On Friday, January 28, 2011 Will Edward “Dub” Wynn, my grandfather, passed away. God granted him 91 healthy years on this earth — and everyone who knew him called him a “good man.”
My earliest memories of my grandfather are the times my family would go to visit and he would give me a little money, take me to the toy aisle of the nearest store and let me pick out a new toy. “No strings attached,” he’d say. “Get what you want.”
I likely would have regarded anyone as “good” who bought me toys. But, as I got older I noticed how other people regarded him as a “good man.” When they learned I was his grandson they would tell me just how much they respected him — and why.
“Your grandfather is a loving man,” they would say. “He is a kind man, a patient man, a gentle man,” they would say. “He is just a good man.”
Of course, people based their opinion of my grandfather by watching the way he conducted himself. He exhibited a selfless kind of sacrifice by serving in World War II. When he returned from the war he had a reputation as a trustworthy man. He purchased a farm on the strength of his word and a handshake because he did not have enough money.
He was a “good man.”
But, if you know anything about the Doctrine of Man in the Bible, then you know this presents somewhat of a problem. Because the more you read about man in Scripture the more you come to realize it does not paint a very flattering picture of us. Here are just a few verses that make that clear…
“…sin come into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” — Romans 5:12
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” — Romans 3:23
“…there is no one who does not sin.” — 2 Chronicles 6:36
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” — Mark 10:18
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” — Jeremiah 17:9
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” — Romans 7:18
In fact, if you read Scripture for very long at all you will come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a “good man.” And if the Bible is true in what it says about the nature of man, then how do we square that with what I’ve just told you about Dub Wynn? How can his family and friends claim that Dub Wynn was such a good man when Scripture clearly tells us there is no such thing?
Answer: God’s grace.
Now, you may be thinking that there have been men in this world who were anything but Godly who still did good things. How does that happen?
The answer is still God’s grace — you just need to understand that there is more than one kind of grace. The Bible describes a grace that God extends to all of creation. In the moment that Adam sinned God would have been justified in destroying everything and everyone. But He didn’t do that. His plan was much greater. Part of that plan was to make men aware that there is, in fact, a God…
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” — Romans 1:18-20
…and to give men some understanding of what that God expects…
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” — Romans 2:14-16
This is a part of what is referred to as “Common Grace.” Even people who will deny God until their dying day will get to experience a measure of God’s blessings for a while. They will have some understanding of right and wrong because God has written enough of His law on their hearts. God restrains their evil by His grace so that they may live on the earth with one another.
But my grandfather did not seem like a man who was just being restrained from evil by God’s common grace. He wasn’t “good” just because evil was absent. He was “good” in a way where the characteristics of goodness just flowed right out of him. He was clearly a different kind of “good.” The kind of good people recognize in a very short time.
When my grandfather was a patient at a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., my aunt (his eldest daughter) overheard a doctor tell him, “You are the best man I’ve ever known.” Now, this doctor had only known my grandfather for a period of a few weeks, how did he come to recognize his as a “good man” is such a short time? Where does that come from? What makes a man so different?
The answer is another kind of grace — “Saving Grace.”
You see all that stuff the Bible says about men is true. We are all sinners. We all deserve God’s wrath. None of us is “good.” But God sent His very own Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to live a sinless life and to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Christ was nailed to a cross and as he hung there God poured out on him all of the wrath that you and I rightfully deserve. He was the substitute. He paid the price that satisfied God’s wrath toward sinful man.
Three days later God raised Christ from the dead, demonstrating His power over death. And now, if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we need not fear death because the Bible says…
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 6:23
THIS is the kind of grace God extended to my grandfather when he was just 18 years old attending a tent revival at Barton Chapel, Arkansas. THIS is the kind of grace that makes it possible for a man to live a life like my grandfather lived. THIS grace is a mighty work of God whereby God makes a man something other than the sinful wretch he once was…
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17
A man who has experienced the saving grace of God is no longer the same man Scripture describes as wicked. The very Spirit of God indwells a believer — lives in them so they begin to exhibit the same characteristics. God has made such a man a NEW creation. Which kind of begs the question — what does this kind of “new creation” look like?
You already know. This new creation exhibits the same characteristics people so often used to describe my grandfather…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” — Galatians 5:22-23
So, if all of these characteristics people associated with my grandfather are really from God, then is it accurate to describe him as a “good man?”
Let me put it to you this way…
If you were to visit the Sistine Chapel at Vatican City you would get to see one of the world’s all-time great masterpieces. The ceiling of that chapel is decorated with a remarkable painting, depicting various scenes from the Bible. The colors, detail, and scope are breathtaking. But here’s the thing, that ceiling did not paint itself. It is the work of the famous artist Michelangelo. Knowing that Michelangelo gets the credit for that incredible work does not make the work of art any less impressive. It is still a masterpiece.
Now, consider the words of the Apostle Paul…
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:8-10
God is THE master craftsman, THE master artist. Just because He gets all the credit for the remarkable work He did in the life of Dub Wynn does not make Dub Wynn any less impressive. He is still a masterpiece.
So, is it appropriate to refer to my grandfather as a “good man?”
Yes it is — and we should thank God for him every time we do.