The Doctrine Of Depravity
DEPRAVITY: By this we mean, on the one hand, the lack of original righteousness or holy affection toward God, and, on the other hand, the corruption of the moral nature, or bias toward evil. That such depravity exists has been abundantly shown, both from Scripture and from reason, in our consideration of the universality of sin.1
Standing in opposition to the plenary ability taught by the Pelagians, and the gracious ability of the Arminians, and the cooperative ability taught by the Keswick theologian, and the natural ability of the New School theologians, the Scriptures declare the total inability of the sinner to turn himself to God, or to do anything that is acceptable to God.2 In the sinnersí lifetime experience they can choose which sin they will commit whether it be the greater or the lesser. They are able to refuse the doing of certain sins altogether. They have the ability to do some good before men, but always for the wrong motives. No man can pull himself up to Godís high standard. For such a work as that we absolutely need God. Our inability is natural, it is congenital. We are all born sinners (Adam & Eve excepted). Man is totally depraved, he is dead from all and any works that can please God, or merit any consideration whatsoever, from God.
Optimism regarding the nature of man is today every where around. According to liberal doctrine, human beings are not innately corrupt, they are not defective, they are not subject to essential limitations in their psychological, their social, their religious, dimensions. Instead we are told on every side that man is capable of an unlimited advance toward the good life, both, in this existence and in the one to come. There is nothing that is ineradicably evil in human nature. There is nothing that is bad in his human psyche. On the contrary, the primary motivation of human beings is or can become, so we are told, rational. Once education gets rid of ignorance, prejudice, superstition, frustrating customs, men will then begin to conduct themselves reasonably and will be able to build a responsive society of peace, freedom, justice, and material well being, indeed, a utopia. We are told that the mind of man, on its own, has the capacity, and ability to attain to the high moral and ethical good needed for a great society. This basic optimism regarding manís nature pervades most of the religious world as well as the political and the social spectrum of human relationships.
Some of us, when we are confronted with these ideas, are troubled, because we recall that all the centuries of Christian development in which the civilizations of Europe and America have taken form, have been rather inclusive of a great doctrine, and here it is: "Man is a creature, by essence limited, he is bounded on every side. His potential goodness has been corrupted by at least a portion of evil, which by his own efforts he can not overcome. Man walks in the shadow of an alien material universe. He bares the unreprievable sentence of death in his own body." There have always been those who are inclined to dismiss such doctrine as superstition. But they should have taken time to note that the doctrine is born out in full and terrible detail by the entire history of man. In every continent, in every climate, in every region of the earth, in every society, in every stage of its development, from primitive tribe to mighty empire, constructed by whatever race, black, brown, yellow, red, or white. Only those who know very little about the history of mankind can suppose that cruelty, crime, weakness, mass slaughter, and mass corruption, are exceptions to the rule. But these are not exceptions from the normal human rule. A doctrine of human nature that paints a picture of what men might be, but which is in direct contradiction of what man has always been, should not be taken seriously. The grimmest lessons of the past about the inherent limits and defects of human nature have been continuously confirmed by wars with tens of millions of dead. Total depravity is seen in historyís mass persecutions, and tortures, in deliberate starvation of the innocent, in wanted killings by tens of thousands. Depravity is clear in the ingenuities of science used to perfect methods of mass terror. By new forms of enslavement. By gigantic genocide and the wiping out of whole nations of peoples. It is not merely the record of history that speaks in unmistakable refutation of this liberal doctrine of man. Ironically enough, almost all the modern scientific studies of human nature unite in giving evidence against an optimistic view of manís character. Every modern school of biology, every modern school of psychology, and most of the schools of sociology and anthropology, conclude that men are driven chiefly by profound non-rational, and often anti-rational sentiments and impulses. Many of these drives are aggressive, they are disruptive, they are injurious to others in our society. Some of them are seen by science as self destructive. An optimist assumes that man given a knowledge of his problem, and the freedom to choose will always opt for peace, justice, and plenty. But the facts do not bare them out. People choose very often the exact opposite. They choose trouble, they choose pain, they choose injury, for themselves and for other people. We see nations doing this, nations such as Cuba, China, Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Mozambique, Iran, Iraq, Zaire (Congo) Ghana, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc, etc. Nations