Total Depravity and our Falleness
I have to admit, when I first encountered the doctrine of total depravity I was kinda taken aback. I mean really, after all, I had been a Christian for a few years, I didn’t go around pulling the wings off of butterflies, and I only occasionally kicked kittens, so how could anyone claim that I was or at one time had been totally depraved. Honestly, before I was saved I was pretty bad but I was nowhere near the worst among my cadre of friends and acquaintances so I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this concept of my complete sinfulness and inability to please God on my own. Having come from a Holiness tradition my efforts meant a lot both to me and others. I prayed nearly everyday, I read the Scriptures, I went to Church and even wore my Sunday go to meeting clothes every third Sunday. How could God actually think that I was totally depraved….and then I started to read the Scriptures for what they actually said.
I was in a State of Total Sinfulness
Here’s where my preconceived notions came tumbling down like a four year old’s gingerbread house. I was totally depraved, I was dead in my sins, I was wholly without any merit or righteousness of my own. When I finally read Ephesians 2 where it says:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses
I noticed that there was a word in there that must not mean what it actually says. I was dead in my sins and trespasses. DEAD. TOTAL DEPRAVITY. Not only was I dead but I was walking in this death that Paul said afflicted me. How was I alive and walking when God said that I was actually dead? I realized, and not without much study, that I was spiritually dead, separated from the Giver of Life, and everything I did was contaminated with the stench of death, but where did this Death come from? It came from my father Adam. Now my immediate father’s name is Luther but my federal head, my representative in the Garden, the one who Fell and plunged us all into this death-his name is Adam.
When Adam partook of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, when the initial desire to disobey God’s holy command took root in his heart, he died that very day even though he lived for several hundred years tilling the ground and sweating like a mule under the curse. By the trespass of one man we were all made sinners ( Romans 5:18-19 ) and the wages of sin is death. As the body without the Spirit is dead ( James 2:26 ) a dead spirit separated from God will lead to a dead body.
Dead. I still couldn’t believe it, but I could not entirely blame Adam as I liked doing what I did. I chose everyday to flaunt the laws of God and carry out the depraved desires of my mind. I was dead, a child of wrath, following the course of this world and living in the passions of the flesh. But wait a minute…I didn’t do EVERY evil thought (Genesis 6:5 ) that crept into my putrid mind did I? I hadn’t broken every law ( James 2:10 ) of God had I? It didn’t matter for everywhere I turned I was guilty. Jesus Himself said:
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Total depravity and Seeking God
Ok, I was in a real quandary now as my heart had condemned me, my actions had condemned me, and my thoughts had condemned me. But didn’t I seek after God and find Him? Well, actually no, I didn’t. Ya see, the Scriptures do speaks to this as well in Romans 3:
both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
What a blow!! I didn’t even seek after God to procure my salvation so what defense did I have left? None, absolutely none. Not only had I been totally depraved, so had all of humanity. We were all in the same boat…well more like a spiritual morgue but you know what I mean. What was worse was the fact that I kept finding these passages in the Bible that affirmed that I was wholly corrupted by sin and unable to come to Him. For example:
1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned
Romans 8:7-8 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
What I had failed to understand about Total Depravity
But I did good things. I really did. I helped people, I donated time to friends in need, I sometimes picked up my own dirty clothes so I couldn’t be as bad as I could be, could I? No I wasn’t, but that is not what is meant by ” total depravity. ” What we are intended to believe about total depravity is this: we are corrupt in both body and soul and completely unable to perform any righteousness in regards to God and His standards. See, Jesus even said that we did good things while being evil:
Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
We can do good things in the eyes of the world and in the opinions of others but just not anything worthy to save us. We cannot justify ourselves by earning our way into the good graces of God. We do not act as badly as we possibly can, by His restraining Providence, but everything we do is tainted by sin and our best actions, our utmost righteousness, is as filthy rags before our Holy God.
My Worldview was shattered
I couldn’t help but think, ” what does this mean for me now? ” I could no longer believe in the innate goodness of man and his ability to make a free will choice in favor of God as everyone’s will was corrupt and all are spiritually dead. NO ONE, not the best of us ever sought after God on their own initiative and neither could we even understand the things of God in our natural state.
I realized with mind enlightening clarity ( thanks to the Holy Spirit ) that salvation is of the Lord, by grace, and through faith. It wasn’t me who deserved His favor, it was Him who bestowed His marvelous grace upon me, for while I was yet a sinner Christ died for me ( Romans 5:8 ). I realized that my puny efforts could never unlock the doors of that mansion that He is preparing for me in glory. I realized that He knew me and loved me while I was wholly unlovable and that I love Him because He first loved me. I would now never forget that I, who was dead in sins, was made alive in Christ because He gave life to this wretched man.
Sola Deo Gloria