It is so important to understand what the Bible teaches about sin. If we do not understand the disease, we cannot know how to treat it! One of the definitions of sin in the Bible is: “Sin is _________________________” (1 John 3:4). But sin is not only the actions, speech and thoughts that we have that are against God’s law. Note what Jesus teaches as to where all these sinful things come from: “For _________________ come evil thoughts, murder, …” (Matthew 15:19). The “heart” is our inner self out of which all comes. There is something wrong with our heart. Jeremiah says of the heart that it “is _________________________________________, ______________________” (17:9). Paul writes of the Gentiles that they have no understanding and are ignorant “due to ________________________” (Ephesians 4:18). So sin is a condition, a character, an attitude, man’s nature. Jesus likens the heart to a treasure box (Matthew 12:35). How a person lives depends on the character of his heart. Men and women not only do acts of sin, they are sinners by nature (see Ephesians 2:3).
Depravity = moral corruption. When we say this depravity is “total” we do not mean that man is as sinful as he can be, but that sin has spread to every faculty of his being and has seriously affected him. As a result everything that men do by nature is sinful and not good in God’s sight. Paul makes a universal conclusion about all men and all they do that “no one does _____ , _____
________” (Romans 3:11). No thought, no emotion, no word spoken, no action, is acceptable to God . Even our very best acts are polluted by sin (Isaiah 64:6, see Philippians 3:4-8). As a drop of poison makes the whole drink poisonous, so sin makes all corrupt and repulsive to God.
Not only are all actions sinful, but as a result by nature we are totally unable to do anything spiritually good which is acceptable to God. Note the following Biblical evidence:
(1) Clear statements. What things are impossible, according to the following passages?
John 3:3,5 ______________________ (unless born of water/Spirit)
John 6:44,65 ______________________ (unless the Father draws)
Romans 8:7 ______________________ (to the mind that is set on the flesh)
Romans 8:8 ______________________ (to those who are in the flesh)
1 Corinthians 2:14 ______________________ (to the unspiritual = without Spirit)
Hebrews 11:6 ______________________ (without faith)
(2) Word pictures. What word describes total inability in the following passages?
John 8:34, Romans 6:16-17, Titus 3:3 _____________
Ephesians 2:1,5, Colossians 2:13, 1 Timothy 5:6 _____________
John 9:40, 12:40, 2 Corinthians 4:4 _____________
Slaves have no power to free themselves – the master, or someone more powerful, must give the freedom. Those who are dead have no power to make themselves alive – only someone who has power over death can. The blind, like Bartimaeus depend upon another to open their eyes.
Our 1689 Confession of Faith states: “The actual sins that men commit are the fruit of the corrupt nature transmitted to them by our first parents. By reason of this corruption, all men become wholly inclined to all evil; sin disables them. They are utterly indisposed to, and, indeed, rendered opposite to, all that is good” (Ch.7, Sect.4, and see Ch.9, Sect.3).
The Arminian view insists that sinful man still has a free will. This view teaches that any man has the ability, any time he chooses, to do the good that God commands, especially to repent of sin and believe in Christ. They do believe that as a result of Adam’s sin the whole race also fell, and inherited a corrupt nature (= original sin); but also through the death of Christ a grace, which is called “prevenient” (because it preceedes), has been given to all men to make everyone able to choose Christ. This is the most common view today and people will react with horror if you suggest there is no such thing as free will. They do not know that at the time of the Reformation Martin Luther wrote, what he called his most important book, The Bondage of the Will, which he regarded to be at the heart of the Reformation controversy.
How would you answer the Arminian teaching? What does the Bible teach about the will of men now? Is there such a thing as “prevenient grace”? It is an assumption because Arminians believe that if God commands something we must be able to do it. The ‘will’ is the faculty of choice; it does not act independently. Do you think it possible that a man would choose to drink poison if he knows it is poison and if he feels afraid that it will kill him? Impossible! How is it possible that a sinner will choose Christ if his heart is unclean, if he does not understand the things of God, if he hates the light (John 3:19-20)? Everyone chooses according to his nature.
Write down the reference of two passages that teach the will of man is not free to choose Christ _________________, _________________. John 1:13, 3:8, Romans 9:16 clearly teach that the
______ of man is not the cause of salvation.
IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THE TRUE TEACHING
(1) Our understanding of salvation depends upon it. Are we saved because we choose Christ, or because God first chooses us? The Bible is so clear that we are totally dependent upon God. What must God first do if anyone is to come to Christ? ________ (John 6:44). What must first
take place if anyone is to produce spiritual fruit? ____________ (John 3:5). Like Lazarus, stone dead in the tomb, we must first be made alive, before we can do anything spiritual. Salvation is of the Lord and to Him all praise is due!
(2) Our method of evangelism is controlled by it. Man-made methods such as special music, altar calls and testimonies of well-known people have produced many false converts. Because of total depravity and inability salvation begins with God’s work of the new birth. God uses the preaching of the gospel to urge men to believe and repent. We must tell sinners the truth as clearly and forcefully as we can, trusting that God will open the heart to give heed (Acts 16:14).
(3) It will lead us into the practice of both godly humility because we are totally unworthy, and joyful praise because God has graciously done what we could never do. In our Christian lives sin becomes enemy number one that we take seriously in order to put it to death (Romans 8:13).
Write true or false for each of the following statements:
________God holds us responsible only for what we have the ability to do
________A sinner is saved when he opens his heart to Christ
________Apart from Christ no one has ever done any good before God
________We must tell sinners that they have no ability to choose Christ
________Our understanding of sin does not matter as long as we preach the gospel
- The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink, pp.92-108.
- Saving Grace, by John Cheesman, pp.33-41.
- Spurgeon on Inability (John 6:44).
For Puritan teaching:
- Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, by Thomas Boston; and
- The Plague of Plagues, by Ralph Venning.