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Bad to the Bone: A Study of Human Depravity - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2005-07-24 PM
  • Systematic Theology
  • Sermons


Well, it is our joy tonight to continue our study of the great doctrines of the Bible. And tonight, we continue I should say in a doctrine that is not one we normally turn to. This isn't the place we turn for great encouragement. This isn't we place we turn for hope. And yet, you really have to understand our sinfulness to appreciate God's grace.

Those of you who are married will remember when you went into the jewelry store to purchase that ring. And the jeweler would take a piece of dark cloth and lay that dark cloth out there on the counter, dark piece of velvet, and then put those sparkling diamonds against the backdrop of that dark velvet. The reason for that was that the back, the backdrop, the dark background accentuated the brilliance of those stones. There's a sense in which that's what a study of human depravity does. It helps us to appreciate the brilliance and the beauty and the brightness of the grace of God. So, we're looking at who we are without Christ, who all human beings are and what they are without the intervention of our God.

Let me ask you a question to begin with. What is the most profound illustration of human depravity that you have ever heard? Maybe your mind, as mine did, cycles back through the last many years of news articles, from the absolutely disgusting human cruelty of a Jeffrey Dahmer to child molesters like the recent example we heard up in Idaho. Perhaps you think of the terrorists who struck recently in London, who indiscriminately kill innocent women and children.

But your mind probably doesn't go where Augustine's went. Augustine in his great and classic work, [which if you haven't read, I strongly encourage you to read], his Confessions, which is nothing but a multi-hundred-page prayer to God recounting God's intervention in his life. If you read Augustine's Confessions, the great church father and brilliant theologian, he chose a most interesting way to illustrate depravity, his own depravity. He could've written about his sexual sin. He writes in other places that he was absolutely consumed before he came to Christ with sexual sin. He refers at one point to having been captured in a hissing cauldron of lust. He lived with a woman for many years. He could've described that. That was the greatest source of his temptation before his conversion.

But instead in his Confessions, Augustine chose to focus on an event that most of us would consider insignificant and unimportant, certainly not an illustration of human depravity. He cites an example where he and some of his friends went out during the night and stole fruit from a neighbor's pear tree. Listen to his words. He writes:

Theft is punished by Thy law, O Lord, and the law written in the hearts of men, which iniquity itself effaces not. For what thief will abide a thief? Not even a rich thief, one stealing through want. Yet I lusted to thieve, and did it (listen to this), compelled by no hunger, nor poverty, but through a desire to do it. For I stole that, of which I had enough, and much better. Nor did I care to enjoy what I stole, but I joyed in the theft and the sin itself. A pear tree there was near our vineyard laden with fruit, tempting neither for color nor taste (he didn't like pears like many of you)." And he says: "To shake and rob this, some lewd young fellows of us went, late one night (having according to our pestilent custom prolonged our sports in the street till then), and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the hogs, having only tasted them. And this, but to do what we liked only. Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, which You have had pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit. Now, behold, let my heart tell You what it sought there, that I should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to ill, but the ill itself. I was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved mine own fault, not that for which I was faulty, but for the fault itself.

Now what's he saying? You know, many unbelievers have read that part of Augustine's Confessions, and I've actually heard some of them say it, and say this man was perversely obsessed with this episode, and that this is a bizarre twist from the pen of this man, that he had a perverted sense of wrong. That's because they don't understand their own heart, and they don't understand human depravity. You see, what Augustine was saying was this. The clearest and most poignant example of human depravity is when we partake of evil not for getting something from it, but simply because we enjoy it. You don't have to read about Jeffrey Dahmer or the terrorists in London to get a grip on that. Each of us, if we're honest with our own hearts, has in our lifetime many times participated in evil not for any real pleasure that we get out of it other than the pleasure of the evil itself. And there is the ultimate expression of sin.

