Question: "What does it mean that "there is none who does good, no not one" (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:12)?"
Answer: Some people think they will go to heaven because, in their estimation, they are good people. Yet Psalm 14:3 says, “They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one” (NKJV). We have all sinned (Romans 3:23). As Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone” (Luke 18:19).
When the Bible says that “there is none who does good,” it doesn’t mean that people are as bad as they can be or that people are morally incapable of doing anything right. People are capable of doing good things. They can be kind or thoughtful, give generous gifts, and care for the disadvantaged. Even an atheist can be a philanthropist. However, no amount of “good deeds” can change the fact that all people are sinful by nature. Psalm 14:2–3 explains: “The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Only God is good all the time and in all things (1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 25:8; Mark 10:18), and He declares that all people are sinful. “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). No one is naturally inclined to do what is good or to seek after God.
Paul affirms that Jews and Gentiles alike are under the power of sin (Romans 3:9). He quotes Psalm 14:3 in Romans 3:12: “There is none who does good, no, not one” (NKJV). All people are in need of God’s salvation; the unsaved will pay the consequence for their sin, which is death (Romans 6:23).
Salvation is not based on a person’s goodness; if it were, no one would be saved, since there is none who does good. The Bible teaches that we can never be good enough to get to heaven (see Matthew 5:20; Titus 3:5). We must recognize that we are sinners who fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Fortunately, God made a way for us to be forgiven of our sin and be saved through Jesus Christ. Salvation is based on Jesus’ goodness, and “in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). While we were in our sinful state, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), and if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). Christ alone was good enough to earn heaven, and He declares righteous those who trust in Him for salvation (Romans 1:17).
There is none who does good is a universal indictment of mankind. No one lives up to God’s standard of righteousness; everyone lives in a state of depravity. Everyone has turned from God and His rule, from truth into error, from rightness into sin, and from wisdom into foolishness. While people can do good things, none of their good deeds are inherently good, untinged or unaffected by sin, and none of those good deeds are good enough to undo the penalty of sin. The only One who is good, God Himself, offers the free gift of salvation to all who believe (Ephesians 2:8–9) and invites everyone to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).