Oh the nature of mankind. Hasn’t that been the debate for the past several millennia? Countless scholars, philosophers, and theologians have written on this subject and yet confusion still exists on this matter, even among Christians.
I understand the appeal of wanting to believe we are innately good, and that humankind is by and large composed of people who are naturally kind hearted, compassionate, and loving. The only problem with that is it stands in stark contrast to what God’s Word tells us about our fallen nature. As this is meant to be a shorter post, consider the following summary:
Sin entered the world through one man, Adam. The effect of this sin was total, meaning that sin has affected every part of human life. For this reason it is written, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, apart from Christ we are children of wrath, undesiring of God, and dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). As Romans 3:10-12 tells us, “There are none who are righteous, not even one.”
With that being established we can now talk about the heart of this post: that anything good residing within us is a gift of God. For some that may sound extreme; for we desperately want to hold on to the idea that there is a shred of righteousness within us for which we can take credit. But dear friends, let us consider that we cannot take a breath without the sustaining power of our Creator, through whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). How much less then can we do good on our own?
I can hear the objections coming, so let me also say this: Every human being is made in the image of God. And because we are made in God’s image we have the capacity to love, be compassionate, and be doers of kind deeds. Yes, sin has corrupted and distorted our created nature, but it has not nullified the fact that we are capable of loving actions. We must only remember that this capability is the result of being made in the image of God. Furthermore, His common grace extends to all, including non-believers. This grace includes blessings and the giving of personal characteristics and gifts as He sees fit. Consider the following verses:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (James 1:17).
“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made,” (Psalm 145:9).
“For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike,” (Matthew 5:45).
For those in Christ, we must also recognize that our regeneration was a gift of God. As we were spiritually dead in our sin we could do nothing on our own to come to Christ. Saving faith and the sanctifying work of the Spirit is purely a gift of God. This is made clear in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The great George Muller echoed this truth when he said, “It is true that faith which I am able to exercise is God’s own gift. He alone supports it, and He alone can increase it. Moment by moment, I depend on Him. If I were left to myself, my faith would utterly fail.”
The longer I have studied God’s Word, the more I have come to see that everything God does is for His glory and His name’s sake. He is the provider of every good thing so that in all things He is glorified. There is nothing of our own accord in which we can boast. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” All good things- even our salvation- is unto the Lord alone.
It’s interesting: the more I know that there is nothing good in me apart from the Lord, the more I love Him. And the more I love Him the more I desire to see Him glorified. Let us thank Him today for His good gifts that His name may be praised.