TOTAL DEPRAVITY

                                                                                 Psalms 14:1-3
                                                                                  Don Fortner

     "To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." – Psalms 14:1-3

     "The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’." You will notice that the words "there is" are italicized in the King James translation. That indicates that the translators added the words, to make the passage read more smoothly. However, in this case, the added words are a detriment rather than, help. The text should not read, "The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’," but simply, "The fool hath said in his heart, No, God," or "The fool hath said in his heart, No, to God."

     If David had said, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," that would be a direct contradiction of Paul's teaching in Romans 1 and 2. There the Apostle tells us plainly that there is no such thing as an atheist. There are many fools who would like to be atheists, and try to be. But all who claim to be atheists are liars. The Apostle Paul, writing by Divine inspiration, tells us that all men are born with a God consciousness from which they can never escape.

     So when David writes, "The fool hath said in his heart, No, God," or "No, to God," he is not suggesting that some men really are atheists. Not at all. David is telling us that all men are foolish rebels by nature, constantly shaking their fists in God's face and saying, "No, God!" Read Psalm 14:1-3 again. You will see that what I have said about David's opening statement in the Psalm fits the context in which it is found. – "The fool hath said in his heart, NO, GOD! They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one."

     In these three verses, the Holy Spirit describes the character and condition of all human beings by nature since the fall of Adam. Here are seven facts about the entire human race.

1. All human beings are, by nature, rebellious fools, fools for their rebellion, for man's rebellion is against God Almighty!

2. The whole human race is corrupt, abominable, and filthy before God.

3. We all became corrupt, abominable, and filthy at one time by Adam's one act of rebellion and treason against God.

4. We all, at one time, turned away from God. – In the fall of our father Adam we willfully, deliberately turned away from our God.

5. Because of Adam's sin and our sin in him, the entire human race has become totally ignorant of all things spiritual. – "There is none that understandeth!"

6. No one left to himself will ever truly seek the Lord. – "There is none that seeketh after God."

7. And no one has the ability to do anything that is good and acceptable before the holy Lord God. – "There is none that doeth good, no, not one."


     Thus the Spirit of God tells us that man is, by nature, a totally depraved, helpless, perishing creature. Holy Scripture teaches the doctrine of man's total depravity, from beginning to end, and teaches it so plainly that error concerning this doctrine is utterly inexcusable. We take our doctrine directly from the Word of God. I remind you again that the basis of our faith is the Word of God alone. We do not build our doctrine upon human opinion, reason, and logic, church tradition, historic creeds, confessions, and catechisms, or denominational history and tradition, but upon "Thus saith the LORD." All that we believe we believe because it is plainly stated in the Word of God. Does the Bible clearly and plainly teach that all the human race is totally depraved? I appeal to no authority except the Word of God. I want you to see and hear what God says in his Holy Word about this subject.

· Genesis 6:5 – "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

· Job 15:16 – "How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?"

· Psalms 51:5 – "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

· Psalms 58:3 – "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."

· Isaiah 1:4-6 – "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."

· Isaiah 53:6 – "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

· Jeremiah 13:23 – "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."

· Jeremiah 17:9 – "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

· Matthew 15:19-20 – "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."

· Romans 3:9-12 – "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."

· Romans 3:23 – "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"

· Romans 5:12 – "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"

· 1 Corinthians 2:14 – "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

· Ephesians 2:1-3 – "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

· John 3:19 – "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

     These fifteen passages of Holy Scripture are but a very few of the many, many statements in God's Word about the total depravity of the entire human race. They stand without comment, declaring that all men are by nature totally depraved. To deny what these texts declare is to deny the Word of God. To argue against the doctrine of Total Depravity is to be found fighting against God himself.

     This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture: – All human beings are, since the fall of Adam, born in a state of total depravity, lost, corrupt at heart, condemned under the curse of God's holy law, and utterly incapable of removing that curse or changing their condition. In fact, as we shall see, man's depravity is so thorough and complete that he cannot even make any contribution toward removing the curse of the law, or changing his condition. Fallen man cannot even make a move toward God, much less bring himself back to God!

     I want to be crystal clear in stating the doctrine of man's total depravity. Unless we have a clear understanding of man's utter depravity, we cannot have a clear understanding about any other gospel truth.


     Man, by nature, is a fallen creature (Eccles. 7:29). When the Lord God created our father Adam, things were far, far different from the way they are now. God created Adam in perfect righteousness. He had no original sin. He had no inclination or bias toward sin. God placed Adam in a perfectly sinless environment in the garden.

