M.R. DeHaan was a well known pastor, author, and Bible teacher. He spoke to millions each week through his Radio Bible Class radio ministry. In his Studies in Galatians commentary, he offers a wonderful illustration to explain why God gave His law exclusively to Israel and not to the Gentile nations of the world. Here’s the illustration:
Imagine a man moving from Cuba to Canada. In Cuba he raised bananas successfully. He leases a tract of land in Canada and tells his landlord he is going to raise bananas. The landlord objects and says, “It cannot be done here,” and the argument waxes hotter and hotter as one insists it can be done and the other KNOWS it cannot be done.
Finally there is nothing left to do but permit the misguided farmer from Cuba to try it out. The boss helps him to make everything available for a good test, knowing beforehand it will not work. Now the whole farm of 640 acres is not planted, but only the most adaptable and naturally likely spot is chosen, say ten acres in the lee of a mountain, on the south exposure where the soil is best. It is fertilized and thoroughly worked, the best of plants are procured, and all that summer the most meticulous care is bestowed upon the banana plants.
But in late August comes a frost and the crop is a failure. They try it another year with the same result. And another, and another, and still another year, and always a frost and a failure. Now suppose they have tried it for FIFTEEN HUNDRED SEASONS. The owner finally says, “Now are you convinced?”
No more testing is needed. By this experiment on the most likely soil under the most ideal conditions in all Canada it is proven that bananas WILL NOT GROW ANYWHERE IN CANADA. He has proven, not only that bananas cannot be grown on that particular ten acres, but NOWHERE ELSE IN CANADA, where the conditions are not even as good as they were here.
Israel thought that they could keep the law. No amount of dealing with them could convince them of the greatness of their sin. So God gave them a law; a perfect law, a holy law, a just law. Then He planted them in a sheltered land, drove out the enemies for them. He sent them godly priests and prophets and kings. He gave them a ritual and the oracles and a perfect law and said, “Now see what you can do.”
Under the most promising circumstances and blessings which no other nation ever enjoyed, He left them for fifteen hundred years under the law, but – NO BANANAS. God has now proven that NO ONE can be saved by the law, since the experiment of Israel under the most blessed and salutary conditions failed utterly and completely.
Now, what you need to understand is that the body of law that God gave to Israel was the absolute pinnacle of what could be described as “living by good works.” Putting it another way, if any human being could ever truly live a life “good” enough to earn salvation, it would be by way of keeping the Old Testament law to perfection. But, alas, God’s great experiment with Israel has now proven once and for all what He already knew about us: No one can keep God’s law perfectly and thereby earn salvation as a reward.
And that’s where we get all of the Bible verses that speak to this subject. Here are a few of them (all from the N.K.J.V.):
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)
Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law… (John 7:19)
…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
So, in the end, if you think that your works are “good” enough to get you into heaven when you die, believe me when I say that you are wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re just like the stubborn farmer who kept trying to grow bananas in Canada. You might as well give up because what you are trying to do is impossible. The only way for you to see the inside of heaven is to believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Allow His death on the cross to serve as the payment for all the sins of your life, and eternally stand in the complete forgiveness that is only found in Him.