INTRODUCTION – The Importance of Studying Total Depravity
1.) We cannot know God’s purposes in His grace unless we know how far we have fallen. It is essential to know the Scriptural truth about our deadness, helplessness and rebellion if we are to understand how and why He saves us.
2.) The Scriptures affirm authoritatively that nothing can reverse the human condition save the crucifixion of God in our nature. The cure reveals the seriousness of the “disease.”
3.) Man is not fit to judge and diagnose his own case. Left to his own reasoning, man will fail to assess his condition and ill desert correctly.
4.) Without an accurate diagnosis, men will settle for an ineffective cure.
5.) By nature man believes that there is something he can do to recover himself.
6.) Grace is not grace unless it is sovereign and free. God has used the “bulldozer” of His law to remove the possibility of human merit from the face of the planet.
7.) The message of man’s moral inability is actually conducive to a sense of urgency in seeking God.
8.) One’s view of man’s depravity is inseparable from one’s view of God’s grace.
THE MEANING OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY
Total depravity entails man’s complete lack of merit before God due to original sin. “Depravity”concerns man’s inability to achieve saving favor before God. “Total” means that the defilement extends to all aspects of man’s nature (every faculty and capacity).
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF HUMAN SIN?
Adam was the representative of us all. (1 Cor. 15:21,22)
Through Adam we die, through Christ we gain life. Both Adam and Christ stand as representatives. Adam was placed in unique position to be representative of the human race. His actions directly affected all of humanity.
Adam’s fall was the fall of us all. (Rom. 5:12, 18a)
Adam was placed in the garden not only to act for himself, but also for all future generations. When he was tested, he was also being tested for all mankind. When he fell, we fell with him.
WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF HUMAN SIN?
We are not as sinful as we could be. (Matt. 5:43-47)
Though fallen, it does not mean that all men indulge in every conceivable sin. Even the lost show considerations toward each other. (Jesus stated that Gentiles and tax-gatherers love and bless their friends.) Unsaved people have a conscience. They can distinguish between forms of good and evil (Rom. 2:14,15).
We are sinful by nature. (Jer. 17:9,10)
All people are born with a fallen, sin-sick heart. Jesus argued that sin has its source in the very center of a person’s being, his heart (Matt. 15:19). The lost person’s bad heart or sin nature is compared to a fruit-producing tree. The fruit of the tree is determined by the nature of the tree (Matt. 7:17-20).
People sometimes imagine that their faculties function with complete independence and objectivity. The Word tells us that behind a person’s willing, acting, speaking, choosing and desiring is the inner man. Behind our capacities is the heart or nature.
We are sinful in all of our capacities. (Ps. 53:2,3)
Mind, affections and will are influenced by our fallen natures. Man thinks with a darkened mind (Eph. 4:17-19). Man’s feelings and affections are corrupted, he loves darkness (Jn. 3:19). The fallen nature so influences the faculties that everything men do is tainted with sin, none are righteous (Rom. 3:9-12). Even our best works are unrighteous before God (Is. 64:6).
We are spiritually dead. (Eph. 2:1-3)
God’s testimony of our spiritual condition is not an injury report, it is a coroner’s report. The language is that of finality with no hope of recovery or revivification. The natural man’s spiritual death is manifested in his unresponsiveness to God. He is cut off from the life of God and dead to the things of God (Eph. 4:18).
“Dead in transgressions and sin,” describes a state of having no power to obey God or show devotion to Him. (An example that describes both state and place would be as follows. Picture a corpse face down in a reservoir. He does not conspire how he might return to physical life, neither does the natural man chart how he might love and know God.)
IN WHAT WAYS ARE SINNERS IN BONDAGE?
We are in bondage to our sinful natures. (Job 14:4; Prov. 20:9)
No man can cleanse or change his own heart (Jer. 13:23). Jeremiah’s point is that there is afixedness to the sinful heart of man that renders it completely unable to make itself good. Apart from a mighty work of God, the spiritual state of the heart is immutable.
We are in bondage to sinful deeds. (Jn. 8:34)
God’s testimony is that lost people are slaves to sin. When confronted with the choice between holiness and sin, the natural man always chooses sin (Rom. 6:17,19,20).
