, I don’t believe there is wisdom in saying that a person’s choice is to be respected without condition. I couldn’t respect a person’s choice to murder or to worship an idol or to steal or curse God’s name, even if their intentions were noble. You were trying gentle words of tolerance. I appreciate that. But there is something dangerous about having such an open approach concerning the choice of people. In this world of confusion and philosphical turmoil, a mess of worldviews, it is true that all we can do is put our cases forward and see if the other person accepts it or not. But that doesn’t make both cases equal in terms of right and wrong.

        Truth is relative to the heart alone? Never heard of that. Can’t think of a Torah concept that goes with that. The closest thing I remember actually goes against it, where the children of Israel are commanded to wear a certain item to their garments to make sure they didn’t follow after their own hearts, but made sure to keep God’s Torah, the objective truth. An important part of your most recent message was the notion of not judging. Again, without a definition of “judging” I can’t agree. I can’t think of a part of the Jewish Bible that agrees with this “no judging” concept either. As long as we are in this world, we have to judge, and even condemn. We have to judge whether actions were right or wrong, whether words were right or wrong, and then act accordingly. Do I want my child hanging around with kids who show no respect to God or the authorities? I’ve got to judge the crowd he’s in. Do I want anyone worshipping a man called Jesus or anyone or anything else as God? I’ve got to judge that worship to judge whether I should steer clear of it. Yes, based on God’s word, I have to condemn such worship if needs be. Someone gets a personal revelation that Muhammed is God’s final prophet, or someone gets a revelation that there is no God, or someone gets a revelation of something else, it can’t all be equal when they are all contradictory. The same God that created love also created law, he divided between day and night, he divided between the different creatures on the planet, he set limits and then gave allowances within those limits. As long as there is truth, I can’t be so “all-inclusive.” I can only be God-inclusive (including God in my life) and measure the rest of life based on that, based on Him.

        There is a truth that is not based on a person’s heart, but based on God and a true revelation. Not all roads lead to God or to truth. If the purpose of life to elevate everything around us towards His truth, then there can be no good in just going with the heart which turns whichever way it may.

        I think the best ending I can give in reply is this: may we all be drawn closer to God’s truth.

      • Jennifer Evans says:

        Amen to that!

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