James Boyce writes that there are and always have been three basic views of human nature. One view says that man is perfectly well. Pick up the newspaper and as you hear people trumpeting the wonderful triumphs of the human spirit, you'll read this view of human nature. Man is perfectly well as a whole, and there are a few people who are on the edge, and we don't understand what happened to them.

There's a second view of human nature, and that is that man is sick. And there are, of course, different views all along the spectrum of exactly how sick he is, some saying he's just a little sick in need of help, others saying, no, he's mortally, incurably sick.

But the Bible doesn't say man is perfectly well. And the Bible doesn't say man is sick. The Bible says man is (what?) dead, dead; dead in trespasses and sin. The reason for that is what we began to study last time, and that is original sin, what theologians call the enduring effects of Adam's sin on you and me, "original sin".

Now, what do we mean when we talk about original sin? Just to remind you, last time we said we could mean by that "inherited sin", that some prefer that label. It's essentially the sinful state and condition in which men are born. It's the corruption of our whole nature, every human being. Why do we use the term "original"? That can be a bit confusing; it can sound like we're talking about Adam instead of our own sin. But we use the term "original" because it came from the root of the human race, it was original with Adam, but it spread to us all. It's present in the life of every individual from the time of his birth, so it's original in that sense. And it's original in that the root of all actual sins that defile our lives comes from what we inherited from Adam.

Now when we talk about the elements of original sin, I gave you an overview, a summary slide, we're really talking about two things. We're talking about, first of all, "imputed guilt", and we'll talk more about that, review that in just a moment. And secondly, we're talking about inherited pollution or corruption. This is what we bear as a result of Adam's sin, "imputed guilt" and "inherited pollution or corruption". And under inherited pollution or corruption, there are two aspects of that: what theologians call "total depravity" and "total or moral inability".

Now I'm going to focus, we're going to take next week just to look at total inability. And if you have missed during our study, don't miss next week because it is the key. If you understand what the Bible teaches about total inability, you will get salvation right, but if you don't understand it, then your view of salvation will be skewed.

So, let's look, just to remind you, last time we looked at imputed guilt. We looked at Romans 5. We learned that when Adam sinned, God placed real, personal guilt for that sin to my account and to your account. When Adam sinned, you got a sin in your account and so did I. Romans 5:19 says, "… [we] were made sinners…." In other words, when Adam sinned, God thought of every human being as a sinner. He was our representative. God imputed Adam's sin to us.

And we ended last time by reminding ourselves that don't be so quick to think that's unfair because imputation is an absolutely critical tool of God. God imputes Adam's sin to us; He puts Adam's sin rather in our account. That's what it means to impute, to put to someone's account and treat them as if that were true of them. He imputes Adam's sin to us, but He also then, for the believer, imputes our sin to Christ on the cross, and He treats Christ as if He had sinned as we have sinned, as if He had lived our sinful life. And then He imputes Christ's righteousness, Christ's perfect life to us and He treats us as if we had lived Christ's perfect life. So, before you complain about number one, take a look at numbers two and three because it's all the same thing. It's all God putting to our account something that we don't deserve.

Now, let's move on then to talk about the second element of original sin, where we left off last time, and that is, we have as part of what came to us from Adam, we have "inherited pollution or corruption" in our beings. And I want to look just tonight at "total depravity". Total depravity, what does that mean? And we hear that phrase, you hear it thrown around, most people misunderstand what it means. So, I want to begin as my mentor in one sense, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, often did, and that is by discussing what total depravity is not. What is it not?

Well, first of all, we don't mean when we talk about total depravity that people act as badly as they really are by nature. Not everybody acts as bad as their heart is. Why is that? Well, it's what theologians call God's common grace, God's restraining common grace. He puts in every human heart an awareness of His law, an awareness of Himself, and an awareness of coming judgment, and that to some extent restrains people from expressing their sinfulness as much as they would like.

