The Total Depravity of Man 2

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The goal of this series is to magnify God’s grace and to humble man’s pride. 

This lesson: Moral Inability, is a consequence of Total Depravity. 

We recently learned the importance of Original Sin:

  • Original sin refers to the fact that all men are originally born as sinners.
  • This is because the guilt of Adam’s sin is charged to our account at conception, and the corruption of the souls is conveyed as a punishment of that sin 
  • Simply put, what happened to Adam when he sinned, happens to every member of his race at conception. Because of our sin and in Adam, we are all born in a fallen condition similar to Adam’s condition (Rom 5:12).

Because of Original Sin, we are morally unable to come to God. Moral Inability refers to the fact that man is unable to recover himself from his native condition.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44 ESV

This is a UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE- No one can come to me-it does not say. No one may come to me. This is not permission. All men are invited to Christ and commanded to come to Christ-the issue is ability.

The question now is this: why is man unable to come to Christ, unless the Father powerfully brings him?

Three answers (these are the direct result of Adam’s sin imputed to us and is true to all men):

  1. Man is dead
  2. Man is a slave
  3. Man is a rebel

Man is dead

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Ephesians 2:1 ESV

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Ephesians 4:18 ESV

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—
Romans 5:12 ESV

These passages do not only teach that we are dead in sin but also separated from the source of spiritual life, who is God. This is the true sense of being dead spiritually. God told Adam that in the day he ate of the fruit, he shall surely die. It refers to threefold death. First, immediately the process of dying started. Second, he immediately died spiritually. Lastly, he became deserving of eternal death. Romans 5:12 refers to the second death, which is spiritual death. 

remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Ephesians 2:12 ESV

Three Biblical assertions:

  1. Spiritual death doesn’t mean inactivity – spiritual death simply means man is dead with regards to God. (Eph 2:1-2 dead, yet walking). There is a sense that men are walking dead, spiritually. They are dead to God and alive to sin. 
  2. Spiritual death is separation from God – this is fundamentally what death means-it means separation. Rom 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. To be without strength is to be without life. Men by nature lack all spiritual strength.
  3. Spiritual death is a punishment for guilt – men are conceived spiritually dead and separated from God. The soul of man is conceived void of all spiritual life.

The remedy for spiritual death is resurrection, which is being born again. This is granting life to the spiritually dead soul. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved—Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV

Just as we died because of Adam’s transgression, we are made alive because of Christ’s obedience. 

Man is a Slave

The natural man is not only spiritually dead but also a spiritual and moral slave—unable to liberate himself.

Who is man a slave to?

Man is a slave to sin, Satan, and the world (and these go together) – slave os Stan, shackled by sin, and imprisoned within the prison of this world. 

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
John 8:34 ESV

and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:18 ESV

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
1 John 5:19 ESV

All men are caught in the snare of the devil and have been taken captive by him, to willingly do his will. All men by nature are unable to come to Christ for salvation because they are slaves of sin and Satan. 

Why is man a slave?

Man became a slave to sin and Satan, as a punishment for his sin in Adam(his head).

to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Acts 26:18 ESV

God’s remedy to man’s servitude is REDEMPTION. To redeem is to deliver by way of price or purchase. God redeems us by the blood of His Son, and thus delivers us from the slavery we were justly sold into. And so, the ransom that Christ pays for our redemption, is paid to God, not Satan, because our slavery was the result of God’s just punishment.


Man is a Rebel

This is the heart of man’s inability—the fundamental reason he’s not able to return to God through Christ is because he refuses to. Man is not only a dead slave, but he refuses to come to Christ to have life, and leave his servitude to sin and Satan.

Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
Proverbs 1:24 ESV

But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’
Luke 14:16-18 ESV

yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:40 ESV

But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Genesis 37:4 ESV

This is why man is not able to come—because he natively hates God and loves sin too much to forsake it. This is similar to the inability of man. Man cannot come to Christ because he loves his sin too much. This is similar to the inability of man—man cannot come to Christ because he loves his sin too much.

“It is the duty and responsibility of all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. But all men, in their willful blindness, plunge themselves into darkness and perdition. In other words, so-called “free will” is man’s problem, not his solution… only Divine mercy can save him (Rom 9:16, John 6:63, 65, 37).“

John Hendryx

Summary Statements

Man’s inability is moral, not natural. 

Man’s inability to come to Christ isn’t a physical obstruction. Man hates’ God. 

“If man did not love or obey God because he lacked the mental faculties to do so or was somehow physically restrained, then it would be unfair for God to hold him accountable-he would be a victim. Man’s inability is moral and stems from his hostility toward God. Man is unable to love God because he hates God. He is unable to obey God because He disdains his commands. He is unable to please God because he does not hold the glory and good pleasure of God to be a worthy goal. Man is not a victim but a culprit. He cannot because he will not.”

Paul Washer

Man acts in accord with his nature

This is the often-debated question about man’s will. By “will” is meant the faculty of choice in man. It’s possible to refer to the will as the chooser(selector). POINT: Man will always act in harmony with his nature—the mind and heart determine the will. This means a man will always choose that which he prefers. And so, while man is free to choose Christ, he never will, because he’s blind to his desperate need of Christ. 

