The Total Depravity of Man
By Jerry Dodson
The Doctrine of the total depravity of man is a despised teaching in our day, and if believers knew the truth of it then they would of necessity embrace the five-points of the doctrine of grace. Permit me to begin by defining what is meant when speak of total depravity.
FIRST, UNDERSTAND WHAT THE DOCTRINE DOES NOT MEAN.
It does not mean that man is as sinful as he can be, nor his conduct as bad as it can be. For example, 2 Tim 3:13 says that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” But rather it means that man is as ruined and as separated from God as he can ever be. A person can never be more lost than he already is. All men are sinners by nature but not all men are equally wicked. Man’s depravity is total in the sense that every faculty of the natural man has been tainted and corrupted by sin. In fact the word “depraved” comes from the Latin word “de” meaning thoroughly and “pravus” meaning crooked. Man is thoroughly crooked in all his ways. This corrupt and sinful nature was received in Adam’s fall and is evidenced in man’s choice and practice of sin.
Isaiah 1:5-6, “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.
Does this not verify the terrible condition and the total depravity of every person of which I speak?
TOTAL DEPRAVITY DOES NOT MEAN THAT NATURAL MAN HAS NO CONSCIENCE.
Rom 2:15 speaks of the heathen having a conscience. However it has been twisted like all the rest his human faculties.
Scripture gives testimony of man’s depravity.
MAN IS DEPRAVED IN HIS MIND.
Genesis 6:5 says, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
MAN IS DEPRAVED IN HIS HEART.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
MAN’S AFFECTIONS TOWARD GOD ARE DEPRAVED.
The Bible reminds us in Romans 8:7-8 that “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.”
MAN’S CONSCIENCE IS DEPRAVED.
Titus 1:15 says, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”
MAN IS DEPRAVED IN HIS SPEECH.
The Bible again tells us in the 58th chapter and 3rd verse of the Psalms that “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
THE BIBLE TESTIFIES THAT MAN IS DEPRAVED FROM HEAD TO FOOT.
Isaiah 1:5-6 says, “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.”
PLEASE TURN YOUR ATTENTION TO THE EFFECTS OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY.
Understand that there is no remnant of good in any person. Romans 3:10-12 clearly says “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 all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
THE FALL LEFT MAN SPIRITUALLY DEAD.
What does the word dead mean? Natural man is as dead to all spiritual things as a man who is physically dead and whose body lies in a casket awaiting burial is dead to the things of this physical life. The one is dead spiritually while the other is dead physically, but dead is dead, and there are no degrees of being dead. One is cut off and cannot participate in the spiritual while the other is cut off and cannot participate in the realm of the physical.
The Scripture says 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:”
Ephesians 2:1-2 tell us, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
And although the Apostle Paul had reminded the believers in the Church at Ephesus that they too had been dead in trespasses and sins, yet God had quickened or made them alive unto the things of God. In the 10th verse of the 2nd chapter of Ephesians, Paul referred to believers as being “God’s workmanship.”
TOTAL DEPRAVITY LEFT MAN UNABLE TO COMPREHEND SPIRITUAL TRUTH NOR WILL HE RECEIVE IT FOR HE VIEWS IT AS FOOLISHNESS.
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.”
Natural man, that is, man in his unsaved state will not receive truth nor can he know it because to him it is foolishness. It is interesting to me that the “receiveth” is translated from a Greek word which means, “not welcome.” The things of the Spirit of God are not welcome to the natural man because his depraved nature has left him unable to discern them and to him they are foolish. Those of you who have ever tried to witness to a lost person have seen that to be true, except when the inner working of the Spirit of God was at work.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY HAS LEFT MAN UNABLE TO TURN FROM SIN UNTO GOD IN GODLY REPENTANCE AND FAITH.
Until quickened and made alive through the inner working Spirit of God, there is also a lack of willingness to turn toward God.
Listen to these Scriptures which speak of man’s spiritual inability!
