Total Depravity (or Total Corruption)

  • Unable to please.

Let’s take another look at what the Prophet Isaiah had to say about our righteous works.

Isa 64:6

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

we all shrivel up like a leaf,

and like the wind our sins sweep us away.


Does total depravity mean that man is incapable of doing any good or attempting to try to please God? No, man is capable of good behavior but his very best effort is in itself tainted by sin, and unable to please God. Consider Adam and Eve right after the fall.

They attempted to cover their sin with fig leaves that they made in order to hide their shame and stand before God, but were not able through their own efforts to provide a sufficient covering. This left God with one choice. After making a covering for them, God drove them out from His presence and barred them from entry back into the garden.

And as we have just seen in Gen 6, the condition of sinfulness is passed down from Adam and Eve to all of mankind.

  • No escape.

No one escapes the condition of total depravity. Even the little infant lying in his mother’s arms is totally corrupted by sin and its effects. That is why Psalm 14 says

Ps 14:3

3 All have turned aside,

they have together become corrupt;

there is no one who does good,

not even one.

Consider also Ps 51:5

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.


Paul the apostle reiterates psalm 14 in Romans 3:10.

  • Is it as bad as it sounds?

As much as I hate to say it, yes. The testimony of Scripture makes it perfectly clear that all of mankind apart from Jesus Christ is sinful and dead in their trespasses and sins, and so were we.

 Eph 2:1-2

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,2 inwhich you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.


Yet because of our sinful nature we tend to play down the idea that we are as bad as God’s word says we are. Why? Well remember what Jeremiah said in

Jer 17:9

9 The heart is deceitful above all things

and beyond cure.

Who can understand it?

The very deceitfulness of our own hearts will tell us that we are not as bad as scripture tells us. Indeed, God makes sure we understand how deprived  we are in this verse by adding that the deceitfulness of our heart is beyond cure!

So in order to truly see the depths of our sin, we have to have some kind of standard to measure it against. I believe the best standard of measurement is God himself.

Let’s look at God and His first and most important attribute.


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