All desires and inclinations in light of.....

The Effect of Sin: "Total Depravity"
A gentleman was heard to exclaim, as he left a certain church service, "I don't think I'm going to come here again, they make you feel like you're a sinner." No doubt, this particular fellow would have felt at home with the Pharisees. You remember they were a religious sect who regarded themselves as righteous through law-keeping, and everyone else wicked sinners. However, many "wicked sinners" felt drawn to the Son of God. In fact, they were attracted to Him by the droves. When the disciples were asked, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?", Jesus answered for them: "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:11-13)." Because Christ came to call sinners, it is essential that we have a good understanding of the doctrine of sin, as taught in the Bible.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about sin. The English word, "sin," is found some 299 times in the Old Testament. In the New Testament there are 276 references to sin. The doctrine of sin is known theologically as Hamartiology, from the Greek word, hamartia {ham-ar-tee'-ah}, meaning, "to miss the mark, to err, to be mistaken. "This particular word, hamartia, is found some one hundred fifty-one times in the New Testament. Sin is commonly defined as "the transgression of the law." The Apostle John tells us, in I John 3:4, Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

Several words in the Bible are translated by our English word, sin. Put together, these words reveal the essence of the biblical concept of sin.

From the Hebrew language of the Old Testament we discover the following:

chatta'ah {khat-taw-aw'} - condition of sin, guilt of sin
chata' {khaw-taw'} - to miss, miss the way, go wrong, incur guilt

'ashmah {ash-maw'} - doing wrong, committing a trespass or offense

shagah {shaw-gaw'} - to go astray (morally), to lead astray

chet' {khate} - punishment for sin

'avon {aw-vone'} - perversity, depravity, iniquity

pesha' {peh'-shah} - transgression, rebellion

'asham {aw-shawm'} - offense, trespass, fault

From the Greek language of the New Testament we get the following:

hamartia {ham-ar-tee'-ah} - to miss the mark
anamartetos {an-am-ar'-tay-tos} - sinless

parabasis { para'-bah-sis} - transgression

adikia {a-de -kee'-ah} - unrighteousness

asebeia {as-see'-bee-ah} - impiety

anomia {a-nom'-ee-ah} - contempt and violation of law

poneria {poner-ree'-ah} - depravity

epithumia {epi-thu-mee'-ah} - desire for what is forbidden

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, volume IV, page 2798, gives the following general definition of the Biblical view of sin:

Sin is any attitude of indifference, unbelief, or disobedience to the will of God revealed in conscience, law, or gospel, whether this attitude express itself in thought, word, deed, or settled disposition and conduct. Transgression of known law, then, is sin; but so is wrong attitude, wrong desires, wrong 'set' of the will orself (rebellion - pesh, asebeia; perversion - Won, adikia; ruin, confusion - resh, apostasia, epithumia; I John 3:4; Matthew 5:22, 28; Romans 7:8ff; 5:21). Sin is thus unbelief (Hebrews 3:12, 19), the centering of the self upon something, or someone, less than God Himself (Genesis 3:6; Romans 1:28; 8:7).

The doctrine of sin may be practically stated by the simple phrase "all men and women are sinners" (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Ecclesiastes 8:11; 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9). What this means is that the state of man before God is one of total depravity (unwillingness) and total inability (unableness). That is, the unregenerate person has not the desire nor the ability to love, seek, or submit to spiritual truth. Of the five so-called "Doctrines of Grace," - sin, salvation, atonement, calling, security - this is perhaps the most important. If this point is received and understood, not only will the other four doctrines be readily received, but more easily understood. According to the Heidelberg Catechism, 3rd Lord's Day, Questions 6,7,8:

Question 6: Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?

Answer: By no means. But, God created man good, and after his own image; in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him, and live with Him in eternal happiness, to glorify and praise Him.

Question 7: Whence, then, proceeds this depravity of human nature?

Answer: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. Hence, our nature has become so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.

Question 8: Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all wickedness?

Answer: Indeed, we are, except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

Can these statements be proved by Scripture? What saith the Word of God? The prophet said, "If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). I shall now proceed to show you why I believe that this view of sin, i.e., total depravity and total inability, is in complete harmony with Scripture.

A. What Total Depravity Does Not Mean.

1.It does not mean that man is absolutely depraved.

"Absolute" depravity would mean all men are depraved both intensively and extensively. Intensive has reference to the degree to which sin may have brought man with reference to his depravity. Extensive is in reference to the extent to which sin has actually depraved man.