     By God's decree, Adam was the federal head and representative of the entire human race. God deals with all men in only two men: the first Adam and the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:22, 45-49). When the Lord put Adam in the Garden, whatever Adam did would be imputed to all who are in him by nature. If Adam obeyed God, his righteous obedience would be confirmed and imputed to all his children. If Adam disobeyed God and broke the covenant, his sin would be imputed to all his children.

     Our father, Adam, sinned against God, broke his covenant, and plunged himself and the entire human race into spiritual death, sin, and everlasting condemnation (Gen. 2:15-17; Rom. 5:12-19). That is what we have seen in the last three studies. Man by nature is a fallen creature. – "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."


     The Word of God plainly teaches us that all men, since the fall of Adam, are born with a decided bias toward evil, with an utter hatred of God (Mark 7:21-23; Rom. 8:7). Sin is not a social disease. It is not something a man has to learn, or be taught. It is not something we catch from others. Sin is the inbred family disease of our race. It is a matter of the heart. Because our hearts are evil, we do evil. The evil tendencies of our hearts are guarded, restrained, and kept in check by many things. But the seeds of evil are in our hearts by nature. This is what our Lord tells us. All men, regardless of age, actions, or social standing, are vile, loathsome, and corrupt at heart. This must be evidently true to any reasonable man. History tells us that man is a depraved creature.

     Who can read what men have done to men throughout history and even think about questioning the fact of man's depravity? Our daily newspapers tells you that man is depraved. Every newspaper in the world is a daily declaration of the fact that man is evil at heart. We see clear evidence of human depravity in our most darling children. What mother ever had to teach her child to lie, cheat, be selfish, or disobedient? Every man's conscience testifies of his depravity. Where is the man, or woman, who would want the world to know what he thinks? Every true believer has a constant painful reminder of human depravity in his own heart. Believers are a people who readily and painfully confess, "In my flesh dwelleth no good thing!" Man is not good, but evil at heart. This world is what it is because man is what he is, sinful, depraved, and vile.


     We are as utterly helpless as we are depraved. No one has the ability to save himself by his own works (Gal. 2:16). Loraine Boettner wrote: "This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that anyone is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself…What it does mean is that since the fall, man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation."

     It is impossible for anyone to be saved by works, because God demands perfection, and we cannot give it. God demands atonement, satisfaction for sin, but we cannot give it. We cannot change the principles of our heart. The very best that we do is marred by sin. Even in performing our best works, we are motivated and guided by the principles of a sinful heart, so that the very plowing of the wicked is an abomination to God, and our very righteousnesses are filthy rags in his sight. Even our holy things are full of evil (Pro. 21:4; Isa. 64:6; Ex. 28:38).


     According to the plain statements of Holy Scripture, no one has the will or the ability to come to Christ by faith (John 5:40; 6:44). This is the real issue at hand. Modern day religion, for the most part, professes to believe in original sin and total depravity. Very few people openly teach that man can save himself by his own works. Yet, most people do teach that man by nature does have the ability to come to Christ and be saved, that he has the ability in himself, by his own free-will, to believe on Christ.

     By such teachings, they make salvation to rest ultimately upon man's free-will. According to the commonly received heresy, man's free-will makes the blood of Christ effectual, man's free will controls the operations of God, and man's free-will determines who shall populate heaven.

     The Scriptures declare that man is not only morally depraved and sinful, but that he is also spiritually impotent, unwilling and incapable of coming to Christ by faith. The Lord Jesus Christ says, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40). "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). He also declares that if the Father draws a man, that man will come to him; and he says, "I will raise him up at the last day."

     In the Scriptures the idea of "Coming to Christ," simply means believing on him. C. H. Spurgeon said, "It is used to express those acts of the soul wherein, leaving at once our self-righteousness and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be our covering and his blood to be our atonement."

     Today we are told that coming to Christ is the easiest thing in all the world. But here our Lord himself tells us that – It is utterly and entirely impossible for any man to come to Christ, unless the Father draws him by effectual and irresistible grace. Man by nature is spiritually impotent, and helpless, utterly without strength. Indeed, man is altogether dead spiritually. Man's inability does not lie in any physical defect. Man's inability is not a lack of mental power. I am just as capable of believing on Christ mentally as I am of believing in Abraham Lincoln. The mind is just as capable of seeing the moral guilt of sin as it is of seeing the moral guilt of murder. Man's inability lies deep within his nature. A wolf cannot be domesticated and tamed into a trusted pet. A loving mother cannot stab her nursing baby to death. She has no ability to do so, because it is contrary to her nature. And no man can ever come to Christ of his own accord, because of the obstinancy of the human will.

