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Some Important Points Concerning Total Depravity*

Peter Ditzel

A picture of a sheep facing the camera. What is total depravity?
“All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way….”
Isaiah 53:6a

 

1. The “total” in total depravity does not mean that everyone is as corrupt as possible or that everyone is destitute of all moral virtues. It means that sin affects all of our thought, faculties, and activities to some extent so that no one is pure or righteous in anything (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19).

2. Total depravity began when Adam and Eve sinned; it can be seen in their changed nature—e.g., blaming others for their sin, deteriorating from friend of God to hiding from Him, and deviating from innocence regarding their nakedness to shame (Genesis 3:6–13); and it has been conveyed to all of their descendants (Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Isaiah 53:6).

3. Total depravity is seen in the prevalence of every kind of sin in the world (Galatians 5:17–21).

4. Total depravity is seen in the early manifestation of sin in children (Genesis 8:21; Psalm 58:3; Proverbs 22:15).

5. Total depravity is evidenced by unregenerate humanity’s total and universal disregard for God’s claims on everyone’s supreme reverence, love, and obedience (Romans 1:18–32; 8:5–8).

6. Total depravity is seen in humanity’s general rejection of Jesus Christ (John 1:11; Isaiah 53:3).

7. Depravity is incurable by man, and it leaves him completely dependent on God’s grace for salvation (Isaiah 64:6–7; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:3; Romans 1:17; 3:23–24; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:4–9).

8. God’s people in every age have given witness to their own depravity (Job 40:4; 42:6; Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:23–24; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Timothy 1:15).

*Adapted from various sources, especially Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:233–238.

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You may want to also read the article “No One Is Good.”

The New Birth

by Peter Ditzel

This is the second and last part of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

A close-up picture of John 3:5 from a print Bible. Being born again is the new birth or regeneration.
The Bible tells us that no human is naturally good. But there is hope. Jesus teaches that we must be born again, born of the Spirit.

Election and Calling

We’re going to talk about the new birth or regeneration called being born again. In the article, “No One Is Good” (which is part 1 of this series on Total Depravity), I asked, “If no one can choose Jesus Christ as Savior, how does He become one’s Savior?” Briefly, the answer is, we don’t choose Him, He chooses us.

We have no part in this choosing or election. It does not depend on our goodness, our cooperation, or our faith. In Romans 9, Paul is writing of God’s calling or choosing or election of Jacob and rejecting of Esau before they were even born: “For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls” (verse 11).

No One Is Good

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

In this article: Total depravity explained. An artist's rough sketch of a person sitting and holding his head in his hands dejectedly.
Jesus said no one is good but God (Matthew 19:17). Other Scriptures back this up. Why is this so, and what can be done about it?
The LORD looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God. They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is no one who does good, no, not one.

These two sentences, penned by David in Psalm 14:2–3, contain some powerful ideas. They say that none of the “children of men”—no one in all of humanity—does good, not even one. Now, if you read or watch the news you might be willing to admit that there are some bad characters in the world. But can it possibly be that no one does good? that everyone has “together become corrupt”? If this is true, if additional Scriptures support it, it might revolutionize your understanding of sin and salvation and even your entire worldview! In this article, you will find total depravity explained.

The Truth Is Not Relative

by Peter Ditzel

Two men see a figure on the ground. One says it is a nine, the other says it is a six. Text reads, "Just because you are right, does not mean, I am wrong. You just haven't seen life from my side." Is the truth relative?
It is one thing to have differing views about nonessential, subjective opinions (e.g. the best pizza toppings). But is biblical truth relative?

The picture above seems clever. Because the two men are looking at the figure on the ground from different perspectives, each of them has a different understanding of the “truth” of the figure. It appears to make truth relative and, therefore, not something anyone can assert dogmatically. This opinion of truth might, as the caption suggests, make for peace. But is it the definition of truth that God wants Christians to have?

The Cup of the New Covenant, in His Blood
Part 2 of 2

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a wine glass containing red wine with these words from Luke 22:20 written across the picture: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Why is the symbol of the cup of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood so important?