of our time are doing this every day, they are choosing, as soon as they have the chance to choose, bullets instead of butter, Empire instead of justice. Atomic bombs instead bread, despotic glory instead of democratic cooperation. Of course the liberal politicians always say its because men are not sufficiently educated. But is it not ironic that liberalism and optimism regarding human nature has failed to attract any of the major creative writers in the twentieth century. Most of the major authors have been very pessimistic regarding man. And we know of no great contemporary literary work that does not bare this out. Henry James, Marcel Proust, Ezra Loomis Pound, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, T.S. Eliot, all of them are very pessimistic regarding man. Our optimists tell us that there is only one obstacle to the good life, and that is ignorance. They say that ignorance can be dispelled by a rational education, and by free speech, and academic liberty. Once education has overcome ignorance, then men will know whatís wrong with their institution, whatís wrong with their life. And they will be able, then, to take steps to overcome the obstacles. But what do the facts show. Is there any evidence that this idea is well grounded. In fact the data of the investigations reveal that there is no correlation at all between education and the good life. Athens was the most educated society in the ancient world, and in some respects of all time. And Athens fell as much from inner decay as from external foes. Germany was the most literate nation and most thoroughly educated in the twentieth century. But Germany bred Hitler, Nazism, and the gas chambers. The more the Russian people have become educated and sophisticated in modern technology, the more pronounced has been their drive for world power. In the United states all of our children go to school, but in our schools the children are much worst behaved and more dangerous to society than their unschooled ancestors were. Modern Japan is a completely literate nation, but her literacy did not drew her back from Marco Polo Bridge, or from Pearl Harbor. Ironically enough Lenin, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Wilhelm Goering, Hitler himself, Dr. Mussolini, Alger Hiss, all of them have been highly educated, but they still had a problem. Ten thousand traitors, one million suicides, and tens of millions of neurotics, all with the same problem. And the problem was not the lack of education at all. No we must search for the problem and a solution for it, from some other source.
What if some men and some tendencies of men prefer lies instead of truth, suffering, including self suffering in place of pleasure and happiness, crime as opposed to honest work, fighting rather than cooperation. What if they use free speech for deceiving instead of education. What if they use their free ballet as a device for consolidating despotic power instead of fulfilling the will of the people. What if the government, that truly embraces the democratic will of the people, turns out to be a hideous tyranny and not the free scientific and open society spoken of by most of the political candidates for high office. What if our children are finally unhampered by superstition, custom, traditional morality and discipline, what if they turn out then to be monsters after all, delinquent monsters roaming the concrete jungles of our cities. What if 14 children die in 1998 because of other children bringing their guns to school and shooting them in cold blood. What if one third of the children born in our country are born out of wedlock.
But the purpose of this paper is not to expound on the numerable scientific and historic proofs of manís moral dilemma. Manís problem is clearly spelled out in the Bible. Solomon makes this statement in Ecclesiastes 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. That short comment expounds clearly the Biblical view of THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN. If we can have a clear understand of what man is by nature, then, and only then, can we properly bring the scriptural gospel, the gospel of grace, to bare on manís problem. We will not take the time or space to show all of the myriad perversions of this doctrine. There have been many who have misunderstood it down through the centuries. There was Pelagius in the ancient world. The Pelagian heresy was adequately fought by Saint Augustine. (A.D. 354-430 Early Christian church father and philosopher who served (396-430) as the bishop of Hippo (in present day Algeria). He wrote the autobiographical Confessions (397AD) and the voluminous City of God (413-426). That pervasive heresy went on through the middle ages. And Rome became a semi-pelagian system. Scholasticism was another form of that same heresy, namely, that man has some goodness in him. Rome has always adopted the semi-Pelagian heresy. Too much of the evangelical world of our day seems to be semi-pelagian. When the Roman Catholic theologians got together in the 16th century and framed their doctrinal statement called the "canons of Trent." They had a very clear statement on their view, which is this "MAN HAS A FREE WILL." In their view man is not so badly depraved as to prevent him from choosing God. It would be great to be able to say that all of the Protestant world has dissented from Romeís opinion, but it is not so, even today most of the Christian world now seems to be semi-Pelagian.