He also gives us various authorities in our life that make violating His law painful. It starts with parents, and they enforce a degree of pain in physical discipline in our lives that makes what we really want to do seem less appealing. The same thing happens with government. Government holds certain sinful behavior in check. And we see, we see that when, for example, when I was in Los Angeles with the L.A. riots, there were people who simply seized the opportunity to express their sinfulness and to steal and to kill and to maim and to set on fire. As that authority was for a few days out of control, sin ran rampant and the expression of that sin ran rampant. And so God uses His restraining common grace through parents, the civil government, and even His law written on the hearts to restrain sin. So, people don't act as bad as they really are by nature.

You understand this. Think about your own heart. Do you carry out and act on everything that you want to do? Think back before Christ. Did you fulfill every craving that you had? No, there were restraints in your life by God's grace that kept you from really running rampant and expressing everything that you wanted to express.

We also don't mean by total depravity that every sinner will indulge in every form of sin. We all have our own propensities. We're going to be looking at James 1:13 next Lord's day in the morning Lord willing. And there, James describes the reality that each of us has what he calls our own lust, by his own lust. There are a particular set of sins that each of us has a particular propensity toward. We're not all tempted by the same sins. In fact, there are some sins that, honestly, I look at and I scratch my head, and wonder how anyone could ever find any satisfaction or pleasure in that sin. And you do the same thing. You read the paper and you think, you know how, how could that happen? So not all of us will indulge in every form of sin.

Also by total depravity, we don't mean that people have no knowledge of God's law nor do they have a functioning conscience. Of course they do. God has written, Romans 2:14 says, the substance of His law on every heart. There's this conscience. The word conscience by the way is an interesting word. At some point, we'll look at conscience. Conscience is never supposed to be a guide, but always a guard. If you don't remember anything else about conscience, just remember that, never a guide, always a guard. It's like the warning light on your dashboard. It's a system put in by God in your heart. The word "conscience" simply means "with knowledge". It comes from two words that means "with knowledge".

So, your conscience is only as good as the knowledge you have informed it with. Your conscience can be too sensitive if you've over informed it, if you've informed it contrary to the Word of God. Your conscience can be not sensitive enough if you've desensitized by ignoring the teaching of God's Word. It's all a matter of how you've informed it, the knowledge that you have of God's standard. But it's a tool God uses, and everybody has it. So, we don't mean by total depravity that we don't have a functioning conscience.

Fourthly, total depravity does not mean that sinful man fails to admire those things that are good and virtuous. Of course, because there is still in us, what we studied a few weeks ago, the image of God - that is, the imprint of the creative power of God and the reflection of His character albeit very marred in our persons that still exists, and so, therefore, we have an appreciation for beauty. We have an appreciation for virtue. There are very few cultures in the world where people admire murder and decry the protection of life. You understand, there is among mankind essentially an appreciation to some degree for some of the good and some of the virtuous.

Nor do we mean, and this is crucial, that every sinner is as depraved as he can possibly become. If you give full reign, let's go back again before Christ, if you were before Christ to have given full reign to your depraved heart, you could have become worse than you were. There are degrees of punishment in hell as we'll get there in the coming months, we'll get not to hell, we'll get to the discussion of hell. Hopefully, we won't get there by God's grace. But when we get to that subject, you'll discover that there are degrees of punishment in hell. That means that there are some sins in the eyes of God that are worse than others. That means you can become worse given the opportunity and giving, given free reign to your heart.

So, that's what we don't mean by "total depravity". And a lot of people hear that phrase, unfortunately, it can be a little misleading, and some people hear it and assume that we mean one of those things. What do we mean by total depravity? Essentially, we mean two things. First of all, we mean that there is inherent in every human being a corruption that permeates every part of his nature including every faculty and power of both soul and body. In other words, there isn't a single part of your being and mine that hasn't been affected by the corruption that we inherited from Adam. That's what we mean by "total", total in the sense of "it permeates every part of our being". Nothing is left untouched.

