Man cannot be good without God for God is the source of all goodness. One can follow every law God ever gave and still not be good. Jesus said there is none good, but God alone. God gave the law to Moses to show men a standard of measurement and when the Hebrews broke the law they had to present a sacrifice to the Lord to cover their sin. This was a foreshadowing in time of the real Sacrifice of God that would not cover sins, but wipe them away making the sinner justified and sinless in the eyes of God.
Romans 3:20 says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” So the law was given to show humanity we are sinful. This way no one could be in denial of our condition and need for a Savior. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “the ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock.” Lewis is saying that it used to be a forgone conclusion that man was guilty and God was the Judge. However in modernity, man got the idea that he was the judge and God is the one on trial. Yet the modern man takes for granted that he has no standard by which to judge God for God is the bearer of the standard of goodness, not man. How can man judge God without God? And if God’s proper place as Judge is realized there is no place for man to judge Him.
Romans 3:21-26 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished --- He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
Therefore, the law and the prophets testified of the coming Savior who would bring about the redemption of man apart from observance of law. Romans 4:4, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However to the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness.” When man works to achieve goodness by following a moral standard instead of by accepting God’s free gift of righteousness, he places his goodness in his own hands instead of in God’s. And apart from God, his good acts will not lead to goodness. Scripture says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, his works did not justify Him. Only God can justify a person and when we try to be “good” on our own we are living in defiance of God’s righteousness. When we think goodness can be attained apart from God and then we can take that standard of goodness we think is our own evolved trait and judge God by it we have sunk into a quagmire of foolish thinking.
Romans 2:14 “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” Thus, when humans who have not been told about the law of God do by nature the things of the law they show that they do know good and evil and their own actions bear witness to this knowledge. Hence, to say it is possible to be good apart from God is to testify that they know there is a standard of good that they need to live by. Obeying ones knowledge of good does not bring righteousness it only produces the need for the real good: God.
Romans 5:7 “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:18 – 19 “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life to all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
It all comes down to knowing we are sinners in need of a Savior and accepting Jesus sacrifice as the only redemption for our sins, thus becoming reconciled back to God. This new life with God is not one that consist of intellectual assent to the Truth, but one that is about knowing He who is the Truth, Jesus, experientially and tangibly. We invite Him to dwell with us when we accept Him as Lord and Savior and He changes our nature helping us to live the way we were created fully of life and the power of God.