Whether you want to call it brokenness, radical corruptness, fallenness, or total depravity, the Bible affirms our total sinfulness. We may want to avoid the above labels, but we must embrace what the Bible clearly communicates. To shy away from Scripture’s teaching on our sinfulness is to ignore clear biblical truth.
Please note that this is not exhaustive, just a summary. Also, my goal is not to try to align with any certain belief system, but to help us understand the Bible’s teaching on the topic of how sin affects us.
How Does the Bible teach this?
1- Our Condition
Romans 3 is a key passage on this reality. What does Romans 3 tell us?
- There is none who understands
- There is none righteous
- There is none who seeks after God
- There is none good
- There is no one who fears God
- All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory
- In addition, our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)
To better understand the above reality we must understand that sin resulted in death (Genesis 2:16-17). As a result of Adam’s sin, we have all inherited a sin nature. Romans 5:12 states that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Jesus said in John 3:5-7 that because of our spiritual deadness, one must be “born again” in order to receive eternal life. Our condition, apart from Christ, is one of death.
Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 drives home this same concept by stating very clearly that, “we are dead in our sins.” We are not spiritually sick. We are not on spiritual life support. We do not need spiritual assistance. We are spiritually dead, unable to remedy our deadness. We are unable to give ourselves life.
In Psalm 51:5 David stresses the totality of our sinfulness by stating, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is not just something we do, it is who we are – to the core.
2- Our Inability
The Bible clearly speaks of inability. Jeremiah uses a perfect analogy in Jeremiah 13:23. “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” Do you see what he is saying? You can’t change yourself. You are unable.
John 6:44 states that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. It doesn’t say that he won’t come, but that he can’t come. Verse 65 of the same chapter reiterates that same truth. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
In Romans 3:11 Paul says that there is none who seek after God. Why? Because they are unable to, in and of themselves.
To further understand our inability, we must understand that we are slaves to sin and to Satan. This also is something about which the Bible is clear. Peter in 2 Peter 2:19 says that “they themselves are slaves of corruption.” John 8:34 states that, “Whoever practices sin is a slave to sin.” John 8:44 states that we “are of our father, the Devil and will do his desires.” 1 John 5:19 shows us that the whole earth lies under the power of the evil one. In Titus 3:3 Paul is describing life before Christ. He states that we were “slaves to passions.”
This clearly speaks to our inability.
3- The Extent of our Sinfulness
Our Mind– In Romans 1:28 Paul says that “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Paul continues this idea in I Corinthians 2:14 by saying that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Did you catch what Paul said? The natural person – the unconverted person – is unable to understand the things of God. Why? The natural mind is debased, completely affected by sin.
Romans 3:11 states that there is “none who understands.” Ephesians 4:18 says that our understanding is darkened. In Titus 1:15 Paul says that the mind of the unbelieving is defiled. In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul describes unbelievers who are “always learning but unable to arrive at the knowledge of truth.” Romans 1:28 says that sinners do not retain God in their knowledge. Paul, in Romans 8:5 states that, “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.”
The overall idea of all of these verses is that our minds have been completely affected by sin.
Our Heart– Our hearts are the center of our emotions, affections, and desires. Jeremiah states that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful. Our emotional center is completely affected by sin. Our desires, our affections, and our inclinations are all driven by our sinfulness.
In John 3:19 Jesus said that people love the darkness rather than light. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:3 states that “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live.”
God looked on the hearts of man in Genesis 6:5 and concluded that, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 8:21 says that, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
Our hearts is not just affected by sin; it is sinful – completely sinful.
Our Will– John 8:44 states, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” Since sin has affected your will, the desire of your will is to live in obedience to the devil.
This is also seen in John 1:12-13. John says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Did you see it? Those who are saved are saved not as a result of their will, but of God’s will. Why? Because our will has been completely affected by sin.
Romans 8:7 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Apart from God you cannot ‘will’ your mind to submit to God.
Closing Thoughts- No Reason to Boast
If we could come to understand Truth on our own, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could come to love God on our own, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could set ourselves free from the slavery to sin on our own, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could change our affections on our own, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could reshape our wills on our own, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could make ourselves alive, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could change the affections of our heart on our own, we would have something about which to boast.
If our human emotions, affections, and desires led us to God, we would have something about which to boast.
If we could make the first move toward God, we would have something about which to boast.
The truth is that all aspects of who we are have been so affected by sin that we are unable to do anything to remedy our deadness. Our sinful minds, sinful hearts, and sinful wills cause us to run from God, not to him.
Those who reject the idea of their total sinfulness, do so as a result of their total sinfulness. Our only hope is God’s saving grace.