Total Depravity

TOTAL DEPRAVITY == UTTER DEPRAVITY

Original sin means that people by nature are hostile to God, utterly unable to obey God out of their old corrupted heart, and therefore they are unable to do anything that truly acknowledges God’s truth (Rom. 8:7-8). All of Adam’s offspring are born naturally depraved and with a bent toward sin and rebellion. Without God’s divine grace, without being the Holy Spirit, it is utterly impossible that an individual can ever live or obey as God desires. Apart from the Holy Spirit, sinners will utterly fail to penetrate and transform their own hearts through their free will.


Only the Holy Spirit can show us spiritual truth. Being born again is to replace the old heart with a new heart. It is the Spirit of God with eternal truth to convict sinners’ hearts and convert their souls with a new heart. God searches our hearts. As Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt. 12:34). We may not understand our own hearts, but God does. He “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21; see also 1 Corinthians 14:25). Because of the fall of man, every part of God’s creation was subjected to a curse (Romans 8:20). We are spiritually dead. Slaves to sin with corrupted hearts.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Jeremiah 17:9

English journalist and satirist Malcolm Muggeridge famously observed that “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” On the face of it, this observation rings true. And yet, we often hear expressions of absolute disgust at humanity alongside affirmations that “he’s basically a good person.” Why do we resist what seems so self-evident?

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Romans 1:29–32

“What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’ ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

Romans 3:9–18

We are “desperately wicked.” Romans 8:8 says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” In the flesh in context refers to the natural person who has not been regenerated by the Spirit of God. The “illness” is terminal and incurable—so much so that Paul describes the unregenerate as “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13).

The only hope for the sinful human heart is to be supernaturally changed. Jeremiah 31:33 gives the solution. Where sin was once inscribed on the hearts of His people, God provides a new inscription: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Jesus came to inaugurate a New Covenant so that sins could be forgiven and sinners could be born again (John 3:5). As “desperately wicked” people, we cannot reform our hearts by our own effort. The only solution is for God to make our hearts new, washed clean from sin, and fundamentally reoriented toward pleasing Him.

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