Lecture on the Fall of Man

Lecture on the Fall of Man

Introduction.

On July 8, 1741, a well-known preacher and theologian found himself in Enfield, Connecticut on a missionary tour.  That day he had chosen as his text Deuteronomy 32:35, “Their foot shall slide in due time.”  This was his introduction . . . (399-400).  The sermon was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; the preacher, one Jonathan Edwards.  What he vividly portrayed that day was the perilous condition of man before God as a consequence of the Fall; and when combined with his emphasis on the mercies of God, it was this that promoted what Edwards journaled as, “an immediate and general revival of religion throughout the place” (399).

The doctrine of the Fall of Man is one of the four most important doctrines in this day and age, along with that of God, Christ, and regeneration.  Significantly, these four doctrines have largely disappeared from much of the evangelical church, and the product is a Christless, powerless, man-centered theology.  It is this doctrine, the doctrine of the Fall, sin and total depravity, that is fundamental to a God-entranced, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life.  A man must first know his depravity before he will feel his need of Christ.  This is what the famed lines of John Newton’s Amazing Grace teach us: “Amazing grace!, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I was once lost but now I’m found; twas blind but now I see.”  We will not perceive grace to be so amazing until we know and feel that fact that we are spiritual wretches.

The Image of God and the Adamic Covenant.

Man created in the image of God: representation. To be in the image of God is to be in God’s likeness, to be a representative figure of the One whose image we bear.  In the NT, Caesar’s rule was denoted by his image being imprinted on the currency of the day.  So, as humanity was created in the image of God, our role was to reflect His sovereign rule over all the world.  When we looked at one another, we saw a reflection, a real representation of the King of kings, our Creator God.  The idea of representation is fundamental to all else that it means to be in the image and likeness of God.

Man created in the image of God: Knowledge, righteousness, true holiness, etc. In Ephesians 4:20-24 we read, “But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of the minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  And Colossians 3:10, “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  Both of these passages stand in stark contrast to the paganized lives of those living around these churches.  One aspect of regeneration and sanctification is our becoming more and more like what we were originally created to be: the image and representation of God in the world.  This “new self” is being renewed in knowledge, and bears the imprint of “true righteousness and holiness.”  So it seems that Adam was created with a sinless knowledge of God in which he walked in perfect conformity to the will and way of God.  This is what it means to be in the image of God, and consequently, to represent Him in the world.

Man created in the image of God: looking to Jesus. If we want to observe a pure humanity, we need not look any further than our Lord Jesus Christ.  As we go to the Gospels, the life that we see lived, the Person that we observe in those texts, is not just fully God, but fully man.  Now, the deity of Christ is a right emphasis; but not the exclusion of His full manhood.  Jesus lived His life under the law of God, suffering, being tempted, walking in perfect sinless, true righteousness and holiness, as a man.  Jesus is what it means to be fully human.  So it is said of Him that He was the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).  What then do we observe?  An insatiable yearning for God; perfect obedience to God; unending community with God; perfect service rendered unto man; perfect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  Christ is exemplary of true humanity.  Therefore, it is actually an indictment against a man when after making a mistake or excusing himself from sin he says, “Well, I am only human.”  What he is saying without knowing it is: “Well, I am only depraved humanity.”  For truly, for one to be fully human is to be like Christ – sinless.  Therefore, there is a sense in which sanctification, the progressive work of God in our lives by which we are being conformed to the image of Christ, is our becoming more and more fully human, which is to bear the image of God (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:17; 1 John 3:3).

Man created in the image of God: Community and Spirituality and Immortality. Three more things are to be included in the image of God: community and spirituality, and on account of both of these, immortality.  It is clear that human beings are communal beings.  We desire to have community with other human beings and we were created to have community with God.  Already, my son at the age of 8 weeks is quite the communal being.  He does not like to be left alone.  He desires his mommy or myself to be with him all of the time.  He loves to be held, touched, talked to.  He is communal.  It is important to notice that God did not leave Adam to the animals.  He gave him Eve, another human being with which to commune.  But ultimately, Adam and Eve were created to have fellowship with God.  This is most easily seen in the punishment of the Fall.  It was not simply that God cast them out of a place, the garden, but away from a Person, God.

