The Total Depravity of Man 1

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

Are unbelieving men spiritually sick? The most common answer is Yes. On the one hand, we can affirm this. But in other places, the Scripture strongly and clearly affirms that men are not only sick but dead in sin. The sick know that they are sick and desire to be healed, and will desire to eat to gain health. The dead does not care, he doesn’t know that he is dead, and won’t be able to respond to any outward stimulant.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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 2:1-5 ESV

We are dead in sin, that is why the language in the gospel of John is, you must be born again (John 3:3-5), which is possible only through the work of the Spirit (John 3:8).

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Malcolm Muggeridge


The doctrines of grace mean that salvation is all of grace. We do not merit it and we have no contribution to its accomplishment. This blog and the entire series can be summed up in this: SALVATION IS OF THE LORD (Jonah 2:9). Salvation is planned, purchased, and applied by God. Salvation is totally of God. To say that salvation is of free will is to blur the Creator-creature distinction and to make God’s sovereignty subordinate to man’s will.


The doctrines of grace in the first place come from the very pages of the Holy Scripture. The five points as we know them now come from the Canons of Dort during the 1600s.

It started when Jacobus Arminius started to preach and write against the core doctrines of the Christian faith. Even though he died in 1609, his followers drafted the five points against the Christian faith. In 1618, the synod of Dort responded and formally answered the Remonstrance resulting in the Canons of Dort.

John Calvin died in 1564, 54 years before the Canons of Dort. While others trace this back to John Calvin, these doctrines came from the Scriptures.


We study this doctrine to understand the Scripture better in its totality. We want to understand our condition and God’s provision of salvation in Christ. These doctrines are central to the Bible.

Anyone who learns those would be able to explain the Scripture and gospel to everyone through this doctrine. All Christians agree that salvation is by grace but not all understand what that means.

We study this doctrine to love the Scripture all the more. The better we understand the Bible’s teaching on salvation, the deeper we will love the Scripture and the Author of the Scripture.

Why are men depraved?

Men are depraved because of original sin. All men are conceived in sin. When Adam fell into sin, we fell with him as our federal head.

By original sin, we refer to the evil quality which characterizes man’s natural disposition and will. We call this original, because each fallen man is born with it, and because it is the origin of man’s actual transgressions.

R.L. Dabney

Men sin because they are sinners. Depraved is an older English word that means corrupt or crooked. All men are originally and morally depraved. But this is not how men are created. Men were originally created good (Ecc. 7:29)

The Baptist Catechism (1813) question # 21 referred to this:

Q. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it (Rom. 5:12, to the end; Eph. 2:123James 1:1415Mt. 15:19).

Original guilt

Rom 5:12  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—

Rom 5:18  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 

Adam is the federal head of all mankind. This is the imputed guilt of Adam. All men sinned in Adam. This does not mean that we sinned along with Adam, but that all sinned representatively in Adam. His guilt is imputed to all men upon conception. To say that this is unfair is to say that the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believers is also unfair.

Whoever denies this imputation must also deny the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the elect. As the imputation of Adam’s sin is by covenant relationship, so also is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the elect, because He, as the second Adam represents them in the Covenant of Grace.

G.H. Kersten

G.H. Kersten, the Late Minister of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation writes, Pollution [moral corruption] flows from guilt. the guilt comes first and the pollution of sin follows from the judicial imputation of Adam’s fall. And this allows us to maintain both that God creates the soul and yet it is corrupt as a punishment from God. Having breathed the soul into the little body, He withholds the original righteousness. To withhold original righteousness will result in original corruption or depravity.

Original Corruption

Psalms 51:5 ESV  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalms 58:3 ESV  The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

Romans 3:10-11 ESV  as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  11  no one understands; no one seeks for God.

As long as a baby is conceived, that baby is a sinner, morally corrupt and morally depraved.

Our confession affirms original guilt and original corruption,

They being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free. (1689 LBCF 6.3)

Why are men depraved?

The Creation of the soul – the body is created by natural generation and the soul is created by God immediately.

Ecc 12:7  and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 

The Corruption of the soul – The soul is made corrupt by God’s punishment because of its guilt. God does not create a corrupt soul. The soul that God created is good but God imputes Adam’s sin to the soul (Creationism contra Traducianism). This happens simultaneously. A soul becomes corrupt because of God’s punishment.

Pollution [moral corruption] flows from guilt. the guilt comes first and the pollution of sin follows from the judicial imputation of Adam’s fall. And this allows us to maintain both that God creates the soul and yet it is corrupt as a punishment from God. Having breathed the soul into the little body, He withholds the original righteousness. To withhold original righteousness will result in original corruption or depravity. ~ J.H. Kirsten

Personal Sin – persona or actual sin is the result of original sin. Nobody does good because everybody is a sinner (Mt 7:18-19).

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil,do proceed all actual transgressions. (1689 LBCF 6.4)

The guilt of personal sin. Regardless of when a man is held accountable for personal sin, we are all held accountable for original sin. In addition to original sin, men are responsible for personal sin when he sins.

Deu 1:39  And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. 

Jas 4:17  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. 

All personal and actual sin is the result of knowledge. This is what makes sin be a sin as transgressions of the law (1 John 3:4).

The degree of personal sin. Joh 19:11  Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

how are men depraved?

By calling it total, we do not mean that men are from their youth as bad as they can be. Nor do we mean that they have no social virtues towards their fellowmen in which they are sincere. But what we teach is, that by the fall man’s moral nature has undergone an utter change to sin, irreparable by himself. In this sense, it is complete, decisive, or total.

Robert Lewis Dabney

TOTAL. Man’s total being is infected by sin.

  • Mind. Rom 3:11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. Rom 8:7  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 
  • Heart. John 3:19  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. Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
  • Will. Pro 1:29  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD

NATIVE. Men are depraved from the womb. External wickedness does not make us wicked, it only draws wickedness out of us. There is enough wickedness in men given a proper context that will display all matter of actual sin.

UNIVERSAL. All men without exception are depraved. Every member of the human race is born with it.

To teach men that they possess the ability to turn from sin when they choose to do so is to hide the true extent of their need. ~ Iain H. Murray

So then, let “deserved” be written on the door of hell, but on the door of heaven and life, the free gift.

Richard Baxter

Understanding this doctrine revolutionizes our presentation of the gospel. We will not be inventing gimmicks and ways to make the gospel more attractive to men. We will all the more be faithful to proclaim the gospel since it is the power of God unto salvation.


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 1.

Dabney, R. (n.d.). The Five Points of Calvinism. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from

“The Doctrine of Sin” by Rev. G. H. Kersten. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2021, from

The Arminian Articles of Remonstrance. (2014, May 5). Mitchell Lewis.

The Canons of Dort |

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. (n.d.). The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

2 thoughts on “The Total Depravity of Man 1

  1. praising God for this brother! So timely! I have learned a lot from this and ended up, as always, praising God for His saving grace (for our guilt) that is sanctifying grace as well (for our corruption/pollution)–all in one Christ! Total depravity indeed is total dependence to the total grace of our total/only Savior! God bless–TJ

    Liked by 1 person

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