The “Golden Rule” Is Not the Gospel


Luke 6.31 “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (ESV)

Most of the world’s religions have something that sounds like the words of Jesus, but they tend to cast it negatively. They prohibit you from doing something unfavourably to others. Which is certainly part of what Jesus is teaching …but the teaching of God’s Word also positively requires us to do something favourably to others: Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.

Note the difference…With the other religions, all that is required is that you don’t harm other people. With Jesus, what is required is that you show love to others.  We don’t need to go much into exposition with this verse – even a little child can understand it. We don’t have problems with love for self – no one needs to teach us that.

Sometimes you’ll find someone who says, when you talk with them about the need of saving faith in Jesus Christ and repentance: “I try to obey the Golden Rule.  I try to treat everyone fairly. I have as my intention to do no harm. That is how I am getting to heaven.”  You’ll hear that what is really important that we love one another, and isn’t that what we really need to be right with God? – all to say that they don’t want to have to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ as He is presented in the Gospel, to believe in His virgin birth, His perfect life, His death on the cross to fulfil the justice and love of God, to believe in the bodily resurrection from the dead, that he is Lord of all, and coming again to judge the living and the dead. They want to reduce the essence of Christianity down to this nugget: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

But this is not the Gospel.  The world purports to admire this teaching of Jesus. But apart from the saving grace of God in giving us a new heart in Christ, it is utterly impossible. A dead end. To assume that we can and would want the best for others, that we would be looking out for others ahead of our own interests, that we would perfectly keep this command, with a heart that isn’t made new by God, that we can somehow do this while not being born again, flies in the face of the teaching of God’s Word and our own experience. We’re taught in 2 Timothy 3.2-5 “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (ESV) They are lovers of self…not loving good. “…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; [11] no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3.10-12 ESV)

The unbelieving world does “good” things – that is part of common grace. But their motivation isn’t out of love of God, and their love of others, at bottom, is self-motivated.  True love is from God, is directed by God, and directed to God. We love because He first loved us.

Apart from God’s saving grace, this verse condemns us – it sums up the Law and the Prophets. And I pray that it would lead you to Christ in confession and faith and repentance unto life!