Since the Fall of Man, each person has been born with a sin nature. By the sin of Adam, all men were made sinners (Romans 5:19). We were created to worship and serve God, yet that has been tainted and perverted. Instead of worshipping God we worship ourselves; instead of living for God’s glory, we seek our own; we want our will instead of God’s, and we want to further our kingdom instead of his. We see the effects of sin each day as we live in this cursed world.

We continue our study of Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) by examining chapter 18 entitled, “Original Pollution.” The pollution of man shows itself in two ways: total depravity and total inability.

Total Depravity

As a result of the Fall, man is totally depraved. MLJ argues that many misunderstand this doctrine, so he begins by providing a few examples of what total depravity does NOT mean (202):

  • It does not mean that we are as bad as we possibly can be. Some unbelievers do unthinkable deeds, while others look somewhat moral and respectable.
  • It does not mean that we have no innate knowledge of God. There is a sense of God within us that renders us without excuse, but we naturally reject it (Romans 1).
  • It does not mean we lack a conscience. There is a general idea of good and evil, and even the possibility of feeling guilty.
  • It does not mean that we are incapable of recognizing or even admiring virtues.
  • It does not mean that the natural person will indulge in every form of sin.

Instead, total depravity means:

  • “That man in his fallen condition has an inherently corrupt nature, and the corruption extends through every part of his being, to every faculty of his soul and body” (202).
  • There is no spiritual good in man. An unbeliever may do a good deed, but it is not done out of worship to God, and for his glory, therefore the very motive is corrupt.

In Genesis 6:5, God sees the wickedness of man and that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” One may argue that verse is speaking of Noah’s day only, but other verses teach the same thing applies to all of us. Consider Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Jeremiah 17:9 teaches us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

Every one of us is born as an unregenerate person who is at enmity against God (Rom. 8:7) and dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph. 2). We are children of Satan (John 8:44).

Total Inability

Total inability means that we are completely incapable of helping ourselves out of our fallen condition. An unregenerate person can do “good” things; an unregenerate person may be capable of doing civic good and even have an external religion. However, there is no love of God and concern for the will and glory of God, therefore cannot do anything that meets God’s approval. Isaiah says that our best works are simply “filthy rags” before a holy God (64:6). None are righteous (Rom. 3).

Even if man were to recognize his condition, total inability means that he is powerless, on his own, to change his ways. Just like the leopard cannot change his spots (Jer. 13:23) so we cannot stop our sinful actions and motives. First Cor. 2:14 teaches that the natural man doesn’t receive the things of the Spirit of God. Our carnal mind is set against God (Rom. 8:7).

Our only hope is the regenerating work of God to change us from the inside out (John 1:13, 3:1-21, 6:44). This will be discussed more in the next chapter on redemption.

Why Does It Matter?

MLJ states, “No one can have a true or adequate understanding of the scriptural doctrine of salvation, not one of us can appreciate our own salvation truly, unless we realize the nature of the disease, the condition, out of which we are to be saved by the gospel…We can never really know the love of God until we realize this” (203).

Knowing our complete inability to save ourselves highlights the grace and mercy of God. If I owe someone $5 and you pay it for me, I appreciate it, but I may not be overwhelmed with gratitude because I could have come up with the $5 myself. However, if I owed someone 5 billion dollars, then I’d be overflowing with thankfulness if you paid it for me knowing I never could have come up with that much money. When God saves his people, he’s doing something that we NEVER could have done for ourselves. Thus, our only appropriate response is worship and praise to our great God!

Other posts in the “Great Doctrines of the Bible” series:

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