GRACE & TRUTH CONFERENCE 2019
It is great to be home, where I received scriptural instruction for 3 years under the careful and faithful tutelage of Pastor Keith Underhill and the hugely gracious support of this church in which I now preach-Trinity Baptist Church. I remember coming here in 2010, shortly after the Lord yanked me out of 17 years in a false Gospel. So to be here speaking on the theme ONE TRUE GOSPEL is indeed for me some kind of ‘poetic justice’
- If anyone is wholly unqualified for the task such as this and in a place such as this, that person would be me. But who is sufficient for these tasks?
We have heard tremendous messages spoken yesterday.
The righteousness of God in which our brother Michael has Impressed upon us the utter worthlessness of seeking salvation through works and efforts of our. This futility finds its reason in the subject we have before us
- The triumph of God’s electing love. Our brother Tony laboured to show us that the electing love of God will ensure the victory of his chosen ones.That election and choosing happens in the context of a depraved sinful lot of humanity.
Therefore the subject of human depravity sits at the core and is the reason for all that has been said this far, and I dare say will be said later.
It is not lost on me that the subject assigned to me, and I believe this is true of fellow speakers is in furtherance of a greater theme assigned for this edition of the GRACE AND TRUTH CONFERENCE. The theme before us is ONE TRUE GOSPEL and it does presuppose that there are other gospels which are not true. We in this conference have been called to consider the one true Gospel. It is my intention to pursue the matter of human depravity as it bears on our understanding, preaching and our general perceptions of the Gospel.
OUR METHOD IN THIS TASK
The subject before us is a tremendous one. It is so not just because of its sheer magnitude in Christian theology, but more so because of its far reaching implications.
I will propose to tackle this subject under 3 broad sections.
1) We shall define as best as we can the doctrine of human depravity. We shall do this by establishing the matter of human depravity from an exposition of the fall Genesis 3.This will be a rather protracted engagement and I therefore ask that we bring our full attention to this.
2) We shall spend some time in establishing the universality of human depravity and
3) The importance of holding to, and preaching the one true Gospel in the light of the doctrine of human depravity.
DEFINING THE DOCTRINE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY
Merriam Webster “the quality or state of being corrupt, evil, or perverted”
The depravity comes from a Latin word – pravitas = twisted or crooked (feminine case)
Therefore depravity doesn’t simply mean evil or sinful,but gross,twisted, crooked and perverted sinfulness.
So the question which is properly set before us in this session is this
What is the true spiritual condition of human kind ? (For pastors dealing with flock, evangelists dealing with sinners for believers seeking make sense of their struggles with sin and holiness
A.W pink in the 1st chapter of his book TOTAL DEPRAVITY writes
“It is our deep conviction that the vital question most requiring to be raised today is this: Is man a totally and thoroughly depraved creature by nature? Does he enter the world completely ruined and helpless, spiritually blind and dead in trespasses and sins? …
Albert Martin framed the question of total depravity this way
“How desperate is the plight of fallen man?”
EXPOSITION OF GENESIS 3:1-24 IN CONTEXT (Genesis 2:17)
1. Rejection of God and embracing of Satan (3:5)-lights went off
2. Negative exposure-3:7
3. Hide from God -3:8
4. Fear and dread -3:10 (confidence and joy is gone)
5. Arrogance, blame game, failure of repentance-3:12
6. Jealousy and deception of Cain -4:
7. Selfishness on the part of Cain
8. Marital relations go sour
9. Hostilities now obtain 3:23-24 (Roman’s 1:18)
10. Murder -4:8( Cain) 4:23 (Lamech)
See how man rapidly descents unhinged!, He is a dead fish and so he cannot swim against the current of his dead sinful nature (Ephesians 2:1-5).
This is the nature of sin, it enslaves and demands obedience. Paul describes it as a master/ruler (Romans 3:9, 6:1-14)
Think of David’s unhinged descent in sin and his observation in Ps 55:5,
• Abdication of duty, he was to be with his men in battle-he stayed home
• At home he looks at a woman lustfully
• Commits adultery with her
• When pregnancy results, he launches a cover up campaign (bearing false witness)
• Attempts to deceive Uriah
• When all else fails he murders, or more accurately causes Uriah to be killed
When this issue was brought to his conscience by Nathan we find David’s repentance in Psalms 55:1 forwards.
