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Doctrines of Grace




                                  Total Depravity

Isaiah 64:4-7 
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. 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. And there is none that calleth upon thy name that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. 

What are man’s attributes? The most important knowledge to be gained by mankind is knowing who God is. Once we realize the marvelous attributes of God, we must come to understand ourselves, where we stand in God’s perspective. Speaking about man, Psalms 14:3 says, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  In today’s pulpits and church circles, we continue to exalt man and raise his importance to the same plane as that of the creator. Manipulation and persuasion have been so effectively used in our modern church society that we feel if we can lift man up and make him feel good that he will eagerly make decisions that will benefit the church. Man likes to feel that he is in control. But we have taken man’s ability to control his circumstances into a realm that man does not operate in.

Salvation belongs to God and spiritual decisions belong to God. If man had these capabilities then he would be like the serpent advocated to Adam and Eve—that they would be like God. This is a lie that the devil perpetuated in the garden, and it is a lie that he is continually perpetuating today. His lie today has people believing that they have something to do with their salvation, by receiving or rejecting. The Holy Scripture says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Yet we have the audacity to tell people that they are in control of their spiritual destiny by making a mental decision to accept or reject. We tell people that if God didn’t give man the ability to accept or reject then he wouldn’t be fair or just. Yet Paul says Romans 9:14, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” Who are we to question whether God is fair or just, we are only the clay; he is the potter.

If fallen man had the ability to accept or reject salvation, you would think people would be running to God instead of running away from God. You’d think there would be more people in church than out of church. If man has the ability choose salvation, why does he not choose it? Man will not choose salvation because he loves sin; he is in bondage to sin and does not desire to be free of it. But man cannot give up the idea that he has no choice in salvation because he does not understand that he lost that ability when Adam fell. Man must realize that he is totally depraved. Man must realize that when Adam fell, mankind lost all spiritual ability. He didn’t just lose part of it and retain part of it. He fell to the bottom without any ability to access God unless God intervened on his part. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19:26 that with men salvation was impossible, but with God all things are possible.  Man cannot affect his salvation because of the depraved state he is in.

The man God created was righteous, and he was dependent on God to sustain him. But man did not remain righteous and dependent for very long. When Satan approached Eve, his deception was designed to appeal to her mind. He knew if he could get her to think independently of God, he would have her totally under his control. In Genesis 3:2, Satan asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve explained that God said they would surely die if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan tries to make Eve doubt God’s word and think for herself. He told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5: “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:6 says: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.  In eating of the fruit, Adam not only questioned what God had told him, he rejected God’s word. He exchanged the truth of God for a lie. He gave up God’s Word as the basis for his thinking and his living. So Satan was right in thinking that the key to controlling man is to control his thinking. Adam’s independent thinking also affected the whole Adam. He lost his righteous character and his actions became disobedient and corrupt.

Because man’s thinking is evil and corrupt, so are his character and his actions. Adam’s new nature is evident in his reaction to God after his disobedience. Genesis 3:7 describes their eyes being opened to their nakedness. They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Verse 8 describes their reaction to the voice of God as He walked in the garden. They hid themselves from the presence of the Lord.  God calls to Adam in verse 9 and Adam says in verse 10, “I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.” With his spiritual nature gone and only the natural nature to react, he did what all human beings do. He hid out of shame, guilt, and fear. In verse 12, Adam did what humans do next; he put the blame for his sin on someone else. He said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Adam is defensive. He is ready to justify his own actions and put the blame on someone else. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.” Natural man does not see himself as a sinful creature. His ways are clean in his own eyes. Psalms 58:3 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

When man began to think independently of God, he was no longer capable of making spiritual decisions. Man is blind to spiritual things. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “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 says in Romans 8:6-7, For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.  Carnal man is not capable of hearing spiritual things. Jesus explained to his disciples why he started teaching the multitudes in parables in Matthew 13:13. He said, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” In John 8:43-44, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

Adam’s sin affected man totally. His mind became set against God. He rejected God’s word as the foundation for his life. His desires were of the flesh. He rejected God’s character as the standard for morals. His will was set in opposition to the will of God. He rejected God’s will as the purpose for his life. Because man’s mind, his desires, and his will are in opposition to God, man is totally depraved. Left to his own choices, he will not choose God. He will choose to do evil, because his mind, his desires, and his will are set on evil continuously. He will not believe because his carnal mind is enmity to God. He will not have faith because he does not desire it. He will not choose God because his will is bent toward evil.

