All Have Sinned

The Bible

The Bible convicts all under sin: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23). No exceptions are known to the Bible but the sinless Jesus:

  • "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..." (Romans 5:12).

  • "What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous? If God puts no trust in His saints, and the heavens are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water!" (Job 15:14-16).

  • "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

  • "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5).

  • "Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no one living is righteous." (Psalm 143:2).

  • "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near;..." (1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36).

  • "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

  • "So He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.'" (Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18).

  • "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?" (Proverbs 20:9).

  • "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one...'Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God...For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:9-23).

  • "The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
    To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
    They have all turned aside,
    They have together become corrupt;
    There is none who does good,
    No, not one." (Psalm 14:2-3).

  • "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us...If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:8-10).

  • "If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?" (Psalm 130:3).

  • "But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." (Galatians 3:22).

  • "The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net." (Micah 7:2).

  • "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6).

  • "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." (James 3:1-2).

  • "Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead." (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

Even readers who are not in sympathy with Paul's thought concede the prologue to the letter to Romans intends to convict all mankind, both Jew and Gentile, as guilty before a righteous God: "I have thus far studiously avoided mentioning Rom. 1:18-2:29. . .There is general agreement on the purpose of the section. It is intended to demonstrate (or illustrate) the universal sinfulness of all (3:9, 20), so as to lay the ground for Paul's solution: righteousness by faith in Christ." (Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, E. P. Sanders, Kindle location 2012).

Paul tells the good church folk of Ephesus that they are by nature, the fallen nature inherited from our first parent, children of wrath:

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." (Ephesians 2:1-3).

For what it's worth, the pagans perceived the problem as well: "What is that which is most truly asserted? That men are depraved." (Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, p. 35). Should the wiles of the devil succeed and scripture be lost, common observation could restore this truth to us. That makes it all the stranger that some modern thought is premised on the blind and stubborn denial of the fact: "Let us lay it down as an incontrovertible rule that the first impulses of nature are always right; there is no original sin in the human heart, the how and why of the entrance of every vice can be traced." (Jean Jacques Rousseau. Emile, Book 2. The Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract, Confessions, Emile, and Other Essays (Halcyon Classics) (Kindle Locations 13145-13147)).

The malady is radical: ". . .and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." (Genesis 8:21). How to lift ourselves up by our boot-straps when we are knee-deep in it? God has provided a remedy:

Jacques Joseph Tissot, Nathan Rebuking David

The Koran promises perfect justice:

"On that day shall men come forward in throngs to behold their works, and whosoever shall have wrought an atom’s weight of good shall behold it, and whosoever shall have wrought an atom’s weight of evil shall behold it." (Sura 99:6-8).
"On that day shall every soul be recompensed as it hath deserved: no injustice on that day! Verily, God will be swift to reckon." (Sura 40:17).

One should not wish such a thing on one's worst enemy. To the contrary, the 'people of the book' rejoice to know that, "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities." (Psalm 103:10) and "It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." (Lamentations 3:22).

Mohammed proclaims salvation for those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. But God is purely holy: "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness." (Habakkuk 1:13). How then can a holy God invite into His dwelling those who do evil, even if their good deeds outnumber the bad? God does not grade on the curve: "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10).

The Biblical perception that all men are sinners is not universally shared. The French Revolution proclaimed, then itself rebutted, the message that men are inherently good. This is also a core component of Confucianism: "Confucius taught that human nature is essentially good: as his follower Meng-tzu put it, 'Though water naturally flows downward, it can be made to flow uphill but only as a result of external force. Likewise man's nature is basically good, but can be forced into bad ways through external pressure.'" (Michael Green, But Don't All Religions Lead to God? p. 46). Experience should be sufficient to show otherwise.

Christians can rejoice that we have a Savior: "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:5). Atheists do not like this confession, because it does not track with their sense of self-worth:

"When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings." (Bertrand Russell, Why I Am not a Christian, Kindle location 260).

But you are agreeing with God and God's word when you make this confession.