TOTALLY DEPRAVED—SOME SCRIPTURES USED AND EXPLANATIONS
T PIERCE BROWN
The following are some of the scriptures that are used by those who conclude that we are all born with a sinful, totally depraved nature, and can do nothing that contributes to our salvation.
Ps. 51: 5, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Ans. If a student said, “I entered the room in confusion, and in anger did the teacher slap me” surely anyone could see that it could be that the room was in confusion, and it was the teacher who was in anger, not the student. Exactly the same language is used here and has nothing whatever to do with David being guilty of sin. No one can point out a sin of which David was guilty, but merely assume that he was guilty of an inherited sin—the original sin.
Rom. 8:7-9, “because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: 8 and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” Ans. The argument is “Since they that are in the flesh cannot please God, they must have the indwelling of the Spirit in order to please him.” Of course, this would mean that they must be regenerated, born again, and have the Spirit dwelling in them before they could be saved. Of course the obvious meaning is, “They that have a mind to do what they want rather than what God wants cannot please God.” It is evident from a multitude of scriptures that it always pleases God for a sinner to turn from his sinful ways, and God commands him to do so.
Rom. 5:12-13, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned: — 13 for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Ans. It is assumed that “all sinned” must mean that when Adam sinned, all the rest of the world was automatically made a sinner. But since the Bible says that sin is a transgression of the law (1 Jn. 3:4) and sin is knowing to do good and not doing it (James 4:17), it is obvious that all persons sinned when they did either of those. Spiritual death came upon all men when they sinned.
Eph. 2:1-10, “And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: —
4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” Ans. Note several assumptions and truths. It is assumed that we are born into the world dead in sin. This verse says, “through your trespasses.” “Ye once walked”—not ye were born that way. “We once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing desires—.” Not “born sinners.” It is assumed that “by nature children of wrath” means we were born that way. Thayer, the great Greek English Lexicographer says on page 660 “A mode of feeling or acting which by long habit has become nature.” The context shows this to be true, and our own use of language agrees with it. An alcoholic “just naturally” gets drunk, but was not born that way.
Rom.3:10-12, “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 have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not, so much as one.” Ans. Note that the statement has to do with a general truth, not a specific one. For example, Noah was a righteous man (Gen. 7:1). Even Cornelius, though unsaved, was a righteous man (Acts10:22). In the second place, “They have all TURNED aside.” They were not born that way.
Ps. 53:2-3, “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Ans. Same as above. The reference is those who have “gone back,” not to those who were born depraved.
Ps.10:4, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” Ans. The wicked are those who will not seek God. It has nothing to do with being born depraved.
Ecc.7:20, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Ans. This is a general truth and has to do with every accountable person. There are none of us who do not sin.
Jer. 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Ans. Note that he is talking about those who are accustomed to do evil, saying nothing at all about being born that way. A person who is accustomed to doing evil has to be helped to quit it. The gospel is the power of God to do that.
John6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day.” Ans. That is true, but the next verse tells how the Father draws him, and has nothing to do with his being born depraved. “As it is written in the prophets, ‘They shall all be taught of God.’ Every one that hath heard from the father and hath learned cometh unto me.”
Titus 3:4-6, “But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, 5 not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Ans. This simply teaches that all our works of righteousness which we did or can do will not save us. Note, however, that the sinner CAN do works of righteousness, and the verses have nothing to say about us being born as sinners and not able to do any good thing.
Rom.3:20, “because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law
cometh the knowledge of sin.” Ans. It cannot be successfully denied that no one can be justified by the works of the law, for the basic reason that no one perfectly does the works of the law. It has nothing to do with being born a sinner, but the fact is that all accountable persons have sinned, and regardless of how perfectly he lives from then on cannot be justified by that, for he should have been doing that all along. A good work cannot remove any guilt of a sin.
Rom.6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ans. True it is that when one sins, he is “dead in sin.” If he does not accept the free gift of God on the terms by which it is offered, he will suffer eternal death. What is has to do with hereditary total depravity is a mystery.
Mt. 1:2, “And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.” Ans. It is assumed by some that this statement means that it was in the eternal decree of God that the elect (his people) would be saved automatically, arbitrarily from their sins solely by the power of Jesus, and the decree of God. Of course the verse does not say that, but only states the truth that we have seen evidenced as Jesus saves people from sins as they surrender to him in obedience to the gospel.
Mt. 18:11-14, “11 For the Son of man came to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if any man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go unto the mountains, and seek that which goeth astray?” Ans. The assumption is that since Jesus came to save the lost, he will have failed if he does not save the lost, without any effort on their part. The verses neither say nor imply that, and certainly do not even imply that someone was lost from birth.
1 Cor. 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Ans. If this means that because of Adam all persons automatically are dead in sin, then it means that because of Christ all are automatically saved from sin. It means neither, but the context shows that because of Adam all men die physically, and because of Christ, all will be raised from the dead. John 5:28-29 shows what happens to both groups.
John 17:1-2, “These things spake Jesus; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that the son may glorify thee: 2 even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given him, he should give eternal life.” Ans. It is assumed that God has given Christ certain specific elect individuals, arbitrarily chosen. The verse says nothing about that. We have to find the answer to the question about who are the ones whom God gave to Christ by other scriptures. Heb. 5:9 and 2 Thes.1:8 show that God gives eternal life to those who obey Him, and these are the ones who belong to Christ.
John 1:11-13, “He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Ans. Two things are usually assumed about these verses: 1. That they teach that those who believe on his name are at that time made sons of God. Careful reading will show this is not the case. They have POWER to become such. 2. It is assumed that he says that they were born, not of the will of man which must mean that man’s will had nothing to do with it, but it was all God’s doing. The verse does not teach nor imply that man has nothing to do, but that his new birth was not from his will.
John 3:19-21, “ And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.” Ans. This is sometimes quoted to show that those who do evil always hate the light and must be operated on directly to keep them from so doing. The Bible teaches that “the entrance of thy word gives light” and the gospel has the power to change a person. Also, it has nothing to do with being born a sinner, but talks about those who do (practice) evil.
John 3:1-3, “1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see thekingdomofGod.” Ans. This is sometimes used to teach that as in a normal, physical birth, the person born has no part in the activity, so in the spiritual birth it must be likewise, and he is born directly by the action of the Spirit. Even those who teach this doctrine admit that the person who is “born again” can do SOMETHING, so their supposed parallel does not exist.
John 5:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Ans. Anything God commands is a work of God, and belief is certainly commanded. If a man were born hereditarily totally depraved, it would be useless to tell him to believe. They asked “What must we DO to do the work of God?” (John 6:28) and he told them what to do—not what God would do for them.