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Who is a Good Person?

June 16, 2023
good person

Who is a good person? According to the Bible, man is corrupt because of the original sin and therefore incapable of doing good. Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: ”All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Rom. 3:12).”

Paul’s testimony of people is not optimistic. But regardless of that, there are people who consider themselves to be good. A young man came to Jesus and said: ”Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus answered:

“Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

The discussion between Jesus and the young man continued, and they talked about the absolute need to keep the commandments. The man was confident that he had kept them all and asked: ”What do I still lack?” Jesus advised him to sell his possessions and give to the poor and then to follow Him. The good person became sad and went away because he was wealthy (Matt. 19: 16-22).

Man is simultaneously evil and justified through faith in Christ

While I was studying theology, I once attended a lecture by a German theologian who talked about Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification. That was when I first realized that man can never be good. Man is always evil by nature, but becomes acceptable to God, or sufficiently good, when he believes in Jesus. According to Luther, man is simultaneously evil as a natural human being and justified through faith in Christ.

When I received the grace of repentance and found God’s kingdom, my life changed. God’s Holy Spirit came into my heart and began to guide my life. The fruit of my conversion was a favorable change in my lifestyle. I was not given a guidebook of good life, but grace taught me to abandon my ungodly ways.
Things that had been important to me lost their meaning. I had peace on my conscience, and I no longer needed alcohol, dance floors or worldly entertainment. My greatest desire was to believe as a child of God and to attend services. I did not search for any other spiritualities once the Heavenly Father had heard my prayer: “Thy kingdom come.”

When I sat in beIievers’ services I marveled time and time again at the preciousness of this faith. I sometimes wondered if the speaker really preached in accordance with the Bible. But when I went home and checked the text in my own Bible, I found that he had preached correctly. Living faith is based on God’s word.
I also found that Luther’s doctrine of justification through faith is not only theory but true in practical life in God’s kingdom. I was allowed to believe out of sheer grace all my sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and blood. It was a gift bestowed upon me through the merit of Jesus alone. I received this gift when the Holy Spirit counseled me to accept it through faith and conducted me into the kingdom of grace as a child of God.

Nobody is good before God

When I received the grace to believe, I thought I would become good. But when the first feelings of grace were over, I realized I was not good. At services I learnt that my body, which was corrupted by the original sin, had not repented. Like Paul, I feel: ”I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Rom.7: 19-20).

As believers, we constantly feel the internal battle between the Holy Spirit that dwells in our heart and our corrupt nature that works through our body. Paul describes this battle: ”What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” He means that nobody is good before God. We are evil by nature. Then he points out the way to goodness. ”Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Later in his letter Paul instructs us quite concretely: ”For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”(Rom. 8:13).

Sin and evil beset us, and we fall into sin even though we do not want to. The Holy Spirit advises us to repent. Christians want to become free and to believe their sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and blood. The gospel gives us back our freedom and bestows upon us the power to battle against sin.

What happens if someone is a believer but continues to live in their old sins? If a drunkard continues to drink, a violent person continues to beat their spouse, or a thief continues stealing? Those people use the gospel to cover and justify their sins. The goodness of God is not reflected in their lives. Rather, they choose to live in accordance with their sinful nature disobedient to the voice of God’s Spirit. Their faith and life are not compatible. A person like that has the name of a believer, but is spiritually dead. God’s word advises us to be obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit, which speaks in the congregation: ”Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.” (Rev. 3:3).

Olavi Vallivaara
The text is an abbreviation of a blog post published in the Finnish Päivämies on Aug. 14, 2019.
Translation: K.K.
Image: SRK


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