1. Introduction to Goodness of Man
Understanding the goodness of man is an integral part of evangelism because most people believe themselves to be good.
Unfortunately, theological language has resulted in evangelism that focuses on the evil of humanity. For example, the first building block of reformed theology is “Total Depravity”.
A. We are Good Because We are Made in the Image of God.
In Biblical Evangelism of Gentiles, we find that the first message preached to the Gentiles was to a good and righteous man in the sight of God. It is essential not to assume that God thinks humanity is evil. Having that attitude will affect how we treat those not yet sons and daughters of God. It is even more transparent because, in many cultures, mistrust is endemic, with an attitude that other people are evil.
2. Total Depravity or Goodness of Man
The Five Points of Reformed Theology uses the acronym TULIP. The first of these is T for Total Depravity,
A. Definition of Total Depravity.
A state of corruption due to original sin held in Calvinism to infect every part of man’s nature and make the natural man unable to know or obey God.
Merriam Webster Dictionary
The foundation of total depravity is the theory of Original Sin. Unfortunately, Augustine‘s view on original sin is flawed but now deeply ingrained in Western thinking. We discussed corruption is not transferred from generation to generation in ‘Sin Entered the World’. Instead, sin is a force in the world acting on the flesh. Without the empowering of the Holy Spirit through being born again, humanity is unable to resist every temptation.
Language is compelling in how we think. Theologically, the doctrine of total depravity does not mean total depravity (!), instead, meaning there is nothing that God sees as good sufficient to warrant eternal life. The use of total depravity in language has two effects:
B. On the Evangelist.
If the evangelist thinks humanity is depraved, the evangelist will focus on Jesus coming to save sinners. Although true, this is a limited view of Jesus’ salvation. This message limits success in both one-to-one evangelism right through to crusades because it is not the original intention of God to have sons and daughters.
If our message is that Jesus came to save sinners, then Total Depravity becomes the focus. However, if our message is that Jesus came to make it possible for God to have sons and daughters, which happens through a covenant, then whether a person is good or not makes no difference to the message.
C. The Seeker.
When we have a message about humanity’s depravity, it builds walls making it difficult for them to enter the kingdom of God.
Some people think that they are not good enough for God and therefore do not even consider a relationship with God. We found that this is not true as God wants to have a relationship with them, to be their loving Father.
Others think that they are good, which is often the case. However, it is not about whether they are good or not. So there is no need to argue the theology. Instead, point them to the fact that Jesus has made a covenant available to whoever believes in Him. That covenant allows them forgiveness of sins, righteousness, Holy Spirit entrance in them to empower them to change, and most importantly, access to call God, Father!
3. Man is Created Very Good
A. God Made Us in His image.
In Hebrew, the word image is a kind of shadow: h6754. צֶלֶם ṣelem; from an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom,
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”Genesis 1:26
B. What He Created Was Very Good.
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.Genesis 1:31
C. God Made Us in His Likeness.
Not only are we made in God’s image, but also His likeness.
In Hebrew, the root word is different from image. It is (h1819. דָּמָה ḏâmâ; a primitive root; to resemble, liken, consider: — compare, devise, (be) like(-n), mean, think, use similitudes.
In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.Genesis 5:1
Therefore, we are much more than just a physical shadow of Him. We are comparative to Him and resemble Him. Compared to the rest of creation, we even think like Him (for example, awareness of self, others, creativity.
4. Man Carries the Glory of God
A. Humankind Carries the Glory of God.
David wrote the following verse under the Old Covenant:
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,Psalms 8:5
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
B. Sin Destroys Man’s Glory.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,Romans 3:23
C. Being a New Creation Restores and Magnifies That Glory.
The glory we have now is far greater than that given to Adam and Eve.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Corinthians 3:18
Therefore, we are no longer sinners and brand new creations under the New Covenant. Our glory is greater than that of the angels.
5. Mankind are Also Children of God
A. Paul Talks to the Philosophers and Others at Athens:
Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.Acts 17:29
B. In the Natural Sense – All Humankind are Children of God.
However, they have not yet entered the family of God until they believe in the death, resurrection and enthronement of Jesus.
6. Mankind is Capable of Showing God’s Love
A. Good Enough to Show Love.
Even those who have not entered the family of God are good enough to show love.
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love (agapao) those who love them.Luke 6:32
B. Agapao Love.
The word used here is agapao, the same love Jesus showed as He died on the cross for us.
7. God Saw the Goodness of Man in Job
Job is one of the first people in the Bible, perhaps from Abraham’s call to leave his home country.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”Job 2:3
GOD says Job is blameless and upright, fears God, and shuns evil, showing that God sees man’s goodness.
8. Cornelius – A Man who God Called Good
A. The First Example of a Gentile Accepting Christ.
God had noticed Cornelius’ good works in heaven.
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.Acts 10:1-4
About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”
So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
B. Keys To Evangelism.
In the Biblical Evangelism of Gentiles, you will find the keys to evangelism found in this conversion with Cornelius.
Seeing Cornelius’ goodness means we need to look for excellence in those coming into God’s family.
9. Believing Mankind is Good will Empower your Evangelism
In evangelism, we must not assume that all people are evil and will respond to a message about repentance. Cornelius was not yet a son of God yet was good in God’s sight and even believed before he repented.
The goodness of man is not the issue. Merit, or its lack, is not how we enter the family of God. It is through Jesus Christ’s death and the New Covenant. Jesus said this:
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:20
Man’s righteousness cannot save him because righteousness is a gift from a covenant made by Jesus with any person who believes. This covenant is called the New Covenant.
10. Summary of the Goodness of Man
- The reformed theology of Total Depravity does not reflect the nature of man.
- Total Depravity language has a negative effect in evangelism and is irrelevant to the gospel message.
- God’s creation of man was “very good”.
- We are created in God’s image and likeness.
- Humankind carries the glory of God, when they become sons and daughters of God, the glory starts to grow.
- Huankind, believer in Jesus or not, is able to show agape love.
- God called Job good.
- God chose Cornelius because he was good.
- Believing humankind is good will empower evangelism.
© Use by Permission Awakening Impact Ministries/ Dr Neville van Eerten 2022