Let us consider our first parents, Adam and Eve, after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, standing before God in the Garden of Eden. Notice how they behaved: they had already become spiritually dead.
They did not seek God’s forgiveness. They did not pray, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” They had no hunger or thirst for righteousness. They did not seek God. (compare Luke 18.13; Matthew 5.6; Romans 3.11.) No, but they went and hid from God among the trees of the Garden. They were not willing to do any of these things; and that is why they did not do them.
Consider this spiritually dead man and woman appearing before God the Righteous Judge. Even there, in God’s very presence, they still rejected him. Rather than accepting responsibility for their sins and begging God for forgiveness, they sought to pass the blame—and Adam would even implicate God himself! “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3.12). They implicitly denied that they were personally worthy of all condemnation.
You, reader, must face this fact: this too is your own fallen, sinful, spiritually dead nature—or it was, if you have become a Christian. The Bible is a faithful mirror: this is how so many people are today, and this is how you too will be on the Day of Judgment—if you have not been saved by the Saviour.
Where people think too highly of themselves and deny this terrible fact, it is because there is no work of God’s saving grace within them and they do not understand their own fallen heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17.9).
Please take careful note of how the Bible describes the spiritually dead soul: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalms 14.1-3).
Although sometimes this Psalm is applied to outright atheists (deniers of the existence of God and all spiritual things), it really refers to all people who reject the one true God, as revealed in the Bible. They are saying NO to this God.
This is how we all are, unless we have been converted: “Among whom also we [Christians] all had our conversation1 in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath [i.e. deserving of God’s wrath], even as others” (Ephesians 2.3).
If “there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” among fallen sinners of mankind, then nothing that they do is good in God’s sight. If nothing that they do is good, then all that they do is not good; in other words, all that fallen sinners do is sin.
But this is impossible for fallen human pride to accept.
Many Bible-rejecting systems resent the force of the total depravity2 verses in the Bible. “No,” some say, “human beings are basically good at heart.” Others say, “There is a spark of goodness (even a spark of divinity) in all of us—or, in most of us.” They all say, “I refuse to accept that I myself am so bad! I have not committed murder. I am certainly not as bad as…”
The Bible says: Yes, you are that bad.
Unconverted human beings resent and protest at the Bible’s teaching that there is no man, woman or child that does anything good. “But—some people are altruistic. Some people do courageously give up their lives to rescue, help, protect, or care for others. I know I can be good, sometimes!”
The Bible says: No, you can’t be good.
Whatever ‘good’ God-rejecting people may think they do, they should not imagine that God is pleased to accept it as good in his eyes. Sinners deserve God’s wrath—deserve death, in the Bible’s fullest sense of the word. And that condemnation to everlasting death has already been passed upon the human race in Adam, for breaking the covenant of life.
The Lord Jesus Christ reasoned against the wrong-thinking of somebody who came to him by referring to the 14th Psalm: “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God”3 (Matthew 19.17). So, fallen human beings are not good and they do no good, in God’s eyes.
Fallen man’s heart is as Jesus described it: “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7.20-23).
Here the word conversation is being used in the sense of manner of life, or behaviour. ↩︎
Christians whose faith is in accord with the Biblical truths rediscovered (or, re-emphasised) in the Reformation of the 16th Century often use the shorthand term total depravity to refer to the extent of man’s fallen, spiritually dead state. This phrase contrasts with the denial of this doctrine. Many people say that man’s depravity is not total—they say that (most) men, women and children are not completely evil but they have some real goodness in their hearts. And, because of this, some say that (almost) everyone has the ability to choose to become a Christian of their own “free will.” ↩︎
From this argument we should understand that Christ is himself God incarnate (see 1 Timothy 3.16). ↩︎