Recently, in my men’s group, we were reading George Swinnock on the subject of holiness and he writes the following vivid description of the depraved sinner. He writes, “They run as fast as if they feared that hell would be full before they came thither” (The Christian Mans Calling, Vol. 1, Chapter IX, 76). So it seems that unsaved people are so committed to sin that they worry that they might lose a seat in hell.
When it comes to life in general, it doesn’t take a deep dive into theology to see the obvious fact that carnal people are committed to sin. It is the duty and calling of the Christian to pursue God in a lifestyle of consistent holiness, but the unsaved person has a mind and a heart that is fixed in a direction that opposes God.
Consider the passions and pleasures of sin and how the unsaved person has no care for God and no desire to submit to God’s law. He makes it his daily pattern to break God’s law. Why is this the case? Because by nature, he has no ability to see his need for God nor any ability in himself to submit to God. His appetite craves sin and his feet are swift to run away from God.
This is at the heart of the issue of the free-will and sovereignty of God debate. Consider what the Scripture teaches about the issue of man’s depravity.
Man’s Inability to Repent and Believe the Gospel
- John 6:44 and 65– “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
- John 1:12-13– But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Repentance and Faith are Given as Gifts of God
- Ephesians 2:8-9– For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- Acts 16:14– One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
- Acts 5:31– “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
- Acts 11:18– When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
- Acts 18:27– When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed
- Philippians 1:29– For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should… believe in him
- 1 Corinthians 3:6– I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
- Romans 12:3– For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
- 2 Timothy 2:24-25– And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, [etc.]… God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth
- 1 Corinthians 12:3– no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
- 2 Peter 1:3– His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence
- Romans 11:36– For from him and through him and to him are all things.
- 1 Corinthians 4:7– For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
- John 3:6, 6:63– “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
The Truth About the Seeker
- Psalm 10:4– In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
- John 3:20– “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
- Isaiah 65:1– “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
- Isaiah 64:7– There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
- Romans 3:10-12– “no one seeks for God.”
These are merely summary statements in the vast array of holy Scripture that points us to the reality that God seeks us, saves us, and is presently sanctifying us into the image of his Son. We are called out of the darkness and depravity of sin into the marvelous light of the gospel.
This is why John Newton phrases his wonderful hymn with such careful and precise theological language. He writes:
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
When we consider the reality that we were lost and blind in our sin (2 Cor. 4:4)—the glorious light of God’s amazing grace is such a beautiful reality. When we could not come to God nor could we find our way, God came to us. It is, therefore, our duty to exercise ourselves unto godliness—pursuing holiness as a means of bringing glory to our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Let this truth of God’s amazing grace affect your daily life and your weekly worship.
On July 4th, the judge for the Casey Anthony trial provided a long and detailed instruction list to the jurors prior to their deliberation time. During his instructions, he used the term “depraved” on several occasions regarding the mindset of a murderer. As I listened to his instructions and continuous use of the term “depraved” it became clear that murdering a child is something that depraved people do. But, what exactly does “depraved” mean?
According to the legal world, the term depraved means, “Depravity of mind refers to the state of mind which is contrary to justice, honesty or morality. Depravity of mind is a condition where there is a deviation or departure from the ordinary standards of honest, good morals, justice, or ethics as to be shocking to the moral sense of the society. Depravity of mind can also be described as an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a person owes to another, or to a community” (http://definitions.uslegal.com/d/depravity-of-mind/). It seems that the judge’s use of the term “depraved” was a means of describing the actions of someone who has gone to a level of sinful actions that is beyond the normal acts of our society. If that is true, we must distinguish the difference between what the judge intended by his use of “depraved” and what the theological world means by the same word.
In the theological world, the doctrine of depravity is used to describe the normal actions of people within our society who are outside of Christ. In other words, it is almost the opposite of what the judge was meaning by his use of the term depraved. Within the theological world, depravity is used to describe the sinful condition of the human heart outside of the grace of God. What exactly does this mean?
What Depravity DOES NOT Mean
In some cases, people in the theological world differ on the use of the terms depraved, depravity, or total depravity. Below are two incorrect descriptions of total depravity as used in the theological world.
1. Total Depravity: The belief that man, outside of the grace of God, is as bad as he could possibly be in his state of sinful living.
2. Total Depravity: The belief that man is bent toward evil and has a strong appetite for sin, but still retains his ability to choose God.
The depraved sinful soul is not as bad is it could be, but it is completely unable to choose God, desire God, or love God. Why? Because the Bible claims the sinner is “dead” and “does not seek after God.”
While many good definitions have been used, it is important to use the Bible to define theological terms in order to preserve the best understanding of the word. Below you will see two specific definitions of depravity as found in the theological world and verses that are used to most accurately define the doctrine.
Jonathan Edwards: “Corruption of man’s nature, whereby his heart is wholly under the power of sin, and he is utterly unable, without the interposition of sovereign grace, savingly to love God, believe in Christ, or do anything that is truly good and acceptable in God’s sight.”1
Wayne Grudem: “It is not just that some parts of us are sinful and others are pure. Rather, every part of our being is affected by sin-our intellects, our emotions and desires, our hearts (the center of our desires and decision-making processes), our goals and motives, and even our physical bodies.”2
These two definitions provide a good overall glimpse into the understanding of original sin and depravity within the theological world. However, the Bible makes the case clearly that we are all depraved sinners – from birth – and can do nothing good in the sight of God worthy of salvation. Furthermore, not only is the depraved sinner unable to choose God on his own, he doesn’t have the desire (appetite) for God. See this doctrine clearly taught in the following Scripture passages.