Part 1 of this article discussed how, in drinking the wine during the Lord’s Supper, we show His death and its application to us, but we also picture taking His life into us, which is what we really do when we take His words into us. Now, let’s focus on the importance of the symbol of the cup of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

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The Cup of the New Covenant, in His Blood
Part 1 of 2

by Peter Ditzel

Why did Jesus say that the cup of wine is the New Covenant in His blood?  Image: A detailed close-up of the cup of wine from an Eastern Orthodox icon of the Last Supper.
Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus didn’t say these words without intending them to have significant meaning. Why did He not simply refer to the wine? Why did he refer to the cup?

In Luke 22, we read of Jesus’ appointment of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His death. When He came to the cup of wine, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Have you ever wondered why Jesus used this wording? Why did He say that the cup of wine is the New Covenant in His blood? There is something very important for us to learn here.

Is the Old Testament Wrong?

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a woman tearing at her Bible with the overlaid words, Should we rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?
If the Old Testament tells us “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” and Jesus says, “But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil,” does that mean the Old Testament is wrong? If Christians are under the New Covenant and not the Old, does that mean that we should rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?

I want to warn you against neo-Marcionism. Some preachers and writers either now promote or are just on the verge of blindly rushing into this dangerous belief. Around the middle of the second century AD, Marcion of Sinope began spreading his belief system that came to be known as Marcionism. One of his central teachings was the claim that the God of the Old Testament couldn’t be the God of the New Testament. The God of the New Testament sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior. The Old Testament God was a legalistic God of retribution. Marcion’s solution to this seeming contradiction was to reject the Old Testament from the Christian canon.

Announcement: I Have Changed My Understanding of “New Law”

Peter Ditzel

January 2019: I recently revisited some articles I wrote several years ago and made some necessary changes to my understanding of the “new law” of the New Covenant. These center on what Jesus was doing when He gave His “But I say unto you” statements in Matthew 5. Or, to put it another way, these changes concern whether Jesus was giving Christians a new law to obey.  

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Why Did Jesus Say, “But I Tell You”?

A photo of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Why did Jesus refer to the Old Testament and then say, “But I tell you”? Was He giving us new laws to obey, or was He making an entirely different point? The Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

by Peter Ditzel

The Bible records that Jesus many times used the words, “But I tell you,” or, as the King James Version puts it, “But I say unto you.” He did this after first either quoting the Old Testament or stating a principle from the Old Testament. Then He used what He said from the Old Testament as a springboard to teach a moral principle that sounded even stricter than the Old Testament.

Why did Jesus do this? Was it, as some claim, that Jesus was refuting or correcting Old Testament laws? (See, for example, “Jesus Refuted Old Testament Laws” and “6 Times Jesus Contradicted the Old Testament.”) Or was He merely correcting misinterpretations of the scribes and Pharisees? (For example, see “How to Avoid the Folly of the Pharisees.”) On the other hand, perhaps He was raising the standard of the law and in so doing, He was teaching that we Christians must obey the law more than the scribes and Pharisees. (See “What does Jesus mean when He says, ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed…?’”), and, (“More Righteous Than The Pharisees?“) There are many opinions, but I want to show you from the Bible the plain and simple answer to why Jesus said, “But I tell you.”

The Two Powers

A picture of Moses with the Ten Commandments on the left and the Cross on the right.
The Bible speaks of two powers that have different purposes and are mutually exclusive. Yet, many insist on teaching that we are under both.

The two powers I have in mind are at opposite ends of the compass (Psalm 103:12). One is the power of sin and of death and of Satan, and the other the power of God for salvation. These two powers are mutually exclusive, each working against the other. As believers, we have experienced the power of God for salvation, and we remain safe under that power. And yet, Christian teachers abound (some of them even claiming New Covenant Theology) who insist that believers are under both powers and that the power of sin and of death and of Satan is the power we are to use to guide our lives and accomplish our sanctification. I want to show you where the Bible speaks of these powers and how we cannot be under both.

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