And secondly, we mean that there is nothing spiritually good in the sinner at all. One illustration I like of this second point is not original with me. It was originally used by a man by the name of W.D. Smith, and it's been used through the years by many others. He wrote this, he said:

Imagine a sailing ship manned by a crew of pirates. They get along with each other, they work hard, they're loyal to each other, they help one another; they even defend each other from time to time. They do what are in and of themselves appear to be good things, good deeds. But all of their good deeds are at the same time evil deeds because the direction of their entire lives and efforts are in rebellion against international maritime law and their own government. Every breath they breathe is the breath of a rebel, even when they are doing things that appear on the surface to be good. Also, these pirates, their good deeds are highly selective. They help only those like themselves. They actually rob and maim and murder those who get in their way. And even their kindnesses grow out of their rebellion.

Now as the illustration goes, that describes mankind's rebellion against God. We may do many things that appear good, but our good is actually bad because it's designed to maintain rebellion against the only sovereign God and His laws. Perhaps you say, now wait a minute, just wait a minute. Are you telling me that God doesn't see any value in the good that human beings do? What about building a hospital for children? What about all of the things that we read about that the philanthropists of our culture do? Are you saying God doesn't see any good in those things? That's exactly right. You see, the good deeds that we perform here do have some value here. We may get praise from other human beings. We may get awards and rewards, but they're of no value to God.

Imagine for a moment some prisoners of war. Let's say that, God forbid, in the next few days one of our helicopters is shot down over in Iraq, and some of those men and women are captured and made prisoners, prisoners of war. And in the coming weeks and months, they are incarcerated in a prison in which they set up their own financial system using Monopoly money. And one of them, as there always are capitalists and entrepreneurs, one of them particularly succeeds and he manages to amass a great deal of the fortune that from this Monopoly money that they have created this barter system with in the prison camp there.

And then the day comes when a Special Forces team rescues these men, and they're brought back to the United States and everyone's joyful about their release. Everyone's excited about the fact that they have been brought back home. And the man who was really successful there in the prison camp, the first stop that he makes after his initial news brief and with the cameras and with the military, his, his first stop is Bank of America in Dallas. And he goes into the Bank of America branch, and he lays his fortune of Monopoly money on the counter, and he says, "I'm here to cash in. Put this in my account." What does the teller do? Well, she reaches under the counter to push the little button because she's afraid this guy's going to create some serious problems. Why? Because that Monopoly money may have had value in that prison camp, but it has absolutely no value as real currency.

That's exactly the way it is with our good deeds. They have some value here, but if you think, if anyone thinks they can show up before God and try to cash in their Monopoly money, they're in for a terrible disappointment because God's economy doesn't recognize our little Monopoly money. Our good works, even our best obedience to God's moral law, has no value in heaven. Perfection alone has value there.

Robert Reymond in his Systematic Theology writes:

Man, in his raw, natural state as he comes from the womb is morally and spiritually corrupt – in disposition and character. Every part of his being – his mind, his will, his emotions, his affections, his conscience, his body - has been affected by sin (that is what is meant by the doctrine of total depravity). His understanding is darkened, his mind is at enmity with God, his will to act as slave to his darkened understanding and rebellious mind, his heart is corrupt, his emotions are perverted, his affections naturally gravitate to that which is evil and ungodly, his conscience is untrustworthy and his body is subject to immortality.

You get the picture? There is absolutely no part of us unaffected by original sin that came to us from Adam. Not only do we inherit or have imputed to us guilt, but we have inherited terrible, terrible pollution and corruption that affects every part of our being. You say now wait a minute. Is that what the Bible teaches? Well, I want to look at a number of texts because this is so foundational, so crucial. Some of them I'm just going to give you here on the PowerPoint; others we'll turn to. But let me just give you a quick survey of some of the most poignant texts. And these are just the very highlights. You understand that if you've been in the Bible at all, but let's look at some of the Scripture that drives home this point.

