No One Does Good, No, Not Me

by | May 9, 2017 | David Appelt

The Problem

We often have a tiny view of grace. We reduce the radical expanse of God’s grace, because we reduce the need for his grace. Mountains are only amazing if you see their peaks and their base. You can’t marvel at the height or size of a mountain if you have no idea just how far it reaches above the valley.

That’s our problem with grace. We don’t want to think deeply of our extreme need for salvation (i.e. sinfulness, depravity), so we rob ourselves of the true sight of God’s grace. Just like a mountain, we can only be amazed at the peak if we see it in contrast to the valley.

What is the valley?

The psalms have a high-percentage of “coffee-cup verses.” There are plenty of passages that warm our hearts. We have no trouble imagining ourselves being guided alongside quiet waters (Psalm 23), having our arms strengthened for battle (Psalm 18), or not having our feet slip (Psalm 121). However, we have trouble envisioning ourselves inside other passages of scripture.

All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.
 Psalm 14:3 (CSB)

The reality is that Psalm 14 is just as inspired and true as Psalm 23. I can hear the objections now:
Objection 1: “That’s the old testament anyways”
Answer: I think you have a faulty view of your bible. The Old Testament is just as inspired as the New. Yes, we need to make sure we distinguish carefully between what has passed from the Old Testament into fulfillment, but the Old Testament is often way more relevant and applicable today than most American Christians believe or teach (to our shame).

Objection 2: “I wasn’t that bad. I did plenty of good things, even before knowing Christ. I never did any of the really bad things.”
Answer: Wrong. The Bible paints one continuous portrait of the ‘natural man’ (read: the man who does not know Christ).

The Reality of the Need

Every human, ever, since Adam and Eve, is born into the state described in Psalm 14. We are turned away; we are corrupt. Our hearts do not desire God. We don’t desire to please him, to obey him. We may do something that is kind, but we don’t have a pure heart. We still have pride that turns us away from God and exalts ourselves. Lest you think that you are the exception, or that this doesn’t pertain to you because you are born AD instead of BC, the verse above is quoted in Romans 3 (the apex of Paul’s argument against the whole of mankind). If that wasn’t enough, we have the same instruction about man’s heart repeated frequently in the Old and New Testaments.

If you don’t see how desperate your need for God’s grace is, then you will never fully appreciate the grace he shows to sinners. You must see the weight, wrought by sin, that every human carries, constantly, that they can not escape. We can not remove it; we can’t move ourselves out from underneath it. It’s the result of turning aside from God, yet not being able to escape that he exists (Romans 1). It takes the work of Christ alone to set us free (Romans 3:23-24). You must see the peak and the valley.

All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.
 Psalm 14:3 (CSB)

The radical grace given to graceless radicals

People are not in need of cleaning up; we are not in need of behavioral modification. Sin did not make you sick; sin made you dead (Eph. 2). If you are a Christian, you did not become one because you were smart enough to pull yourself out of the ash heap and get in the line going to heaven. No, you and I are burning sticks plucked from the fire (Zech. 3:2). We are the helpless ones, the ungodly, that God has yet decided to show grace to anyways.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
 Romans 5:6-8 (CSB)

We were helpless. We were ungodly. There was nothing in us to draw out the love of God on our behalf. We didn’t accomplish, qualify for, or possess anything that warranted the grace shown to us. We were still helpless, still ungodly, still turning away, and still hating God.

Yet, God purposed and accomplished salvation. At creation he knew every detail of the amazing amount of sin that his chosen people would have, and Jesus Christ actively decided to die in our place. That is radical grace.

Unless we truly understand our helplessness, then we will continue to think, at some level, that we have earned or merited our place with God.

That may be obvious, through trying to accomplish a list of works, it may be subtle, thinking that you drew yourself to God, instead of him bringing you to himself. We must seek to fully see our position of need. We need to fully grasp what Romans 5 says: we were all dead in Adam, yet in Christ God has saved his people–fully, completely, beautifully, perfectly. (Col. 1:21-22, Eph. 1-2, Rom. 8-9).

God’s glorious plan of salvation was worked out, graciously, on behalf of us sinners, completely according to the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:11).

We are left with one choice: rejoice in the sovereignty and finality of our salvation. It is because our salvation is initiated by God that we can be sure it will be carried through perfectly to completion! If it rested on your shoulders, it simply wouldn’t last. Instead, we get to rejoice in the words of our Savior:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
 John 6:44 (CSB, emphasis mine)

We don’t have to ignore the verses that remind us of our deep need for grace. We don’t need to be ashamed of how radically broken we were. Instead, we get to look deep into those verses like Psalm 14 and rejoice that the Holy God loved radical sinners enough to eternally give them an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Recommended Resources

Ephesians 1-2
Romans 1-9
A Boring Gospel by David Appelt
God condemns justly by Joe Thorn
God sustains faithfully by Dr. Jim Renihan

David Appelt serves as the creative arts director at NewLife Community Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio. He graduated from Capital University with an emphasis on Music Ministry. He plans on pursuing pastoral ministry in the future.
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