(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/21/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Today, the Lord willing, I will be preaching a sermon on Total Depravity. Now someone might ask me if I'm starting a series on the "five points of Calvinism." My answer is NO on several fronts. First, I'm preaching a series on the book of Romans, not on five points of anything. Second, I'm not preaching the theories or doctrines that are man-made. Third, I'm preaching the Word of God. I'm preaching the gospel. I don't call myself a Calvinist, and I don't say that I'm preaching the five points of Calvinism. If this were merely Calvinism that I'm preaching, then I'm just preaching what some unregenerate man in the 16th century had to say about the Bible. Calvin didn't even believe the so-called "third point of Calvinism." We get accused a lot of believing that only Calvinists are saved. This is a false accusation. We believe that only those who believe the GOSPEL are saved. I couldn't care less if someone has ever heard of Calvin or the so-called "five points of Calvinism." That's not what I judge saved and lost by. I, and every other Christian, judges saved and lost by whether or not a person believes the GOSPEL. If he believes the GOSPEL, which also means that he believes that those who do not believe the gospel are lost, then it makes no difference if he's ever heard of Calvinism or the five points. That's not what we're all about. We're here to proclaim the GOSPEL, not Calvin. We are not here to convert people to CALVIN; we are here to convert people to the TRUTH. And when God regenerates a person, He immediately causes that person to believe the truth of the gospel. And the truth of the gospel is God's promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Since he believes the gospel, he believes that it is the work of Christ ALONE that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. He believes that the work of Christ ALONE ensures the salvation of everyone whom He represented. He will never believe in salvation conditioned on the sinner. Thus, a true Christian will NEVER, NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND, believe that it is the work of the sinner that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. That means that a true Christian will NEVER, NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND, believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception. Now the accusers pipe up and say, "See, you're making your judgment based on whether or not he believes Calvinism." And I reply, I am certainly not. I am making my judgment based on whether or not he believes the GOSPEL. And the atonement is at the very heart of the gospel. If someone believes that Jesus Christ's blood atoned for everyone without exception and yet some go to hell, we know that he does not believe the atonement of the gospel.
Okay, let's turn to Romans 3 and read verses 9 through 18:
Romans 3: (9) What then? Do we excel? Not at all! For we have charged both Jews and Greeks before, all [with] being under sin; (10) according as it has been written, [There is] not a righteous [one], not even one! (11) [There is] not [one] understanding; [there is] not [one] seeking God. (12) All turned away, [they] became worthless together, not [one is] doing goodness, not so much as one! (13) Their throat [is] a tomb being opened; they used deceit with their tongues; [the] poison of asps [is] under their lips; (14) whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness. (15) Their feet [are] swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery [are] in their way; (17) and they did not know a way of peace; (18) there is no fear of God before their eyes.
Last week, we saw that the Jews did have advantages. In verse 9, he asks the question, "Then do we Jews excel? Are we better than the Gentiles?" Paul answers a resounding NO, and he gives the reason for his answer. He says, "For we have charged both Jews and Greeks before, all with being under sin." Paul says here that what he has said up to this point has shown that the Jews and the Gentiles are no different in the eyes of God's law and justice. They are all judged by one standard. The Gentiles have been shown to be void of a righteousness that God requires, and the Jews have been shown to be void of a righteousness that God requires. They are all sinners, no matter who they are. If God were to judge everyone based on their own law-keeping, then EVERYONE, not just Gentiles but also Jews, would be condemned to hell. ALL are under sin. There are NONE who are righteous, not even a single one. In order for a person to be righteous, he must be a perfect law-keeper. NO ONE is a perfect law-keeper. ALL are sinners by nature.
Paul then goes on to prove the doctrine of total depravity from the Old Testament. In a nutshell, total depravity is the doctrine that every unregenerate person is corrupt. CORRUPT is the opposite of PURE. Now when most people hear words like "corrupt" and "depraved," what do they think of? They think of the outwardly morally bad people. They would say that terrorists like Osama bin Laden are depraved. Or they would say that child-molesters and perverts are depraved. They say, "Only a depraved mind would do this." But to be depraved is to be UNRIGHTEOUS! To be depraved is to lack perfect righteousness! Now it's for sure that Osama bin Laden and child-molesters and perverts are depraved. But so is EVERYONE who does not have a righteousness that equals God's righteousness! The moral Jews were JUST AS DEPRAVED as the immoral heathen! There's another aspect to depravity, and that is INABILITY. Those who do not have a righteousness that equals God's righteousness are TOTALLY UNABLE to produce that righteousness or to obtain that righteousness. And not only this, they are TOTALLY UNABLE to even believe the gospel wherein the only righteousness that God accepts is revealed! They CANNOT believe it! In fact, they HATE it!