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,

Proverbs 1:29 ESV

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
John 3:19-20 ESV

The will is always mindful of the bidding of the understanding, and in its own desires awaits the judgments of the understanding. ~ John Calvin

The sinner’s will is enslaved because it is in bondage to and is the servant of a depraved heart. – A.W. Pink

Man acts freely and not by force

MEANING—there is nothing external to man that compels him to act. Nobody forces man to act, he is in this sense free—man’s will is free in that nothing forces him to act. If God or Satan or the world forced man to act, then man could hardly be held accountable for his actions. But it’s in this sense that man’s will free it’s free to act in harmony to its own nature—it’s free to be itself.

The solution to rebellion is renovation. To renovate is to change our hearts, and to change our hearts is to make us willing to come. This means every person who comes to Christ does so willingly no one comes to Christ against their will. 

Common objections

#1 If man by nature is unable to come to God for salvation, why is he responsible for not coming? 

Man is responsible for repenting and believing. Men became depraved and unable because of men’s sin. Men became unable because of their own merit. Though man’s condition changed when they sinned, they are still responsible to do what God commands.

#2 If man by nature is unable to come to God for salvation, why does God command him to come?

The word of God does not address sinners like dead stones or beasts. God created man under his law, endued with moral and natural ability to obey His law. Men are rational creatures. Ability equals obligation. 


The law was not above man’s strength when he was possessed of original righteousness, though it be above man’s strength since he was stripped of original righteousness. The command was dated before man had contracted his impotency, when he had a power to keep it, as well as to break it. Had it been enjoined to man only after the fall, and not before, he might have had a better pretense to excuse himself, because of the impossibility of it; yet he would not have had sufficient excuse. since the impossibility did not result from the nature of the law, but from the corrupted nature of the creature. It “was weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), but it was promulgated when man had a strength proportioned to the commands of it.

Stephen Charnock (The Holiness of God).

The subsequent nature of man after the fall does not negate his obligation. The obligation remains intact. At the point of creation, ability and creation were equal. Even if men fell, this cannot change the original obligation. 


Obligation being thus founded upon the Creator’s gifts cannot be destroyed by any subsequent action of the creature. If he destroy his ability, he does not destroy his obligation. If man by his own voluntary action loses any or all of the talents entrusted to him, he cannot assign this loss as a reason why any or all the talents, together with usury, should not be demanded of him in the final settlement. 

W.G.T. SHEDD

This is perfectly captured by Heidelberg Catechism question # 9:

Q.But doesn’t God do man an injustice by requiring in his law what man is unable to do? 

A.No, God created man with the ability to keep the law. Man, however, at the instigation of the devil, in willful disobedience,

robbed himself and all his descendants of these gifts.

Man’s inability to restore what he owes to God, an inability brought upon himself, does not excuse man from paying the satisfaction due to justice; for the result of sin cannot excuse the sin itself.” 

(Anselm, Why the God-Man? 1.24)

“No one in his senses would think of calling the blind to look, the deaf to hear, or the dead to rise up and walk. But if the blindness results from the love of darkness rather than light, if the deafness is like the cobra which closes its ear to the charmer, and if the death consists in separation from God and absence of all desire after Him, there is nothing absurd or cruel in calling them to repent and believe.” 

Andrew Fuller

# 3 If man by nature is unable to come to God for salvation, how should he respond to the invitation?

All of these boil down to the need for regeneration and renovation. Man cannot because he will not. He is neither willing nor able to come. The desire to come to Christ from salvation is all of God’s grace. This makes man’s salvation dependent on the mercy of God alone. 

Do you now understand the problem of your heart? Are you now burdened that you are a rebel sinner before God? Do you now see that only Christ’s righteousness and blood can save you from your sins and the wrath to come? If that is the case, then God has shown you grace. You must come to Christ now and call upon Him that you may be saved. 

SOLI DEO GLORIA!


For Further Reading:

This is blog post is based on Covenant Reformed Seminary of Asia’s session on The Sovereignty of God and the Doctrines of Grace 1: Total Depravity 2: Moral Inability

Dabney, R. (n.d.). The Five Points of Calvinism. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from http://www.thecontinuingwitness.com/uploads/9/8/2/3/98238342/rld_the_five_points_of_calvinism.pdf

“The Doctrine of Sin” by Rev. G. H. Kersten. (n.d.). http://Www.the-Highway.com. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.the-highway.com/sin_Kersten.html

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. (n.d.). The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.the1689confession.com/

Moral Inability and Moral Obligation. | Monergism. (n.d.). http://Www.monergism.com. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://www.monergism.com/moral-inability-and-moral-obligation

This article was published by Jeff Chavez for Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite. Click on the link for the original source: https://hgcbcc.com/2021/11/11/the-total-depravity-of-man-2/

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez is a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ, husband of Gloryben, and father of Myrhh Abigail. One of the preachers and teachers at Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite.
Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez is a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ, husband of Gloryben, and father of Myrhh Abigail. One of the preachers and teachers at Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite.

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