But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23)
God, through the Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah, shows us the real condition of our sinful hearts. Not only is fallen man's nature evil, but he CANNOT CHANGE. He can no more change his sin nature than a black man can change his skin color, or a leopard change its spots.
Man, by his fall into sin, has lost all ability of will to any spiritual good that might accompany salvation. Natural man is dead in sin and is not able, in his own strength, to convert himself, nor to prepare himself for conversion.
This does NOT mean that all men are equally bad. Nor does it mean that any man is as bad as he could be. Nor does it mean that anyone is entirely destitute of virtue. Nor does it mean that man's spirit is inactive.
What it DOES mean is that since the fall of Adam into sin, man rests under the curse of sin. He is actuated by wrong principles. He is wholly unable to truly love God or to do anything meriting salvation.
FREE WILL AND ABILITY
Man is a free agent. His will is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is "free" to fly but is not able, so the natural man is free to come to God, but is not able. How can he repent of sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates him?
Man's ruin lies mainly in his own perverse will. He CANNOT come to God, because he WILL NOT come.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
Fallen man does not desire to be saved from his sins. His fallen nature gives rise to a most amazing stupidity, blindness and opposition to the things of God. In spiritual matters he puts bitter for sweet, sweet for bitter, good for evil and evil for good.
Fallen man is so morally blind that he uniformly prefers and chooses evil over good, as do the fallen angels (demons). He is never compelled to sin, but does it freely and delights in it. Natural man cannot perceive the kingdom of God, much less enter into it.
Man, in his natural, fallen state, may have an intellectual knowledge of the facts and doctrines of the Bible. But he lacks all spiritual discernment of their excellence. He finds no delight in them.
Under the Law of Moses, the circumcision of the newborn child, and the purification of the mother, were designed to teach that man comes into the world sinful. Human nature is corrupt in its very origin.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. (Psalm 58:3)
THE FALL OF MAN
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
The fall of mankind into sin in the person of our first parents, Adam and Eve, is not just a story. It is a sad fact. Moses and the Prophets, Christ and the Apostles all interpreted Genesis 3 literally and based their theology upon it.
WHAT IS DEATH?
The death threatened by God included instant withdrawal of the divine favor and fellowship upon which man's life depended. It included the alienation and curse of God, the sense of guilt, corruption of nature and consequent actual transgressions.
Death meant the miseries of life, the dissolution of the body and the pains of Hell forever. DEATH ultimately means SEPARATION. It means far more than just the separation of the soul from the body upon physical death. It means separation from God.
It was primarily spiritual death that was threatened by God. The death of the body was just one of the first fruits and relatively unimportant consequences of that greater penalty. Adam lived for many years after the fall into sin, but he died spiritually the moment he sinned.
He immediately began to grow old. The state of original goodness and happiness in which Adam was created was lost. In its place came an overwhelming state of sin -- brought about as effectively as one puncture of the eye involves the whole person in perpetual darkness.
The wrath and curse of God rested upon him. He was now possessed with a sense of guilt, shame, pollution, degradation, a dread of punishment and a desire to escape from the presence of God.
How did this happen? Satan tempted Eve. He questioned God's Word (“Yea, hath God said?”) misquoted God's Word (“ye shall not eat of EVERY tree of the garden?”) then flatly contradicted God's Word (“ye shall NOT surely die”).
Eve yielded to the lust of the flesh (“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food”) the lust of the eyes (“and that it was pleasant to the eyes”) and the pride of life (“and a tree to be desired to make one wise”). She took of the forbidden fruit and did eat.
Eve believed that she had the right to tell who was telling the truth, the Creator, or some other source. She also believed she was smart enough to decide who was telling the truth, God or Satan. Eve was deceived. But Adam was not deceived.
Adam ate of the forbidden fruit WILLFULLY. He KNEW full well what the consequences were when he ate. He transferred his allegiance from God to Satan. It was this deliberate act of rebellion that constitutes the heinous character of man's fall into sin.
And has there not been a fall -- a FEARFUL FALL? Consider the world as a whole, filled with murders, terrorism, abortions, robberies, rapes, frauds, drunkenness, drug abuse, wars, riots, genocides, divorces, broken homes, crimes of all kinds, witchcraft and Satanism.
Even among the religious, observe the general disinclination to pray, or to study the Bible, or to speak of spiritual things. Is not man now, as his progenitor Adam, fleeing from the presence of God, as an enemy of God? Surely man's nature is RADICALLY WRONG.
“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:1-3)
The unsaved man can, through God's common grace, love his family and he may be a good citizen. He may give a million dollars to help build a hospital. If a drunkard, he may abstain from drink for utilitarian purposes. But he cannot do it out of true love for God.
We all know that an act of service rendered to us (for whatever ulterior motives) by someone who is at heart our enemy, does not merit our love and approval. The Holy Scriptures declare, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.”
Faith is the foundation of all other virtues, and nothing is acceptable to God, which does not flow from right feelings toward Him. The good actions of fallen men are not positively sinful in themselves. They are sinful from defect.
For example, in a gang of pirates there may be many things that are good in themselves. Though they are in rebellion against the laws of the government, they have their own laws, which they strictly obey.
They may do many things that the laws of the government require. But they are not done because the government requires them, but in obedience to their own regulations as pirates. For example, the government requires honesty.
Pirates may be strictly honest, one with another, in their division of the loot. Yet, their lives as pirates, so far as the government is concerned, are lives of wicked dishonesty.
While they continue as pirates, their honesty, their sailing, mending, or rigging the vessel, their eating and drinking, are all sins in the eyes of the government. They are only so many expedients to enable them to continue their rebellion against the government as pirates.
As long as they continue as pirates, they can do nothing to recommend themselves to the government as good and honest citizens. They must first give up their rebellion as pirates, swear allegiance to the government, and ask for mercy.
OUTWARD APPEARANCE NOT ENOUGH
So all men, in their natural, fallen state, are rebels against God. They may do many things that God's Law requires. But they do nothing with reference to God and His Law.
Instead, the rules of society, respect for public opinion, self-interest, or some other wrong motive, causes them to do the things which God's Law requires. Their deeds may seem good in the sight of other men. But their heart is not right with God.
Now, while the heart continues in rebellion against God, all man's good works are unacceptable to God. Like the pirate, sinful man must first give up his rebellion, repent of his sins, turn to God, and ask for mercy.
George Theiss is a combat veteran of Vietnam who now follows the Lamb of God. He and his wife, Christy, have been married 42 years (in 2019). They have 8 grown children. You can contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2002 through 2019 by George Theiss