     The Arminian, the will worshipper, cries, "Any man can be saved who will." That is certainly true. But that is not the issue. The issue is this, – Are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? The Son of God answers that question with an emphatic, "No!" The human will is so desperately set on evil, so thoroughly depraved, so inclined toward evil, and so disinclined toward good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible grace and call of God the Holy Spirit, no human being will ever come to Christ by faith.

     No man will ever, of his own accord, come to Christ, because his understanding is darkened (John 3:3). He cannot see the exceeding evil of his own heart. He cannot see the strict justice of God's law. He cannot see the glory of electing grace. He cannot see the glory of our Lord's incarnation. He cannot see the glory of Christ's obedience unto righteousness. He cannot see the glory of Christ's substitutionary redemption. He cannot see the glory of Christ's intercession.

     No man will ever, of his own accord, come to Christ, because his affections are corrupt. We love what we ought to hate. And we hate what we ought to love. "Men love darkness rather than light."

     No man will ever come to Christ of his own voluntary accord, without the power of God, because his conscience is depraved. Conscience may tell me that such and such a thing is wrong. But how wrong it is conscience does not know. The unenlightened conscience of man will never tell him that he deserves eternal damnation, that he must abhor himself, that he must have a perfect righteousness, or that he must have a perfect atonement.

     It is true that men will not, and it is true that man cannot, by their own power, come to Christ – "No man can come." Man by nature is dead, spiritually dead. Certainly, if words mean anything, that means that man is without any spiritual power or ability whatsoever. If it is true that the Holy Spirit only gives me a will to come to Christ, and that the power to come is mine, then certainly I would have a right to share in the glory of my salvation.

      Because man is guilty of sin, and because he sinfully refuses to believe on Christ, he remains under the wrath of God, and eternal damnation will be his just reward. But I cannot conclude this study with such a sad and gloomy picture. It is a terribly black scene that I have set before you. Man by nature is fallen. Our hearts are evil. Our works are evil. We are spiritually impotent. And we are justly condemned. But there is a bright ray of hope for such creatures as we are.


     The only hope for fallen, guilty, depraved, helpless, and vile sinners, such as we are, is the free and sovereign grace of God in Christ. If salvation depends in any measure upon you or me, all hope is gone. But since it is entirely the work of God's free and sovereign grace in Christ, there is hope even for fallen, helpless sinners. God says, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:15-16).

     This is what God does for sinners by his sovereign, eternal grace. He chose to save a great multitude from Adam's fallen race. He determined to save his elect people by the sacrifice of his Son. He sent his Son into the world to accomplish eternal redemption for us. He sends his Spirit to regenerate his chosen people and effectually call them to Christ in faith. He gives life to the dead. He convicts (convinces) chosen, redeemed sinners of sin pardoned, righteousness brought in, and judgment finished by the obedience and blood of Christ. He reveals Christ. He causes the awakened sinner, by the power of his irresistible grace, to come to Christ, saying,…

Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and thou alone.

     No man has any claim upon the grace of God. Any sinner who will come to Christ may freely come. All who come to Christ in true faith acknowledge most gladly that they were constrained to come. We who have been constrained by almighty, irresistible grace into the arms of Christ, do most gladly acknowledge and praise him for his matchless, free grace. The whole work of salvation, from start to finish, is due entirely to the grace of God.

All that I was, my sin, my guilt,
My death was all my own:
All that I am, I owe to Thee,
My gracious God, alone.
The evil of my former state
Was mine, and only mine:
The good in which I now rejoice
Is Thine, and only Thine.
The darkness of my former state,
The bondage - All was mine:
The light of life in which I walk,
The liberty is Thine.
The grace that made me feel my sin
It taught me to believe:
Then, in believing, peace I found,
And now I live, I live!
All that I am, even here on earth,
All that I hope to be,
When Jesus comes, and glory dawns,
I owe it, Lord, to Thee!

     In the light of these things, every believer rejoices to declare, "By the grace of God I am what I am…Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."  Amen.

Sovereign Potter