"THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD"
By Wayne S. Walker
"They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:3). The context of this statement begins in verse 1 with the famous statement, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" There are many such fools in the world who are corrupt, having done abominable works. However, one does not have to deny God to be a sinner. Verse 2 continues, "The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God." And what He finds is that "there is none who does good, no, not one."
Many in the religious world use this verse as proof of their doctrine of total inherited depravity. They say that because each person is so tainted by the sin that all of us inherit from Adam and Eve it is impossible for anyone to do good, or for that matter even to think anything that is good until God sends a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the unconditionally elect who are the only ones for whom Christ died. The problem with this doctrine is that it is not taught in the scriptures. It appears to have entered Catholic theology with some of the "post-Nicene church fathers" from neo-platonic paganism through gnosticism and then passed on to Protestant theology by some of the reformers, especially John Calvin.
The statement in the Psalm really does not touch top, side, nor bottom of why all people sin, but merely states it as a fact. However, it does give us a clue. Why is there none who does good? It is not because they were born in sin but because "they have all turned aside," or in other words, because they have all chosen to sin. Paul quotes this statement in Romans 3:9-12 to prove that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (verse 23). He does not say that we have been born in sin but that we "have sinned." There is a difference.
While opposing the false doctrine of total inherited depravity, we must still recognize that each of us has sinned. Therefore, we cannot earn salvation solely by our good works, because no amount of good works can atone for our sins. Only the blood shed by Christ on the cross can do that. At the same time, we must accept God’s offer of forgiveness by obeying His terms of pardon. This is what Paul means when he says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).