The intensity of sin is not total. That is, no man is as bad as he can be. Apart from the restraining grace of God–called "common grace" by the old writers–every man could become much worse in actual behaviour. However, the extent of sin is total. Every human being has been infected and affected by sin in every part of the body, soul and spirit. The whole, or total, being has been invaded by sin. Thus, "total depravity" means that every faculty of man's being, every activity of his life, and every sphere of his existence has been permeated by sin.

2. Extensively man is described thus:

a. Spiritually blind (Jn. 3:3; 12:3; Jer. 5:21; Pro. 16:2).
b. Mouth is full of cursing and bitterness (Rom. 3:14).

c. Lips are like vipers (Rom. 3:13).

d. Tongue speaks lies (Psa. 58:30; Jer. 8:6; Rom. 3:13).
e. Throat is an open grave (Rom. 3:13).

f. Belly is his god. (Phil. 3:19).

g. Feet are misguided (Rom. 3:15).

h. Mind is opposed to God and His ways (Rom. 8:7; Col. 1:21).
1) The mind generates evil desires (Eph. 2:3).

2) The mind is blinded by Satan (II Cor. 4:4).

3) The mind is proud (Col. 2:18).

4) The mind is corrupt (I Tim. 6:5).

I. Conscience is defiled (Tit. 1:15; Heb. 10:22).
j. Heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).

1) The heart is set upon evil (Eccl. 8:11).

2) It is full of lusts (Rom. 1:24).

3) It values the wrong things (Jn. 3:19).

k. The affections are vile (Rom. 1:26).
1) They are inordinate, or disgraceful (Col. 3:5).

2) They are set upon the earth (Col. 3:2).

3) They are not natural (Rom. 1:31; II Tim. 3:3).

l. All men:

1) Sin by nature (Eccl. 8:11; Gal. 3:19; Rom. 3:10-11,23; Rom. 5:12-14).
2) Are vile by nature (Rom. 1:18; 2:13).

3) Are children of wrath by nature (Eph. 2:3).

4) Are deceitful by nature (Jer. 17:9).

5) Are hostile toward God by nature (Rom.

8:7-8; Lk. 19:14).

6) Are alienated from God by nature (Eph.


3. The nature of man is such that he is compared to beasts.

a. Compared to a snake because of his venom (Psa. 140:3).
b. Compared to a mule because of his stubbornness (Job 11:12).

c. Compared to a bear because of his cruelty (

Dan. 7:5).

d. Compared to a dog because of his uncleanness (II Pet. 2:21).

e. Compared to a sow because of her uncleanness (II Pet. 2:21).

f. Compared to a dragon because of his desolateness (Job 30:29).

g. Compared to a fox because of his cunningness (Heb. 13:32).

h. Compared to a leopard because of his fierceness (Dan. 7:6).

I. Compared to a lion because of his ravening (Psa. 22:18).

j. Compared to a moth because of his frailty (Job 27:18).

k. Compared to a spider because of his flimsiness (Isa. 59:5).

l. Compared to a wolf because of his ferociousness (Jn. 10:12).

m. Compared to a locust because of his destructiveness (Joel 2:25).

n. Compared to a sheep because of his stupidity (Isa. 53:"6).

4. In man is the...

a. Absence of original righteousness -- best deeds are void of righteousness (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:9-10; Psa. 14:2-3).
b. Presence of positive evil – all men have a proclivity, or bent, toward evil rather than good (Jer. 13:23; 17:9; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:22).

This, then, is the extent of sin in man. This is total depravity. What would it be if men were absolutely depraved?

5. Total depravity does not mean the total absence of relative good, whether that goodness is civil, natural, or even religious.

a. Men may be good citizens, good parents and even good church members. Men may possess a kind of goodness which causes them to sacrifice for worthy projects and goals. For example, Albert Schweitzer could have been a doctor of medicine, a doctor of music, or a doctor of theology, but he willfully chose to give his life for the heathen people of Africa. By all standards of the world he was a "good": man. However, Dr. Schweitzer was not a Christian! To him, Jesus was not the eternal Christ, the Son of God, nor was the Bible inspired by God. In addition, Schweitzer did not accept the atoning work of Christ. Thus, though Schweitzer sacrificed his life for Africa, he was not a believer. And though he did many wonderful works yet he was totally depraved.
b. Question: How is total depravity manifested in good men?

Answer: They are in rebellion to Jesus Christ! If not in deed, then in the thoughts and intents of their hearts. Even the heathen do good, not because they are good, but because the Law is written in their natures by virtue of the fact that they were created in the image of God (Rom. 2:14).

Question: Why don't men break out into total outward rebellion?

Answer: they are restrained by the common grace of God (II Thess. 2:6-7).


Total Depravity is not absolute depravity
Total Depravity is not the total absence of relative good.

