people walking in a crosswalk on a city street

Are People Basically Good?

Some extremely popular beliefs in our culture, even among professing Christians, include the following:

  • People are basically good.
  • If people do wrong things, it’s just the environment they are in.
  • People are not responsible to God for their thoughts, motives, words, and actions.
  • There is no literal hell.
  • Jesus is not the only way to God and heaven.
  • The Bible is not trustworthy or true.
  • The Bible is not the inerrant Word of God.

Some churches even teach these things.

This is where we need a whole lot of godly discernment and wisdom. Unfortunately, there are plenty of places to go to hear teaching and preaching that doesn’t align with the Bible.

If people are basically good what would the ramifications be?

The question of human goodness is an important, fundamental question. One that we need to understand or we will miss some of the most important truths of the Word of God.

If people are basically good we don’t need laws or rules:

We don’t need to discipline children or teach children what is right and what is wrong. They will automatically do what is best.

We don’t need laws or police officers or rules to modify behavior because people will do what is right on their own.

If people are basically good, we don’t need a Savior or salvation.

The thing is, if people are good enough on our own, we don’t need a Savior. If there is no hell, we don’t need salvation, either. There is no need for the cross. There is no offense to anyone’s pride.

We don’t need to share the gospel or make disciples because everyone is going to wind up in heaven somehow in the end.

If there are many ways to heaven, we don’t need Jesus. Why would He have gone to all the trouble of coming and dying if there were other ways?

In fact, He prayed and asked God if there was any other way than His death to bring about our salvation the night before He was crucified. The answer was that there was no other way.

He submitted to God’s will because He loved God and loved us so much.

If we are so sinless and pure, we don’t need to repent from sin. We don’t need the wisdom of the Bible. We don’t need God. We know best.

We decide what parts of the Bible to keep and which parts are irrelevant or mythology. We are the source of truth, not God. Not the Bible.

If we are essentially good, there is no bad news for our souls. So there is no need for the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus. We are free to live however we want to.

Are people basically good? What does the Bible say?

However, if the Bible is the only source of absolute truth and it is the inerrant Word of God, then what it says is all that matters.

The Bible teaches God created the world and the first people:

  • God created the universe in 6 days with His spoken Word. (Gen. 1)
  • He created Adam and Eve as the first people, male and female, He created them in His image with infinite worth. (Gen. 1 and 2)
  • He ordained holy matrimony in Genesis 2 between one man and one woman.
  • He gave Adam and Eve free will and a choice to obey Him or rebel against Him with the one rule He gave to Adam. They were not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  • The people God made were completely perfect. The environment was perfect. There was nothing evil or bad in all of God’s creation. God pronounced that everything was “very good.”

Adam and Eve fell into sin:

Then in Genesis 3, the saddest thing happened to the paradise God created.

  • Eve followed Satan’s deception unknowingly into sin.
  • Adam followed Eve’s lead knowingly into sin.
  • Adam and Eve immediately knew the difference between good and evil and were ashamed and hid from God.
  • God knew what happened and directly addressed their sin.
  • God performed the first sacrifice to provide clothing for their nakedness.
  • God pronounced a curse on the earth, man, and woman. Suffering, trials, sickness, natural disasters, and trials entered the world because of this one sin.
  • Death also entered the world. First spiritual death, which is separation of people’s spirits from God because of sin, then physical death eventually followed.

The bad news for us:

The Bible teaches that people have a sinful nature that is passed down to us through our fathers from Adam all the way to each of us.

All except Jesus. He had no earthly father. So He was able to be sinless and pure.

We each are born with the propensity to rebel against God, to want to sin, and to choose self over God. And as soon as we are able to willfully choose between right and wrong, we often choose what is wrong. We want to sin.

This is why we don’t have to teach kids to do wrong. They figure it out on their own without any help from their parents.

This is why we need laws and rules and discipline because we don’t automatically do the right and loving thing all the time.

More bad news—hell is real:

What is sin?

Sin is anything that misses the mark of total perfection in God’s eyes in our thoughts, motives, words, or actions.

Anything He calls sin grieves His heart and hurts us and/or others.

The verdict? We are all sinners.

  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Rom. 3:23
  • 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. Rom. 5:12
  • For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Rom. 7:18
  • And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. Eph. 2:1

If people are inherently sinful, we need a powerful Savior.

If we are born with a sinful nature and we all choose to sin as soon as we are able to, we have a big problem. We can’t erase our sin or pay for our sin debt to God. We are in utter spiritual poverty.

