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No one is good but God alone

September 6, 2010
Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
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People don’t really like to talk about “sin.” It’s an uncomfortable word… no one revels in being called a “sinner.” It is becoming increasingly politically incorrect to say that there is such a thing as right and wrong. Lifestyles are not unbiblical or sinful, they are “alternative.” God’s love and mercy are applauded, while the thought of a holy God righteously judging sin is avoided.

So, what is sin? Do we even know?

People often think of sin as violating God’s laws. This is absolutely true. Stealing, murdering, committing adultery are all sin- they are all examples of breaking God’s law.

But it goes deeper than that.

In Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” found in Matthew 5-7, He points to specific laws in the Old Testament and elaborates on them. The people had “heard it said” that they should not murder or commit adultery, but then He broadened the statement. Murdering is wrong, yes, but it begins in a heart full of hate – hating your brother is the root sin. Committing the physical act of adultery is wrong, but it begins in a lustful look – lust is the root sin. Even if these things are never acted out on, even if no laws were technically violated… they are sin.


Sin is anything contrary to the nature of our holy God. Our completely righteous, completely loving, completely just God. The core of His nature is holiness – He always acts completely righteously because that is who He is. He loves completely because that is who He is. The laws He has given us in His Word flow out of His nature – to do what is right is to act in a way consistent with His character, to sin is to do (or be!) anything that contradicts anything in His nature. God created mankind in His image, and people are valuable to Him – so they were to value human life, also. Because He is love, we are to love. Because He is a God who makes and keeps covenants, the marriage covenant is to be guarded and treated as holy.

Even if we somehow manage to outwardly follow all the “rules” (and wow – I know that I have not managed to do so!) we are still sinners at heart. No matter how hard we try, all the “good” things we try to do, the “good” people we try to be will fall woefully short of God’s standard.

In Mark 10:17-22, we find a fascinating interaction between Jesus and a faithful rule-follower:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus is trying to help this man see his own failure to live up to God’s standards. No one is good but God alone! Keeping all of the commandments did not make him good. In his heart, this man loved his wealth more than he loved God or the people He made – and henceforth, his heart was full of sin. He had fallen short of God’s nature.

That really is the essence of sin – falling short. We have all fallen short of God’s standard. Perhaps compared to one another some of us might look “good,” but in comparison with the Holy One, no one is good but God alone.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Romans 3:23

18 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 9:47 am

    Kristi, this is a clear and wonderful explanation of sin. We are all sinners, but praise God, He has provided a way for us sinners to know Him through Jesus!

  2. stephanieshott permalink
    September 6, 2010 9:50 am

    Kristi ~ I love how you clarified sin! And I’m so thankful for the truth that only God is good – and because He is good, He has made forgiveness for our sins possible through the Lord Jesus Christ!

    Sin would be an eternal tragedy if it were not for the cross!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      September 6, 2010 10:05 am

      Thank you, Stephanie and Kathy. Indeed, praise Him for loving us “while we were yet sinners!”

  3. shannon gray permalink
    September 6, 2010 10:31 am

    Kristi ~ The concept that no one is good but God alone so moves me ~ Thank you for the example from Mark 10. It is so easy to get caught on focusing on my self righteousness and a heart of pride . My true recognition of my sin and following that with repentance brings that all into perspective. Getting back to the basics is so refreshing. I need that. ~Thanks~

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      September 6, 2010 10:46 am

      You’re so welcome, my friend!

  4. September 6, 2010 11:34 am

    I think that in the church we talk a lot about “sin” in general, but we get very uncomfortable if those of us in the church talk about our specific sin, our struggle with sin, and our need for forgiveness. So strange, because we say that we KNOW we are all sinners, but we really want to look “clean” when in the Body of Christ. Maybe confession should be more a part of our times together, so we would have the freshness of our gratitude for grace restored. Great job speaking to the definition AND the heart of sin, Kristi.

  5. September 6, 2010 12:55 pm

    Great post, Kristi. I’m reading “Holy Available” by Gary Thomas right now and he has much to say on this idea of our redefinition of sin. I found these two sentences particularly convicting, “Sin causes us to look at life through the lens of entitlement – that we deserve salvation without repentance, wealth without work, accolades without self-denial, health without personal discipline, pleasure without sacrifice. Biblical truth reminds us that, in reality, we deserve hell.” (p. 58).

    How I pray for an awareness such as David’s, that “my sin is aways before me.”

  6. September 6, 2010 4:26 pm

    Great post! One of David’s catechism questions last week was “what is sin?”. The official answer was “Anything that breaks God’s law” but felt incomplete. I love your explanation – including inward and outward sins. Looking forward to this series!

  7. September 7, 2010 8:48 am

    Great blog post. Thank you Terri Lynn for the retweet.


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