Now we read in Genesis 2:7 that God “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”  Thus, man became not only a body, but a soul as well.  The divine breath was set in him that he might be a living creature.  So, Adam was a spiritual being.  Now on account of the nature of the divine breath, and the communal purpose for which he was created, it follows that Adam was an immortal being, one whose body and soul would live forever in the presence and fellowship of God.

Adamic Covenant. The way that God has chosen to relate to mankind is through a diatheke, a sovereignly implemented covenant wherein the stipulations of the covenant cannot be changed, or refuted by man successfully.  In the original creation, God entered into what is sometimes called the covenant of works or the Adamic covenant with Adam.   It is, in my opinion, irrefutable that this is so, for in Hosea 6:7, speaking of Israel, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.”  And in Romans 5:12-21, Adam is presented as the covenantal head of the entire human race, even as Christ is presented as the covenantal head of the regenerated human race.  It is on these bases that we are all guilty and stained in Adam; but washed and clothed in Christ’s righteousness upon repentance and faith.  Because they are our representatives in the covenants which they head, and insofar as we find union in them, so what they actualized is imputed to us, and we then actualize it for ourselves.

The parties of the covenant include God and Adam, and in Adam, all of his posterity.  The parties are not equals in the covenant.  God is the infinitely greater party, the King, the Creator, the Sovereign.  The stipulation of the covenant is perfect obedience to the Word of God (2:16-17).  The reward of the covenant is life, spiritual life, life with God, everlasting life.  Thus Paul in Romans 7:10 writes of “the very commandment that promised life” and in Galatians 3:12 (quoting Leviticus 18:5), “The one who does [the law] the live by them.”  Consequently, the punishment for disobedience to the stipulations of the covenant is death, physically, spiritually, eternally – it is the loss of life (and that in every way, and thus, the inability of man to resurrect himself is made plain – he is a dead man in every way).

The Adamic covenant is still operative in the lives of every unbeliever (Grudem, ST, 517-18), that is, every person apart from Christ.  How do we know this?  First, because Paul, again, speaks of perfect obedience to the law as that which brings life.  If a man were to obey God perfectly, his reward would be life.  However, Adam’s condition before the Fall, and His condition after the Fall, and thus, the condition which we receive from Adam, are completely different.  The stipulations, reward, and punishment of this covenant have not changed; the condition of man has changed, and because of this, it is impossible for any man to keep the law perfectly and so merit the reward of life.  Secondly, and built upon this, is that the wage of sin is still the same: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).  The punishment authored in Genesis 2 and enacted in Genesis 3 is still active.  When a man sins, he dies.

Now it needs to be said that our Savior lived under this covenant and kept it perfectly.  Jesus alone merited the reward of life.  Therefore, all who turn from sin and embrace Jesus as their only hope of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God, receive the reward of eternal life in Him.  The righteousness of Christ which He wielded under this covenant is imputed to us by faith, and thus, we have life.  Christ, our covenantal head, has won life for us!  Therefore, we see the folly of relying on works of the law as a Christian, indeed, for any man, for “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” (Gal 3:10).  It is not by our actual obedience that we gain life; it is by our trusting in the meritorious Person and Work of Christ alone that we gain life, for only Christ has merited the blessings of such a covenant, and thus, ended it and inaugurated a New Covenant for all who believe.

The Fall and Its Effects.

Joining a Prior Rebellion. Briefly, it should be noted that Adam’s Fall was preceded by an angelic Fall; in other words, Adam joined a prior rebellion in the spiritual realm.  The devil, as is obvious, is already a murderer and liar when he comes to Eve.  Adam’s Fall was a joining the ranks of the devils’s rebellion.  So 2 Peter 2:4, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.” And Jude 6, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.”  If we ask, what was their sin?, it seems that it was the sin of pride – leaving their proper dwelling, they “did not stay within their own position of authority,” which I think implies that they wanted something more, they desired to usurp God’s authority, to take God’s throne.  The angel whom Scripture calls the devil was the lead usurper.  His temptation of Adam and Eve was his attempt at destroying what God had made very good, and so to demonstrate what he thought to be his superiority.  He does not know that before he existed as an angel in the heavenly places, that God had already ordained it, and covenanted with Himself to work a great redemption for the display of His glory in all that He had created.  It is doubtful that he admits it to this very second, for he is utterly sinful, utterly prideful.

