For centuries theologians have been writing and Christians have been debating the details of depravity. Augustine took his cue from Paul and Pelagius went in the opposite direction. Luther agreed with Augustine while Erasmus purported the aged idea that man was free.
Just how corrupt is the human heart? Do people have a free will to choose God or is man’s will in bondage to sin? That’s the question that has been the subject of debate for a very long time. However, when you take a step back from the debate and read Scripture, it seems clear—man is by default a slave to sin and dead to righteousness (Ps. 51:5). Therefore, God had to come to fallen man.
God Came in the Garden
When Adam and Eve fell, they hid from God in the Garden of Eden. It was God who came to man. As David makes it clear in Psalm 53, there is no one good, not even one. There is not one person who seeks after God. From the very beginning we see the pattern of God coming to man.
What did God do when He came to them after the fall? Rather than leaving them in the shame of their nakedness, God clothed them (Gen. 3:21). God has always sought broken sinners. This is God’s pattern. Sure, God rebuked and judged Adam and Eve, but there was provision made. God came with grace and treated them with mercy. From the moment of the first sin—man was not seeking God, but God was seeking man.
Emmanuel and Depravity
The prophets had written and promised that the Messiah would come to deliver His people. Israel was waiting on this kingly ruler to appear on the scene. In God’s time, God came. The second Person of the Triune God was born in the city of Bethlehem. Infinite God became a baby. God had come to his people. John Piper has defined Total Depravity as:
Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us salves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior. 
Not one single person would choose to seek after God if left to his own will. David longed for the coming salvation of Israel (Ps. 53:6). The prophet Isaiah pointed to the future hope of Israel (Is. 9:1-7). Jeremiah 23:1-6 promised the descendant of David who would rule his people righteously. As we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find Jesus coming to his own people, yet his own people did not receive him (John 1:9-11). Not only were they unable to seek God, but they were not even able to recognize him when he was there in their presence. They did not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Once again, it was not man who was seeking God, but God who came to man.
Our Hope in Jesus’ Return
Today as we celebrate Christmas, we look back at the coming of Jesus with great joy. As we consider the long awaited Messiah who came, was rejected, and ultimately paid for the sins of his people with his blood—it reminds us of the reason we sing “Peace on earth.”
Today, we stand in a different place than David in Psalm 53. We stand at a different place in history than Isaiah and Jeremiah. We have a far different vantage point than Micah or Moses. Today, we celebrate Jesus’ first coming while we await with anticipation his second coming. How will the lawless be judged? How will the brokenness of this world be restored? How will all of the wrongs be made right? It’s clear from the pages of Scripture, it will not be man going to God—but God coming to man. One day Jesus will come again and we wait patiently on his return.
When Jesus came the first time, he brought peace to his people. When Jesus comes the second time, only his people will experience peace. The rest of the world will be judged. From the very moment of Adam’s rebellion in the Garden to our present day—the need for God to come to us has not changed. With John the apostle, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
- John Piper, Five Points, (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2013), 15.