In the 17th century there were many books written on the topic of manís depravity. Thomas Goodwin wrote a great book in the middle of the 17th century entitled MANíS GUILTYNESS BEFORE GOD. In 1720 a young Scottish professor named Thomas Austin produced a classic that is still in print. It is called Human nature in its four fold state. There have been many others. Lutherís great book on The bondage of the will is indeed a classic written in answer to the book The freedom of the will. If we were to go to the great doctrinal statements of the faith of the church, what would we find? Go to the Synod of Dort, to the Westminister Confession of Faith. To the First London Confession of the Baptist, to the Second London confession of the Baptist, to the Philadelphia Confession of two hundred years ago. All of these are Baptists, all of them have great statements on the depravity of men.
Why is the world held down in this awful state of sinfulness for so many generations? A partial explanation lies in the nature of sin. If the eternal Word had become incarnate immediately after the occurrence of the Fall of Adam, sin would not have had sufficient opportunity to develop its native malignity, nor would the miserable and degraded state of man have sufficiently manifested itself. In the nature of the case, it was necessary that man should be placed in a great variety of situations, both before and after the Incarnation, that by the endless variety of conditions in which he was placed might be seen the utter helplessness and hopelessness of his lost estate and his utter inability, even under favorable circumstances, of emancipating himself from enslavement to the flesh and the devil.3
Ecclesiastes 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Note three things about this statement. First, note the state of innocency: Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright. This scripture describes manís original state of innocency. Man was created innocent, he was made right, he was agreeable to the nature of God. Whose work is always perfect. There was no imperfection in him as he came from the hand and breath of his creator. There was no corruption in his body, no corruption in his soul. He was described as perfect in Genesis 1:31. He was made upright, that is straight with the will and the law of God. Without any irregularity in his soul. In fact we read in Genesis that this straight inclination was represented by an emblem, by an erect figure of his body. No other being created by God had this same characteristic. Man was morally good. The Westminister assembly said that he had original righteousness because God breathed into him the breath of lives. Notice in the second place, that manís fallen state is equally described. But they have sought out many inventions. They would not abide as God had made them, But they sought out many inventions, to deform or undo themselves. Notice in the Third place. Observe the certainty and importance of these things. Lo this only have I found. We are to believe this doctrine. We are to believe it.
Solomon had made a thorough search of the matter. He made a serious inquiry. He was the wisest of men. If you read the two verses preceding this one, you will find there that Solomon himself was in quest of goodness in the world, but he could not find it. He looked diligently. He could not find goodness anywhere. He said "Lo, this only have I found" Now when a man of the intellectual caliber of Solomon discovers some truth, it is worthy of special attention "Lo, this" He says, fix your eyes upon it, make it a matter of deep concern, a matter of serious regard. Manís nature is now depraved. God made him upright, but he has "sought out many inventions." God made man perfect in his original human nature, but it is now shattered. Man was a very glorious creature. He was a favorite of heaven. His communion and fellowship were with his creator. God made him lord of the world, the prince of the inferior creatures. Universal lord. Emperor of the whole earth. The creator gave him dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowls of the air, over all the earth, even every living thing that moves upon the earth. In Psalm 8 we are told that God put everything under the feet of man. He gave power to use, and power to dispose of all these creatures, so that man was Godís deputy governor in the lower world. This dominion was to be an image of Godís sovereignty Thus was man crowned with glory and honor. But one thing only God kept to Himself. He put a tree in the midst of the garden. The tree of knowledge of good and evil. And God said "in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Donít eat of it! But man did eat! God made man with free will. It was the most expensive part of man. It cost God His Son. Now here is man, and we learn here that God had made him upright, but he threw himself down. Man was the cause of his own ruin. God made him upright. But man sought out many inventions.