This offends our pride. We want to be good enough on our own. We don’t want to need a Savior or God’s plan of salvation.

The Good News

God knew we needed a Savior. He knew ahead of time that Adam and Eve (and the rest of us) would mess things up. He knew the price He would have to pay to make a way for things to be right.

He knew that for us to be in fellowship with Him here and in heaven, He couldn’t tolerate our sin being around Him. He is too pure for that.

He also knew that He couldn’t pretend our sin was okay and just sweep it under the rug. He is just and must properly punish sin and rebellion because it is wrong.

In His great love for us, He decided in advance that He, Himself, would come and live the perfect life we couldn’t live in our place and die the cruel death that we deserved on our behalf on the cross. He took our punishment on Himself for us.

He canceled our massive sin debt against Him for any who would receive His salvation by faith through grace.

None of us can brag because it was all His work to conquer sin, death, and the grave for us. We didn’t have any part in working out our salvation.

So we can’t brag or boast that we are so good. We can only brag about how good Jesus is.

The Best News: Heaven Is Real!

Jesus promises that all who love Him and belong to Him will be with Him forever in paradise enjoying Him, enjoying others who love Him, and reigning with Him.

  • The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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. Rom. 8:16-17
  • To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 1 Pet. 1:4
  • Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matt. 25:34

What does the Bible say about salvation?

God has a plan to give us a way to be right with Him if we will choose Him. He doesn’t force us into anything. He wants us to have the choice to love and honor Him or to reject Him.

  • For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23
  • But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
  • Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21
  • Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

When we turn from our sin, receive Jesus as our Savior, and decide to live for Him as Lord of our lives from that moment on, we belong to Him. We become followers of Christ.

We yield to His leading and worship Him. We follow Him from that moment on, inviting Him to transform us and make us more like Himself.

This involves humility. It involves realizing we can’t save ourselves. It involves embracing the offense of the cross to our pride.

We die to our old nature and receive a new nature in Christ when we are saved.

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:!7
  • I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20

We still have access to the sinful nature as long as we are on earth. We must choose daily, and even moment-by-moment, to crucify the sinful nature and die to our old self so we can live for Christ.


We are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer find sin appetizing. We hate it and we long to obey the Lord out of gratitude and joy for all He has done for us.

Anything good in us is all through the power of Jesus working in and through us. We can’t do anything good on our own. But as we abide in Him and let His Word and Spirit abide in us, He brings fruit and He empowers us to walk in His will.

Paradise will be restored one glorious day! And, praise God, we will never ruin it with sin again!

When we enter heaven through faith in Jesus, we will live in our new nature permanently.

We will be set free from the sinful nature forever and live in total harmony and sinlessness in heaven, enjoying Jesus and all who belong to Him.

I want everyone to get the chance to choose to be there and to know and love Jesus. I want everyone to get to have eternal life through Him.

Related

The ABC’s of Salvation

What Is Lordship Salvation? by Got Questions

Are People Born Good? by Got Questions

Did We All Inherit Sin from Adam and Eve? by Got Questions

Do Babies and Children Go to Heaven When They Die? by Got Questions

6 thoughts on “Are People Basically Good?”

  1. Very well said amen we need a Savior we need Jesus Christ amen hallelujah thank you for expressing this so simply and beautifully amen Glory to God. Thank You Abba Father for giving your only Begotten Son to die for us Thank You Lord Jesus for giving your Body and shedding your Blood for us for making a Way back to Our Father in Heaven- There is True Joy and Peace in knowing this HalleluYAH

  2. Hi April,
    Thanks for covering this important topic.
    Understanding that we are inherently sinful is essential for our salvation. It is also essential to our ability to love others. Every one we meet is a flawed and sinful human being – including our parents, our husbands and our children. If we expect anyone to be perfect and sinless, we are guaranteed to be disappointed in others and unable to forgive.
    If we see everyone as a flawed and sinful human being, we would expect them to make mistakes from time to time and need our forgiveness. In that way, we would be prepared to offer others grace and forgiveness when they let us down. I will meditate deeply on this message and I pray that it will help me to love others more.
    God bless you,
    Nneka

    1. Nneka,

      I was thinking about that yesterday! So glad you brought it up. Yes, when we know we are sinners, we approach God and others with humility. When we think we are good on our own, or perfect, we approach God and others with pride.

      This one issue makes a huge difference in so many areas of life and relationships!

      Much love, dear sister!

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