Defining Total Depravity. How bad is it?

This issue really hits home when you want to say that someones non-Christian aunt or mother is unable to love their children, show kindness, or do any good whatsoever.

That seems to be a little strong right?  Not to John Piper.  The above link gives us a glimpse into total depravity and in the discussion below I go into greater detail about the bible support for total depravity.

Why is Understanding Total Depravity so Important?

Some people may say that our rebellious nature against God while we are still sinners is bad, but when you begin to pull it apart its not as bad as they originally thought.  However, before our conversion we were dead in our sins (Col 2:13) and our hardness against God is total, not partial.  We weren’t partially slaves to sin- we were totally slaves of sin and our slave master was Satan.  (Romans 6:20).  Apart from  the grace of God in our lives we are unable on our own ability to delight in righteousness and holiness.  As a Christian Hedonist might say we are unable to gladly submit to the sovereign authority of God.

How does Total Depravity change our view of God?

If you do not believe that you are completely and utterly sinful and unable to do any good on your own or choose God out of your own ability it provides greater dependence on his ability to save you.  You can do no good on your own and you get a bigger picture of God’s power as well as the power of sin that could control you.  Everything apart from faith is sin.  Period.

What are Some Verses that Clearly articulate our Total Depravity?

Romans 14:23

But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

James 2:10-11

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

1 John 1:8

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

Romans 1:18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Romans 7:18

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

Romans 6:17-18

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Ephesians 2:1-5

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

Ephesians 4:17-18

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.

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 last day.

1 Corinthians 2:14

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Ephesians 2:3

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

[God will] deal out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.


How do we live in light of this truth?

Without Christ our punishment is death.  Those around us who live apart from Christ will die.  When we begin to live with a greater belief that anything apart from Gods grace in our lives is wicked, that we are rebellious against him; rebellious in our sin, we are unable to do any good, we cannot submit to God  and reform ourselves, and ultimately recognize our total depravity we can begin to see the overwhelming power of the spirit in our lives.  We can see the new nature and the transformation that occurred and is occurring.  We begin to live with a greater view of reality of our condition and coming to grip with the condition of those around us.
If we think that we are somewhat good or able to do some good in the world apart from Christ it taints the redemptive work in our lives.  It diminishes the power of the spirit.  If we begin to live in humility and grace to the reality that we are completely wicked before Christ we will be able to get a bigger picture of who God is and the work that is done in a changed life.  Seeing life going from the bottom of the ocean to life is a completely different picture from the salvation from someone swimming in the ocean and having a life preserver thrown to them.  The transformation in a changed life is greater than that and when we recognize our total depravity we can give God all the glory.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad. If we think of ourselves as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. But if we humble ourselves under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God discussed in the next four points.


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