Are humans inherently good?

Are people inherently good or bad? What standard should we use to rate our morality? Does the Bible support the concept that people are basically good?

Many people will rate their standard of goodness on the basis that they have never committed a specific crime such as raping, murder or committing genocide – so in their mind, they believe that they are good people.
Other people rate their standard of goodness based on their personal charitable works such as giving monetary donations, helping the poor, going to church and so forth.
Others look at the life of a human being such as their priest, pastor, celebrity and so forth as their personal standard of goodness for which to emulate.
However are all the examples above the correct way to determine whether humans are naturally good or bad? What exactly does the Bible say about our human nature?

The Bible teaches that none of us are good. Romans 3:10-12NLT says that “No one is righteous. Not even one …no one does good. Not a single one”

Romans 3:23 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

The Bible says that our hearts can manifest many different sinful acts.
In Mark 7:21-23 Jesus says: 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.

Therefore within every human being is the propensity to do evil. Every human being is born with a sinful human nature.
All humans are born sinners because we have a sinful nature which we inherited from Adam the first human being who disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-24).
Romans 5:12NLT says: When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

However it is only God who is truly good because it is impossible for God to sin (Mark 10:18; Psalm 34:8; Psalm 119:68; Psalm 25:8-9).
God is also perfect, just and holy and therefore He cannot tolerate sin (Psalm 5:4).


God and His Laws

God’s laws and commandments in the Bible reveal His perfect standard of morality. Furthermore God has written His moral laws in every human heart.
The Ten Commandments are a perfect example of moral laws from which you can test whether you are a good person.
For example, have you ever stolen something in your life? Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever desired something that didn’t belong to you? Have you ever spoken God’s name in vain or used His name as a cuss word?
If you have committed any of the above, then you are guilty of breaking one or more of God’s Ten Commandments and that proves that you are a sinner. God’s laws prove that we are not good people if we measure ourselves against His perfect standard for moral living.

James 2:10-11 says: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

So according to God’s perfect standard of righteousness, every human being misses the mark or falls short of fulfilling God’s perfect standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23).


The Purpose of the Law & Commandments

The purpose of God’s laws and commandments is to reveal how sinful we are and to prove that because we inherited Adam’s sinful nature, all of humanity is incapable of individually fulfilling God’s perfect standard of righteousness.
The Bible further reveals that God’s laws were not made for the righteous, instead God’s laws were written for sinners or the disobedient.

1 Timothy 1:9-10 says: Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

Another objective of God’s law or Ten Commandments is to lead us to the realization that we need a Savior – Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:24-26 says: So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis Added]

The law or the Ten Commandments cannot save us because we have failed to keep them as people who are sinful by nature. Furthermore, we cannot be saved by our own effort to be good or by our own personal merit. Jesus Christ is the only way we can be saved through faith in Him as our Lord and Savior.

Titus 3:5-7 says God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. [Emphasis Added]

Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Emphasis Added]


Why Jesus?

We cannot fulfill God’s perfect standard of righteousness because of our inherited imperfections. We cannot save ourselves because we cannot keep God’s laws and commandments.
The penalty for committing sin before a just and holy God is the death sentence. Romans 6:23 says: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

According to Romans 6:23, the consequence of sinning is death or eternal separation from God. However this same verse reveals that we can escape the consequences of sin because God graciously offers us eternal life as a free gift through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, even though we deserve the death penalty because we are sinners, God is loving and gracious. God has demonstrated His love for us and His desire to forgive and save us by sending Jesus Christ to bear the punishment for our sin, thereby reconciling us to God.

Romans 5:8 says: But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 3:16-17 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

When Jesus was crucified on the cross, Christ paid the price for our sins and transgressions. He absorbed God’s wrath, sparing us from judgment. Jesus also lived a sinless life and on our behalf He fulfilled the law’s requirements, freeing us from its curse (Galatians 3:13). So through the shedding of His blood on the cross, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice and bore the consequences of our sins, granting us eternal forgiveness and eternal life through Him alone (Ephesians 1:7).

2 Corinthians 5:21NLT says: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

So even though we are inherently sinful because of the sin of Adam, God graciously offers eternal salvation as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ.
Therefore since sin and death inherently came through Adam, all who have faith in Christ as Lord and Savior will have Christ’s righteousness freely credited to them and thereby receive eternal life and forgiveness through Christ.

Romans 5:18-21NLT says: Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other Person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. 20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So despite being inherently sinful, we can thank God for His love, mercy and grace for sending Jesus Christ to become our Substitute by paying for our sins on the cross. Our response to what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross must be to believe and receive Him as Lord and Savior (John 1:12).


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