Are humans basically good or are they predisposed to evil? That has been a question in Psychology for many years. In 1914, soon after the outbreak of the war, English author H. G. Wells published a number of articles in London newspapers that eventually appeared as a book entitled The War That Will End War. However the First World War certainly did not end all wars for there followed the Second World War, the wars in Korea, Vietnam and others in this 21st century. It makes it difficult to believe that humans are basically good. Yet we should have learned from the lips of Jesus over 2000 years ago that humans have a built-in bias towards evil.
We need to be real in this life. We need to recognise that no one is perfect. No one has had a perfect background in life. There have been many factors that have made us what we are today. It is not only the things that have happened to us but also our responses to those things that have helped form who we are. We all need healing in various areas of our lives in varying degrees so we may become more whole.
We need to understand the following about ourselves so that we can seek help from the Lord for ourselves and for others as we try to help them become the people God wants them and us to become.
1. HUMANS WERE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD TO BE LIKE HIM
Humans were created by God, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis1:26-27.
They were created as living beings having personality and a limited dominion over all creation, ‘And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”’ Genesis 1:28.
They were also created with free-will, with the ability to choose, ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”’ Genesis 2:16-17.
However, we know what happened as Adam and Eve both ate of the forbidden fruit and were cast out of the Garden of Eden. St Paul wrote of the consequence, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—.” Romans 5:12. The bias to evil has infected every human ever since. Spiritual death was also a consequence.
After the Flood when God struck the earth in judgment, Noah built an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings on the altar. God responded, “And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” Genesis 8:21. God Himself was stating the truth about humans that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” The image of God has been marred through sin. There has existed a bias toward evil since the fall. King David was later to write about himself, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS. A human lived a perfect life and died a perfect death to remove human sin and to make it possible for humans to have fellowship with God again. Jesus became the only perfect human, and is the only perfect image of God, “but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:2-3.
The other great news is this. God is restoring His image in His people, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29. This takes place as an ongoing process in the lifetime of His people as they live in obedience to Him on earth, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. Humans are meant to be focused on Jesus, gazing on Him in adoration and praise. As they do so, they begin to reflect the object of their adoration and are being progressively transformed into His likeness.
2. THE IMAGE OF GOD WAS MARRED IN HUMANS. No one Is Perfect.
St Paul wrote that all people are under the power of sin, “we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin.” Romans 3:9.
- Pagans did not respond in faith and obedience to God’s general revelation of Himself in creation, Rom 1:19-23. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
Not only did they reject God’s revelation of Himself but they made a choice. That was to throw their lot in with the devil, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1:25.
God allowed them to do what they wanted to do in their rejection of Him, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:28-32. “Gave up” means to hand over. He handed these humans over to do what they wanted in exercising their free-will.
- Moralists. St Paul realised that there would be people who despised those who had no faith. He warned them, that recognising sin in others meant that they rendered themselves guilty before God, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” Romans 2:1.
- Religious people (Jews of Jesus day). Paul also warned those who were Jews but were not living in obedience to God, “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law.” Romans 2:17-23. The Jews had special privileges as the people of God. However they were not exercising their responsibilities and were being unfaithful to God in spite of their privileges.
Paul poses the question, what advantage then do the Jews have, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:9-12.
- Paul sums up the whole case against all humans by writing, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Every human from whatever background is tainted with sin. No one is perfect. All are sinners.
Here then is the dilemma of our human situation. God is love but He is also holy. No human is, or ever could be, acceptable to Him of themselves.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS! God accepts His people fully in Christ. Paul writes of those who have repented of sin and given their lives to God, that they are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26.
God has done what humans could not do for themselves. In His grace, mercy and love He has removed the barrier of sin through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross and has accepted those who have taken hold of that redemption by receiving Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Good news indeed!
3. NO ONE BEHAVES PERFECTLY. WE ARE ALL LAW-BREAKERS
God has declared what behaviour He wants for His people. We see that in all the commandments He gave to His people since creation. Much of it is summarised in the Decalogue, the 10 commandments, and in the teaching of Jesus. His 2 great commandments are indeed a summary of the 10 commandments but His teaching is full of what is required to be doing the will of God. Then we have the teaching in the epistles which are full of instruction on how to become and live as a believer.
But James in James 2:10 wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” That means that every human is guilty before God. We are all law-breakers.
That truth is emphasised by St John in his first epistle, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”1 John 1:8-10. Faith believes what God has said about the human race in His word.
We need to recognise that we are all sinners, always needing God’s grace and mercy.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS. God can help us to obey Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote in Romans 8 that those who are justified by faith [all believers] are able to have the requirements of the law fulfilled in them by Holy Spirit, as they walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Paul also encouraged the believers in Philippi to work out [not for] their salvation with the assurance that God would give them the motivation and the willingness to do the will of God, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13. They were to work out in practice in their daily lives what God was working in them by the presence and power of His Holy Spirit.
4. ALL PEOPLE NEED FORGIVENESS FROM GOD.
God in His word states that all humans are sinners. What does that really mean? What is sin? The New Testament has a number of different words to describe sin. These are some of them underlined below with a few examples of each of them.
