The Depravity of Man

Is the debate of the depravity of man between Armenians, Calvinists, or Pelagians? Essentially, the depravity of man is a gospel debate. How is a person saved? The depravity of man echoes the words of scripture, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

This weekend we continue our journey through Romans. As we do, we will examine chapter 1:24-32. This passage reminds us of our depravity and God’s grace and righteousness. In a nutshell, the depravity of man speaks of the moral corruption and sinfulness of every person and our absolute inability to do anything to save ourselves. There are times it helps to consider what depravity is not. The depravity of Man does not mean…

  • Man is as sinful as sinfully possible.
  • Man is totally insensitive in matters of conscience and unable to judge right from wrong.
  • Man, as a sinner, is experiencing every possible sin.
  • Man can’t do good things.
  • Man can’t be kind, friendly, and giving.

At its heart, total depravity means the sinfulness and corruption of the fall have extended to every aspect of human life. Because of such sinfulness and corruption, we can do nothing to merit God’s saving grace. Scripture teaches of the total depravity of man. Depravity is universal and total (Romans 3:9-18). Our minds are corrupt (Romans 1:28, Ephesians 4:18), our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and even our conscience needs cleansing (Hebrews 9:14). By nature, we were dead in our sins, disobedient, and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). It’s been said, “we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.” That is the key to depravity.

The work of salvation is a complete work of the triune God.[1] We come to God in faith alone. In our sinfulness, our guilty sentence is justified; we deserve God’s wrath and can do nothing to save ourselves. However, in God’s grace, He poured His wrath upon Jesus. God deems all righteous who place their faith in the finished work of Jesus. God is rich in mercy, He has a great love for us, He is filled with grace and kindness (Ephesians 2:4-9). In our depravity, we are unable and unwilling to add anything. “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Praise be to God, who saves graciously, completely, and eternally.     

[1]You can read about the three-fold work of the Triune God in salvation in Ephesians chapter 1.  

God answers His way!

           If you have read the book of Romans, you know it was Paul’s ambition and desire to go to Rome and preach the gospel (1:10-12; 15:23-24, 28, 31-32). We learn from this letter he would travel to Jerusalem first, and then on his way to Spain, he would stop in Rome and minister to the people. In Acts 21:15, we see Paul’s tumultuous trip to Jerusalem. Things do not go as planned. “The whole city was stirred up and the people rushed together. They seized Paul dragged him out of the Temple and at once the gates were shut. As they were trying to kill him…” (Acts 21:30-31a). Paul’s life was in peril. Death seemed certain. However, God had a different plan for Paul. In Acts 23:11, we read, “The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome.” Has God ever answered a prayer prayed in an unusual, and at times, at a high cost to you? How do you continue when life proceeds strangely?

Paul would go to Rome. However, consider his journey; a riot in Jerusalem, an arrest, a rejection of the Sanhedrin, a prison in Caesarea, an appeal to Caesar based upon Paul’s Roman citizenship, a journey by ship, a shipwreck, and a snakebite, to name a few things. Paul would get to Rome, but he would journey to Rome on the providence and provision of God.

How do we respond when we get what we desire, but in ways we could never conceive?

  1. Faith – Trust God. He is sovereign and can work all things out for good (Romans 8:28).
  2. Focus – Be Kingdom-focused saints. It’s all about the glory of God. Paul wanted to preach in Rome. God wanted Paul to preach in Rome in chains. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Our life is not about us, but about living for the glory of God, the good of others, and the advancement of the Kingdom.
  3. Fruitful – Be fruitful wherever God has you, and in whatever way He gets you there. How can you bear gospel fruit in your pain, difficulty, and heartache? How can you exhibit the grace and goodness of God?

Consider Spurgeon’s words, “I do not suppose that Paul guessed that he would be sent there at the government’s expense, but he was. The Roman Empire had to find a ship for him, and a fit escort for him, too, and he entered the city as an ambassador in bonds. When our hearts are set on a thing, and we pray for it, God may grant us the blessing; but, it may be, in a way that we never looked for. You shall go to Rome, Paul; but you shall go in chains.”[1]  

Paul’s desire to visit Rome was realized (between 59-60 AD). Paul preached the gospel in Rome. For two years, he stayed and wrote Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. God had a marvelous plan for Paul. Paul left Rome (About AD 63-65)  and returned to Rome to die (67 AD). It was rarely a smooth and easy ride for Paul, but his faithfulness stands as a great reminder, it’s not about us but always about the glory of God. If you are in a waiting phase, continue to pray. Lean upon God, press into Jesus, trust Him, advance His Kingdom, and bear gospel fruit? If so, God will use you in mighty ways.