Paul says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. This is Total Depravity in a nutshell. It is a Reformed and Calvinistic theological term which believes that all men are enslaved by the power of sin and if left alone without God, would rather serve their own interests as opposed to their neighbours. Man is unable to save himself and is unable to take the first step of returning to God.
Think about it! Have you ever wondered why you have such angry vulgar thoughts in your head when you are displeased with your friends or when something doesn’t go your way? Why is there a tendency to tell a white lie in order to avoid being punished for missing an assignment deadline in school? Why are we always turning to Netflix or Instagram or TikTok whenever we have free time and somehow we manage to spend hours on end in the world of social media? Why are we so tempted to look at pornography?
The answer to these questions is Total Depravity. There is nothing good in man at all. In our natural state, there is nothing good in us; there is no yearning for the Divine. There are countless verses which support this doctrine in the Bible: God saw that man’s heart was evil continually (Genesis 6:5), man’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10) and the list goes on.
Is Total Depravity all bad news then? Why bother reading about this doctrine?
Our God is Holy, He is sinless and perfect in every way; yet this Sinless One loves His creatures in spite of their sinfulness. He loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to bear the punishment of our sin via crucifixion on the cross so that we may be forgiven. Jesus drank from the cup of wrath, so that we (the sinfully depraved) may drink from the cup of blessing instead. And this ought to be the reason why we learn about Total Depravity.
If we realise how hopelessly depraved and bad we actually are, the glory of the Gospel shines that much brighter. A jeweler always places his diamond on a black cloth, so that the facets and brilliance of that diamond shine all the brighter. When we place the Gospel on top of the darkness that is our depraved sinful nature, the Gospel ought to captivate our hearts in an instant. We ought to be on our knees begging for forgiveness, bursting out in tears of joy and crying out: “Why me God? Why? Why do you waste your Son’s blood for a sinner like me?”
Dear Reader, if you have not yet come into a relationship with this Jesus Christ of whom we speak, scroll down and click on any one of our church websites. Come visit us, and we promise that you will be amazed at what you’ll discover.
For the Christian that has already walked several kilometers on the narrow road, perhaps you’re familiar with that old rugged cross, perhaps you’ve been taught about Total Depravity in Sunday School already; what now?
In Acts 1, God blesses every believer with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we learn that the Holy Spirit is God Himself which resides in us. The Holy Spirit brings along with it the power that commands the times and the seasons. This same power that created the 34,300 different species of fish in just one day, this same power that raised Lazarus from the dead, this same power that blinded a persecutor of Christians and changed his heart to make him the most influential evangelist of the early church, this same power God gives to us in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine this…we depraved sinners who possess nothing but sin; God not only bothers to send His Son to save us, but He also equips us with His Holy Spirit so that we can live a life on earth for Him with His wisdom and strength.
Total Depravity puts life into proper perspective. It is not by our wisdom that we get good grades. It is not by our strength that allows us to excel in sports. It is not by our own ability that we are where we are today. It is by God’s gracious hand that we – depraved sinners – can live life. We need to preach to ourselves daily about how depraved we are and to cling unto the cross of Christ. This will eradicate all traces of pride and allow us to live lives that are meek and humble before God.
However, Total Depravity is not a license for us to “let go and let God”. The sluggard will now think to himself: “since everything is from God, shouldn’t I just do nothing and have faith in God?” This is unbiblical thinking. We are commanded by God to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, a wise preacher once said that in everything we do, we ought to: “pray so fervently as if it only depended on God and give of our best in everything as if it only depended on us.” Our God works through the hands of depraved sinners, to fulfill His will in our lives. As believers, we should seize every effort to achieve any righteous aims, knowing and trusting that God has the wisdom and power to veto any of our plans.
To the Totally Depraved Sinner that is reading this article today, may the Gospel and glorious daily working of our God upon your sinful undeserving life be a gem that you hold onto every day. And may this gem shine brightly in your life in times bad and good, that you want not to stray away from your Master.