And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29).
This verse seems to indicate that we gain eternal life by good works, which is directly contrary to all the other verses that we have been studying, including the immediately preceding verses (John 5:22 - 24). These other verses all clearly tell us that eternal life comes by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8 - 9). We know that eternal life is a gift and that it cannot be earned or deserved through good works (Romans 6:23). We further know that all have done evil (Romans 3:23) and that no one is good in themselves (Matthew 19:17). It is the blood that Jesus shed on the cross (and our trusting this sacrifice) that cleanses us from sin and washes away the evil that each of us commits (I John 1:7). By believing and trusting in Jesus and His shed blood that covers our sins, we thereby gain the righteousness that we could never gain by our own works (I John 4:15 - 17). In fact, until we trust in Jesus, all our own righteousness is to God as “filthy rags,” no matter how seemingly good our good works may be (Isaiah 64:6; Luke 18:9 - 14). How then do we explain this verse?
It is like the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Both brought a sacrifice to God and both seemingly did a “good work” (Genesis 4:1 - 5). Cain's sacrifice was seemingly acceptable, but he did not do it God's way.
After we have believed and trusted in Jesus for eternal life in heaven, His blood covers our evil sin and His righteousness allows us to do good works (fruit), which God will then accept (John 15:1 - 8). In this verse, this is the “good” that God desires from us, but the “evil” of rejecting Jesus is the one evil that His blood cannot cover. Let us, therefore, believe and trust in Jesus and thus do the good that will be acceptable to God, solely out of gratitude to God for the great GIFT that He has given us!