Posted by Mark Herzer

Basic Reformed Theology 2

The Bible teaches that man is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13) and therefore man is spiritually dead and resistant to the things of God. RT calls this “total depravity.” The origin of many theological errors can be found in one’s understanding of man’s fallen condition.  

Original Sin

Adam, who served as the representative (by God’s appointment our “federal head”) for all of humanity, sinned (Rom. 5:12-21).  Adam’s sin (the Fall) led to what we call “original sin” (the effects of the Fall in our nature). All of us have been affected by the Fall and we all inherited “original sin.” This sin brought death (Rom. 5:12) and pervaded our nature. 

None of us come into the world with a clean untainted nature; we are born in sin, “estranged from the womb” and we “go astray from birth” (Ps. 58:3). David says he was “brought forth in iniquity” (Ps. 51:5). That means babies are not born innocent but tainted with sin.  Everybody sins because everyone was born in sin: “for there is no man who does not sin” (2 Chron. 6:36) because “no man living is righteous before” God (Ps. 143:2). 

Pervasive Sinfulness

Man is not simply morally crippled but pervasively sinful. All his faculties have been affected by sin. Rom. 3:9-18 poignantly proves this. The passage simply states that we are “all under sin” (v. 9). Sin dominates man. Verse 10 teaches forthrightly that “none is righteous, no, not one.” Verse 11 states that “no one” really understands God. In fact, he does not seek Him (v. 11b). Man does not know God rightly and therefore does not understand Him (cf. 1:21, 22). Man has turned aside and refused to do good before God (v. 12; cf. 1:23, 25). 

Verses 13-18 depict man’s pervasive evil. It is a poetic way of saying that from head to toe, he is full of sin. Man uses his throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, and eyes against God’s way: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (3:18). Paul did not go and show how every inch is covered with sin but has demonstrated by the language of the text that man is pervasively and resolutely “under sin.”

Ecc. 9:3 states that “the hearts of men are full of evil” while Jeremiah declares that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt” (Jer. 17:9). Early in man’s history, God saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). 

We tend towards evil and not the good. There is a futility or vanity in our minds (Eph. 4:17) since we have a “darkened” understanding and a “hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18). Man is “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In fact, we are slaves to sin: “every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” (Jn. 8:34). 

Opposed to God and the Gospel

Man suppresses the truth about God in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18ff.) and are in fact spiritually “dead in our trespasses” (Col. 2:13; Eph. 1:1, 5).  We are “by nature children of [God’s] wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Man actually follows “the prince of the power the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2; cf. Jn. 8:44; 2Tim. 2:26). We are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18) and our minds remain “hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7). 

That means when it comes to spiritual truth, we won’t accept it and are unable to: “The natural person does not acceptthe things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them…” (1 Cor. 2:14). Man, whose mind is set on the flesh, “does not submit to God’s law” and is unable to submit to it (Rom. 8:7).  The gospel is “folly” to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 1:18). 

The god of this world, the devil prevents people from understanding the gospel: “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2Cor. 4:4). He steals the Word from people’s hearts: “the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in the heart” (Mt. 13:19). 

Gospel preaching is to “open” the eyes of unbelievers “so that they many turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). 

Some Implications

Everything that a man does is tainted by sin. Though we are not all equally sinful, all of us have been affected by sin in every aspect of our persons. Nothing we do escapes the taint of sin. We can never please God in and of ourselves. 

Man may perform some “civil” good and may be restrained from sinning as he would (like Abimelech in Gen. 20:6) but he cannot escape the fact he continues under the power of sin.

Man is spiritually dead. Dead people cannot respond to the gospel. Unless the Lord works in the heart, the unbeliever will reject the gospel every single time (100%).

Man is spiritually blind (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:9,14). He cannot appreciate, love, believe, and accept the gospel. He sees nothing in it. The god of this world has blinded him.

Man’s will is not free. Man being enslaved to sin (Jn. 8:34) can freely act only according to his nature. His will expresses his nature and therefore, being dead in sin and hostile towards God, it will always oppose and refuse God: “being captured by him [the devil] to do his will” (2Tim. 2:26).

Man does not seek God (Rom. 3:11), is not able to submit to Him (Rom. 8:7), and is considered a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3)— man is a rebel. If a million years were added to us and a million opportunities offered to us to turn from our sins and to believe in Christ, we would never repent and believe because of our sinful condition.


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