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THEOLOGY > Man > Man's Original State > Morally Upright


Man was not created neutral, nor sinful, but morally upright and therefore his initial conduct was ethically proper. He was not inclined toward sin but was disposed toward rectitude. Characterized by original righteousness, his initial state was one of created goodness.

God’s evaluation of all His creative work was that “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). This included man, who at the point of his creation was “very good,” very good in his physical appearance, his mental capabilities, and in his moral state; thus, original righteousness was an essential aspect of Adam’s nature. Additional comment is provided by the wise man: “Truly, this only I have found, that God made man upright” (Eccl. 7:29). According to these verses the two words used to describe the newly created man are “good” and “upright.” Surely, this settles the question of the original moral state of man.

Additionally, since man was made in the “image” of God, man must have been created so that he reflected the righteousness or goodness of God, not an intrinsic righteousness that was immutable as is true of God, but a goodness that was real for Adam. To bear the “likeness” of God conveys in some sense a certain goodness that is reflective of the Creator. This is to affirm that in all of his reflections, Adam was inclined toward the good; and each of his desires was noble. It is impossible exegetically and improper theologically to separate the image of God from the original state of goodness in man. (See: Image of God and Nature of the Image.)

This initial righteousness made possible direct fellowship between God and man; there was no limitation, such as was later introduced by sin. Only two individuals have enjoyed such gracious blessing, an unhindered relationship with God. From the Scriptures we learn that God came “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8); the indication is that this was not the first or only time, but that it was a common occurrence. Adam experienced personal and direct fellowship with God in the Garden, and a constant fellowship until sin destroyed the union (see: Fellowship with God).

Part of Adam’s being upright included a sense of right and wrong, a sense of the ethical. This is to say that Adam’s righteousness included knowledge that God must be obeyed and that His directives could not be violated. Within the moral state of Adam was an awareness that the state could be debased and therefore lost. Adam’s morally upright condition was not immutable.

In his epistle to the saints at Ephesus, Paul discusses the life of the believer and presents it in terms of putting off (“put off . . . the old man,” 4:22) and putting on (“put on the new man,” 4:24). Characteristics of this “new man” are stated: “And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Note the points: one, the new man is created; two, the new man is created by God; three, the new man is characterized by righteousness and holiness; and four, the righteousness is “true” righteousness.

All of this is surely designed to remind the reader of the state of man at the time of his creation and the resulting loss when the Fall occurred. In God’s redemption of man that which was lost because of what transpired in Eden is restored because of what happened at Calvary. Instead of an original creational righteousness, the believer is now the recipient of a redemptive righteousness, really the righteousness of Christ.

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