What is the Problem with Man?
Awhile back, as I sipped my latte at Café Nero, in Edinburgh airport, the couple next to me blethered away with each other in what sounded like a, “get to know you” session. At one point, the man alluded to some of his relatives, who had become born again Christians. With great remorse and lament, the woman said, “Oh, I feel so sorry for those people.” I immediately looked in the direction of them hoping for eye contact. They immediately detected my penetrating, “Let’s have a conversation about that last comment” stare. With no eye contact granted, their air space was protected until they left. In my mind, I was still musing retorts, but irony swallowed them all. This unregenerate couple wanted to have pity on me and my kind, and in truth, I wanted to have pity on them. One of us was ignorant.
When God created man in His image and placed him in the garden, the state of man was in perfect alignment with God (Gen 1–2). However, that state was changed. God had granted man a will to make decisions. God has a free will because He is truly free to do His will according to His perfect nature. Man had an innocent nature, but as a non-glorified creature, he could not have a perfect unchangeable nature. Man must prove his will to glorify God and enjoy Him, forever. God could never choose sin and evil, but man could choose sin and evil, and that he did. Man failed in his responsible role.
The fall of man from the paradise of Eden was the result of sin (Gen 3). Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4). It is rebellion against a holy God, who gave man one simple command, “Do not eat of that tree.” In a fallen world, man now chose only evil, all the time, in accordance with the intentions of his heart (Gen 6:5). This new state of man is the one most common in world history and prevalent, today.
The sin nature of man is the primary influence upon the will of man (Eph 2:3). Man does what He is. Whereas, in Eden, man could choose good or evil (changeable), now man could only choose evil (unchangeable) because he had become separated from God, who is good. Every discovery in every discipline only proved this to be true. Economics produced a war for resources. Politics formed, in order to regulate economics. War continued because man discovered politics is corrupt. Law was formed to govern politics, but man soon realized that judges are corrupt. Man hated his neighbor, and usually blamed God for the community conditions.
Sin nature prevents man from seeing truth. The fallen world is a world of lies. Man is unable to change his circumstances because he sins, and sin leads to death (Rom 3:23; 5:12; 6:23). Rich men die. Poor men die. Black men die. White men die. Death is the end game for everyone and every living thing in this world. Death is the consequence of sin. When boys become men, they discern the hopeless state they occupy (Eccl 1:2). They learn they were born into it. They learn this world is their inheritance. Despite the temporary state of this world, men kill each other to gain more of it.
If man is left to himself, he simply suffers the consequences of sin and death, which is punishment and wrath, in the lake of fire, for eternity (Mt 25:46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). Man has chosen this fate for himself, and because of his twisted nature, he enjoys the journey to hell. The mind of man is unstable because his mind is blinded by Satan (2 Cor 4:4). Man is a lunatic, but issue a simple query, and he will reveal his own assessment, “I am a good person.” A Bible believer must quickly reject this opinion because the Bible clearly reveals God’s assessment of man, which is not good at all (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Jn 3:18; Rom 1:18–32; 3:10–12; Eph 2:1–3) . Theologians use the term “total depravity.”
When confronted with the biblical evaluation, a common conviction may come to a man, who realizes the truth about himself and his surroundings. He considers his options, even as he learns of God’s just judgment against him. His new passion is called, “religion.” Man turns religious, when he is honest about his natural state of sin.
The natural man must appease the gods he has offended. He kills his chickens and his goats, his neighbor, and even his children, to alleviate the weight of guilt, brought by this sense of sin. In his zeal without knowledge, he is totally unaware that his religious actions only compound his sin and guilt. Man is an idolater because at his core, man hates the God, who created him (Rom 1:30). God is to blame. So, man wills to take control of his situation. Man creates gods in his own image. He will appease himself through self-forgiveness because deep down in his heart, man believes he is god (Gen 3:5). Man trusts in himself and no one else.
“But God…” are some of the most precious words to the believer in Jesus Christ. God has intervened. Man has no ability to save Himself. God alone is man’s Savior (Tit 2:13). Man resists this revealed truth, however. So, the majority of men continue on the wide way that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13). If God has made a straight and narrow way, man will never, in his own wisdom and power, desire to choose that way. There is nothing in man that seeks after God (Rom 3:11). Man is content to enjoy his best life now, before reaping the consequences of his rebellion.
God has made a way of salvation, where there was no way (Jn 14:6). It is called, “Good News” or “Gospel.” It is good because God has done it. God’s will has powerfully prevailed over the will of certain men (Eph 1:11). These people are God’s elect or chosen ones (2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 2:9). God has not chosen to redeem and reconcile all of His ungodly enemies. Satan and his demons are proof of this fact. With men, God has displayed His mercy upon whom He will display mercy (Rom 9:15). In righteousness, He displays His wrath (Rom 1:18), upon those He has not dragged to the Cross of Calvary (Jn 6:44).
