We Believe in Total Depravity by Willard Willis – Page 1
We Believe in Total Depravity
By Willard Willis
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner November 5, 1999.
According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 8th
Edition, the word “total” means “comprising or constituting
a whole entire, complete; utter.” According to this
same authority, the word “depravity” means “marked
by corruption or evil.” Thus for us to say that the human
race is totally depraved means that we believe each member
of the human race to be in a state of complete and
utter corruption or evil. We believe that said corruption
has infected every part of one’s nature. The result being
that the unregenerate have not the ability to obey God.
Dr. J. P. Boyce has said, “This corruption extends to every
affection of the heart and mind” (Abstract of Systematic
Theology, by J. P. Boyce, p. 243).
It is taught by some that God would not command
men to do such and such if they were not able to do it.
This teaching can be refuted by the fact that no one,
except our Lord Jesus, has ever kept the ten commandments.
An examination of the teachings of our Lord will
clearly show that He believed and taught that the human
race is totally depraved. In fact, He said to
Nicodemus, “. . .Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except
a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom
of God” ( John 3:3). He also said to the Pharisees,
of which Nicodemus was a member, “Why do ye not
understand my speech?” He then answered His own
“Even because ye cannot hear my word” ( John 8:43).
Those who have not been regenerated and have only
the flesh to rely upon, cannot understand, or comprehend
the Word of God. After all, the Word of God deals
with spiritual things and the flesh cannot rise above the
Total depravity has so alienated the human race from
God that Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except
the Father which hath sent me draw him: and
I will raise him up at the last day” ( John 6:44). Our
Lord Jesus said further, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth;
the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak
unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there
are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew
from the beginning who they were that believed
not, and who should betray him. And he said,
‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come
to me, except it were given unto him of my Father’”
( John 6:63-65). We may say that the quickening
of the Spirit relates to His enabling the totally depraved
to pass “from death unto life” ( John 5:24). In fact, our
Lord has said, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead,
and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth
(make alive – my insertion) whom he will” ( John 5:21).
We may therefore say that the quickening and drawing
( John 6:44) relate to the same thing.
One cannot receive a particular program via television
if one does not have access to the channel on which
the program is viewed. In like manner, one cannot receive
the things of God if one has not been quickened,
or made alive spiritually. In fact, we read from I
Corinthians 2:14 that “. . .the natural man receiveth
not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are
foolishness unto him: neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned.” It is said further
in Romans 8:7 that “. . .the carnal mind is enmity
against God: for it is not subject to the law of
God, neither indeed can be.”
The apostle Paul confirms the above truths when saying,
“No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by
the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3). Our Lord also confirmed
said truth when saying to Peter, “Blessed art thou,
Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed
it unto thee, but my Father which is in
heaven” (Matt. 16:16-17).
Those in our society who have been declared to be
totally disabled, are not required to work for a living.
They look outside their own efforts for their support. In
like manner, the totally depraved must look away from
themselves to the Lord Jesus, who as far as their eternal
salvation is concerned, did all the work necessary for
their eternal security. When referring to this matter, Paul
said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, AND
THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is the gift of God:
not of works, lest any man should boast. FOR WE
ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus
unto good works, which God hath before ordained
that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
An examination of God’s Word relative to the total
depravity of the human race, will show that the unregenerate
cannot SEE ( John 3:3-7); cannot enter the kingdom
of God without the new birth ( John 3:3-7); cannot
hear (understand) God’s Word ( John 8:43); cannot come
to Christ ( John 6:44); cannot believe on Christ ( John
12:39-40); cannot be subject to the law of God (Rom.
8:7); cannot discern spiritual truths (I Cor. 1:14); cannot
say that Jesus is Lord (I Cor. 12:3); cannot please God
( John 3:6; Rom. 8:8).
It goes without saying that the totally depraved are in
a state of bondage and slavery and can by no physical
means free themselves. Their only hope for freedom rests
in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Scriptures declare.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath
made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans
We Believe in Total Depravity by Willard Willis – Page 2
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The Scriptures refer to the totally depraved as being
in a state of spiritual death. They have physical life, but
have been alienated from the life of God, or spiritual
life. After all, “God is Spirit: and they that worship
him must worship him in spirit and truth: ( John
4:24). Then referring to this matter, the Scriptures say,
“Ye have no life in you” ( John 6:53); “you. . .were
dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:5); “And you,
being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of
your flesh, hath he quickened together with him,
having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13).
The truths presented above make it quite obvious that
the totally depraved can never pass from spiritual death
unto spiritual life aside from the quickening power of
God the Spirit. Again, this is why our Lord has said, “No
man can come to me, except the Father which hath
sent me draw him. . .” ( John 6:44) and “It is the Spirit
that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. . .” ( John
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