Total Depravity

January 1, 2007

The view one takes of sin aids in determining the view that one will take concerning salvation (justification), and the view one has of salvation then serves to determine the view you take concerning many other doctrines, which is why understanding sin and its affects on man is extremely important.

There are two basic views concerning sin and its affects:

(1) Man has been affected by sin, but is still slightly ‘alive’ and has the ability to choose good as far a God is concerned.
(2) Man is completely depraved and ‘dead in trespasses and sins’, and can therefore do nothing to aid in his own salvation. (Eph. 2:1)

The point (1) is often referred to as ‘Free Will’. This is the first point of the Remonstrance, or the ‘Five Points of Arminianism”. This means that sin exists within me, but I still have a bit of good left, and can still obey God according to my own obedience and choice. Since I can still choose to do good as far as God is concerned, then I can be a part in my own salvation. God gives me the choice to choose eternal life with Him, or to follow the devil to Hell. I have the inclination to choose Hell, but I can choose either because my will is free.

Point (2), however is often referred to as “Total Depravity”, or “Total Inability”. As has been already expressed, this means that the human nature has been corrupted totally by the Fall, and is spiritually dead. Since the will and nature of man is dead as far as God is concerned, does this mean that I cannot contribute to my own salvation? Yes! Man is dead in sin, and therefore cannot choose to do good. The unregenerate man is dead in sin, and his will is enslaved to his evil nature.

The free will argument somtimes refers to choosing God as ‘steps’. Their thinking is, “If I take the first step, God will take the rest.” Then, if I choose God, He will choose me because of my decision. This is impossible. John 6:44a says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Scripture says that no man can take the first ‘steps’ unless God has already drawn him in completely. Since we are already there, because of God’s initiative, we then do nothing to achieve our own salvation.

This does not mean that man is as bad as he could be, or is completely unable to choose. As far as man is concerned, we make choices every day, and those choices can be good or bad in the eyes of man. We choose what clothes we wear, and what we eat. When I say that man cannot choose to do good because of his evil nature, I am saying that he cannot do anything good as far as God is concerned. All the things which we, as man, would consider good, are evil in God’s eyes, and therefore sinful. All things which we do are evil in the eyes of God.

400 years ago at the Synod of Dort, the view of “Free Will”, or “Total Ability”, was struck down as unbiblical. This view has also been struck down by the Council at Carthage, which was presented with the same views. They concluded that Scripture, which is the infallible and inspired Word of God, teaches that man is totally depraved, and anyone holding to the view of free will would become ‘anathema’, or accursed. This view was cursed by these men who searched diligently through the Scriptures, yet today free will is embraced by most Christians, and proclaimed to be supported in Scripture.

This total depravity of our nature shows our dire need of a Saviour and Redeemer. If we are unable to come to God on our own, and since we are condemned because of our sins, Christ must come to us, and He has sacrificed His life for the sheep, who are completely incapable of doing any good on their own. We are slaves to sin, and when Christ has made us alive, we become slaves to righeouness. (Romans 6:18)

Here are several other verses that support Total Depravity:

Romans 1:29-31– “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

Ephesians 2:1-5– “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved”

Titus 3:3– “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

John 8:34– “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”

Mark 7:21, 22– “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

Isaiah 53:6– “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Genesis 6:5– “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “

Often times, men will ask us concerning salvation. “If I cannot come on my own, then how then can I be saved?” Jesus clearly says in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


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