Humanity Sucks   Leave a comment

Ouch! Does it seem that I have a very low opinion of human kind? I do. I look around the world and see the depravity of man and agree wholeheartedly with the Bible that the human race, apart from God, sucks. Oh, there’s people out there who do a good turn for others from time to time and there’s even one or two exemplary folk who do a lot of good, but taken as a whole, human kind shows more evidence of hell than heaven.

The Bible got there a long time before I did. God watched Adam sin, but He knew before He ever breathed life into Adam that His creation was going to spit in His eye. God only ever created two types of creature with a free will — angels and man — and both rejected His love.

Theologians and philosophers have argued this point for centuries, ever since Pelagius (a Briton living in the fifth century) suggested God wouldn’t hold mankind accountable for obeying Him if He hadn’t also made us able to obey Him in our own right. Bible theologians like Augustine refuted Pelagius sternly, arguing for the traditional Christian belief in the depravity of mankind, but others found comfort in a synthesis view, whereby mankind was damaged by sin, but could seek God in our own strength. Both those heresies remain with the modern church.

The Bible is clear that mankind is fallen, so badly damaged by Adam’s original sin that there is no hope of recovery without God’s intervention. We are not made sick by sin. We are dead in our sin.  “‘There is none righteous, not even one;  There is none who understands. There is non who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace have they not known. THere is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).

Romans is a systematic exposition of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it relates to both Jews and Gentiles. In the first three chapters of the letter, Paul lays a foundation by establishing a universal need for salvation. His conclusion is found in the expression “all have sinned” (3:9, 23). The pagan is rightly under divine condemnation because God’s creation reveals His “eternal power and divine nature” (1:20), but man has willfully exchanged this truth for a lie and has chosen to worship the creature, rather than the Creator (1:23, 25). Man is further condemned because he fails to live according to the standard by which he condemns others (2:1-3).

The Jew is even more culpable, because he has received the written revelation of God contained in the Old Testament. Some not only hold God’s word to be authoritative, but are teachers of it, and yet fail to live by its commands (2:17ff.). All men, then, from the pagan who has never heard of Christ to the Jewish Rabbi who teaches from God’s word, are under divine sentence of death. And this must mean that those of us who now have the revelation of God contained in both the Old and New Testaments are even more responsible before God. Our difficulty is surely not the shortage of revelation, but our failure to live by it.

In verses 10-18 man’s desperate and damned condition is depicted by citations from the Old Testament. The extent of the depravity of man is underscored so as to force us to conclude that man is not sick but dead. First, Paul proves that when viewed corporately man, without exception, is found to be unable to do what God views as righteous. Second, individually man is rendered helpless by sin in every part of his nature: intellect, emotions, and will.

When it comes to sin, we’d all would like to think of ourselves as the exception to the rule. If Paul had said that most men were sinners, we would probably assume we ourselves among the few who are not. Thus, Paul must show that all men, without exception, fall under the wrath of God and need the salvation provided only in Christ. Four times in these nine verses Paul uses the word “all” to describe man’s fallenness. To prevent any misunderstanding, twice he clarifies his point by affirming that “not even one” is righteous in God’s eyes. So far as God’s righteousness is concerned, “there is none righteous, not even one” (3:10).

Paul did not limit man’s sinfulness to one particular age or culture. The truth of these verses can be amply illustrated throughout history. By referring to the Psalms and Isaiah, this broad historical perspective is accented. When Paul reminds us that “destruction and misery are in their paths” (verse 16), we know that this is as true today as it was in Paul’s day or-the prophet’s. In a day when a president and a pope can be shot within weeks of one another, we need not be urged to accept the fact of the violence of man.

Having established from Scripture that man, without exception, is a sinner, Paul also proves irrefutably that every dimension of a person’s nature is tainted by sin, incapacitating every person where righteousness is concerned.

In verses 13-18 Paul speaks from the perspective of a physician, showing that every organ in our body becomes the instrument of sin due to our depravity. Beginning at the head, Paul deals with the organs which generate speech. The throat is a grave, corrupted and defiling, and the tongue is deceitful (verse 13). The lips of man, much like the viper, conceal deadly poison; they are instruments of destruction. The mouth is full of curses and bitter words (verse 14). The feet hasten man to deeds of evil (verse 15). The sum and substance of this anatomical analysis of man is that from head to foot man is dominated by sin. His organs are instruments of sin (6:12, 13).

Morally, every man falls short of the standard of righteousness which God has set. “There is none righteous” (verse 10), “there is none who does good” (verse 12). Understand, this does not mean that individual people cannot do anything that his fellow man considers good. It is obvious that some who do not profess to know Christ personally at times live by a higher standard than some who do know the Savior. Unbelievers may be kind to their wives, give to the poor, and help the helpless … all commendable deeds. However, the Bible teaches that no one will ever be justified that is, be declared righteous, by his works:

Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).

The Law was not given to save men but to condemn them, to show them their sin and the need for a savior. Legal righteousness could only be earned by obedience to the whole Law, without any violation, ever:

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:10).

For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).

Anyone under the Law is obliged to keep it completely, lest the Law condemn him. Further, the Law, while it provides the standard of righteousness, does not give the strength to do what is righteous:

Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:5).

Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a Law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law (Galatians 3:21).

For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bandage to sin (Romans 7:14).

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).

Righteousness, then, cannot be earned by good works or the attempt to keep the Law of God, for fallen man is incapable of overcoming sin apart from divine enablement. Beyond this, those deeds which may appear to be righteous in the eyes of man may be evil because they are accomplished out of evil motives. Good deeds, if they are done to earn God’s approval and blessing (that is, righteousness), are based upon an evil motive. God has said that we cannot please Him by our works, for they are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Most often we do good deeds in order to obtain man’s approval and acclaim, which negates any possibility of divine approval:

“When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2).

Unsaved man may perform deeds of human kindness and charity. Man may do those things which win the approval of others. But men, apart from God, cannot please God. They cannot do anything which God calls righteous or has merit in His eyes.

The unsaved man’s will is always contrary to God’s. It can thus be said that no man seeks God (Romans 3:11). Frequently man willfully turns from God for Paul reminds us, “all have turned aside (3:12) so as to become useless. Man is born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and is thus an enemy of God by nature:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 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. 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 (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Intellectually, man’s ability to comprehend spiritual matters is nullified by the effect of sin. Paul wrote, “there is none who understands(Romans 3:11). Man has made great strides in the fields of science and medicine, but even the most elemental spiritual truths are beyond the grasp of the most brilliant person, who is still in his sin:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14).

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18).

We are therefore driven to the conclusion that all men are sinners by nature and by practice. Man is not sick in sin, but dead. We don’t not need a doctor to treat our weakness, but a medical examiner to pronounce us slain. We do not need God’s help; We need life. The Westminster Confession of Faith states this same truth:

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

The early Christian church understood this painful truth and taught it to all who they evangelized. Christianity spread throughout the known world over three centuries without the use of violence or the means to coercion. Yet today we reject this cornerstone of the gospel for fear that modern man will not accept a God who thinks we’re not perfect. Or perhaps its that we think modern man would reject any gospel that takes him out of the driver’s seat of his own destiny.

More on that subject later.

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