The Doctrine of Total Inability
Because of the Fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel - he needs the Spirit of God to cause him to be born again.
Some Initial Thoughts:
Ephesians 2:1-3 "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."
The Progress of Sin in the World
At Eden - man and woman were created without sin. They were morally good with a will that was not under the dominion or control of sin
• Genesis 2:16-17 "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the
garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you
shall surely die."
Today - all men and women sin because they are born sinners. Adam's disobedience and the resultant curse by God mean that we are all born with a nature that is sinful.
• Read Genesis 3.
• Romans 3:22b-23 "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
What Do We Mean by "Total" Depravity?
We do not mean that everyone is as bad as they could be (the degree of depravity). We do mean that everyone is fully sinful through and through (the extent of depravity).
The Bible teaches that "all" of "every" man is polluted by sin.
• Genesis 6:5 / 8:21 "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every
intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." / "And when the Lord smelled the pleasing
aroma, the Lord said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's
heart is evil from his youth."
• Isaiah 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way."
• Ecclesiastes 7:20 "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins."
• Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
• Mark 7:21-23 "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,
adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come
from within, and they defile a person."
• Titus 3:3 "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and
pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another."
• See also John 8:44 / Ephesians 2:1,2 / 1 John 5:19 / Ephesians 4:17-19
Even "religious" acts or philanthropic deeds are sinful if not from a heart that loves Christ
• Romans 14:23 "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."
The Result of Total Depravity: Total Inability
Man is not capable of coming to God in His own strength and wisdom.
• 2 Corinthians 4:4 "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them
from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
• 1 Corinthians 2:14 "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to
him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." Note: The phrase "natural
person" in this context refers to a person before they are a Christian.
• 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
This is why every person must be born a second time.
• 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." See
also John 3:5-7
Does Man Have a Free Will?
Yes and no. Man acts according to his nature. Therefore his will is free to respond to whatever his nature dictates. The will is a neutral thing that is subject to the nature of the man. To illustrate, think of how the will operates in the animal kingdom. Hang fifty pounds of raw steak in a cage and put a leopard and a zebra in with it. The zebra will eat the grass around the meat. The leopard will eat the meat (and maybe the zebra!) because each of them are freely "willing" according to their nature.
Now paint the zebra so he looks like a leopard and put him back in the cage. what does he do? The same thing! He must act according to his nature and zebra's, by nature, are herbivores.
Man is a sinner by nature. He freely uses his will to rebel against God and disbelieve God's Word. Is a man's will free to come believing to Jesus? No. Since his nature is sinful.
Our Problem is More "Birth Defect" than "War Injury"
We sin because we are sinners. Sin is not the result of our environment, childhood or socio-economic status.
• Psalm 51:5 "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
• Ephesians 2:3 ".were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
Even repentance and faith are gifts of God that He must work in us
• 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."
• Ephesians 2:8 "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."
Why Do We Want to Believe That We Are "Not That Bad?"
Surely a big reason (the only one?) is simply that we are very proud.
Mark 10:21-22 "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
The Other Way of Seeing Things
The Arminian scheme of looking at things suggests that man was affected by Adam's bad choice, but maintains a certain innocence. In this view, man is not "totally" depraved and hence, not totally incapable of spiritual good. Therefore, it is thought that all man needs to do is to choose Christ - to make a good decision. It is interesting though, that the gospel presentations in the Bible never use words like, "Just choose Jesus," or "Ask Jesus into your heart." The gospel of the Bible is always repent from your sins and trust on the finished work of Jesus!
Why Does It Matter?
Your view of man will determine your view of salvation... and ultimately of what Jesus did on the cross.