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Do Good Motives Justify Evil Deeds?

By Dr. Robert A. Morey

One of the great truths of the Reformation was sola scriptura, which means that what we believe and how we live is decided by Scripture alone. Calvinists believe that God is the measure of all things because He is the Origin of truth, justice, morals, meaning, and beauty.
Humanists have always rejected sola scriptura and instead looked to something within themselves as the Origin of truth, justice, morals, meaning, and beauty. When it comes to making ethical judgments, i.e. determining right from wrong, some humanists believe that good motives justify evil deeds.
The idea that if people claim that their motives were good this somehow means that their evil deeds are excusable was a teaching of Greek philosophy. When the Greeks came into the Church, they brought that doctrine with them. It caused great harm in the early church and is still being used today to justify evil.
During the 1960’s, the idea that good motives justify evil deeds was rephrased as “The ends justifies the means” and “All you need is love.” Situational ethics is based on the idea that as long as your motives were good, i.e. you meant well, then it did not matter what you did. For example, girls who got pregnant out of wedlock often justified their immorality by saying, “But I loved him.” As long as the motive was love, then the immorality did not really matter.
This morning I will demonstrate that the Bible is the only standard by which we judge the words and deeds of others. Even if someone claims that his motives were good, this has no biblical or logical bearing on the issue of the evil they do. If God’s Word judges what they did as evil and a sin, they can claim they had good motives, but it will not erase the judgment of God.
1. God’s Law, not man’s motives, is the standard by which we judge words and deeds. The Ten Commandments tell us not to lie, to steal, to commit adultery, etc., and God expects us to obey those commandments. Sin is the transgression of God’s Law.

2. Where in Scripture did God ever overlook sin because the person who sinned claimed to have good motives? The burden of proof is on those who think that good motives justify evil deeds. They cannot find any Scripture to back them up.

3. In order to understand the biblical teaching on the nature and function of the motives of the human heart and to discover if such motives determine right from wrong, we first researched all the Hebrew and Greek words that speak of the motives and then we exegeted all the places in the Bible where God tells us about the motives of the heart.

4. All the motives of the human heart are evil. This is the doctrine of Total Depravity. If you claim that you or someone you know has good motives, then you are rebelling against the clear teaching of Scripture

Genesis 6:5: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every motive of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Genesis 8:21: “the motive of man's heart is evil from his youth.”

5. We deceive ourselves when we claim that our motives are pure, but God knows what is really in our heart.

Proverbs 16:2: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.”

6. Only God can judge the motives of the heart.

1 Chronicles 28:9: "The LORD searches all hearts, and understands every motive of the thoughts.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”

Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and motives of the heart.”

7. Since only God can judge the motives of the heart, we should not judge our own motives or the motives of others. On the Day of judgment God will reveal the motives of the heart.

1 Corinthians 4:5: “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and will disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.”

Romans 7:21: “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.”

8. Divisive people always defend their evil deeds by claiming that their motives are good, and thus what they did should not be condemned. Of course, they have no biblical justification for this lie. Since we are COMMANDED not to judge motives, but to leave such judgments to God alone, it is a SIN if you claim that you or someone else has good motives.

9. The divisive people in the church at Rome (Rom. 16:17) were justifying their slander and gossip by claiming that their motives were good. Paul refuted them in the following passages:

Romans 3:8 “And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come?" Their condemnation is just.”

The troublemakers claimed that they only wanted “good to come,” and that they did evil to bring about good is irrelevant to them. Paul states that their condemnation was just.

Romans 6:1 “Should we sin that grace may abound?”

The troublemakers claimed that their motive was “to make the grace of God abound” i.e. to magnify God’s grace and make it even greater.  But they chose to sin to fulfill their motive.

10. Those who defend wickedness by covering it with good motives or good character should be rebuked and admonished. Don’t fall for this trick. It is nothing more than another device of Satan to hurt churches.

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