Now, let us consider the sinfulness of manís natural state. Genesis 6 is a description of what happened almost immediately after Adam was created. He began to procreate after his kind and everyone was created in the image of Adam, and Adam was fallen from grace, and all men from that time on were born in a state of total depravity. Paul wrote in Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Genesis 6:5 states And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Note the things attributed to man in Noahís day. Corruption of life, wickedness, corruption of nature, every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The mind was defiled, the thoughts of the heart was only evil. The will, the affections, even the imaginations of the heart, all were defiled, dead to God, depraved. Understand with certainty that Genesis 6 is there for all men to see. It is there as a mirror for all subsequent generations, that we may see our own corruption. Here we see what our own lives would be if God had not intervened and restrained.
All the Biblical writers agree with that basic definition of man. In the New Testament Paul makes a great statement in Romans chapter three beginning in verse 10 wherein he is quoting verse after verse, mostly from the book of Psalms. He writes; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15. Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16. Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17. And the way of peace have they not known: 18. There is no fear of God before their eyes. The Psalmist had the same sentiments and more in Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. 2. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. All scripture writers agree, man is a fallen sinner!!
Now consider the confession of David. David was a man after Godís own heart. In Psalm 51 and verse 5 he wrote Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. The Lord was talking about the same thing in John chapter 3:6 when he was having that great discourse with Nicodemus, He said to Nicodemus That which is born of the flesh is flesh; Jesus is arguing that because they are all flesh, they are all corrupt, They need to be born again, they can not enter the Kingdom of God unless they have a radical change of nature. Now the question; Why should a man need a second birth if his nature was not quite marred in the first birth? Man is totally corrupt, all of his faculties have been effected. His understanding has been corrupted. In Titus 1:15 it is written, Ö unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. In Judges 17:6 and 21:25 is written, every man did that which was right in his own eyes. He did not know any better. He thought that he was doing right. But he was doing wrong.
Manís understanding has been corrupted because of sin. It is a very difficult thing to teach people the basic principle of Godís Word. There has to be line upon line and precept upon precept. But try the same people that listen to the Word of God preached week after week and donít understand what is being said, who donít understand a word that is preached, try them on some other topic, they will be wiser in their generation then the children of light. They understand their work. They understand their business. They understand how to advance in this complicated world, they are very wise about how to generate more money, they know only to well how to gratify their lust. They understand these things very well. It is very hard though, to bring them to and understanding of the condition of their soul. So hard for them to know how deep they are in sin, to understand that they are depraved. Oh how difficult it is to get them to know that Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. That is not understood by them. Ephesians 5:8 ye were sometimes darkness. Sin has closed the windows of the soul. Darkness reigns over the whole region of the soul. That is why the prince of darkness rules over the whole earth. We are born spiritually blind. We cannot be restored without a miracle of grace. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:21 The world by wisdom know not God. Even the masters of Israel, the religious teachers of Israel did not understand the nature , or the necessity of the new birth We see in John 3 that the great theologians didnít understand it. Every natural manís heart and life is a mass of darkness, disorder, and confusion. Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. Jesus said in the sermon in the mount Matthew 6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! So the unrenewed part of mankind is rambling around in the world like so many blind men. And they cannot find a guide, and they do not know where they going and are falling into one sin after another to their destruction. Ephesians 2:1 states And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
It is not only the understanding of man that is corrupted by the fall, it is also his will. The will, that commanding faculty which at first was faithful and ruled with God, has now turned traitor. The will of the natural man rules with Satan. However, some men, Christian men, leaders, ministers, evangelists, magnify the power of free will, but the Bible does no such thing. When we get some insight into the corruption of our nature, weíll then and only then, see the absolute necessity of free grace not free will. There is in the unrenewed manís will an utter inability for what is truly good and acceptable in the sight of God. The natural manís good is in Satanís tether and hemmed in within the circle of evil. Jesus said in John 15:5 without me ye can do nothing. All of manís carnal choices are from selfish motives. We read in John 6:24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. 