Genesis 6:5: "… the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that [watch this] every intent [or every motive] of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Only evil continually, and God destroyed the entire earth because of it. Genesis 8:21: "… the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth." We're talking here about motives, the thing that drives you, the reason you do what you do. Even at that most basic level, we are corrupt. First Kings 8:46: "(… there is no man who does not sin)"

Psalm 51:5: David writes of course in that great Psalm, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me." Now don't misunderstand David here. Some people read this and think that David is somehow making an excuse for himself. The absolute opposite is true. What David is saying is the sin that I committed with Bathsheba, and the sin that I committed in taking the life of her husband Uriah was not something on the surface. It was something that came out of the very depths of my being. It's who I am, and it's who I was from the moment I was conceived.

This is an important point by the way. You know, we go to 1 John 1:9, and we talk about confessing our sins, and we blithely say, yeah, to confess our sins means to say the same things about our sins God says, but we sort of trip over that. Listen, if you want to say the same thing about your sin that God says, you never make excuses. You never say that isn't really what I wanted to do, that isn't really the expression of my heart. Instead, you say what David said, and that is it is absolutely the expression of the very deepest levels of my heart. And that's the way I've been since I was conceived.

Psalm 58:3: "The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth." You don't believe that, you must not have children, or you must not be honest about the children you have. Psalm 130:3: "If you, LORD, should mark iniquities [if you kept track], … LORD, who could stand [before You]?" The clear answer to the rhetorical question is: absolutely no one. Psalm 143:2: "… in Your sight no man living is righteous."

Ecclesiastes 7:20: "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good … who never sins." It doesn't exist. Ecclesiastes 9:3: "… the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil [and watch this] and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives…." You see, the ultimate form of insanity is sin. You know, there are a lot of people in our world who are diagnosed as insane in some way, but in reality it is an expression in almost every case of the insanity of sin and sinful choices.

Isaiah 53:6, of course a very familiar one: "All of us like sheep have gone astray, [watch this], Each of us [every one of us] has turned to his own way; (we've said I'll be the determiner of my course, I'll decide what it is I'm going to do in life and what I want and what I believe is right for me to do and not right); but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him."

Isaiah 64:6: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment [it may be the implication here is like a menstruous rag]; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." [This is how God thinks of humanity. Man isn't perfectly well, and man isn't sick. Man, apart from the grace of God in Christ is dead and completely and totally depraved.]

Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" And by the way here, this doesn't mean, as I said that man isn't dead. Scripture clearly teaches man is dead. This is a metaphor for the problems that he has. The word "desperately", the Hebrew text behind this essentially says this: he is incurably sick. In other words, there is nothing he can do to salvage the situation because his heart is deceitful more than everything else.

I want us to turn to a couple of New Testament texts. Let's turn to Romans 1. We're going to look at several Romans texts here because Paul builds his case of total depravity and mankind's sin. Verse 18 of course of chapter 1: "… the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." By the way, there is a view that has come out by a famous Dallas pastor saying that only some men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. That isn't what Paul says. In fact, he goes on to argue that this is the path all men take.

Now let's skip down to verse, (he of course tracks the path that sin takes, the denial of God and the refusal to give thanks which then leads to idolatry which then leads to sexual sin, of homosexuality, which leads to all kinds of indecent acts, verse 27 says.) verse 28:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper [here's mankind], being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful [now watch verse 32, here's the expression of depravity]; and although they know the ordinance of God [listen, people who sin sin knowing. How do they know the ordinance of God?

Well Romans 2:14 says God has put the substance of the law on their hearts. There's nobody alive who doesn't understand essentially the moral code of God. And they know, watch this,] verse 32,, that those who practice such things are worthy of death [they understand that they are deserving of death as a result of the choices that they make. And yet they do something else], they not only do the same, but [they] also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

We had a friend here with us this weekend from California, and he was telling us about a family member of his who has left her husband and moved in with another woman, is involved in lesbianism. And they go to this church that, that allows them to practice it, feeling good about themselves because God is a woman and she ,I should say, encourages this kind of behavior. What are they doing? They're not only doing what they know the ordinance of God forbids [they know they're worthy of death], but they're giving hearty approval to those who practice them. This is the essence of depravity, to say I'm going to do It even though, I know it's wrong and in fact, I'm glad you're doing it too.

