For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature (Romans 7:18).
In Eden, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or they’d die. They didn’t need to understand the big picture. They just needed to respect God’s authority by trusting His word and His judgment.
Later, Satan told Eve that she and Adam wouldn’t die if they ate from the tree. Instead, they’d be like gods. Satan said God lied to keep them from becoming gods like Him (Genesis 3:3-5).
To Eve, this satanic fantasy was better than the true paradise God had given her and Adam. Why obey God when you can be your own god? She fell for Satan’s lie because she wanted to.
Maybe Eve thought Satan was right. God couldn’t be good if He was standing in her way.
Adam and Eve knew it was wrong to disobey God, but they did it anyway. They rejected God’s authority so they could become their own authorities as God’s equals. They ate from the tree, expecting to become their own gods. But Satan’s lie wasn’t real. They didn’t become gods; they became corrupted by evil.
When God asked them what happened, Eve blamed the serpent as if she were innocent. Adam blamed God because God gave him the woman. What audacity!
In eating of the fruit, Adam attempted to become his own god, and even tried to elevate himself above God, claiming that he was more righteous than God. Neither Adam nor Eve was willing to admit they were no longer good. This denial of reality is called self-righteousness. We can learn much from their failure and fall into sin.
Only God is good
In His goodness, God created Adam and Eve in His image — not as independent gods but as immortal children of God. God shared His divine good nature with them in the unity of His Spirit (2 Peter 1:4). But when they disobeyed God, they lost the very thing they hoped to gain on their own.
In Matthew 19:17, Jesus says that God alone is good. In this sense, to be good is to be like God. That’s why Adam and Eve were so unwilling to admit that they were not good. They weren’t ready to accept the reality that they were not gods.
Many scriptures affirm that God is good and that humans are not:
“Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21).
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18).
Both Jews and Gentiles . . . are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . there is none that doeth good, no, not one . . . that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. . . . For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:9, 10, 12, 19, 23, KJV).
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience . . . and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:
Patterns in history
Yet throughout history, we see humanity repeatedly falling in love with Satan’s lie that goodness is innate. When we walk in the strength of our perceived goodness, that pride and self-assurance make us feel that we are “gods.” But that perception never materializes into true goodness; it’s always a descent into evil.
Cain hated his brother for being more righteous than he. Abel’s righteousness was an affront to his sense of goodness. God told Cain that there was no reason to be angry. Do what’s right, and you’ll be accepted. But Cain didn’t want to admit he was wrong. He chose self-righteousness, which led, not to goodness but to his descent into evil when he murdered his brother.
As the centuries passed, more people drifted away from God. By Noah’s day, he was the only one left who hadn’t abandoned God. If humans could walk in their own goodness, this would be the moment in human history for thousands of examples of that. Yet not one soul was good. On the contrary, God grieved that humanity had become so depraved, so He destroyed the entire world (Genesis 6:5-7). Only Noah and his family survived.
After God cleansed the world from wickedness with the flood, Noah’s family repopulated the earth. With Noah’s descendants, surely humanity was destined to realize the lie of their inner goodness. But that was not the case. Noah’s descendants disobeyed God and built the tower of Babel to make a name for themselves (11:4), to glorify themselves rather than their Creator. God dealt with their rebellion by scattering the people and confusing their languages.
After Babel, God chose Abraham to father the family through whom Jesus would be born. God promised Abraham that He would make a great nation of his family and that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. Through the covenant God made with Abraham, his descendants became the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.
If you believe in the goodness of humans, this must be the right moment. Human goodness will shine forth from this elite group and lead the rest of humanity into realizing their own goodness.
But that’s not what happened. God made it clear that He did not choose the Israelites because of their goodness, for they were a stubborn people (Deuteronomy 9:4-6). Israel’s entire history is a compelling testimony to God’s goodness in His faithful love, grace, and discipline of His covenant people, despite their unfaithfulness and sins. In the closing book of the Old Testament, we read, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6, KJV).
The record of human history confirms that God is good and humans are not.
Harm of self-righteousness
Despite their sinfulness, the Israelites saw themselves as righteously superior to the Gentiles because they were God’s chosen people. When Jesus came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12, 13), the Jews felt they didn’t need a Savior because they believed they were already righteous. They had God’s law.
It’s true that the law is holy and good. But the law has no power to save; it has the power only to condemn (2 Corinthians 3:6-9). It was never a vehicle for salvation. God gave Israel the law as a schoolmaster to make her aware of her sins and need for a Savior (Galatians 3:17ff;
However, the Jews refused to see themselves as sinners. They tried to establish their own righteousness (through the law) and failed to submit to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). Jesus warned the Jews that the tax collectors and harlots admitted that they were sinners and were entering the kingdom of God before them (Matthew 21:31, 32). God sent Jesus, not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:16, 17). The Jews excluded themselves by embracing Satan’s lie that they were good. Hating Jesus for exposing their unrighteousness, they crucified God’s only Son.
It’s been nearly two thousand years since Jesus was crucified. Most people today believe that if there is a God, He saves good people. They look at the evil in the world and think they’re doing OK by comparison. Even many Christians share this belief. It’s the same lie that Satan has told from the beginning, the lie that we are good.
Why does Satan do this? Because people who think they’re good don’t need a Savior. They don’t admit guilt or turn away from their sins. Why does Satan’s lie still work after six thousand years? Because people want to believe it.
This is the human condition. Christ died for everyone. Salvation is available for everyone. But only the sick need a doctor; only sinners need a Savior (Mark 2:17). God’s grace is only for those who admit their guilt, turn from their sins, and turn toward Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Repent and believe! Our response is our responsibility.