Jeremiah 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
John 5:40 “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
THESE TEACHINGS ARE NOT APPEALING TO THE FLESH.
The world wants to build up self-esteem, and this humanistic philosophy has found its way into many churches. Folks today want their ears tickled and thus cannot endure sound doctrine. People do not have to be taught to think more of themselves. That’s man’s problem, he already thinks too much of himself. That is why he is so selfish. The Bible does not support this philosophy. Phil 2:3 says, “But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Little wonder that the doctrine of the total depravity man is not popular. People do not want to see themselves as the scripture portrays them.
THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY WOUNDS OUR PRIDE and we do not like that. IT STRIPS US OF OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS and brings us into dust of the ground where we belong and to that we strongly object. This is particularly true if we are religious. We do not want to see ourselves in bondage to anything.
Listen to the words of John 8:31-33, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?”
Little do the advocates of the “free will of man” understand that the will of man is in bondage to his sinful nature, a bondage, which has rendered him, depraved totally. The human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and cannot see itself in this bondage, yet the doctrine of the total depravity of man makes it absolutely necessary that God call sinners with an effectual calling, a calling that brings about a desired effect upon those who are called.
Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
John 5:21, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.”
Romans 5:6, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
In 1 Timothy 1:15 we are reminded that Paul’s conversion was a pattern for them that should hereafter believe on the Lord to life everlasting. I would also bring to your attention of Paul’s behavior before his conversion. Paul says in Gal 1:13-15, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace…” In 1 Tim 1:15, Paul testified that Christ came into the world save sinners of whom he was chief. Yet in the very next verse he wrote, “I obtained mercy.” Dear reader please listen. The word “OBTAINED” is in the aorist tense, the passive voice and the indicative mood which indicated an action that was performed once and for all, never to be repeated again and that Paul was passive in the matter. He was passive in obtaining mercy. It was something that God had bestowed upon him. After having witnessed with consent the stoning death of Stephen, he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples Lord. He was armed with written authority to arrest believers and take them bound to stand trial for their faith in Christ. He had no thought of being saved. It was foolishness unto him. It certainly was not welcome. Yet in Galatians 1:15 he wrote, “But when it pleased God who separated me from my mothers womb and called me by his grace.” In the 9th chapter of the Book of Acts, God Himself referred to Paul as a “chosen vessel.”
The point I am making is that the doctrine of the total depravity of man makes it necessary for God to extend an effectual calling, or else man could never be saved. We have already seen that confirmed in the scripture. People do not easily receive such teachings. We do not want to confess our inability. We will not stand to be told that we are wicked and evil, with no good in us at all and unable to save ourselves. Our human pride must somehow hang on to the false assumption that, surely, there is something I can do to meet God half way. “Oh, I know I can believe; I can accept; I can walk some isle; I can join some church or some other noble deed.” Anything but confess that I am depraved totally and at the mercy of a righteous and holy God that demands justice and except He save me, I shall not be saved.
IT MATTERS NOT WHAT SAITH OR THINKETH THE CREATURE FOR IT IS THUS SAITH THE WORD OF GOD WHICH BEARETH AUTHORITY.
The Bible says that salvation is of the Lord. Because every person born into Adam’s race is depraved totally, God must bring about the work of salvation in the life of a sinner. It is God that quickens. It is He that makes alive. He is the One who changes the heart. It is God that grants faith and repentance and He does it through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the inner working of the Spirit of God to those whom he issues His effectual calling, (a calling that brings about a desired effect.) Paul said “when it pleased God, He called me by His grace.” “I obtained mercy,” he said. This is necessary because of the thoroughly crooked, depraved and sinful nature of the entire human race.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF MAN BRINGS HONOR AND GLORY TO THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, but it also brings man down into the dust of the earth where he belongs. Man on the other hand wants to raise himself up by bringing God down to his level, but the Doctrine of the Total Depravity of Man will not permit this.