Turn to Romans 3. Here is the classic text in the New Testament on human depravity. Paul specifically deals with the Jews in 2:17 - 3:8, but then he turns from simply speaking of the Jews. He makes a transition in verse 9; now he's speaking about Jews and Greeks. That's a comprehensive phrase for all of humanity. I'm talking about both Jews and non-Jews, everybody. He's no longer indicting the Jews only, but all men.

Now, notice the categories where our problems lie. Verse 10, he says, verse 9,

… [The] Jews and [the] Greeks are all under sin. [And then he's going to prove it by quoting a number of Old Testament texts, mostly from the Psalms. He says in verse 10,] "as … is written, THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE." [Here he says we are corrupt at the level of our moral choices. Our morals are corrupt. There is none righteous, not even one. Notice these categorical negatives – none, not even one. He wants to stress that neither you nor I are the exceptions to this.]

Verse 11: "THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS." [Here he comes to the issue of our minds. Not only are our morals corrupt, but our minds are corrupt as well at the level of understanding. We can't fully comprehend God's truth. "Professing (themselves) to be wise (Paul says in Romans 1), they became (what?) fools." The mind is warped. It doesn't think clearly. You and I see that as we hear and read issues from our world and people's perspective on those issues. We scratch our heads and say; how could they ever conclude that? It's because their, our minds, apart from the intervention of the Word of God and the work of Christ, our intellects are corrupt.]

[Look at the second half of verse 11:] "THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD." [Read that again, there is none who seeks for God. We constantly hear people talk about (what?) seeking for God. So, what do we conclude when the Bible says none seeks for God? We conclude here that our wills are corrupt. We refuse to choose God. Now there's a very interesting implication to this statement that there is none who seeks for God. The implication is this. James Montgomery Boice says in his commentary on Romans, "This means that all the world's religions are not efforts to seek God, but to run from Him. Man, unwilling to recognize and serve the true God, (does what, he) pursues gods of his own making so that he can do what he wants to do." Why do you think the cults that promise that you'll become God are so popular? It's not because people are seeking God; it's because they're seeking something for themselves. They're running from God. None seeks for God.] Verse 12:

"ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NOT EVEN ONE." [Here Paul says our behavior is corrupt. Not only are our morals corrupt, not only is our mind and our intellect corrupt, not only is our will corrupt, but our behavior is corrupt as well. And then he develops that,] verses 13 and 14. Our mouths reveal our depravity. "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING, THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS; … [THEIR] MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS. [Verse 15, we're prone to violence. Boy, do we see this in our culture.] "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD." [Imagine somebody cutting you off on the freeway, and you're pulling out a gun and chasing them down and shooting them.]

Verse 16: "DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS." [John MacArthur, in his commentary on this passage, says, "Man damages and destroys everything he touches, leaving a trail of pain and suffering in his wake."] Verse 17: "… THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." [In other words, our lives are filled with constant conflict. And here's the reason,] verse 18, Here's the punch line:] "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." [Here's the essence of depravity. There is an inherent lack of submission to, lack of reverence for, lack of worship of, and a lack of obedience to the one true and living God.]

Now notice verses 19 and 20 of the same chapter. In verses 19 and 20, you have God's verdict on every man and every woman who has ever lived. And this verdict contains five separate legal decisions that together summarize God's final verdict on every man without Christ. You see, apart from God's grace, we would have a day in court. Everybody wants their day in court. Well guess what? Without Christ, you'd get one. And this would be the verdict. God Himself would declare every single one of us guilty on these five separate counts.

