Total Depravity - compiled by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

T.U.L.I.P. - The Doctrines of Grace

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A look at the fallen nature of men.

Total depravity is the extensive ruin of man’s nature. Man is made up of two parts primarily: the material (body) and the immaterial (soul). “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. Both the body and soul are corrupted because of the fall. This does not mean that people are as a bad as they can be, but rather, that the effects of the Fall have completely ruined the total being of man. It is not just that man’s mind is ruined, or that just his body is ruined, or that just his soul ruined. It means the whole man is corrupted with sin. This would mean that man cannot fundamentally do anything to please God. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Genesis 6:5 “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.” This depravity begins at conception. It does not begin when we do something bad. We are not sinners because we sin, rather, we sin because we are sinners. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Depravity of the heart is completely extensive so that the creature (us), cannot will to do any good. All we do is evil. All we love is ourselves. We suppress God, and exalt ourselves.

1. Fallen man cannot do or work any good:

Matthew 7:17-18, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

1 Cor. 12:3, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Romans 8:7-8, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

2. Fallen man cannot comprehend or apprehend the good:

Acts 16:14, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

Ephesians 4:18, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:”

2 Cor. 3:12-18, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

John 8:43, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.”

Matthew 13:14, “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:”

1 Cor. 1:18, 21, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

1 Cor. 2:14; “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.”

3. Man cannot have any desire towards the good:

Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 8:43, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.”

John 15:5, “…for without me ye can do nothing.”

John 6:64-65, “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”

Ezek. 11:19, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:”

Ephesians 2:1,5, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”

Fallen man is wholly opposed to good in every way. This does not mean they act as bad as they could act. It simply means they are affected in every area of their being totally, and wholly opposed to the good things of God.

Puritan quotes and sayings on Total Depravity:

“Because of the original corruption, the will of man in the state of sin (though free in the actions it performs) is captive and servile in its way of performing them. The will is deprived of the power of willing well and takes the form of willing amiss even when the object of the willing is good.” William Ames

“Original sin is a habitual deviation of the whole nature of man, or a turning aside from the law of God.” William Ames

“Sin is desire, word, deed, contrary to the Law of God…As the sin of Adam was most heinous, so it could not but draw after itself the most dire effects both in himself and in his posterity.” Francis Turretin

“Not only the worst of my sins but the best of my duties speak me a child of Adam.” William Beveridge

“Iniquity can plead antiquity.” Thomas Adams

“Some talk that the devil hath a cloven foot; but whatever the devil’s foot be, to be sure his sons have a cloven heart.” Richard Alleine

“Man lost not his faculties but the rectitude of them.” Thomas Goodwin

“As long as there are spots on the moon, it is vain to expect anything spotless under it.” Thomas Fuller

“Sin has degraded man and made him a beast. It is true, he has the shape of a man, but alas! he is degenerated into a bestial and beastly nature. It is would be better to be a beast than to be like a beast, living and dying like one. It would be better to be Balaam’s ass than such an ass as Balaam himself was…But to set this degeneration and degradation of man by sin before you more clearly and fully, I shall deal with it under three headings: a) Sin has made man like a beast, b) like the worst of beasts, c) worse than the beasts.” Ralph Venning

“Sin never ruins but where it reigns.” William Secker

“The best duties of unbelievers are but white lies.” John Owen

“Man’s sensitivity to trivia, and his insensitivity to matters of importance, reveal he has a strange disorder.” Pascal

“Man is nothing but a subject so naturally full of error that it can only be eradicated through grace. There is nothing to show him the truth, for everything deceives him. The two so-called principles of truth–reason and the senses–are not only not genuine but are engaged in mutual deception. Through false appearances the senses deceive reason. And just as they trick the soul, they are in turn tricked by it. It takes it revenge. The senses are influenced by the passions which produce false impressions.” Pascal

“Man’s condition is that of inconsistency, boredom and anxiety.” Pascal

“The consequences of sin are, first, guilt and the sense of wickedness, second, punishment. Guilt is the obligation of the sinner to undergo just punishment for his fault.” William Ames

“Man is debased enough to bow down to beasts and even worship them.” Pascal

Bible Verse:

“Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus,” (1 Peter 5:14).

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