I am a rule follower.

  • I am a stickler for playing a game according to the rules.
  • For those “some assembly required” purchases, I follow the directions precisely.
  • If my Dremel power tool tells me not to use it as a dental tool, I won’t—no matter how tempting it is. (And, yes, that warning exists.)
  • As a rule follower, I’m that guy who drives 55 when the sign says 55. Even in Nashvegas, where most drivers misread the number “55” as” 75.”

That’s why I was embarrassed to receive a speeding ticket this week.

I was already especially alert. Why? It was Memorial Day. I was driving in Texas with out-of-state plates. I had already seen a half-dozen patrol cars watching traffic. I was on a section of an East Texas highway that changes speed limits with more regularity than a five-year-old asking, “Are we there yet?”

But it happened. I obviously missed a change in the speed limit as I approached Lufkin, and one of the city’s finest took the opportunity to meet me. We actually had a pleasant conversation which concluded with my signature on a ticket.

For the next hour, I was frustrated, not with the police officer, but with myself. I am a rule follower.

It is a hallmark of Christians that we hold to the belief that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life. I agree that faith in Christ is the way to eternal life, but the Bible also tells us of another route to eternal life.

“God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom. 2:6-7).

There you have it. The Bible tells us we can get to heaven though good works. But before we start preaching a gospel of good works, let’s be clear on what Paul said in these two verses. Eternal life is possible for the person who is persistent in doing good.

Persistent is a rather important word. It was important on Memorial Day when I was handed a speeding ticket. It didn’t matter that I am a rule follower and I obeyed almost every single speed limit. I missed one—one! It didn’t matter that I was ignorant of the correct speed; I was still guilty. I had failed to be persistent in obeying the traffic laws.

Persistent is far more important when it comes to eternal life. I have not been persistent in doing good—and neither have you. We’re born with a sin nature (Ps. 51:5), and from day one, we’re drawn to sin. So even though the idea exists that a person could gain heaven through a persistent life of good works, our penchant for doing just the opposite keeps that from ever happening. As Paul said in a later passage:

There is no one who does good, not even one” (3:12).

So for salvation and eternal life:

  • Option #1—a life of good works—is off the table. Completely.
  • Option #2—faith and trust in Christ—is available.
  • Option #3 doesn’t exist.

We’re in a fix. We’ve sinned and no amount of good works from this point forward will make up for that fact.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Jesus is our only option.


For a printable version: click here.

This post supports the study “Why Can’t We Fix It?” in Bible Studies for Life.