The lost man is not free to escape from sin. True freedom entails the gracious divine bestowal of soul-life that rests upon the truth in Christ (Jn. 8:32-36).
We are in bondage to Satan. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
Those in bondage to Satan are unaware of their plight. A merciful work of God is needed in order for them to “come to their senses.” The word “perhaps” affirms that it is a sovereign act of God (2 Tim. 2:25).
To be in bondage to Satan is to be under the “authority” of darkness (Col. 1:13). If the lost man is ever to repent, God must move his heart and awaken him from his stupor (Eph. 2:1-3; Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 5:19).
IS THE SINNER’S CONDITION BEFORE GOD ONE OF INABILITY?
We cannot understand the Lord. (Jn. 8:43)
Perhaps the most difficult concept to grasp concerning the fall is that of inability. The Lord calls all persons to believe upon Christ and to repent, but the majority do not respond to that summons.
When Jesus said “cannot,” He affirmed that the misunderstanding of His hearers was not just a matter of bad choice, it was a matter of inability (Jn. 8:43).
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, God sovereignly saves primarily the foolish and the weak people of this world. This proves that salvation is something that neither wise people can figure out nor strong people achieve.
Romans 3:11 stresses that without exception, “There is none who understands.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us what makes the difference between those who understand and those who don’t. One must possess the Spirit of God in order to be capable of understanding the things of God.
Unregenerate man “moralizes” the gospel into a work. (Matt. 19:16 ff.)
When the natural man hears the gospel of God’s free grace, he immediately reinterprets it into a work that lies within his capacity. “Is it self-reformation? I will do it. Is it religious requirements? I will vow to do them. Is it a decision? I will make it. Are there conditions to meet? I will comply with them.”
Man cannot bear the admittance of the thought that he is too far gone to be a spiritual resource at all in his own salvation. It is absolutely essential that an unregenerate man be convinced of his inability. Otherwise, he will not see his absolute need of Christ and the power of His grace (Rom. 5:6). To be brought to the end of self is to be an absolute debtor to Christ. It is to fall at His feet, totally obligated to Him forever.
We cannot desire the Lord. (Rom. 5:10)
The natural man maintains an active enmity toward God. The unsaved man is not just alienated from the life of God, but has a positive real hostility in his carnal heart against God.
Romans 8:7 reveals the central source of that enmity. It is rebellion against God’s moral authority. God’s moral reign is manifested in His law. Men despise God’s kingly authority. They resent the fact that their Creator should have an absolute claim upon their lives that governs thoughts, words and deeds.
The natural man’s heart is set upon the flesh. He possesses a bias in favor of sin. John 3:19 tells us that unbelievers love darkness with an agape (self-sacrificing love). They lack affection for God. When confronted with the true living God, man does not want Him (Rom. 3:11; 8:6-8).
We cannot come to the Lord. (Jn. 6:44; Rom. 8:8)
Not only is the natural man unable to understand and desire the Lord, he cannot even will to choose Him.
After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus found unbelief instead of faith. Jesus indicated to His listeners why they did not believe. 1.) They won’t come because they cannot come. Their wills have a bias fixed against God. By nature, people cannot choose God of their own volition. 2.) This inability is universal to all persons. Without exception, all individuals lack the ability to come to Christ and be saved (Jn. 6:65).
This is a most humbling truth that man (by nature), has nothing in himself for his own recovery. ( NOTE: The inability of man is voluntary. There is no such thing as a sinner desiring to come to Christ and be saved the gospel way -- but barred by inability.)
God commands men to do what they will not do.
Repent (Acts 2:38); Be reconciled (2 Cor. 5:20); Seek the Lord (Is. 55:1-7); Come to Christ (Matt. 11:28,29).
The refusal to come involves an habitual, active, exercise of the heart and will in desiring not to come (Rom. 1:18-23; Acts 7:51; Jn. 5:40).
God sent His Son to do what we could not do.
There is sovereign help for those who cannot help themselves. He became sin for us, that sinners in Him by union with Him, might have the righteousness of God. Christ sovereignly raises sinners out of the grave of their spiritual deadness (Eph. 2:4-6). The ability to understand and receive the gospel is pure revelation. We are not the authors of our own spiritual life (Gal. 1:15,16; Matt. 11:25).