The Depravity of Man
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Probably the most debated subject and most misunderstood of the doctrines of grace is the depravity of man. It focuses around the argument of free will and God’s free grace. Is eternal salvation the product of free will or free grace? The religion of this world dogmatically declares that man has a free will in his eternal destiny. But the bible, if rightly divided, leaves no doubt to the searching heart that salvation can only be, and must be my God’s sovereign grace!
Just turn on the television and tune in to one of the many TV evangelists and you can hear the readily accepted message for today’s “Christian”. It is a message of health, wealth, and prosperity. It is not a message of how to keep from this world, but rather how to succeed in worldly gain. Often the message is about doing more for God with the assumption that in doing so you will reap worldly amenities. Meaning, the more you grow in faith towards God the more successful you will be in this life. I doubt that the Apostle Paul would support such a carnal notion. I read of his sufferings for Christ’s sake far above and beyond any “would-be” Christian of this day. But I don’t read anywhere of his increasing worldly wealth or popularity among the Jewish nation resulting from his great faith, much rather the different.
I am afraid that the world has things turned “up-side down”. We have gotten to the place that we are calling good evil and evil good. It is this very thought that we have which is responsible for so much depression, confusion, and outward frustration among God’s people today. The doctor will suggest to this person that his very problem is a low self-esteem of himself. And the remedy is to convince yourself that you are special, you are unique, and that by placing yourself in high esteem you can rise about your troubles. In this day and age prayer has been replaced by Prozac and trusting in God by trusting in man. I don’t suggest that science has not been beneficial in the discovery of helpful medicines, and that these medicines are not in some cases needed. But man always seems to have a way of taking a good thing and making something bad out of it. I know from experience that most of these medicines do little else than numb our minds of the reality and troubles and trials in our life. O, that we may look to God for our help!
With these thoughts pertaining to man, it is little wonder why the perverted doctrine of free will is so readily accepted. The doctrine of free will suggests that it is man, not sovereign God, who has the choice to accept or not accept eternal salvation. That the entire Adamic race has a spark of divinity in them and that man, by nature, can choose to apply Christ’s blood to them. In keeping with that belief man has had to make provisions that would accommodate circumstances where one may not be able to make that choice, whether it be because of age, mental capacity, or some other hindrances. This doctrine is so full of holes it won’t hold water!
I will, however, fully agree that man does have a will, but only as it pertains to his nature. A dog can bark when it chooses because that is a dog’s nature. But a dog cannot decide to start talking or meowing, that is not its nature. Man, by nature, has the will to sin because by nature he is a sinner. By nature he is unable and unwilling to do anything pleasing to God. Jeremiah 13:23 states, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil”. Natural man cannot choose to do good because he is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Not sick, but dead! This sets forth the doctrine of total depravity.
All are depraved, and by nature are evil within and without. It is not to say that all are as evil as they can possibly be, but that potential is within us all. While there are no degrees of death there does exist greater manifestations of that death. A dead animal is just as dead if it had been dead for one hour or one week: dead is dead. Yet the difference lies in the manifestation of that death. Mark 7:21-23 states, “For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, and evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man”. Quite a line up for one who thinks he is good! All these evil things exist in every one, some just manifest them more than others.
In our thoughts of total depravity, lets first define what it means. Noah Webster defines depravity as: “A vitiated state of the heart; wickedness; corruption of moral principles; destitution of holiness or good principles”. Total depravity is basic to the doctrines of grace. Man must first be made to see his depravity before he will ever hope to see the sovereign grace of God. Without this foundation to build on man will never come to realize that it is impossible for him to have a voice in his eternal salvation. But if, by the grace of God, he has seen this precious doctrine he will have to conclude that God and Him alone is his only hope of salvation. Not seeing ones total depravity does nothing to hinder God’s eternal covenant, for salvation is by the grace of God and not the works of man. But this blind view that man has serves only to exalt man and to abase the Lord in the gospel. A hindrance is made in worshipping and Almighty Sovereign God when man views Christ’s work on Calvary as merely a means of salvation and not the very work of salvation.
Let us now look to God’s word in the study of man’s total depravity. In God’s word man is shown time and time again that he is a sinner by representation, a sinner by nature, and a sinner by practice.
All are sinners by representation. This is also known as the doctrine of Original Sin. On the sixth day of creation God made man after His image. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). God then set Adam in the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:16-17). Adam was our federal head, our representative: the “first Adam”. The President of the United States is our representative: the voice of all U.S. citizens. If he declares war with another country then it is not just him but all of who he represents that are also at war. If he declares peace with another country then all under him are at peace with that country. In the Garden of Eden Adam was the federal head or representative of the entire human race. We were all in Adam and the way with one was the way of all.
