We have talked about original sin, and how it has left us in a totally corrupted state.
The table below looks at some of the details of our condition prior to regeneration.
|The intent of our heart is "only evil continuously".||Gen. 6:5|
|Our "righteous" deeds are filthy garments.||Isa. 64.6|
|Nobody is good.||Luke 18:19|
|We cannot see the Kingdom of God .||John 3:3|
|We are not righteous.||Rom. 3:10|
|We do not understand; we do not seek God.||Rom. 3:11|
|We have turned aside; we are useless.||Rom. 3:12|
|None of us does good.||Rom. 3:12|
|We do not fear God.||Rom. 3:18|
|We are hostile to God.||Rom 8:7|
|We are unable (not just unwilling) to submit to the law of God.||Rom 8:7|
|We cannot please God.||Rom 8:8|
|We were dead (not just gravely ill) in our sins.||Eph 2:1|
|We walked according to Satan.||Eph 2:2|
|We lived in the lusts of our flesh.||Eph 2:3|
|We were children of wrath.||Eph 2:3|
For your convenience I have included the referenced verses (all from the NASB):
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5)Prior to rebirth, we are in a state where nothing we do is good, nothing we do pleases God, nothing we do is aimed at finding God.
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isa. 64:6)
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. (Luke 18:19)
Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
10 as it is written,
"THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." (Rom. 3:10-12)
"THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." (Rom. 3:18)
7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:7-8)
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eph. 2:1-3)
But don’t we see unsaved people doing good deeds all the time? Sometimes their efforts to help the needy put Christians to shame. Are these deeds truly like filthy garments?
Although their efforts provide comfort to the afflicted, as far as being meritorious to a perfectly Holy God, their deeds are tainted by the condition of their hearts. God looks not only at the outward conformity a deed with respect to His law, but also the motivation:
THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. (Matt. 15:8)The inevitable conclusion, given the state of fallen man, is that every noble deed done by an unregenerate person will result from, at some level, selfish motivations. Such deeds may represent enlightened self-interest, but any interest placed on the self, even enlightened and/or minimal, impugns the motives.
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. (1 Cor 4:5)
Common GraceLeft on our own we cannot do anything good; anything that is pleasing to God. We Calvinists take this to its logical (at least for us) conclusion: we cannot turn to God on our own, even just to accept his offer, for surely such an acceptance would be good and would please God. You don’t have to go this far to acknowledge that, apart from God, man is morally bankrupt.
On the other hand, man is not as bad as he could be. Even the worst monsters: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, hard as it may seem, could have murdered more. As the humanists like to point out, most people appear, in terms of their outwardly day-to-day behavior, to be good. Indeed, the world around us abounds in Good Samaritans. In terms of “doing nice things”, it is hard to see any substantive difference between believers and the world. What is shameful is the flip side: that the statistics for some “bad” behavior, especially divorce, are not very different between those who profess Christ and those who do not.
The answer to this is what is described in the concept of Common Grace. God gives to all men a measure of restraint. I don’t know all the reasons, but presumably one of them is to prevent us from self-destructing as a species. Here is where we disagree with the humanists: man is not intrinsically good, forced into evil by genetics or the environment. Man is intrinsically bad with wholesale degradation avoided only by God's grace.
God’s removal of this restraint, either gradually or dramatically, is the frightening process of having one’s heart hardened, the most famous biblical example being that of Pharaoh. However, anyone holding onto a particular sin, refusing to repent and seek divine assistance in combating it, also runs the terrible risk of having his heart hardened:
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. (Rom 1:14, NASB)
God is not the author of sin. For his divine purposes he does at times withdraw his restraining influence in a person, revealing more of man’s truly fallen state. The dire consequences are entirely man’s fault, not God’s.
Lest we get too depressed, we should recall the continuation of the Ephesians passage:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Eph. 2:4-5)