The English translations of the Bible only use the word “depraved” a few times. The New American Standard Bible translates Romans 1:28 as follows: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” The term being translated “depraved” is the Greek word, “ἀδόκιμος.” It literally means, “That which does not prove itself such as it ought, unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate.” This same Greek word can be found in the following verses – Romans 1:28, 1 Cor. 9:27, 2 Cor. 13:5, 2 Cor. 13:6, 2 Cor. 13:7, 2 Timothy 3:8, Titus 1:16, and Hebrews 6:8.
Romans 3:10-11 – as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Notice two specific details in this verse. First, there is none righteous. This is essential because depravity means to be completely crooked and perverse before God. Secondly, not one sinner understands God. This speaks of his intellect and mental capacity to understand the grace of God. Last of all, no sinner seeks after God for salvation. This includes both Jew and Gentile. Sin has corrupted the mind, emotions, and will leaving the sinner completely crooked and unable to turn to God for salvation.
John 6:44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
The point of this verse is to demonstrate that all sinners are incapable of coming to Christ (choosing God) on their own. It is a complete impossibility. It requires the preaching of the gospel and the convincing power of the Holy Spirit before a sinner will call out to the Lord for salvation. When a person turns to Jesus from their normal sinful behavior, it’s nothing short of a miracle. Salvation should not be considered the act of man’s free will.
John 1:11-13 – He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
This is one of the key passages in Scripture that prove the doctrine of depravity. As the text says, all of God’s children are born again by the work of God – not their family relationships and privileges, not according to the desires of other people, and not according to the will of the sinner. When taken in the light of God’s completed Word, this verse squares clearly with Romans 3 and John 6. Man can’t respond to God, choose God, become born again, or do anything to secure his own salvation. The work of being born again is a supernatural act of God in the heart of a sinner that brings them to life spiritually.
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.
Paul makes it abundantly clear in his writings to the church at Ephesus – man is dead spiritually. To be dead spiritually is to spiritually lifeless. Therefore, in order for a person to be born again, God has to act upon that dead lifeless soul and breathe life into them. Just as Jesus did in a supernatural manner at the tomb of Lazarus when He called Lazarus from the tomb and he responded by coming back to life, that same thing happens when the divine call of salvation takes place in our lives through the power of the gospel of Christ. Although many people have insisted that man in his own free will can choose God – these verses clearly teach the exact opposite. What can a dead man do? The imagery is abundantly clear – the dead man can do nothing! Salvation is by God’s undeserved grace for God’s eternal glory.
Unlike the legal use of the term depravity, within the theological world it clearly means the opposite. Rather than being a “departure from the ordinary standards of honest, good morals, justice, or ethics as to be shocking to the moral sense of the society” the term depravity as defined in the theological world is the ordinary state of sinful behavior among those who are not rescued by the grace of God through Christ Jesus. Depravity, as defined theologically, is normal behavior among unsaved people rather than a departure from normal behavior. Abnormal behavior is a departure from sinful living that results in a desire for God, the belief that Jesus Christ is the ultimate treasure that is above and beyond all things this world has to offer, a desire for His Word, a longing to willfully please Him. This can only happen through a supernatural work of God by His grace and for His glory.
Since the verdict of the jury was read regarding the Casey Anthony trial, a firestorm of statements have been offered through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. In fact, I tweeted, “One day Casey Anthony will stand before a greater Judge – King Jesus! #caseyanthony.” I later tweeted, “One day we will all stand before the same Judge that Casey Anthony will stand before – King Jesus! Being a good parent is not good enough.” Many people have suggested that Casey Anthony should burn in Hell for what she did to her daughter. The fact is, we all deserve the same Hell that Casey Anthony deserves. It doesn’t matter if Casey Anthony’s daughter was still alive and Casey was a model citizen of Orlando – she still deserves Hell. In fact, we all deserve Hell because we have all sinned against God. Murder is not what determines if a person deserves Hell. Any sin we have committed causes us to be separated from our God and in need of divine intervention and salvation by God’s grace.
If you are reading this post today and realize that you too are guilty before God and need to be reconciled to God, you must realize that reconciliation is only possible through Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to die a brutal death and pay for the sins of every person who would call upon Him for salvation. Following the death of Christ, He was buried and then rose again from the dead 3 days later – proving that He is the Son of the living God. If God has opened your eyes to the truth of the gospel and made you realize that you need the same salvation that Casey Anthony needs – you should call out to God today and ask Him to save you. Remember, being a good parent is not good enough to reconcile you to God. You need Jesus’ righteousness. He is literally the only way of salvation!
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 10:13 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
For the glory of God alone!
Pastor Josh Buice
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1. Jonathan Edwards , Freedom of the Will (WJE Online Vol. 1) , Ed. Paul Ramsey page 432.
2. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, page 497.
NOTE: If you would like to talk to someone about how to be forgiven of your sins and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, I will be happy to talk with you. Contact me by filling out the form – by clicking here.