Before the fall, Adam was in fellowship with God and so were all of God’s children. Adam was created good, and very good. But he was not perfect; he was without sin but able and liable to sin. And it was in the Garden of Eden that Adam fell to temptation and in an act of disobedience to the commandment of God tasted of the forbidden fruit. As a result the sentence of death was bestowed upon him and all mankind. The death that is under consideration here was administered to Adam that day. It was the separation of mans fellowship with God. It was at this precise point that man became a sinner and saw his nakedness. I have heard men exclaim that they should not be held accountable for what Adam did, as though given the opportunity they would have done different. How vain are the thoughts of man to think that a born sinner would choose better over one who was created without sin! We miss the mark well if we fail to see Adam representing the very actions that you or me would have most certainly done.
When Adam died, all died. We were all held accountable then! Romans 3:12 states, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one”. There is no age of accountability for man. Paul said we are TOGETHER become unprofitable. The word “together” means: in company; in union; in the same place, in the same time. We all together, at the same time, became unprofitable in Adam. And when was that? It was when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Paul also said in Romans 5:12, “wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. So as not to be confused over who that man is Paul said, “For as in Adam all die” (1Cor 15.22). Both the death from the fellowship with God and natural bodily death are the sentences of our disobedience in Adam towards God.
All are sinners by nature. Adam was made in the image of God. But in Genesis 5:3 we read where he begat a son in his own likeness, “after his image”. And since that time man has continued to begat man in his own image, not Gods. That image is who we are by nature; a fallen depraved sinner, removed from the fellowship with God.
Mans religion boasts that there is an age up to which he is not held accountable for his sins, or that he is not a sinner until he practices sin. But I did not obtain my last name, Lathrop, when at a certain age. I was a Lathrop at conception. So also was I a sinner by nature at conception. David said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:1). David was not speaking of his mother sinning in his conception as some suppose, but rather that he was by nature a sinner, being an offspring of Adam. Job said, “How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4). To further show the inherited sinful nature of man, Job said, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job 14:4). Job is simply stating that it is impossible that one could be born without sin, being a descendant of Adam. This nature of sin applies to all mankind. As Paul said, “there is none righteous, no, not one”! It took Nebuchadnezzar quite a trial from God before he would boast no more in himself but proclaim, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35).
Let us now examine the nature of sinful man. The world of “free will” doctrine declares that though one is born a sinner he is free to choose his eternal destiny. He declares that he can choose, by his free will, to seek after God and thereby complete the plan of salvation. But the doctrine of free grace declares that it is by Gods sovereign grace alone that one could ever hope to be saved from hell to an eternal life with God in heaven.
What sinful man fails to see in his quest to obtain salvation is the condition and state of his depravity. He is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Not only is he dead in the fall in Adam, but dead in his own sins. What ability does a dead man have (naturally speaking)? Is he not unresponsive to stimuli? Who, ever being dead, decided what suit of clothes to wear for his funeral or where he will be buried? I have never heard or seen a dead man make any requests or perform any actions. Why? Because he is dead, of course! These questions seem very foolish, as all know full well that a dead man has no life in him. There is no difference, dear child of God, when comparing one who is dead naturally with one who is dead spiritually. He has no spiritual life within him, for he is spiritually dead.
And if dead then there can be NO spark of faith or divinity within him. Else he is not dead. But he is dead, and dead to the things of God: dead to his fellowship with God. And unless someone (that someone being Christ) steps in, that dead man will NEVER have fellowship with God. Paul said in 1Cor.2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Paul is not saying that they are not willing, but rather that they are unable (can not) know the things of the spirit of God. Christ said in John 6:44, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day”. Here again the dead alien sinner CANNOT come to Christ. And even if he could and was made able to come to Christ he wouldn’t have the desire to draw nigh, for Ps.10:1 states, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts”. So the dead alien sinner cannot and will not seek after God.
In mans state of spiritual death he can do nothing pleasing to God. Paul said in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God. But man says that the entire Adamic race has a spark of faith. If this were so it would make no since for Paul to say that one could not please God without it, for then would all have it! But faith is the fruit of the Spirit. It takes the indwelling Spirit of God before faith can be produced (Gal. 5:22). If one has faith it is undeniable evidence that the Spirit of God abides in him, and if the Spirit of God abides in him then he is already a regenerate child of God. So then, one who has not the Spirit of God in him has no faith and therefore is not pleasing to God because he is dead in sins. Paul said in 2thess. 3:1-2, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith”. There were some that Paul desired to preach the gospel to, but it was not to those who didn’t have faith. It was to those regenerate children of God who through the Spirit had the fruit of faith.
Paul also made it clear in Romans 8:7-9 concerning the state of the dead alien sinner in regards to his fellowship with God, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his”. The nature of depraved man is that he does not desire God nor does he care to seek after God, but why? It is because he is dead to spiritual things. A fitting description of the dead alien sinner is found in Romans 3:10-18, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes”. Paul paints a horrible picture of just who man is. Elder Michael Gowens stated, concerning these passages, “This is not a diagnosis of a sick man, but an autopsy of a dead man”. With these things set before us, how could man choose to do something good? How could he, the dead alien sinner, out of his hard heart, decide to repent and accept Christ into his life? According to Gods word it is not just hard, but impossible. Again I say, not only will the dead alien sinner not choose Christ, but also he is unable.