- (adikia=unrighteousness, injustice, wronging someone).
- Acts 7:24 “And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. Writing about Moses.
- 1 Corinthians 6:7, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”
- 2 Corinthians 7:2, “Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.
- 2 Corinthians 7:12, “So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.”
- (hamartia = a falling short).
- Romans 2:12, “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.”
- Romans 3:23, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
- (Parabasis = transgress, go aside).
- Romans 4:15, “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”
- Gal 3:19 “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions.”
- (Paraptoma = fall beside, err).
- Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:19, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
- Heb 6:6, “and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”
- (Atheteō = To reject.
- Luke10:16, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
- John 12:48, The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”
- Heb 10:28, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
- (Parerchomai =to ignore or neglect, disobey.
- Luke 15:29. Jesus is describing the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son, “but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.’”
- 1 Peter 2:8, and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
Summing up we may say that the essence of sin is the rejection by humans of God’s authority over His creatures and their refusal to submit to His will. Humans have an inbuilt bias towards evil and choose to follow the desires of their imperfect hearts rather than seeking and doing the will of God. It is wrongly using the freedom God has given them. That is, they choose to disobey and for that they are accountable.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS. Forgiveness is available for all human sins in Christ (alone). Ephesians 1:7.-8, ”In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” Because Christ has died to take away the sin of the world, forgiveness is now available in Him.
Col 1:13-14, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” As members of Christ’s kingdom, believers have forgiveness of all their sins.
Acts 10:43, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Forgiveness is available to all who trust in Christ.
5. ALL PEOPLE NEED GOD’S CONTINUING GRACE TO LIVE AS THEY SHOULD.
What we all are by natural birth. Humans are separated, alienated, strangers, hopeless, godless, far off. These terms signify our perilous situation and our need for God. These words are found in just 2 verses in Ephesians 2:12-13, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” God has “brought near” or accepted into His family all those who trust in His Son for salvation
- Our spiritual blindness.
- Jesus said,“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” Matthew 13:15.
- “Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” John 12:39-40.
- St Paul wrote, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”(Satan blinds people to truth, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
- Our spiritual deafness. Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- “And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8.“Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Luke 10:23-24,
- “And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:9.
- Our spiritual deadness.
- “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— “. Ephesians 2:5.
- “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” Colossians 2:13.
- “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Gal 5:17ff. There is a problem with our old nature, the nature we were born with, the flesh. It is opposed to the Spirit of God.
- A MIRACLE IS NEEDED FOR PEOPLE TO LIVE AS THEY SHOULD.
We were once spiritually blind, deaf, dead etc. until we were born again.
Those whom we are trying to help are also spiritually dead, deaf etc until they are born of his Spirit. Jesus said in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He then answered Nicodemus’ question, “Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:4-8. The new birth is necessary for anyone to be able to enter into the kingdom of God and to be able to understand spiritual realities. That should drive us to prayer and a reliance on God Himself to minister through us as His instruments as we seek to help others. Unless the Holy Spirit quickens their hearts and gives them the ability to understand spiritual realities, they remain spiritually dead and deaf.
TO CONSIDER: What are the dangers of thinking that all humans are intrinsically good and just need education to become better? It seems that the Lord Himself has a problem with that understanding for He taught the exact opposite. He taught that evil arose from within humans, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Matthew 7:21-23.
There is also a problem helping others if we believe the wrong thing about them. They cannot come to know God nor walk in His ways if we don’t tell them the truth about the weakness of fallen human nature and encourage them to put their trust in Christ as Saviour. Salvation comes freely from the grace of God and not from any human effort which neglects the Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Preaching of the early Church. They preached Jesus as the One who had opened the door to heaven to all those who believed and in whom all that is needed to live to His glory, is to be found.
5. ALL PEOPLE NEED GOD’S GRACE TO BE ACCEPTED BY HIM.
- God set the grounds for our acceptance. It is His nature to forgive and receive all those who come to Him in repentance and faith, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He us faithful to His promises to forgive all those who come to Him in repentance andfaith.
- God took the initiative in making it possible for sinful humans to be forgiven, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21. Some writers have called this a divine exchange. Christ took on Himself all the sin of the world and in exchange gave them His righteousness or right standing with God as they trusted in Him.
- God enables us to live for Him, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”1 Peter 2:24-25. He enables us to live righteous lives.
- Christ sacrificed Himself for us, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14. His single offering of Himself on the cross means that those who respond to Him have been sanctified or set apart to live for Him.
- Because of this grace, we can boldly enter God’s presence through Christ, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22.
All God’s riches are available to His people in Christ. ”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1:3.
Indeed, every need we have is supplied in Him, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.
We are fellow heirs with Christ, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:15-17.
God has done everything for salvation for us humans, in the death, resurrection and ascension of His Son and in His pouring out His Spirit on all who turn to Him in repentance, faith and obedience.
BUT. We humans have to take hold of His grace in receiving Christ as Saviour and Lord. Faith humbly believes the gospel message and in gratitude appropriates God’s gracious provision for all our needs in Him.
Blog No.445 posted on Wednesday 16 November 2022.