At Calvary, God has displayed His Son, Jesus Christ. He punished His only begotten Son, for the sins of the elect (Is 53:5). In love, Christ died for His beloved (Rom 5:8). He bore their sins in His body on the Cross (1 Pet 2:24). He paid the penalty for their sins. He forgave their debts (Col 2:14). He Himself is the way of salvation (Jn 14:6), for those who come to Him (Mt 11:28). He issues the call, “Come to Me you who are weary and heavy laden…for rest.” His chosen sheep hear His voice, and they follow Him.
Who wills to come? Man, in sin, is a slave to sin (Rom 6:6). Man will never come to Christ because man never wills (chooses, decides) to do it (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:16). He does not will because He only wills to sin against God, which is in alignment with his nature (Eph 2:3). Man is not partially good and partially evil. Man is evil, and he abides as a slave of Satan, who is the prince of evil. Only when God’s will over-rides man’s will, does the state of sinful man change. It is God’s will. It is God’s work. It is for God’s glory that He saves even one human soul.
When God the Father and God the Son send God the Spirit to cause a man to be born again of God (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 1 Pet 1:3), then a new creature exists where one did not previously exist (2 Cor 5:17). This is a new creation. This is a new man. He has a new Spirit indwelling him (Rom 8:9, 11). He is regenerate. He has a new mind, the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). He has a new Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. He has a new life, the life of God in Christ. All things become new.
This new man has new affections, even though he continues to reside in his old body of sin. This produces a war between his sinful flesh and the Spirit of God in him (Rom 7). Whereas he could only choose sin before, now he has the real choice between good and evil, between righteousness and sin. When this new man submits to the Spirit of God and the will of God, he chooses what pleases God (Heb 11:6).
When this new man reverts to his own flesh, he chooses the old way of sin. His former enjoyment of sin is replaced with a hatred for it, however. The spiritual man hates his sin against the God he now loves. He hates his old master, Satan. He hates the world system designed to lead him into temptation (1 Jn 2:15–17). The world hates this new man because he exposes the vanity and futility of everything (Jn 15:18–19; 1 Jn 3:13), in the fallen state (Eccl 1:2), destined to burn under God’s coming judgment and wrath (2 Pet 3:10–12).
Man is a free moral agent (he is responsible), but we have discerned here that man does not have free will (inability). In the Garden, man succumbed to the influence of Satan. In the Fall, man gave himself over fully to evil. In God’s gracious salvation, the regenerate man struggles between the influence of God and the influence of sin, the world, and Satan. He is subject, to whichever will prevails upon his will. He is hardly free, but this man has help in his war against sin and spiritual powers. He is called, “an overcomer (1 Jn 5:4).” He has a hope and a future.
The final state of man is dichotomous, and yet, unchangeable. Sin changed man in the Garden. God changed some men in the world. No man will change in eternity. Hell is as unchangeable, and heaven is unchangeable. Most men remain in sin and evil, reaping the consequence of their sins. In fact, we have seen how unable men are to change their enslavement. Each man is 100% responsible for his actions, done according to his own will. God is his Judge.
God is also a 100% sovereign King. If the King wills for a man to change, the King will reign in that man’s heart. God is sovereign (Ps 115:3; 135:6), and He has made man responsible for his own actions. Despite the antinomy, these truths are friends. They dwell together. They must not be co-mingled.
Heaven was put into some men’s hearts, and they were conformed to the will of God. Hell was always in every man’s heart, and for those who were not recipients of grace, they willingly thrust themselves into hell. Once again, God is not to blame. Man has made his choice, under far greater influences than his own will. Man’s will has never existed in isolation. It has always been, and always will be, influenced by a greater evil or a greater Good.
In eternity, those people resurrected to life (Jn 5:28–29), will enjoy the singular influence of God upon their eternal lives. They will not be tempted with sin, or by Satan. The world, as we know it, will have been purged with fire (2 Pet 3:10–12). In eternity, those people resurrected to judgment will live, forever, under the singular influence of hellish damnation. No good influences will find them, to comfort them. Their devilish delight in sinful thoughts, words, and actions in this world, will follow them to a place without restraint of evil. Hell is what they willed. Hell is the object of their sinful labors. Hell is their just reward.
My dear reader, we have considered four different states of human existence. If you will, God calls you to repent of your evil deeds. If you will, God calls you to trust only in Him for your salvation. If God convicts you of sin, then I pray you will submit to Him. There is salvation is no one else (Acts 4:12). Your goodness is a lie. Your meritorious good works are a lie. You cannot work your way out of sin and into salvation. This is the work of God, that you believe in the One (Jesus), whom He has sent (Jn 6:29). If God is dragging you to the Cross and to the Savior, it is futile to resist Him. No man can come to Jesus, unless the Father does this for him (Jn 6:44). His kingdom is come to you. His will be done in you and for you. Here is the end to the problem with sinful man. Can you believe it?
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 3, 2020