You’re Not That Impressive: A Talk about Total Depravity

WARNING: Watch your toes, kids.  This article won’t be comfortable nor will it be pleasant.  Why?  Because we’re going to talk about you…and me…and who we really are. 

Have I got your attention?  Good; follow me as I take you on a tour of you.

Today’s topic is total depravity.  You might say to yourself, “What on earth is Scott talking about now?  What does he mean by ‘total depravity’?”  Well here’s what I mean: When I say total depravity I mean that each person on this earth is born naturally bad with a few good tendencies and that the desire to sin is our natural bent.  If that doesn’t make any sense try these definitions instead:

“From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”
(The Westminster Confession of Faith)

“Mankind by Adam fell under death…we are born sinners…No good thing dwells in us…” (Justin Marytr)

So we all know (hopefully) that we’re messed up, but where does it all begin?  To really understand who we are we have to take it all the way back to the beginning.  God made Adam and Eve perfectly and gave them the Garden of Eden to live in.  Life was great; great that is until Adam and Eve started messing with the way God had set up the world.  You see, God gave these two people only one rule: Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  One rule, one job, one simple instruction.  It should have been easy enough, but Adam and Eve not too long after their creation fell into sin, thinking that they knew better than their Creator and broke the one law God had given them.  They ate the fruit.  They sinned against a holy God.  (All of this is found in Genesis 3.)  Because of that, the relationship between God and man was broken.  Because of that death entered the world (Romans 5:12).  Because of their sin, we today have a sin nature that we’re born with.  It’s that sin nature that makes us totally depraved.

“But that’s not fair,” you say.  “Why am I held responsible for the actions of a long dead man and woman?”

There are several answers to this question, but I’m sure that if we were all being honest we could say that if given the same chance Adam had to obey or disobey God, we’d do the same exact thing.  That’s where this whole issue of total depravity began and that’s what we have to deal with today.  Just in case you think I’m making this depravity thing up and just in case you think you’re pretty great, let me show you some Scripture that says otherwise.

Your heart is messed up: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

You love darkness or sin: “…people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19b ESV)

You are dead (not sick, not ill, not mostly dead: D-E-A-D dead) in your sin:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1 ESV)

No one is off the hook; everyone is a sinner:

“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

I could go on, but you get the point; the evidence is pretty clear.  We’re all really sinful and we all love to sin.  This is in stark contrast the awesome (literally awesome) and pure holiness and perfection of God.  Your sin is so wretched in his eyes that He… well, look at Isaiah 30:22 if you really want to see how God thinks about/wants us to think about our sin. 

Now, it might look pretty bleak at this point, but I’m here to tell you that there is hope.  Because even though you’re dead in your sins, even though you’re totally a boss a sinning, even though Romans 1 describes you as a “hater of God”, even though you’re rotten to the core…Christ.  He draws you to Himself, He loves you, and He is willing to apply his blood to your sin if you accept His gift of salvation.  Wow. 

I hope this helps you see who you are better in light of who God is.  You’re made in God’s image, yes, but you’re also super-sinful.  But that’s okay because it makes grace that much better.  And as my wise pastor once said, “Grace only becomes sweet, when your sin become bitter.”

So let’s do some quick recap here:

1. You’re depraved.  That means you are born sinful and have a desire for sin.

2. Total depravity is throughout the Bible and it is clear that all mankind is totally depraved.

3. Our sin nature which resulted in our total depravity came about in Genesis 3.

4. Christ is the cure to our depravity!!

Truth in Grace,

Scott Paris

P.S. Here are some other great resources that take an even deeper look at the doctrine of total depravity.

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:


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One Comment

  1. […] few months ago, in a post entitled “You’re Not That Impressive: A Talk About Total Depravity”, Scott really knocked our legs out from under us, in a manner of speaking. The theme for that […]

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