Though man is not intensively evil, He is extensively evil.

B. What Total Depravity Does Mean - Positively. By nature we only and always sin.

1 It is important for us to know that even relative good, which I have shown you may exist even in unbelievers, is not good in God's sight.

2. What men call "good" is evil in a Holy God's sight."Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity." (Psa. 39:5) "An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked is sin." (Prov. 21:4)

Question: How can there be sin in plowing a field? Why is plowing connected with a high look and a proud heart? The farmer works hard in the field, he provides his family with food, perhaps even for the good of others. How could this be sin?

Answer: First, because he does not plough in faith. Secondly, he does not plough for the glory of God. Does he acknowledge who gave him the field, or the strength to plow it, or the wisdom to make crops? No! He takes all the credit to himself, and curses the weather when he is not successful. Further, he gives none of his increase to the Lord.

3. Conclusion: The natural man can never do anything which is fundamentally pleasing to God, but only evil continually, for he is self motivated.

a. "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." Genesis 6:5
* Man's wickedness is great because it's against God.

* Man's wickedness is deep: "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart."

* Man's wickedness is "only evil continually."

b. Man's wickedness is from his youth.

"For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21)


"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5).

"The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go estray as soon as they be born speaking lies" (Psalm 58:3).

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jer.. 17:9 See also Romans 3:10-18)

c. Total Depravity, positively stated, means that men only and always, by nature, apart from regeneration, sin.

C. What Total Depravity Negatively—by nature we do not have the ability to please God or hate sin; we call this Total Inability.

1. This answers all the questions asked about the will of man. Make the will of man as free as you please. Let him will what he pleases; his problem is his ability. One may will to take ten years off his life, but let's see him or her do it! One may will to be wealthy, but this does not mean one will be wealthy. Exercising the will is no problem. Exercising the ability is where the problem lies.

2. Consider these Bible facts:

* Man has a carnal mind which is enmity to God and which is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:7).
* The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them (I Cor. 2:14).

* No man can come to Christ (Jn. 6:44,65).

* "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8).

Please note that in all these scriptures the word "can" is the focal point. Many confuse "can" with "may" when considering total depravity and total inability. The question is not "may I come to God?," but "can I come to God?" Of course, you may come. God does not hinder you, Christ does not forbid you, nor does the Holy Spirit withstand you, you certainly may come. But can you? "May I come?" asks permission. "Can I come?" speaks of ability. In other words, all have permission to come, but none have the ability to do so.

Christ never said, "You may not come to me, that ye might have Life." He said, "You will not come to me, that ye might have life." John 5:40.

Why will not men come to Christ when it is clear that they have a clear invitation and permission? Simply because they don't have the ability, i.e., they cannot. Thus, "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" stands as a fact beyond dispute. See John 6:44,65.

3. Analogies: Christ used many analogies to show and demonstrate the fact that salvation is a supernatural act of heaven, and does not lie within the ability of the sinner.

a. The new birth (John 3). Prior to conception there is non-being. In conception only the parents are active, the conceived child has nothing to say about when, where or how it shall be conceived and born. In like manner, before spiritual conception and birth there is only spiritual non-being. How can a spiritual non-being believe and repent? Thus, faith is a result of spiritual conception, not the cause of it. As in natural conception only the parent is active. In this case the parent is God.
b. Creation (II Corinthians 5:17). "In the beginning God" is the only cause and explanation for the created universe. Nothingness cannot produce something. The Creation was totally passive in coming into being. God spoke the universe into being. He said, "Let there be," and there was. Paul speaks of believers as being "new creations in Christ." The same cause is responsible for the new creation, and in the same manner, as the old creation. "In the beginning God created" is the cause of all new creations in Christ. God speaks and there is.

c. Resurrection (Ephesians 2:1). The only person who can be resurrected is a dead one. Living people aren't resurrected. The only person who can resurrect a dead person is God. In the same manner, men are said to be "dead in trespasses and sins." Accordingly, they cannot resurrect themselves. If they are to be quickened, i.e., made alive, God must do it. To be raised to spiritual life and joined in spiritual union with Christ is nothing short of a miracle. Perhaps the best illustration is an extra-biblical one.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

All the king's horses and all the king's men

Couldn't put Humpty back together again.


1. Salvation must be of God. Men cannot save themselves.

2. The basic cause of trouble in our world is the spiritual enslavement of men to sin: ".... 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." Rom. 3:16-18

3. The slightest desire to know God, be delivered from sin and bow to Christ is evidence of the work of the Lord.

4. The doctrines of total depravity and total inability are designed to drive us to cry to the Lord for deliverance.

Last edited by Anthony C.; Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:12 AM.