The Nature of the Fall: The Temptation and First Sin of Humanity. In the command of the Lord (Gen 2:16-17), Adam was given revelation by which he was made knowledgeable of God’s authority and uniqueness as God, and therefore, of his own place in God’s creation; furthermore, he learned in this what is true and what is right.  The temptations of the devil aimed successfully at challenging these realities and reorienting man’s center away from God and upon one’s self, and ultimately, to the devil.  Russell Moore mentions that from the time of Genesis 3, there are truly only two religions in all the world: true religion, that is, the worship of God through Christ by the Spirit; and false religion, which he calls, satanism, the worship of the devil.  Along these lines, Saint Augustine has said that there are only two great loves in all the world: the love of God and the love of self.  Jesus, in John 1, tabernacled among us that believers might become the children of God; and in John 8, speaking to inauthentic “believers” who did not love Christ and so proved themselves not to be the children of God, Jesus says, “you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (8:44).  To Jesus, you are either a child of God or a child of the devil.  These are the only two options for any man.

What we find precipitating in Genesis 3 is the origin of this great divide.  First, the devil challenges what God has declared to be the Truth.  “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  In other words, “what did God actually say?  Are you sure that this is the truth which God spoke?”  He continues to challenge the truth when he flatly tells a lie – “You will not surely die.”  In this he also moves to usurp what God has said is right, good, and beneficial for Adam and Eve – “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  In other words, “God has set restrictions upon you so that you may not be like Him; but this is the highest good; God doesn’t want you to have what is the highest good.  God is selfish!”  So he attacks what is right and proper, that God is unique, that man cannot be God, and that to attempt to be God is not the highest good, but the greatest sin, and consequently, deserving of the greatest punishment, even destruction.  Destruction is always the motivation of the devil.  He intends to murder Adam and Eve.  Now we also see that this time of temptation is not only a matter of the mind, what is true and right according to God, but a matter of all the senses.  The devil entices the desires – Eve “saw” that the tree was good for food; the desires which God had given to Adam and Eve were good when exercised in obedience to God, but the devil sets these desires upon improper objects, things that God has disallowed for our good; so it was a “delight to the eyes” and was promoted as that which would make one “wise”, when in truth it would cause death according to the word of God (2:16-17).  Now here we see that Adam and Eve decided what was true and right over against the command of the Lord, and so they set themselves at the center of their affections, they exalted themselves to the place of authority, they sought to be God, and so they fell, sinned, and died.  Satan tempted them to question what was true (and so prompted doubt), he inserted his own truth: that to eat what God had forbidden was life rather than death (confusing what was the highest evil with the highest good), and so setting the stage, making the fruit look nourishing (for the body), attractive (to the eyes/desires), and spiritually advantageous (for one’s being), for Adam and Eve to exalt themselves as God.  In so doing, they rejected God, payed homage to the devil, joined his rebellion, and made themselves the center of the universe.

So our first parents were stained immediately with sin, guilt, and shame.  Notice in Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”  Furthermore, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (3:8).  And still further, when questioned by God they proved their new allegiance, for as the devil accused God, that He was false (both in His revealed being and Word), wrong, and selfish in what He had commanded, so Adam accused not only Eve, but God as well, and Eve accused the devil; and neither one of them took responsibility for themselves; and why should they – they were gods in their own eyes now.  It is interesting that though they had contracted this sinful nature, they yet knew in some fashion that they needed to and wanted to hide from God – they knew that they were stained with sin; they knew that they were guilty before God, for unlike us they knew what it was to be without sin and guilt.

Sin Defined. Sin is Disobedience to God’s Word Which Usurps God’s Reign and Neglects to Give Him the Glory Due Him as Creator and Redeemer, the Wage of Which is Death Manifest as Satanic Adoption, and thus, Real and Spiritual Insanity/Irrationality, Perpetual Rebellion (a Grasping to be God), a Sinful Nature and thus Sinful Activity, Temporal and Final Condemnation, the Experience of Temporal and Final Fury and the Wrath of God, Physical Cessation of Life, and Eternal Punishment in Hell (God’s Righteousness Demands it, Rom 3:21-26), Apart from the Redeeming Work of the Triune God.  Thus the necessity of the Cross of Christ.

The Sinfulness of Sin.  Sin is exceedingly sinful.  One sin merits eternal punishment.  One sin merits eternal fury and wrath.  The sinfulness of sin is evidenced in the variety of terms used synonymously instead of it: iniquity, wickedness, injustice, transgression, evil, lawlessness, unrighteousness, rebelliousness, stiff-necked, hard-hearted, spoiled, stained, wrongdoing, etc.  Sin is exceedingly sinful because it demarcates the nature of a man, who and what he is at the core of his being – a sinner.  And because he is this by nature, he commits sin.  So Jesus, speaking of the devil, says, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  The devil sins because he is a pure sinner; he does actions of sin (and that always), because he is sin.  So there is a distinction to be made between sin, that is, the fountainhead of a man’s character, and sins, that is, the streams which flow from it.  Again, in Romans, it is “sin” that Paul presents as the reigning principle of our lives; and because we are enslaved to “sin”, we commit “sins” (Rom 6).  In Mark 7, Jesus teaches, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (7:20-22).  Therefore, a man lies because he is a liar at heart, at the core of who he is; he sins because he is a sinner, because he worships at the throne of King Sin.  Sin is exceedingly sinful, and every man is insatiably compelled to love it.  A man may not say, well yes, I have lied but that does not make me a sinner, for in fact, the reason he has lied is because that is exactly what he is by natural constitution; he cannot blame it on anything else, and there is no escape from it but the redeeming work of Christ and the regeneration of the old man, two things that he is naturally predisposed against.

Sin as Primary Problem Instead of Satan. I was listening to a sermon by John Piper in Romans 7 not too long ago and he made the point that the primary problem that any man faces is sin, not Satan.  He pointed out that in the book of Romans, Satan is not even mentioned until 16:20.  It is sin that takes the spotlight as enemy number one in the book of Romans.  One might even surmise, although it is speculative, that sin mastered Satan in his fall; indeed, that Satan is the foremost servant of sin.  It is true that the devil reigns over the current world order under the sovereign government of God, but sin reigns over him.  Sin is our primary problem.

The Effect of Sin: Death Manifest Physically, Spiritually, Eternally. That it is death which is the punishment of sin is plain in Scripture: “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17); “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezk 18:4); “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

Punishment as Physical Death. Adam and Eve would not have died had they only been obedient to God.  There disobedience brought on physical death.  Now one might say, “But they did not die, did they?”  And that it is true, at least not immediately.  However, it appears that they immediately began the process of aging by which they would inevitably perish.  When we read that Adam lived 930 years and then he died (Gen 5:5), we ought not to be in awe at the length of his life, but the brevity of it!  What is 930 years in light of eternity?  And as we see, Adam died.  Death is a most awkward reality.  We were not meant for it, to speak in an earthly way.  But Adam, and all of his posterity after him, died, and will die.  The author of Hebrews writes, “it has been appointed for man to die once, and then comes judgment” (9:27).  And it is not only the fact of death which is so terrible, but living in light of that fact which so haunts us.  We are consumed with our impending death, always wondering when it will be, or if that pain is any evidence on the matter.  It hovers over us like a shadow that taunts us.  This too, Adam and all of his posterity must deal with.  The fact that the body gives way is of no little importance in the Scriptures.  Now death acts as a prison on account of sin, but where sin is removed, the person cannot be held by death.  It is one of the reasons that the Son of God came in the likeness of sinful flesh, that being sinless and not able to be held by death, He might be the firstborn from the dead, and so blaze the path of bodily resurrection for both the just and the unjust, and particularly, for the just, unto everlasting life.  In this way He fulfilled the work of God prophesied in Isaiah 25.

Punishment as Spiritual Death. Adam and Eve, and all in Adam also died spiritually.  That is, as the apostle Paul so succinctly puts it, “you were dead in [your] sins and trespasses” (Eph 2:1).  There were two aspects of this spiritual death: inherited guilt or original guilt, and inherited corruption or original sin, also known as the doctrine of total depravity.

The doctrine of inherited guilt is taught most clearly in Romans 5:12-21.  The doctrine holds that just as the sin of Adam rendered him guilty before God and deserving of condemnation, so all men sinned in Adam and were imputed his guilt and are also deserving of just condemnation.  “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom 5:12), and “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Rom 5:18).  All men were in the loins of Adam, so to speak, when he sinned and brought guilt and condemnation upon himself.  And as we have seen, Adam, being the covenant head, stood as representative of the rest of humanity; therefore, God was just to impute the sin and guilt of Adam to the rest of his posterity.  It is hardly an argument to declare this unfair, for if such a doctrine of imputation seems unlikely to you, I do not know what you will make of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and justification in Him.  Even as you did not actually commit Adam’s sin, so you did not actually live a sinless life; thus, to reject the one as unfair, is to reject the very thing which is necessary for your salvation according to Romans 5:12-21.

The doctrine of inherited corruption is best known as the doctrine of total depravity.  Mankind has received from Adam a sinful nature whereby we are completely incapable of doing any spiritual good or anything spiritually pleasing before God apart from the saving work of Christ.  Jonathan Edwards puts in most vividly, “There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into Hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints.  There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of Hell.  There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of Hell fire.  These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. . . . sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable.  The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is life fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone” (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 402).

Now, amidst the bounty of that description, you may have noticed that one of his primary thoughts was that God restrains the sins of men, speaks to the sinful heart of man and tells it, “this far you may come and no further.”  What he is getting at is a helpful distinction between total depravity and utter depravity.  When one speaks of the doctrine of total depravity, one is not saying that man is as sinful as he possibly could be; that would be utter depravity.  Total depravity not only denotes the absolute inability of the sinner to do any spiritual good, it actually speaks to the common grace and mercy of God as well, as He, by what can only be described as sheer mercy, holds the sinner out of hell any moment longer.  Total depravity teaches us that we are spiritually bankrupt, that we have the full potential of being the chief of sinners, that we can do no good, nor merit spiritual life, nor make any decision for Christ or the glory of God, that we are dead spiritually, apart from the regenerating work of God the Spirit.  Were it not for God making us alive, we would live out all of our days without the first beat of any sort of heart for God.

Total depravity can be discussed upon three issues afforded us by God in the Scriptures.  Total depravity is, well, total.  Total depravity is universal.  Total depravity is natural.  Let’s take these one at a time.

Depravity is total.  To speak of depravity as being total is to confess according to the Scriptures that there is no area of our spiritual lives that have been left unaffected by the Fall, or uncorrupted by sin. It also refers to the biblical fact that the sinner never has one thought about committing sin for the sake of glorifying God; the sinner never has a single impulse for God; the principle of his life are hellish; he never has one ounce of love for God; all that he loves is in this world; all that he loves is sin; all that he loves is darkness; he would crucify Christ over and over and over again without sorrow or remorse; he is dead in his sins and trespasses.  There is no spiritual life in him – none.  His nature is evil.  He is a child of wrath by nature.  He is enslaved to sin and can do no more than sin.  It is impossible for him to save himself.  He cannot respond savingly to the overtures of the Gospel.

Scripture evidences: Gen 6:5, “The Lord 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.”  A part of, if not the whole of, wickedness as it is defined by God is “that every intention of the thoughts of [the sinners] heart was [is] only evil continually.”  It is the pervasiveness of wickedness that is prominent in the passage.  It is not some of our intentions, but every intention.  It is not just the intentions of our actions, but our thoughts also.  But it cannot be relegated to our thoughts alone, for it regards the thoughts of the heart, and out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks and the man acts.  It is not that our intentions are sometimes good, sometimes neutral, sometimes evil; but only evil.  And there is no respite from this depravity – it is only evil continually!

Another interesting passage that must be noted is 1 Cor 2:6-16.  The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit.  This refers to the noetic effects of sin, or the effect of sin on the mind.  Thus, it cannot be by mere intellect that one consents to the Gospel.  The natural man cannot accept the truth of God.  His disposition must be changed by God.

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer 13:23); “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer 17:9); “What father  you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:11-13)?  Now I put this verse in here to make a point: that a man may do earthly good and still be designated “evil” in nature.  The fact that a person may do some good work is related to the fact that they are still in the image of God, but it need not mean that a man is good in nature, or that he has done some spiritual good that is meritorious or pleasing to God.  He is still evil in nature.  He can do earthly good, and still be dead in his sins and trespasses.  “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8); “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb 11:6); “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23); “When you were slaves of sin” (Rom 6:20) and “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).  That one is a slave to sin should be noted due to the contemporary and historical infatuation with libertarian freedom.  No man is free in that sense.  No man is free like God is free.  Every man is a slave to one of two things: either sin or righteousness.  The unregenerate man makes free decisions every day, but they all take place according to the Genesis 6:5 paradigm.  He always does what he desires to do, but what he desires to do is always sinful.  So it is that the truth sets a man free!  Jesus sets a man free from his bondage to sin!  To this it is also written, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

Depravity is universal. By universal, it is intended to teach that what has been described above as total depravity is the universal condition of mankind apart from Christ.  There is no man, woman or child that this sinful nature and spiritual inability has not corrupted.  So Solomon in 2 Chronicles 6:36 says, “there is no one who does not sin.”  In Genesis 6:5, once more, Moses writes that the condition revealed was that of “man” in general.  In Psalm 14, David laments, “there is none who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (14:1-3).  The apostle Paul quotes as much and more in Romans 3:9-18, adding, “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” that is, with reference to the eyes of the entire human race.

Perhaps the beginning chapters of Genesis are most telling of the universality of this condition.  We see in Genesis 4, that the immediate children of Adam and Eve are those of the serpent.  In Genesis 5, Adam begot a son in his own image, which I take to mean more than just a repeat of Adam being in the image of God; I think it encourages us to see that, and the fact that Adam is clearly corrupted, and so too are his posterity.  In Genesis 6:5, then, the seed of the serpent has taken over the earth.  Every human being is the seed of the serpent.  Only one man is called righteous in all the earth – and that by grace – Noah.  And even after the flood, we see a repeat of Genesis 6:5 in Genesis 11, where once more the whole earth is consumed in wickedness.  In Genesis 18:22-19:29, there is only one righteous man in all of Sodom and Gomorrah: Lot – and that certainly by the grace of God.  So the deep-seatedness and universality of total depravity is proven.

Depravity is natural. That total depravity is natural is simply another way of saying that man is born in this hellish condition.  This was just evidenced in the instances of Cain, Seth (though he was righteous), and the posterity of Noah (the descendent of Adam as we all are) after the flood.  Upon this, David writes, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5); and “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (Ps 58:3); Jesus teaches Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh (and remember, “those who are in the flesh cannot please god” Rom 8:8), and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).  I believe this to be such an astounding verse.  By the first clause Jesus encapsulates the entire human race, for every man living is born one time and that birth is of the flesh and therefore spiritually dead.  This is the condition in which we are born.  Thus necessitated is the new birth by the Spirit whereby we become spiritual in the biblical sense of the word.

Punishment as Eternal Death. The last manifestation of death is the experience of God’s condemnation, fury and wrath both now and forevermore apart from Christ.

The sinner need not wait for the condemnation of God or the wrath of God to be upon him.  “Whoever does not believe is condemned already,” says Jesus, “because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God,” (John 3:18).  And, “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).  In Zechariah 3, it is interesting to note how it is that God refers to the high priest Joshua in His defense of Joshua against the devil, “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire” (Zech 3:2)?  This is a description of Joshua while he yet lived on this earth; and so it is of you and me also.  We were brands in the fire even while we lived.  But in Christ, we have become brands plucked out of the fire!  In Ephesians 2:3, Paul calls human beings “children of wrath by nature.”  Much of this contributes to the imagery of Jonathan Edwards once more speaking of the exceedingly unstable position of the man outside of Christ, “That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you.  There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is Hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of; there is nothing between you and Hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up. . . . Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock” (405).  This is the constant danger which the natural man finds himself in the midst of, suspended as it were by no certain mercy of God over Hell.

It is no coincidence that Jesus spoke of Hell more than any other person in the New Testament.  Two passages will suffice: the first, Mark 9:47-48, “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  Secondly, and maybe most vividly, Luke 16:19-31.  In this passage, Jesus casts a terrifying vision of an eternity in hell.  Of course, the book of Revelation grants us the notion of the “lake of fire” (20:10-14).  All of this teaches us that eternal death is the experience of the most horrible existence that anyone could ever imagine – but it is real; God has created it.  Every man who dies physically in his spiritual deadness will receive eternal death in Hell as his just reward.  Indeed, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31).

Oh, the grace of God in Christ; oh, the sweet mercies of our Savior; praise God for the purchase and application of His most blessed redemption.  I will never praise him enough.  Flee dear sinners, flee!, the wrath to come; be warned; turn and live; look to Christ, look to Christ, look to Christ, who drank the full cup of God’s wrath on account of the sin for which he died, who experienced the hell of it, that by repentance and faith you would not have to.  Embrace Christ, dear friends; and dear brothers and sisters, do praise God; do be mindful of our Savior’s love; and be moved to the highest affections for Him who died for you.

The Fall of Man Applied.

The knowledge of it is necessary unto salvation (Dagg, 157, 174).  The sinner must feel this, and feel his need of Christ.  He must consider himself in need of the Great Physician who came for the sick alone.  He must take the stance of tax collector before God who will not lift up his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and cried out, “God be merciful to me, the sinner.”

What becomes of our Gospel endeavor? If the Gospel is the only medicine for this condition, how earnest must we be in prayer and the enterprising for souls (see Grudem, 514).  “God, Be Merciful to Me.” Moreover, we must not comfort any sinner concerning the state of his soul before God.  Woe to us who would cry out, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

We ought to be discerning of our own lives and the lives of others. Having been made alive from the dead, the Christian knows the difference between the life he lives in Christ to God and that which he formerly lived to sin.  How easy it is to see, then, that the Christian life ought to be much different than that life lived by the natural man who is still in his sins.  And how discerning ought we to be, not only of our own lives, watching that we are walking in accord with Christ, but of the lives of our brothers and sisters, particularly if they have patterned sin in their lives and are not responding to Christian love in the form of discipline; for it is to the church the writer of Hebrews warns: “it is fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).  Let us also be sober about many who may be deceived, coming alongside them to help them discern the state of their soul, whether the principle of their life be hell or the Holy Spirit.

We must never doubt the depths of His grace and mercy in our own lives as those who have been plucked like brands out of the fire and set in Christ. Grace is observed to be most gracious when we remember how truly wretched we were apart from Christ.  In Christ, there is no end to this fountain of grace.  When you struggle with sin, dear Christian, you need only remember that there was a time when you did not know it; and so be turned to His saving grace, and it will be assuredly become your sanctifying grace as well.

Praise God, dear siblings, praise God for His sweet mercies and glorious grace in Christ. It is common for the biblical authors to point their intended audience back to their former state in order to bring the mercies of God upon them afresh.  So the Psalmist’s of Israel, and Paul, for example, in Ephesians 1-2:10.  In Christ, we have been made alive from the dead, and our eternal lot is with God; let us praise Him and give Him due thanks all of our days and forevermore.

Bibliography:

John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology, 138-74.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 439-53, 490-514.

Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 399-415.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 202-60.

Quotables:

“The love of God is dethroned from the heart, and therefore the grand principle of morality is wanting, and no true morality exists.  A total absence of that by which the actions should be controlled and directed, is total depravity” (Dagg, Manual of Theology, 153).

“Evil habits are formed by evil doing; and evil doing would not be, if there were no evil propensity.  Evil example would not everywhere exist, if human nature were not everywhere corrupt; and the tendency to follow evil example would not be so common, and so much to be guarded against, if it were not natural to man” (Dagg, 153).

“If any man thinks he has the power to be holy at will, let him try it, and he will find his mistake” (Dagg, 170).

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