Of all the majesties the apostle Paul lays out in the letter to the Romans, the one that has caught me off guard the most is found in chapter 15. In verse 14 he declares, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness…”

The Defender of Depravity, the Oracle of Original Sin, calling these people…good?

Of course he does. Because Romans is not about how sinful we are. It’s about how massive God’s transformational love is. It’s about how he rescues, redeems, resurrects, and gives us new life. It’s the glorious gospel of Christ. We who were dead are now alive and walking in the Spirit!

We know this, of course. But do we know it? If Paul were to preach in our churches today, would he be bombarded after the sermon with an hour’s worth of “Yes, buts…”?

“Church, you are full of goodness…”

“Yes, but we are utterly sinful.”

“Church, you are full of goodness…”

“Yes, but the heart is deceitful above all things.”

“Church, you are full of goodness…”

“Yes, but there is no one good, no not one.”

Friends, in our defense of the doctrine of depravity, which is right and necessary, we must not forget the transformative grace of the gospel. When Paul lays out the doctrine of sin, he does so with the cross and resurrection in mind.

No, we are not yet perfect. No, we are not now what we will be. Yes we must still kill sin and discipline our bodies for righteousness. But that does not stop Paul from affirming the Church in Rome’s goodness.

The doctrine of depravity is not meant to be a whip to keep us in line, but rather it is our diseased, deformed heart that now sits in formaldehyde on our desk as a reminder of what we once were, all the while we are kept alive by the new gospel heart that beats in our chest.

We are good now, but not because we were never bad. We are good now, but not because we don’t wrestle against our own flesh. We are good now because Jesus has given us his righteousness. We are good now because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. We are good now because we have the gospel-ventillator that keeps us going. We are good now because of Christ’s work.

Therefore, let us not be overbearing fathers, constantly reminding our congregations that they are never good enough. Let us not be nitpicking mothers who criticize every motive and action of our people.

Rather, let us, as 1 Thessalonians 2 reminds us, be gentle, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. Let us be fathers who exhort and encourage our children to walk in the goodness God has provided. Let us affirm the goodness of the gospel that is active and present in the lives of our people.