The world worships a weak God who desires to save the entire Adamic race but is hindered by man. They portray a God weeping at the gates of hell for all “his children” that would not accept him. Therefore, making Christ’s sufferings and death vain for the one who does not accept it. My friends, Christ did not die in vain! He said, “All that the Father hath given me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). If Christ died for your sins on Calvary you can rest assure that it was a finished work on Calvary. That is a rest that many of Gods precious children will never enter into in this life. We must not confuse the weakness of man with the Sovereignty of God. Isaiah 40:12- 13 states, “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath taught him?” Paul also was well aware of the sovereignty of God. In Romans 9:21 he states, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
We are sinners by practice. Because all are sinners by nature, man will to some degree or another be a manifested sinner by practice. Man sins because he is a sinner. A newborn infant, though still a sinner by nature, may not be manifesting the practice of sin to the same degree as an adult, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t or won’t sin. Psalms 58:3 states, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies”. Estranged is defined as “withdrawn or withheld”. If the wicked are removed from the womb then they were wicked before they were born. As soon as he is born he goes astray speaking lies. I have seen little infants scream and cry as though they are in some sort of pain, but as soon as his mother picks him up he begins to grin and stops all crying.
The baby wasn’t hurt at all, he was just deceiving his mother so he could be held. Just leave two toddlers alone in a room with toys. It won’t be long before the toys turn into weapons as one begins to beat the other with it. All the while the parents comment on how cute they are. They are not cute; they are acting out their depraved nature! Job 11:12 tells us, “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt”. Man by nature is unruly, unable to tame. And the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21).
The depraved sinner is corrupt and his whole faculty is sinful. In chapter 1:5-6 Isaiah was speaking to the children of Israel concerning their depraved state, “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment”. What a fitting description of natural man! And yet how blind man is to his current state that he should see that all his ways are good, in his own eyes. One need not leave his house to see the corrupt nature of man. Just turn on the television and you will be saturated with the works of the flesh. It is all around us, in the workplace and in the streets, in the small towns and in the large cities. Wherever man is, there too will you see the works of the flesh growing like weeds which are abundant and need no tending or cultivating to sprout forth.
Isaiah 64:6 states, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”. There is nothing in man (that is, in his flesh) that shows forth the love of God. We are corrupt beings and not worthy of the very least of Gods mercies and grace. I find nowhere in God’s word where natural man is lifted up as being a righteous creature, but much rather the different. Oh that we could see ourselves as we really are! That in doing so we might praise God and see Him as he really is; The Salvation and Consolation of Israel!
I ask you; with these thoughts presented before us, how is it that man has the free will concerning eternal salvation? Are not all of the verses quoted (and many more that are not added to this paper) obtained directly from God’s written word? Should we as depraved sinners continue to ignore and gloss over God’s word while living a life that is most pleasing to man and not God? I pray not. Man cannot decide to choose God, for he is dead in sins. Without the quickening of the Holy Spirit he will never desire the fellowship of God: never.
These thoughts on the total depravity of man would not be complete without mentioning Gods free Grace. We will only say a few things pertaining to this wonderful doctrine.
Without some external force the dead corpse of mans depraved nature will continue to rot and decay. The unregenerate is powerless to any self-will or action that is outside of his nature. Here, my friends, is where the doctrine of Gods Sovereign Grace is as sweet as honey. You see, one that desires a life with God is already alive! It was Christ who brought Lazarus to life. No matter how much Martha and Mary or any of the disciples desired him back, it was only by the word of Christ, “Lazarus, come forth” that was able to bring him from that state of death. John 5:25 states, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live”. The only voice a dead man can hear is the Almighty voice of God. And be sure of this, ALL that hear His voice shall live! This is irresistible grace and it is effectual!
The dead alien sinner is not willing in his depraved state to come to Christ, but is made willing in the day of His (Gods) power (Ps 110:3). The day under consideration was that day that God regenerated, quickened, brought to life that Spirit of God within depraved man. Then, and only then, is the child of God made to see who he is. It was only then that the Apostle Paul could say, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). The light of God had shown in Paul’s dark and depraved soul. All he could see now was the depth of his depravity. Only a child of God could cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Rom 7:24)? Paul, by the grace of God, knew who the “who” was. He thanked God! For it is God that quickens us from a state of death in sins to a life in Christ, and it is God that will one day quicken these mortal bodies. In that day, these corruptible bodies shall but on incorruption, and mortality shall put on immortality!
Who is the “who” that you worship in your life? Is it you, for having “chosen” Christ? Or is it some preacher or evangelist, or maybe a mourner’s bench. Nay, it ought not be any of these things. Dear child of God, the “who” is not man or his made up inventions, the “who” is GOD! You love him because he first loved you. And if he ever loved you once, His love for you will be for eternity and you shall never perish but shall forever be with the Lord! Salvation is of the Lord!