“Man's Plight Without God”

Categories: Doctrine: Grace


Man’s Plight Without God

Jerry Fite

“for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The deadly consequences of sin should alarm all men, for all have sinned. The results of sin may be observed with the eye or perceived with the heart. They will always affect man spiritually, and sometimes even physically. Sin’s bitter fruit may be tasted in time, but most certainly in eternity. Sin has its season of pleasure, but always returns for just payment. Man always pays dearly: He exists separated from God (Isaiah 59:2).

Until one knows his condition without God, he cannot properly appreciate God’s grace. The extension of grace implies need. As long as man feels self-sufficient, he has no need. But let him begin listening to the commentary of God upon man’s sins. Let him start paying attention to the symptoms of emptiness that self-indulgence fails to fill. Then, grace will begin to glisten as never before.

Sin cannot appear without arousing God’s judicial wrath. Because God is holy, He must punish sin. So when man sins, his relationship with God is one of enmity (Romans 5:8, 10). No penitence nor renewed promise can change the fact that sin has occurred. Yet, after “missing the mark,” what more can man offer God? Bondage in sin becomes his wretched fate (Romans 7:14, 24). God cannot overlook sin. He must be just. Man cannot plead innocence. He must have mercy.

When Jesus looked at men, He saw darkness, sickness, and death. These folks had the ability to see (Matthew 4:16). They possessed good appetites, and were physically active (Mark 2:15–17; Luke 9:62). But they were lost in sin. No greater picture of man’s helplessness could be drawn. For we never expect life to spring from a corpse, health to emanate from a disease, or light to issue from darkness. God wants us to know that we still need deliverance from above though we may be functioning well according to worldly standards.

Man can choose to live without God. He begins by eliminating God from his thinking and enthrones himself. Instead of a God-centered life, he possesses a Self-centered life. The result is never pretty. Obeying the mandates of his lust, he soon “waxeth corrupt” (Ephesians 4:22). His ways may be in step with the age, but he fails to perceive that Satan has inspired their direction (Ephesians 2:2). Man may become more sophisticated without God, but never better.

Without God, man’s reasoning becomes so dark that God gives him up to experience the degrading consequences (Romans 1:26–32). Sexual perversion becomes worse until the worldly sages can distinguish between “softcore” and “hardcore” pornography. Man soon loses “natural affection.” The worldly-wise will allow murder, if committed in abortion clinics. Making money takes precedence over creating strong families. Occasional lying finds acceptance alongside good business ethics. Man’s values are twisted. His life is confused.

Living without God, man tends to finally view his life as God viewed it all along: “vain,” void of lasting good (1 Peter 1:18). He views life as “living on the perfume of an empty vase”—or “a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities.” His “good life” has become a facade hiding his crumbling hopes. Faith, hope, and love are borrowed words with empty sounds, because he has denied their true substance and power.

Such are the sad results when man plans his way without God. Man’s road is paved with neglect and ingratitude. It always ends in degradation and despair. With sorrow, man can look at his road and honestly say, “I did it my way.”

Helplessness and hopelessness characterize man’s condition without God. But it is when he sees the vanity of man’s wisdom that he longs for the grace of divine teaching. It is when he sees his true helpless condition before his Creator that he yearns for the terms of reconciliation from his merciful Judge. He follows closely behind his Deliverer, for he knows that without his gracious Savior, he is lost.

Originally appeared in the June 1984 issue of Christianity Magazine.