First of all, He would say that we're responsible before His law. Notice verse 19:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law. [Paul's point here is everybody is under the law. The Jews have the written law given at Sinai and they failed to keep it. And those of us who didn't originally have the written law, we had the law (what?) written on the heart. Everybody was under the law. We are all, every man, every woman is responsible before God's law. You know the question often comes up to pastors. You know what about the guy in the jungle somewhere? He is responsible before God's law because the substance of God's law is written on his heart and he sins against that law. This is God's verdict of every man, and it's His verdict of you and me without Christ. Look at the next phrase, verse 19:] "so that every mouth may be closed…." [God's verdict, if we got our day in court, would be not only are we responsible before His law, but we're guilty with no defense.] So that every mouth may be closed. [Calvin says those words evoke the picture of a defendant in court who given the opportunity to speak in his own defense is absolutely speechless because of the weight of the evidence that has been brought against him. And without saying a word, he simply stands there and awaits his condemnation and his sentence: guilty with no defense. The law has been explained, the defendant has been accused of violating the law, the evidence has been presented, the judge has found the defendant guilty, and the defendant concludes that there is nothing to say in his defense.]

The third legal decision that God would make of each of us is that we abide forever under His wrath. Notice again, verse 19: "… [so that] all the world may become accountable to God;"

The Greek word "accountable" is used only here in the New Testament. It's a legal or forensic term. It describes someone who has lost his suit and is currently liable to judgment or punishment. Specifically notice we are accountable to God. The Greek word translated "accountable" is usually accompanied by the name of either the one who has been wronged or the judge before whom you appear. In this case, God is both the One that has been wronged and the Judge. The picture is of someone standing before the bar of God: his guilt proven beyond all possibility of doubt, his sentence has been established, and all that's left is the execution of the sentence.

Perhaps the best modern way to illustrate Paul's description here is to say that in God's sight, the entire world is currently living on death row, having exhausted every potential appeal. That's what this phrase means. This is where we'd be without Christ. This is God's verdict on the totally depraved hearts of mankind.

[Fourthly, Paul says that we would be hopeless before the divine standard. Notice verse 20:] "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight;" Based on heaven's sense of values, based on heaven's economy, where do we stand? What is our true condition? We have nothing that will justify us in God's sight. We are by nature morally and spiritually corrupt in every part of our being. We're incapable of changing our nature, of doing anything that pleases God or of in any way improving our standing with God, and we are deserving of punishment. Humanly speaking, our situation is utterly hopeless.

And finally, verse 20, God says you're aware of your true condition. All of us are aware of this condition: "for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."

God's law, whether you have it in your hands or whether you have it written in your heart, shows you your true condition. If you or I were to die today without Christ and we stood before God, these would be the verdicts God would pass. We are responsible before His law. We stand guilty before Him with no defense. We abide forever under His wrath just waiting for the execution to be carried out. We are hopeless before the divine standard, and we're aware of our true condition.

And let me just say if you're here tonight, and you have never come to Christ, this is exactly how God sees you this very moment. You at this very moment are simply awaiting the execution of the sentence, and it could happen at any moment. You're a breath away from the execution of this sentence. This is what Scripture teaches about how we stand apart from Christ before God. Galatians 3:22 says: "… the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to all … who believe." [Notice the Scripture has shut up, has locked up, everyone under sin.]

Ephesians 2:1 to 3, that famous passage – in fact, let's turn there.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins [here's the diagnosis: dead], In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. [In other words, you walked, your lifestyle was in trespasses or rebellions and sins, and you were completely in step with the satanic power that controls this world. You were simply under Satan's control.] Verse 3, Among them, we too all formerly lived [that is, among the sons of disobedience, those who disobey God, it's part of, it's practically their middle name they do it so frequently, that's the Hebrew expression]. Among them [among these sons of disobedience] we too all formerly lived in the … [cravings] of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. [We were sons of wrath, daughters of wrath. It was as if God's wrath was our middle name it was so certain to come. This is how God sees man without Christ.]