Let's look at each of these quotes that Paul uses. First, "there is none that understands, there is not one that seeks after God." NONE THAT UNDERSTANDS. You'll see here that these are absolute terms. NONE means not one single unregenerate person. An unregenerate person DOES NOT and CANNOT understand the gospel wherein the righteousness of God is revealed. Notice that this involves the UNDERSTANDING. It is a matter of the MIND. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:
2 Corinthians 4: (3) But also if our gospel is being hidden, it has been hidden in those being lost, (4) in whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, [so that] the brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, [should] not dawn on them.
What is blinded in those being lost? It is the THOUGHTS of the MIND. They cannot UNDERSTAND. Turn to Isaiah 6:9-10:
Isaiah 6: (9) And He said, Go and say to this people, Hearing you hear, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know. (10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make his ears heavy, and shut his eyes, that he not see with his eyes, and hear with his ears, and understand with his heart, and turn back, and one heals him.
These people whom God hardens can outwardly HEAR the Word of God, but they do not UNDERSTAND it. They are blinded. Let's look at a couple passages that contrast the unregenerate with the regenerate. First, Daniel 12:10:
Daniel 12: (10) Many shall be purified and made white and tested. But the wicked shall do wickedly. And not one of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
Now over to Proverbs 28:5 to see how God contrasts believers and unbelievers:
Proverbs 28: (5) Evil men do not understand justice, but those seeking Jehovah understand all.
Plain as day, isn't it? And now for a description of a believer. Turn to Jeremiah 9:24:
Jeremiah 9: (24) But let him who glories glory in this, that [he] understands and knows Me, that I [am] Jehovah, doing kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth; for I delight in these, says Jehovah.
God's people are those who understand and know God, who does kindness, justice, and righteousness in the earth. They understand how God can be just and justifier at the same time. Unbelievers do not understand this. They might be able to give lip-service to it, but they will show that they do not truly understand it. Salvation is a matter of UNDERSTANDING. Now we've all heard the people who say, "He really is a brother in Christ, even though he doesn't understand the atonement." God's Word says if he doesn't UNDERSTAND, then he is LOST. If he doesn't UNDERSTAND that God is just to justify the ungodly based solely on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ, he is LOST. If he doesn't UNDERSTAND that Christ's work ensures the salvation of all whom He represented, he is LOST.
Back to Romans 3:11. The second part says, "there is not one that seeks after God." Here is another description of every lost sinner without exception. He DOES NOT and CANNOT seek after God. For some, this is ridiculous. They see lost people seeking after God all the time! There are even "seeker services" for those who are seeking after God but just haven't found him yet. But God says that there is not one single unregenerate person who seeks after God. Oh, they're seeking alright, but they're not seeking after the one true and living God. They are seeking a higher power that will tell them what they want to hear. They are seeking relief from their guilt. They are seeking anything and everything other than the one true and living God. Were they seeking the TRUE God, they would automatically realize that their own efforts form no part of the ground of their salvation, and they would automatically realize that it is the righteousness of Christ alone that is the only answer. But they won't seek THAT God, because that would mean that they would have to get off their pedestal of self, and that is something that they WILL NOT do.
In verse 12, it says, "All turned away." That is the opposite of seeking. Instead of going TOWARD the true and living God, they TURN AWAY from the true and living God and serve idols. They are so wrapped up in their self-righteousness that anything that would strip them of their righteousness is repugnant to them. They say to Christians, I love God, but not YOUR God. They will not have THIS God to reign over them. They REJECT the only way of salvation and rest in their works.
The next phrase is "they became worthless together." All unbelievers without exception are nothing but vanity and worthlessness. Their thoughts, their words, and their deeds are nothing but dung. Even all their acts of kindness and charity are worthless and fruit unto death. They are worth nothing more than fuel for the fire.
The last phrase of this sentence is "not one is doing goodness, not so much as one!" Nothing they do is good. It is all evil and wicked. None of it is pleasing to God. Doing good is TOTALLY outside of their reach. Again, many would point to the outward acts of morality and kindness and charity and generosity to try to dispute this. What they do not realize is that when one is in a STATE of unrighteousness, EVERY WORK is unrighteous! God said in Hebrews 11:6 that without FAITH it is impossible to please God. Thus, no one can be a God-pleaser unless he has been given the gift of faith. And faith is belief in the true God, the true Christ, and the true gospel. Atheists can be as nice as anyone you've ever met, but they can do nothing that is truly good. Universal atonement advocates can be zealous and diligent in their church-going and Bible study, but they can do nothing that is truly good. Works that come from a depraved mind, which is a mind that does not believe the gospel, are DEAD works. Turn over to Romans 8:7-8:
Romans 8: (7) because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it [be].
