Failed Merit: the Curse of World Religions and the Glory of Christianity

Merit is the main ingredient in world religions. One works in obedience to the rules of the religion, and he is rewarded, for those works of obedience, with blessings from the religion’s god or gods. Because these gods are unholy (demons), the standard of acceptable righteousness is either lax, strict, or unknown by adherents. This produces fear, and an earnest, external display of devotion (ie. clothing, rites, rituals).

Christianity is non-meritorious. The Bible views humanity as an epic failure in meriting anything from God. Sinful, fallen humanity is depraved, and man cannot stand, of his own doing, at the bar of God’s righteousness.

Sin has left man far short of the glory of God. In the notion of man-made religion, the objective is to close the gap between God and man. Man fails to close the gap with his “good works,” which God judges to be filthy rags. Man’s works to impress God are more likely to be producing more sin, especially in the realm of pride. Man is angered by the fact that God does not accept his labors (ie. Cain), despite the earnest intent to gain God’s favor, or at least appease His wrath.

The ultimate end of religion is some form of salvation/heaven/Nirvana. If man’s performance is good enough, he gets in. This is where Christianity differs immensely from world religions.

One might point to the Old Testament and claim that there was a blessing for obedience and a cursing for disobedience. The error here is not seeing the typological nature of the Old Testament. Israel had all the advantages, but it fell far short of any righteousness by its works. The whole point of the Old Testament is to see the failure of Israel to meet the standard.

Religions all fail to produce righteousness in their faithful followers. Only Christ has merited favor with God the Father. He was conceived without sin, born without sin, lived without sinning, and He died as the unblemished Lamb of God.

Human merit, even Christian merit, is nothing to God. Only the merit of Christ counts for anything. In fact, it accounts for everything. All blessings from God are found only in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Christians receive these blessings by God’s grace alone. Christians merit no blessings!

One might ask why do any good works at all? The good works of a Christian were prepared for her, even before the foundation of the world. The good works are actually the works of the indwelling Holy Spirit of Christ, who is in the believer, willing and doing His good pleasure. Christians are new creations. They are new creatures in Christ, and because they have been made new, they perform what they were made for in Christ.

If Christ is in the regenerate believer, then He gets the glory for the work He does. The Christian’s good works are actually Christ’s good works. This is obvious because no flesh can be pleasing to God, and no flesh will glory in His presence. So the Christian who thinks he is gaining favor with God, through his meritorious labors is sorely mistaken.

There is a peace and a comfort for the Christian. None of her works merited favor with God before she was justified, by grace and through the faith, given to her as a gift of God. None of her works merit anything after her conversion, either. The only difference between her before conversion, and after conversion, is Christ in her, the hope of glory.

The Christian’s sinful flesh is the same sinful flesh as before the indwelling Spirit’s taking up permanent abode in her. Her inner man has died (Rom 6). Now it is Christ living in her. All things are from Him, through Him, and to Him; therefore, it must be understood that there is no performance to the Christian life, except whatever Christ produces in each Christian.

This non-performance life is a life of faith, lived in the Spirit, and it is a life filled with good works that merit nothing with God because He is the One doing them, from His place within vessels of mercy prepared for glory.

David Norczyk

Kalispell, Montana

August 7, 2021


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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher