When we describe man’s sinfulness as depravity, we are not just saying that he is bad or wicked, but that he is rebelliously and deliberately evil, that he loves and delights in wickedness of every kind. He is not just passively overcome by sin but actively and willingly uses his strength, ability, and gifts to sin.
The truth, then, is that men are very wicked, much more wicked than they themselves would ever admit. Nor is this wickedness incidental, but deeply imbedded in what a man is, what we call his “nature.” In other words, his depravity is not something he has learned or that is the result of his environment, but he is by nature wicked. He does not just do evil but IS evil. He is conceived and born a sinner.
Gen. 5:5: “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.”
Notice the emphasis on the totality of man’s depravity. When Scripture says that man’s wickedness is “great,” it explains this to mean “total” (“every imagination… only evil continually”). This is God’s own judgment of man’s condition (“God saw”). It may not be our judgment, and we may not agree with it, but that makes no difference.
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.”
It is as impossible for man, in his own strength, to do any good as it is for him to change the color of his skin. That is the truth of total depravity—not just that man does not do good, but that he cannot. Thus, the passage teaches us that man’s depravity is NATURAL to him. He is born depraved in the same way that a leopard is born spotted, and an Ethiopian black.
Jeremiah 17: 9, 10: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD searcheth the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
With these words God asserts His right as judge and gives His judgment, telling us that our depravity does not merely consist in outwardly wicked actions, but that is a matter of our hearts. Because our hearts are the fountain of all our life (Prov. 4:23), and because that fountain itself is impure, it is impossible that anything clean or good should come forth from it. Because man’s heart is “desperately wicked,” his “ways” and his “fruits” will also be found wicked.
Galatians 3:22: “But the Scripture hath concluded ALL under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”
This is New Testament proof that sin is slavery, that depravity is total in the sense that it is true of all men, and that this is not our judgment of ourselves and others, but Scripture’s judgment.
…The doctrine of total depravity is never preached apart from the other doctrines of grace. Those doctrines of grace and salvation are God’s remedy for our depravity and bring us all joy.
The divine “diagnosis” of total depravity must precede the application of the proper remedy to the sinner. Without such a correct diagnosis, the remedy will never be recognized or received. The Scriptures themselves show this. In Luke 5:32 Jesus says, “I came not to call the righteous [that is, those who think that they are righteous], but sinners [that is, those who know themselves to be sinners] to repentance. The parable of the Pharisee and the publican was specifically addressed to “certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). In that parable the man who acknowledged himself a sinner went home justified. The Pharisee, who did know himself to be totally depraved, did not.
A close relationship exists between this first point and the other four points. There are those who call themselves three- or four-point Calvinists and even hold to some degree to these truths, but in the end, because these five truths are so closely interwoven with each other, it is impossible to maintain any of them consistently without maintaining them all.
The relationship is this: the doctrine of total depravity makes sovereign grace the only possible way of salvation. It requires an ELECTION that is unconditional, not depending on man’s work or worthiness; an ATONEMENT that does not just make salvation possible for all men, but actually saves those whom God has chosen; and a GRACE that is so powerful as to be utterly irresistible and that saves to the uttermost those who receive it, so that they are preserved and do PERSEVERE to the end.
Saved By Grace, pp. 29-30, 33, 35, 39, 46, 56