25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. You say isnít that wonderful people are coming to Jesus, But He says you seek me because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled all of manís choices, carnal manís, unsaved manís choices are from selfish motives. These men did not come to Christ for salvation. Jesus said they could not come. Verse 44 of the same chapter Jesus says No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. There is in an unrenewed man an aversion for good. Sin is his natural element, he is unwilling to part with it. He not only cannot come to Christ, he will not come. Jesus said in John 5:40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. Have you ever wondered about how easy it is for men and women, for you yourself to be led into sin. If manís will were in equal balance to good and evil, and man was just in the balance, as it were, then good could be embraced with as little difficulty as evil. But experience testifies to the contrary. It is not so, that good and evil have equal aptitude for the human being. We read in the book of Judges how the Israelites were often forsaken Jehovah the mighty God, and building upon the idols of the nations round about them. We need to ask, did any of those pagan nations ever grow fond of Israelís God? Did any of them forsake their idols? No, they did not. Though the natural man is given to change its but from one evil thing to another evil thing, he never changes from evil to good. Jeremiah 2:11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
of Depravity: When we say that man is totality depraved we mean that entrance
of sin into the human condition has infected, every part and faculty of
manís being. Total depravity means that man is in spirit, and soul,
and body, the slave of sin, and captive of the Devil. In Ephesians 2 we
read, Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this
world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that
now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also
we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling
the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children
of wrath. We say that he cannot do the things that he would.
There is a moral inability which paralyzes all men . Thus he is not
free, he is a slave to sin, a slave to Satan. Jesus said to those
of His day in John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts
of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode
not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.
Sin is more than an act, it is more than a series of acts. It is a state or a condition. It is that which lies behind and produces the act. Sin has permeated and penetrated the whole of manís being. It has blinded his understanding, corrupted his heart, alienated the mind from God. The will is under the dominion of sin and Satan. Therefore the will is not free. There is none that seeketh after God. Romanís 3:7 The will is not sovereign, it is a servant. That is implied by this statement of the Lord in John 8:36 were He said; If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Men were not free before Jesus gave them that freedom. We believe in free will, but it is a free will only to act in accordance with nature. God has no will for evil. Statan has no will for holiness. The sinner has no will in accord with God. To do this he needs a new nature. He must be born again. In the Bible, God has free will, and so we read in Phil 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. In Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Read John 1:12 AND verse 13. So often we hear people quote John 1:12 and not quoting verse 13, what a tragedy !
All too often we hear people quoting verses out of context. Be sure of this that John 1:12 without verse 13 is really misleading. Look carefully at the two verses. John 1:12 But many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. God has free will. Is it not true that the scriptures teach that whosoever will may come?
Yes, but does that signify that everyone has the will to come. Whosoever will may come, but some wonít come. Why is that? Whosoever will may come, but that no more implies that fallen man has the power in himself to come, than did Jesus when He said to that man with the withered hand, stretch forth thy hand. Did that imply that the man with the withered hand had the power to do it? He did not have it. Jesus gave it to him. In and of himself the natural man has only a power to reject Christ. He has a mind that is at enmity against God. Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The unregenerate has a heart that hates God. Jesus said that if the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. John 15:18 states If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you Man chooses that which is in accordance with his nature. He never chooses things that are divine, things that are spiritual, things that are pleasing to God. To do that a new nature must be given him. In other words, he must be born again. Paul takes up this whole matter in the first chapter of first Corinthians. So sad to note that many preachers have not read that adequately. Paul asks the question, Why should we preach? In verse 25 of first Corinthians chapter one we read that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. What is Paul talking about? He is talking about the way sinners are reclaimed. He is talking about how God has designed to save sinners by a very foolish process called preaching. To fleshly wisdom it appears to be the height of folly to preach the Gospel to those who are dead and are therefore beyond the reach of doing anything themselves. Yes that is true that it would be very foolish to preach the Gospel to dead people. But you must know that Godís ways are different from our ways. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. I Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe Man may deem it to be folly to prophesy to dead bones. Well, just read Ezekiel and you will see that God told Ezekiel you prophesy to these dry bones, and you say to them "hear the word of the Lord". That is a bad audience to have. Ezekiel 37:4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. The natural man says thatís folly, thatís foolish, thatís ridiculous. Yes, but look at that phrase again, it is "the Word of the Lord". In John 6:63 It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. Oh! Let it be understood, when we go, and when we teach, and when we preach to dry bones, we are not to worry about how dry are the bones. We are to recognize the power of the Word of God, that we are to give to the dry bones. Men may think it foolish, but it is the word of the Lord. Go back to John 11, go back to a manís funeral three days late. Jesus has arrived on the scene, he is standing at the tomb, standing at the grave of His friend Lazarus, who for three days has been dead, he was molding in his grave. Note what Jesus did, He stood before that tomb, and He said Lazarus come forth. Any wise men standing by that tomb would have said "You are insane. It is ridiculous to call Lazarus he is dead." Read the eleventh chapter of John, and you will learn something, you will learn that the one who yelled out "Lazarus come forth" is the "resurrection and the life," At His word even the dead live. We go and preach the gospel, not because we believe that sinners have within themselves the power to receive the Saviour, that is proclaimed. We go because we believe that the Gospel itself is the power of God to every one that believeth. Romans 1:16. We go because we know that every one who is ordained unto eternal life shall believe. Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Jesus said; John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
Here is a quote from one of the best books in modern times. It is a contemporary edition of John Owensí classic The death of death and the death of Christ. In the opening pages of that new edition there is an introductory statement by Dr. Parker, which is worth the price of the whole book. Here then is a paragraph or two from that introduction.
Thus we appeal men as if they all had an ability to receive Christ at any time. We speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying then made it possible for us to save ourselves by believing. We speak of Godís love as if it were no more then a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust. And we depict the Father and Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence at the door of our hearts for us to let them in. The Bible is against us, when we preach in this way. And the fact that such preaching has become almost standard among us, only shows how urgent it is that we should review this whole matter. We have flattered impenitent sinners by assuring them that it is in their power to repent and to believe, though God cannot make them do it. Perhaps we have so trivialized faith and repentance in order to make this assurance possible. Its so very simple, just open your heart to Jesus. We have effectively denied Godís sovereignty and undermined the basic conviction of religion, that man is always in Godís hands. No wonder that our preaching begets so little reverence and humility, and that our professed are so self-confident, and are so deficient in self-knowledge, and good works that scripture regards as the fruit of true repentance.
And then he had a section at the end of that introduction which has to do with this topic decisionizm, decide for Christ. He writes;
"Decide for Christ", this phrase carries the wrong association. It suggests voting a person into office, an act in which the candidate plays no part beyond offering himself for election. And everything then being settled by the voters independent choice. But we do not vote Godís Son into office as our Saviour, nor does He remain passive while preachers campaign on His behalf, whipping up support for His cause. We ought not to think of evangelism as a kind of electioneering.
we preach when man is utterly unable to respond? Why do we tell sinners
that heaven is ahead, or that hell is ahead? Why do we tell them
that they ought to gain one and shun the other? Why do we tell them
that they are lost? Why do we tell them that Jesus came to seek and
save that which was lost? Why do we go to all this trouble if man
cannot respond? Because God has instituted not only the end,
but the means, and our preaching is the means whereby they can be saved.
Here is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians so long ago.
Eph.5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
The one thing that is good about the doctrine of total depravity is this. You will have no trouble finding people for whom the Gospel was intended. It was intended for dead people.3
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the
prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of
wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,
by grace ye are saved;
1Strong, Augustus Hopkins Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1907), p. 637
2Ibid. p. 640
3 Benson, John, The Kingdom Proffered and Postponed Unpublished Notes, 1967, Baptist Bible College, Johnson City, New York
Rembert Byrd. Classroom notes and the bulk from a sermon at
Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania
used in this paper are from the King James Version
Dr. John Benson, Prime Mentor