It is just amazing how much man has accomplished in the last few centuries. He has acquired more and more knowledge. But as a sinner, man operates in the wrong framework. He has become arrogant and has removed God from the center of his thinking. Has man used his vast knowledge to glorify God? Of course not. He has become intoxicated with his own importance and placed himself in the center of his thinking. Give a sinful man enough knowledge and he will use it for his own purpose and his own gain. He will cheat on his income taxes, exploit the environment, defraud others, and enslave his fellow man.  A psychologist at the University of Illinois has said, “Every person, man or child, spends twenty-four hours a day satisfying or attempting to satisfy his physical, social, and personality need.” In other words, we spend every minute of the day taking care of Number 1 –ourselves. The reason people help others is because, in some way, it is a personal advantage to do so. Sinful men do good things, not out of the goodness of the heart, but because they want people to think of them as good. They want to give the impression that they are righteous.

Man’s technological advancements have enabled him to maintain dominion over creation. Man has walked on the moon. He has harnessed the power of the atom. He has developed systems of communications through the use of computers and the internet. But the more man has learned, the more he has abused, exploited, and polluted the world in which God placed him. Man is self-centered and greedy, so he will exploit and manipulate natural and human resources in order to get all he can out of them. We are not good stewards of the creation God entrusted to our care and we do not fulfill the purpose for which God made us. God said in Isaiah 43:7, “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Created man glorified God in tending the garden. Fallen man abuses God’s creation by taking what he can from it for his own glory. 

So, is there hope for fallen man? There is hope only in God’s perfect plan. Because man is so totally depraved, it must be by the action of an almighty, sovereign God that man is rescued from his enmity toward God. Because his mind, his character and his actions are sinful, something must happen to change the total man because it was the total man who was affected by the fall. Man is not capable of redirecting his thinking, his character, or his conduct. He is completely devoid of the spiritual nature it takes to do so. Even for him to be affected by the preaching of the gospel, something must change in his nature for him to be able to receive it. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus isn’t talking about Nicodemus literally seeing the kingdom or going to heaven when he dies. He is talking about seeing with spiritual eyes. The spiritual things talked about in the Bible will not open to man until he has eyes with which to see the kingdom of God, and he will not have spiritual eyes until he is born again. Think about it--
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. In order for man to be able to see and understand the things of the kingdom of God, he must be born again. He does not have the ability to discern spiritual things until he is born again. He does not have the ability to have faith or to believe until he is born again because faith and believing require spiritual eyes. Man does not have spiritual eyes until he is born again. Paul explains in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;). God is the one who made us alive when we were dead in sins and he did it by his grace—just because it pleased him—not because we asked, for we would never seek God in our fallen state. Paul said in Romans 3:11-12, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Until we are born again, we do not understand and we do not seek God. 

The very fact that man cannot recognize that he is totally depraved is what has led to huge church organizations that are of the world, worshiping in vain, worshiping for doctrines the commandments taught by men.  We have no grounds to stand on when we complain about clergy going astray, the pianist taking up with a deacon, ordination of homosexuals, unwed mothers, theft in the church, adultery, or any of the other sins that we are seeing rush into our church society. We have no right to complain because, after all, we gave those people the right to accept or reject. God didn’t give them that right—He chooses his people, the elect. He did it throughout the Bible and he is still doing it today—Paul says in Ephesians 1:4-5, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world , that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. 

It is no wonder that our church has such little influence on our government and our society. We have given people the choice to be saved or not to be saved. In society we have given people the choice to have abortions, to live alternative lifestyles, or defame the almighty creator of the universe. We have taken away the right to pray in public, to display God’s holy words in public places, and to speak out against the atrocious sins that are taking place from coast to coast. It is no wonder we are seeing entire cities, counties, and states become dens of iniquity. It is no wonder we have pornography available to each and every member of the family. It is no wonder that we give all the praise to athletes and sporting events instead of to a sovereign God. It is no wonder that we have correctional institutions full and overflowing. It is no wonder we have governments operating in the red, without the ability to meet budget deficits. It is no wonder our citizens are so burdened down with taxes, medical expenses, and lack to money to live from day to day. Look what choice has done to our society. Man makes bad choices. Yet we want man to have a choice in the most important matter in his life, and that is salvation. If man has a choice, it is subject to error. If God does the choosing, there is no mistake.

Man is no better today than the scribes and Pharisees were in Jesus’ day. Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:29-30, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” That is exactly what we are doing today. We are being partakers in the blood of the prophets when we allow corruption into our society such as gambling, pornography, homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, and many other sins. We are partakers in the blood of the prophets when we don’t have enough backbone to stand up against laws that are being passed that defame the word of God and eradicate it from our public places. We are being partakers in the blood of the prophets when we allow filth to infiltrate our churches and corrupt its influence and teach for doctrines the commandments of men.

The moral decay of this nation is a direct result of the decisions totally depraved human beings have made in their lust for money and power.  How can we expect fallen unregenerate human beings to do any better?