And then in Ephesians 4:17 to 19, he says:

So … I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer as the Gentiles also walk [watch this, here's how we were, we walked in the, that is we lived, our pattern of life was], in the futility [or vanity] of our minds, being darkened in our understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; … having become callous, [they've] … given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity [watch this] with greediness." [They're greedy for more, greedy to indulge their sin some more. That is how God sees unregenerate man – totally depraved.]

Now briefly, let me just give you some implications of our depravity. The knowledge of our total depravity should first of all serve as a constant reminder that our own hearts are still capable of any sin. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:1 11. First Corinthians 10:1 - 11. Here Paul, and I don't have time to go through the whole text, but Paul lays out a warning. He describes those who died in the wilderness, those Israelites, many of whom believed in God, but who died in the wilderness because they gave in to their depravity. Verse 5: "Nevertheless, with most of them" [ there's an understatement. Only two made it into the Promised Land; 1,999,998 died. There were about two million who came out of Egypt).]

"Now [verse 6]these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they craved. Do not be idolaters. [Verse 8], don't act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day." Don't test the Lord as some of them did. Don't grumble, [verse 10. Verse 11:] "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

Listen, understand that your heart is capable of any sin. And that should produce and encourage secondly, humility. Notice verse 12 of the same chapter: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." [If you are just so confident that you could never do that, then you don't understand the depravity of your heart. And if you have that kind of attitude, if you're so proud as to think that you could never stumble in that way, then you better take heed to yourself because that pride precedes a fall as the proverb says.]

Thirdly, it should produce watchfulness. Jesus, you remember in the garden, the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His crucifixion in Mark 14:38), He tells Peter, James and John, He says, "Watch and pray lest you fall into temptation because the Spirit is willing, but (what?) the flesh is weak." You better be watchful, you better guard your heart. The proverb says guard your heart for from it flow the springs of life. The knowledge of our depravity should cause us to be careful, to be watchful, to guard our hearts because we're capable of any sin.

It should increase our desire for and our pursuit of personal holiness. If I had time, I'd take you to Romans 7. And there, as Paul recounts the depravity of his own heart, he says listen, the very things I want to do, I don't do, and the things I want to do, I don't do. But you sense this struggle in his heart to do those things. His depravity as it were encourages the pursuit of holiness. That's not what he wants. And in chapter 8 of Romans, he lays down a path through the Spirit to personal holiness. The knowledge of our depravity should encourage our pursuit of personal holiness.

Number five, it should produce extreme gratitude for our coming deliverance. Turn to Romans 7. Let me just show you this text. Just one more and then I'll let you go. Romans 7:24. Paul says: "Wretched man that I am [boy, you know I find myself in that verse, don't you? Wretched man that I am]! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" [Verse 25, the knowledge of his depravity expresses gratitude to God.] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" [He says the victory is coming over my sinfulness. It's coming when Christ returns. I give great thanks to God for the reality that I'm going to be delivered from my depravity in complete and totalness.]

And our depravity finds its beachhead now in our bodies. We're a new person in Christ, but our depravity finds its beachhead in our unredeemed humanness which primarily is our bodies, but is not exclusively our bodies. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1, I believe it is, that we're to cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. So it affects both our material and immaterial part, but the reality of that creates a more intense longing for Christ's return and our ultimate salvation.

Look at Romans 8:23. He's just talked about the creation, but he says:

… we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons [that is], the redemption of our body. For in hope we've been saved, but hope that is [not] seen is not hope; for who hopes for that which he already sees?" [He says listen, we're hoping for it; it's coming]. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

He says listen, I can't wait to have the remaining part of my unredeemed humanness, that beachhead for my depravity, gone. If you're a true believer, that's what your depravity should encourage: a longing for Christ's return and to be made like Him. This is the backdrop for the amazing grace of God.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You that You make it plain - what we are before You without Christ, what every man and every woman is without Christ.

Father, we thank You, we praise You, we bless You for Your amazing grace. We deserve nothing but wrath and punishment and cursing, and yet You give us blessing and everything in Christ. Lord, teach us to have truly grateful hearts.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Systematic Theology