Category: Sin, Word: DEPRAVITY
September 25, 2015 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64:6)
DEFINITION: Depravity means tendency toward evil. Everyone is naturally inclined away from loving God and toward self-centeredness. Humans are not as sinful as they can possibly be, but they are tainted by evil through and through.
No parent ever had to teach a child to misbehave. When we stop and think about it seriously, doing the wrong thing comes naturally to all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. All are born enslaved to sin. Paul used the language in Romans 6:17: “You used to be slaves of sin.” And “you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness” (Rom. 6:19). In Romans 7, he poignantly described the difficulty of indwelling sin: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18).
The biblical teaching on depravity is widely misunderstood. Scripture does not teach that all persons are as wicked as they can possibly be. Some are more deliberate in their acts of evil than others. Rather, depravity means that every part of the human person has been spoiled by sin. Our thinking processes have been distorted, our emotions are twisted, and we sometimes choose evil when we could choose good: “I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do” (Rom. 7:19).
Don’t some people want to do good? Hasn’t mankind achieved many positive things? Of course. Many acts of kindness and love are done by sinful human beings. Yet such deeds are based on mixed motives; they are not carried out supremely because of love for God and others. They fail to be complete because they “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Apart from God’s grace, all religion and altruism originate at best from the human imagination and impure affections and at worst from the Devil. This depravity was recognized as the cause for God sending the flood: “When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth” (Gen. 6:5-6).
Jeremiah noted how hard it is to be aware of one’s own interior motives: “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). The greatest of saints have confessed the struggle against depravity throughout their lives. The depth of sin and the inability of humans to change on their own means that salvation is possible only because of God’s loving grace rather than by any human merit or work. This teaching was summarized by the Latin phrase sola gratia (grace alone). This “theology of sin” was developed especially well in the Reformation era by those who found it in the writings of Augustine and Paul. This teaching is not to be confused with cynicism or fatalism. Rather we should be optimistic about God’s love for His creation and His power to accomplish the good He intends. He even uses unbelieving sinners as His agents for His glory and for the good of the saints.
REFLECTION: Why does the biblical teaching on “depravity” seem so out of sync with modern society? How do you explain the relationship between depravity and sola gratia?
PRAYER: Holy Lord, I know that my heart is so treacherous that I can’t truly understand it. Show me my heart and give me the will and power to change. I need Your grace so that I will love You truly and rejoice in obeying Your word. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.