>On Total Depravity: The Place to Start


We all have heard the altar call “Come to Jesus, come, just like you are. He loves you and accepts you. You are special to Him. Come, come to Him. He is waiting for you to come into His arms.”
This is what I heard every Sunday for 15 years. But is it real? Really, Jesus loves people just the way they are? If so, why then did He have to come and die on the cross and bear the guilt of many and bear the wrath of God on Himself?
This powerful doctrine of The Total Depravity of men,  is really the place to start in our relationship with God. This the place where we come before a Holy, Holy, Holy God and take off our shoes and fall to the ground. This is the doctrine that humbles me the most and draws me close to Jesus, my Mediator; because it was because of my total depravity, my total inability that I had no hope except that He called my name and gave me life.
What is Total Depravity?
It means that my whole being is corrupted by sin, and that “corruption extends to every part of man, his body and soul; sin has affected all (the totality) of man’s faculties -his mind, will, etc.” [1]
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Romans 3:10-18 ESV)
As a result of this corruption, all men and women are incapable of drawing close to God They simply don’t want to come, they are, instead, fugitives. They are desperately running away from Him. No man, no woman, no child seeks God. But you might say, I have seen people, lost people seeking after God. The reality is that people do not seek God, they seek only the benefits, the blessings that come from God: health, prosperity, peace, joy, a healthy marriage, a way out of debts, hope, etc.
“The unregenerate man is dead, and his will is enslaved to his evil nature” [2] How true! This is where we see that God cannot accept men as they are. They need to be dragged by God into the light, they need to be born again.
Don Fortner says,
You will never seek the mercy and grace of God in Christ
until you are convinced of your sin, convinced that you
are without excuse, and convinced that you are personally
guilty before the holy Lord God.
We are, everyone of us, and every one of our children,
sinners, corrupt at heart, corrupt by nature, corrupt by
choice, and corrupt by practice. So vile, so corrupt
are we, that the thoughts of the human heart are only evil
continually (Gen. 6:5; Matt. 15:19-20).
So evil are we that we cannot and will not do good. If you
die without Christ, this is what you shall be forever in hell.
There will be no changes on the other side of the grave.
Whatever else hell may be, it is a place of ever-increasing
torment, blackness, darkness, corruption, and burning lusts,
without satisfaction. This is called “Total Depravity.”
We are depraved, spiritually dead sinners by nature, incapable
of changing our condition, or even wishing to change it.
Man is so depraved that it is utterly impossible for him ever
to escape the wrath of God, if left to himself.
But, blessed be God, that which is impossible with men is
possible with God! By the work of his sovereign, free,
distinguishing, effectual grace, some men and women are
made new creatures in Christ. May God be pleased to do
for you and me what we cannot do for ourselves.
Oh, may God be pleased to save us from ourselves,
for Christ’s sake!
When I see this, when I see that before regeneration I was dead (yes, dead, 100% dead) and God came and gave me life, when the only thing I deserved was hell, His grace grows and I am left undone.
When our relationship with God starts here, then we are always in awe of His grace; every single minute we remember that we did not deserve His saving grace yet, He came and gave us life, eternal life.
John Newton reminds us “that no doctrines or means can change the heart, or produce a gracious conversation, without the efficacious power of Almighty grace.”  [3]
So, it is my prayer that through Grace, through the efficacious power of the Almighty grace,  you may be called to repentance and fall to your knees before the Cross where your sins can be washed away and your nakedness will be covered with a robe of Righteousness.
Soli Deo Gloria


[1] The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented by Steele, Thomas and Quinn p. 19
[2] ibid. p. 19
[3] Via Grace Gems 

An excellent article which expands on this matter is one entitled A Jealous Love by Tim Challies. I highly recommend it to you.

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13 thoughts on “>On Total Depravity: The Place to Start

  1. >That article was a great reminder of who we are in Christ – what a blessing to be in Him, chosen by Him, loved by Him. It is amazing to be in Him by His choosing! To God be the Glory forever and ever!-christina lum


  2. >This IS the place to start. Once we realize we enter this world dead on arrival then we see our need to be saved, made alive! I don't see how the Gospel makes any sense apart from this Doctrine. Thank you for this wonderful post!


  3. >For me, my whole understanding of God's sovereignty in salvation began when I realized my complete and utter depravity. I was dead in my sin yet because of the great love with which He loved me, He made me alive in Christ, not by works but by His overwhelming, amazing grace! Glory to God!


  4. >"When I see this, when I see that before regeneration I was dead (yes, dead, 100% dead) and God came and gave me life, when the only thing I deserved was hell, His grace grows and I am left undone." The only starting point, it is true. The seriousness of sin, and our predicament before a Holy God, simply gets passed over with so much non-speak such as the altar call you outlined above, as the church makes its starting point man and how to build up his esteem! NO!!! WE MUST START with a Holy God!!!Thanks for this post, Becky. Bless you.


  5. >We are traveling on the same course of study today my friend. This was so good to read and I will be "borrowing" some of your thoughts for my upcoming lesson on the holiness of God. I haven't heard of Don Fortner- thank you for introducing him. I think one reason people struggle with Limited Atonement so much is because they never really quite got Total Depravity.Good words sister!


  6. >Thank you Becky for making this doctrine clear. I heard Dr. R. C. Sproul teach on this at a Ligonier conference that my husband and I attended. We are currently teaching the Westminster Shorter Catechism in our Sunday School class so we had an opportunity to share the truth of this from God's Word.How humbling to know that God reached down and raised us up from death to life through Christ. We could not do it ourselves! Thank you for faithful proclamation of this truth!


  7. >Wonderful overview my friend! You did a fabulous job! When we talk about total depravity, I think we are, at heart, dealing with the fundamental issue of human nature. What we believe about mankind will have a direct impact on how we, as Christians, understand our own salvation. If we think man is "well" then we will not see our need for the gospel. If we think man is "sick" then we will think we had a part in our salvation. But, if we see ourselves, as scripture teaches, as radically depraved and dead, then and only then can we appreciate how God graciously intervened when we were dead in our transgressions. By grace we have been saved! Posting to my FB! Thank you for this article! I love it — and you, too!!! xoxoxo


  8. >Thank you for sharing this, Becky. I'm a newcomer to Reformed doctrine, and can completely related to this post (especially the first part).I read this on a near-by church's website today. Although it's not my church, it accurately sums up what I've been taught as well.Although every person has tremendous potential for good, all of us are marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” This attitude separates people from God and causes many problems in life.Why do we believe this? Is it because it's easier to believe than the truth…that apart from Him we can do nothing? I'm so grateful for this series, and the like-minded sisters in Christ I am finding. It's been a tremendous blessing to me.


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