In Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10, and numerous other passages composing the foundation of Christ’s gospel, we are challenged with a claim that few are comfortable or willing to accept: “There is no one righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10).
Repeated throughout the whole of Scripture is the offensive idea that every man, woman, and child, regardless of age, gender, or deed, is fallen. Christianity believes that all people are sinful, corrupted, naturally bad creatures with a ravenous proclivity to engage in wickedness and satisfy the evil appetite. And we say we know this claim is true because Jesus Christ, the Son of God who taught the scriptures that made this audacious claim, was raised from the dead on the third day vindicating all of those affirmations. Thus, if we desire to live in accordance with reality as it actually is, if we wish to live out the truth, we are forced to surrender the idea that we are naturally good people.
1. The Argument
But the vast majority of society holds serious contention with this charge. If a Christian preaches “All people are born sinful!” he is quickly countered and bombarded with accusatory questions like, “What about me? I just donated $500 to charity yesterday. Or what about my son? He just returned from visiting the senior’s home. Do you dare mean to tell me that there’s no good in either of us?”
In fact, though these are certainly admirable and good things, we do.
2. What is Good?
Too often impromptu debates are ruined by a misunderstanding of the terms in question. Men regularly argue “I am a good person!” without knowing what “good” means. In order to discover the truth of a claim, we require a unified, precise definition of the term, in this case, “good.”
“Good” is the degree to which a thing conforms to its created purpose. For example, say I have a truck. Its only purpose, the only reason for its creation, is to ferry the driver from point A to point B.
And suppose it does. Suppose the truck uneventfully delivers me from point A to point B. I rightfully designate that truck “good” because it completed its task, it did exactly what it was designed to do, and it accomplished its commanded purpose. There would be no conceivable reason for me to charge that truck with being “bad.” To do so would make me a cruel and unjust master.
On the contrary, suppose the truck breaks down halfway between point A and point B. I cannot say this truck is “good.” Instead, I call it a bad truck because it didn’t do what it was designed to do. It failed both its creator and its reason for existence. Unlike the truck that completed its journey, judging the truck that breaks down to be “bad” is not unjust, but rather is an appropriate description of something that unable to realize its purpose.
3. Are We Bad?
Now, we are armed and able to contemplate on of the most daunting questions ever asked by man:
"What is our purpose? What is the reason for our existence?”
But isn’t it true that the fact that we’ve contemplated this question for centuries proof enough we aren’t naturally good? Isn’t our debate on the matter not incrimination that man is lost? How can man be good, that is, how can he perfectly conform to his created purpose, if he doesn’t even know what his purpose is?
Nevertheless, our answer to the problem “What is our purpose?” can only be satisfied if we appeal to the Creator Himself. For it was our Creator, as it is with any creation, that conceived of our reason for our existence, and then actually breathed us into existence. Because He endowed us with purpose, only He is able worthy and of telling us what we were made for.
And in fact, when we read the Word of God, we discover the treasured answer to our question.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastics 12:13).
“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” (Psalms 17:15).
“I [the Lord] am sending you [Paul] to open their [Gentiles] eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18).
Thus we see our purpose is plain. We are to fellowship with God, serving, glorifying, and enjoying Him! If we can do this perfectly, we fulfill our designated design and are “good people.”
Ah! But we know there’s a problem. The only way this design can be accomplished is to be with God…but we are separated from Him by an infinite chasm. Paul describes that death comes through a man [Adam],” and, “For as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). That is to say, as descendants of our rebellion parents in the garden, we are born into sin…How can God be with sin which, by definition, is to be void of God? It’s logically incoherent, like a married bachelor. So if we are sinful and God is not with us, then how can we fellowship with God? We cannot! Our purpose is not fulfilled, and as a consequence we are naturally sinful, deserving of death. Wars, unbridled anger, greed, lust, all of these things consume us. No amount of works, good deeds, or acts of kindness will settle this debt, because:
Sin is a state of heart (Mark 7:21), not an action.
Sin, a crime against an infinite God, cannot be remedied or paid by a finite creature.
4. The Solution
So then, because we are all sinners, is all hope lost? Are we damned to death forever?
On the contrary, in grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:1-10), God sent his Son, Christ Jesus, to Earth that He might atlas the sins of all of us upon Himself and eternally save those who believe in Him (John 3:17). For in transferring our sin upon the cross, Christ, who is perfect, paid the punishment and debt for sin (death) that all of us owe. When he was physically raised from the dead three days later, it proved that sin [death] was defeated once for all time (Roman 6:1-12). Because our sin has been paid, if we place our faith in Christ for this so great a salvation, it’s given freely to us (Romans 5:1-9). It’s by grace that we’re saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). As such, the believer is washed from sin, reconciled to God, and will be raised from the dead to live eternally in perfection with his Saviour and all other Christians in Heaven on the new Earth.
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