Martin Luther wrote of a concept he called “simul justus et pecattor” – it’s Latin basically translating to “simultaneously righteous and sinner”. That’s the state of a Christian – we are at the same time sinners and righteous. Christ has freed us from the bonds of sin and made us whole legally. Yet our flesh remains and it rebels and fights. A war within our bodies. Until we see glory, that is our state. Hopefully it is a journey marked by ever increasing repentance and a trend towards closer to where we ought to be – but we’ll never reach it. We couldn’t – that is how bad we are – that we needed Christ to impute his righteousness on us and to take our sin on himself.
You see – positionally, when we are found in Christ – we are righteous. If we are Christ’s we received his righteousness and he received our sin on the cross – this is imputation. (Many verses describe this but Philippians 3:9 “ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” and 2 Corinthians 5:21 come to mind “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – both from the ESV.)
There is something important here to grasp. We have sin that had to be placed on Christ. We required righteousness we couldn’t earn. This tells us something about our “Pre-Christ” state. This something is why Paul said he couldn’t boast of his salvation. He would never have earned it in an eternity of lifetimes. Neither could I. Neither could you..
People like to play the game of grouping people into two buckets. “There are only two kinds of people on this planet _____”. But there are actually several categories we all fall into. We always will fall into and always have fallen into. For instance – all humans are image bearers of God – we carry the image of our creator God. All require oxygenated blood to reach cells for life to continue. On that list of “we all ___” you can add “We are all evil” – period, full stop.
Every person who ever lived and ever will live – apart from Christ himself – shares this trait. I can give Bible verse after Bible verse that proves this out from the Old or New Testament. I’ll share one though – a section from Romans 3. Paul quotes from the Old Testament in this passage that remarks on how evil and corrupt we all are.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20 ESV)
Did you grab that? We are all evil. We all have corrupt hearts. We all seek after ourselves. Sure we have good moments. We can be kind for various motives – but at our hearts – we are evil. That unites us all.
This is why Christ needed to come. He fulfilled the demands of the law which we never could – even if we wanted to it – and we don’t want to.. He purchased our freedom – not from some external bondage only – but he purchased our freedom from our own evil hearts.
Sin isn’t an external thing that happens to us. It isn’t even something that is externally triggered onto us. Yes we inherited this sin nature through Adam – but we are just as guilty as he was. We choose sin. James has this to say about the root of sin in us:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)
My sin.. It comes from my own desire. That was true before I was Christ’s and it is still true today. I’ll be honest – I don’t like that thought. I wish I could blame my choices. My actions. My failings.. I wish I could blame all this sin on anyone or anything else. I can’t though. It’s on me.
Our natures are evil. As sure as a ruminant is a grass eater – the human heart is set on sin. It will choose no other. Sure moment by moment self control can help – but over the lifetime, we go back to our ways. We choose to.
You can say we are united by this. And I think it is good that the Bible reminds us of this. Pride is easy for humanity. Well it’s easy for me – maybe you find it harder. If I let my ears be tickled I can find messages that tell me “You’re not that bad”. I can hear that I’m not as bad as, say, Hitler or the young man who shot up a church because of skin tone.. But the Bible declares this to be untrue. And that’s important. Because conviction of sins is important. It’s like the doctor scaring someone with the raw truth about the road they are on without changes – sometimes a reality call is needed – and the Bible gives that reality call to us.
So there we are. United by evil – a trait we all share.
The other day, though, I read this letter from Abby Johnson to Dr. Nucatola. Abby is a pro-life activist. She used to be an abortion clinic nurse and I believe a director. Dr. Nucatola is the planned parenthood medical director caught on camera discussing careful ways to crush only the parts of the unborn without the organs PP would want to harvest for fetal tissue banks for research..
Abby’s post and open letter to Dr. Nucatola starts out great. She is compassionate and has understanding for where she is – she was once there herself. She speaks of grace and forgiveness. She speaks truth. I found myself in agreement with this letter but then I got to this paragraph and I felt like a record needle scratched:
I understand the world you live in. I understand the blindness. I don’t think you are an evil person. I wasn’t an evil person. But just like I was, you are gravely misguided. I want you to know that I care about you. I have seen the things being said about you. I have seen the hate and vile comments about you. Seeing those things being said about you is honestly heartbreaking for me. I can’t imagine what you are feeling right now. I understand how hurtful people can be. I still receive comments like that sometimes.
This is sad to see. Yes – there is blindness in sin. Yes there is darkness and blindness and deception in the abortion industry. But this makes me sad to read. I can’t read the Bible and not see that I am evil. I can’t not see that my sins – and there are many sadly – are my fault. I can’t not see that I am evil. I can’t see that I was conceived in evil (Speaking Adamically here…) and that my heart conjures the evil and sin takes my desires and runs with them – but they are my desires first. I fear that if I were to blame all of my shortcomings on being too blind to see – I would be taking the easy way out. If a personal friend of mine who claimed faith told me these things – I would have a serious chat and make sure they understand the gospel and haven’t deceived themselves about their state today.
I’m not saying people can’t be gravely misguided. But I am saying that the Bible is clear that we all have a conscience. We may do a great job of rationalizing sin – and hiding that guilty deep. We may do a good job of taking the blindfold out and putting it on ourselves. But we can’t take the Flip Wilson way out and say the devil – or some organization or whatever – made us do it. No. We knew it was wrong. We did it anyway.
Romans 1 and 2 talks about our heart. It talks about how we know right from wrong. How we have consciences. How we naturally know right from wrong. You know this is true – I don’t care if you are a believer or not – you naturally know these things to be true. We can argue and debate them – but that is in disobedience to your own heart.
Why do I care? Because I loved that letter to Dr. Nucatola. I loved the plea from the heart. I loved the condemnation of the folks disrespecting her – we are to love our enemies. We are to see all humans as image bearers of God. Whether they are 84, 2, 12 weeks old in the womb or Dr. Nucatola who can justify abortion in her heart. Vicious attacks and name calling are horrible. Showing no grace and love is anti-Biblical. But that paragraph above takes an important doctrine and hides it. It gives someone a pass and makes it easier to say “sure.. I’ll take that Jesus guy into my life” without really understanding or meaning it.
Friends -we are evil. That’s our default. The only cure from that default is Christ breaking our bonds to it and living His life through us over our lifetime – changing us over that lifetime.