Total Depravity

Saturday, Apr. 22                         

Can an unregenerate man do good?  The issue stems from Biblical teaching about the inherited sin nature that we’ve all been born with.  To what degree does the sin nature affect our relationship with God?  Paul says in Rom. 1:18-32 that the entire human race was corrupted by sin.  He uses the words “depraved” and “depravity” in vv. 28-29.  This became more of an issue when theologians came up with the term total depravity.  Although Paul doesn’t use the word “total” in this passage, he obviously is saying that the entire human race is corrupt.  But when theologians added the word “total” to “depravity” to form “total depravity” they weren’t talking about the entire human race.  They were talking about the individual sinner.  This could mean that unregenerate man can do no good, that every thing he does is bad.  The reformers did not take that extreme view.  What they meant by total depravity was that every part of man has been corrupted—his body, his conscience, his mind, his emotions, and his will—everything that makes man a man.  “Total” does not necessarily mean “complete.”  Habitual criminals can still love their wives ad care for their children.  Bad people can do good things in order to gain prestige or for financial gain.  The real issue is what motivates the action.  For the unregenerate, it is never to please God; it is always to serve self.  Paul says in Rom. 3:11-12 that there is “no one who seeks God” and “there is no one that does good.”  Going back to my original question “Can an unregenerate man do good?”—it’s yes and no.  In one sense, he can do good, but it is always motivated by self.  The act can be a good act, but not for the right reasons.  There is no effort to seek God or serve him.  My second question was “To what degree does the sin nature affect our relationship with God?”  It renders us incapable of doing anything good.  We can do absolutely nothing to please God.  The law (God’s moral standard) reveals our sinful condition, but does nothing to change it.  The solution has to come from God.  You might note that Paul’s next words after his conclusion in Rom. 3:12 are “But now,” which launches Paul into the remedy for sin, the gospel.  God did supply a resolution to the sin problem.

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2 Responses to Total Depravity

  1. Hi Dad! Thanks for your message! I was reading about the pagan world in my handbook to the Bible. I was once in that downward spiral. Even though the evidence of God was all around me during those selfish times in my life, I closed my mind to the truth for selfish reasons. My whole mental process became warped. I was determined to go my way and take God up on the offer of free choice. All that did was sink me deeper and deeper into behavior that was so dishonoring. The reason why I am posting is because we have so many that we love going through the same process in their lives and it’s so important to pray for them and to not give up. It’s so hard to watch because I’ve been there and would never want to go back to that dark time in my life. There are so many in our family that are here for those that need us. If you are reading this and need someone to talk to, call me or someone you feel called to and ask for help. We love you!

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