What Makes a Person Good According to the Bible?

A photo of an open Bible lying on a table

Someone in a Christian social media group asked, “What makes someone a good person according to the Bible?” My response was as follows:

Your question reminds me of Job 14:4, which states, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” This verse conveys the impossibility of your pursuit or inquiry in a subtle manner. In our fallen and sinful state, we are not inherently good or clean, as Job puts it. It’s impossible for us, in our own strength, to achieve “goodness” because of our sinful nature.

Actually, our fallen nature is predisposed to do the opposite of what is good. Paul declares, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15).

This fallen sinful nature or state separates us from God from conception to death, as the Psalmist states in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was born in iniquity, and my mother conceived me in sin.”

Psalm 58:3 emphasizes this point further: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.”

Isaiah 59:2 also affirms this separation: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

The natural man, as the Apostle Paul stated, does not comprehend the things of God; to him, it’s foolishness. He writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

In Romans 7:24, Paul laments our misery and hopelessness in the face of sin: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” echoes our wretchedness and hopelessness.”

However, in the next verse, he thanks God for saving man from his current sinful state through Jesus Christ, our Lord (Romans 7:25): “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

The alienated man is reconciled to God through the sacrificial death of Christ (Colossians 1:20): “and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

We are accustomed to doing evil, according to Jeremiah 13:23. He inquires, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”

As people who are accustomed to doing evil, God’s power to transform us into good men is our only hope for change.

This is what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”(2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

This transformative process is spoken of in the scriptures in terms like “a new heart,” “a new birth,” and “a new creation,” which in a real sense is conversion. It is this conversion that Jesus emphasized in His nightly meeting with Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'”

As a result, the short answer to your question about what makes someone a good person according to the Bible is this: God is the only One who can make a person good through Christ in a process known as conversion or new birth.

Feel free to ask Bible questions in the comment section below.