The unregenerate are at ENMITY with God, are TOTALLY UNABLE to be subject to the law of God, and are NOT ABLE to please God.
Back to Romans 3, this time verses 13 and 14. These verses talk about what comes out of the unregenerate person's MOUTH. The descriptions are so harsh that many of the self-righteous religionists would say that this is only talking about openly foul-mouthed liars. But this is a description of all unbelievers without exception, even those who come in the name of Christ. We saw some of this in the series on "What God Hates." Their mouths speak lies about God and His gospel. They deceive people into a false hope. They speak peace to those who bring a false gospel. They curse the true Christ by vomiting forth their blasphemy in the name of Christ and by treating the blood of Christ as nothing but a way to make it possible for everyone to be saved. They commit fornication with their mouths. They poison the minds of the simple. They speak great swelling words of vanity. They speak the lie of the Devil -- "You shall not surely die." By their fruit -- by what comes out of their mouths -- you shall know them.
Romans 3: (15) Their feet are swift to shed blood.
They are murderers of men's bodies and men's souls.
Romans 3: (16) Ruin and misery are in their way.
They are on the broad road that leads to destruction. There is a way that seems right to them, but the end is death. They dance happily on the way to hell, totally oblivious of their doom. And they lead others in the way of Satan.
Romans 3: (17) and they did not know a way of peace.
Even though they cry "peace, peace" and "peace and safety," they know no peace. They do not walk in the peace of resting in Christ alone; instead, they rest in their own works in a false peace. Not knowing the way of peace doesn't mean that they do not feel at peace. Many false religionists feel very much at peace and are totally certain that they will be accepted into heaven. Yet their peace is a false refuge. It is a refuge of lies. Turn to Isaiah 28:14-18:
Isaiah 28: (14) So hear the Word of Jehovah, scornful men, rulers of this people in Jerusalem. (15) Because you have said, We have cut a covenant with death; and, We have made a vision with Sheol, when the overwhelming rod passes through it will not come to us for we have made the lie our refuge, and we have hidden in falsehood. (16) So, the Lord Jehovah says this: Behold, I place in Zion a Stone for a foundation, a tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone, a sure Foundation; he who believes shall not hasten. (17) And I will lay justice for a line, and righteousness for a plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie; and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be covered; and your vision with Sheol shall not rise up. When the overwhelming whip passes through, then you shall be for a trampling to it.
Back to Romans 3, now verse 18:
Romans 3: (18) there is no fear of God before their eyes.
What does it mean to fear God? To fear God means to give Him the reverence and glory He deserves. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge." So if all unregenerate people do not fear God, what does that say of their knowledge? They have none. They do not reverence His Holy Name because they have no idea who God really is. Anyone who knows who God really is will reverence Him. Those who do not fear God do not believe that God is holy and will fellowship with nothing less than perfect righteousness. Those who do not fear God do not believe that God is just and must punish all sin and was completely satisfied when Christ was punished for the sins of His people. Those who do not fear God do not believe that God is a Savior who saves every single person He wants to save, which is every single person for whom Christ died. Those who do not fear God do not believe God's doctrine. It is a fitting end to a description of those who are totally depraved.
Jesus said in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless God the Father drags him. No sinner who is not irresistibly dragged to Christ has the ability to come to Christ. He hates God. He hates God's Christ and God's gospel. But when God drags one of His people to Himself, a miracle happens. The perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is charged to his account, and he is counted perfectly righteous in the eyes of God's law and justice. That person is given knowledge and understanding and belief of the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. That person repents from his dead works and evil deeds and loves God and His Christ and His gospel. He does things that are pleasing to God. He strives to obey God's law out of love for the one who has already made him perfectly holy. He makes his judgments based on the truth. He loves God's people and seeks fellowship with them.
Are you one of those who is still dead in his sins? Then we would like to be in contact with you. You can reach us in the same way a Christian can reach us. Perhaps God is using these sermons to providentially bring you to a point where He will give you an understanding of the gospel. If you continue in your unbelief, only an eternity in hell awaits you, because God's infinite holiness demands that all be punished eternally whose sins have not been paid for and who are not clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Believe in the true Christ, who accomplished salvation for everyone for whom He died. Repent of ever thinking that your salvation was based on yourself, including your faith or your repentance or your perseverance. It is Christ ALONE who saves. It is God ALONE who gets all the glory. Amen.