One of the ways in which Christianity differs from all other religions is in its view of human nature. All other religions teach that people are basically okay. We just need some rules, some guidance, some instruction to live by and everything will be alright. Following these rules and rites, it is believed, will tip the scales in our favour, earning God’s approval and securing our eternal destiny.
Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that human beings are corrupt and sinful to the core, unable to achieve the sinless righteousness God requires. Apart from the mercy and grace of God there would be absolutely no hope for rebels like us, but the Bible rings true with the amazing news that, in his incredible grace, God has himself provided the remedy we need through the work of Jesus.
Despite his impeccable credentials as a faithful Jew, Paul came to discover his utter worthlessness before God when he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. From that time on Paul gave up any attempt to become righteous before God through his own efforts (such an attempt was itself a distortion of the purpose of the law cf. Galatians 3) and began looking outside of himself for the righteousness that only God can provide.
The righteousness we need to stand before God on the final day is gift from God, secured by the faithfulness of Jesus and given to those of us who put our trust in him. What’s more, meeting Christ radically altered the way Paul viewed his so called ‘qualifications’ and ‘achievements’. What he once looked upon with pride and had thought to be for his benefit, he came to realise had blinded him from seeing his need for Jesus and the righteousness only God can supply. Unlike most earthly corporations and institutions, entrance into the kingdom of God requires each of us to leave our qualifications at the door.