In this prayer of repentance David identifies the root cause of his problems in inherited human depravity (Psalms 55:5)
Roman’s 1:18- 32 (in this passage you can also see the downward spiralling of sin)
Turn now to Genesis 6:5-God’s own referendum/verdict on the true spiritual human condition
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”.(KJV)
Notice then how comprehensive human depravity is: Imagination—thoughts — heart (man’s center)
Notice also exclusivity of his depravity (only evil)
Notice also the perpetuity of this depravity (continually so)
This is God’s verdict on the situation, the almighty pronounces himself with infallible accuracy
The doctrine of Human depravity has been described by several names (Total depravity /Extensive corruption) or RADICAL CORRUPTION .I prefer the last description;
Radical = from the Latin Rotex = Root or core
The idea is that man is corrupted at his core (Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21)
This flies in the face of modern ideas of basic human goodness (psychology, motivational speeches and even modern Gospel proceeds from the misdiagnosis of the human core
“All men since the fall are so corrupted by sin at their core, such that every part of their being is so contaminated by that corrupt core,so that they can do or offer nothing that would be considered good in the sight of God”
This is man as the Gospel sees and addresses him, any view lower than this undercuts the one true Gospel.
A COMMENT ON OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITYPink writes;
“That something is radically wrong with the world of mankind requires no labored argument to demonstrate. That such has been the case in all generations is plain from the annals of history”
Even a staunch Roman Catholic in the person of Malcolm Muggeridge admitted.
“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
We must not think of this resistance as anything new or novel. Its history is well documented both in scripture and in church history
• Jesus and the Jews, Paul and the Romans (1, 2 & 3:9-16)
• The great pelagian controversy of the 5th century hinged in some respect on this very subject how sinful is sinful man?
• More than a 1000 years after that controversy, there would come another; Luther versus Erasmus and later Arminianism versus what became known as Calvinism. Two systems of Gospel views which have existed side by side with marked disagreements, and in some cases leading to very consequential conclusions. In this ongoing disagreement, the very first article of divergence is on how depraved if at all man is
SO HOW DOES DEPRAVITY OF ADAM RELATE TO THE REST OF HUMANITY?
Original sin or inherited corruption/guilt
The question of human depravity cannot be sufficiently dealt with away from the position and actions of the first man Adam as the representative head of all humanity.
Federal headship of Adam and inherited corruption-a bad heart, dead in sins
All men, past present and future are counted in Adam in two basic ways
1) Germinally/seminally-in the same way we can be said to be in our parents before we are born, so also all humanity was in Adam before they ever came forth-Hebrews 7:12-14
2) By dint of divine imputation-As Adam stands before God as a head of all his posterity, it pleases the Lord to attach his successes and failures to his posterity as if they were present in him physically-Romans 5:17, 1 Corinthians 15:22
Therefore when Adam sins, it became as it were a genetic defect, passed down to all who would descent from him. The contamination of sin is native to fallen man.He is born with it.
• Psalm 51:5
• Ephesians 2:3
• Job 15:16
• Jeremiah 13:23
Familial relation and broken ties-Sonship of Adam
Adam not only stands federally before God but he also stands familiarly. Luke 3:38 expressly identifies Adam as a son of God-this sonship comes with two basic ideas
I. Adam bears Gods image
• Genesis 1:26- fashioned after the image of God-holiness, true knowledge and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10).he is created morally upright-Ecclesiastes 7:29.
• Adam in choosing to obey Satan aligns himself and loses his family endowments
• He is no longer to be identified as a son of God but a child of Satan (John 8:44)
• He forfeits something of God’s image and likeness. That image is marred and twisted and a far cry from what it was. (Isaiah 64:6,Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21, Galatians 5:19)
II. Adam is heir to God’s riches and goodness
• Food and nourishment
• Social and emotional support
• Spiritual fellowship with God Himself
In losing these benefits of sonship Adam is now plunged into hostilities with the nature he had commanded, food and nourishment will be scarce and now come at a very high cost, the intimate supportive relationship with His wife will now be strained by power plays, competition and strife. But the saddest is that Adam is now cast away from the presence of God, fellowship is broken. David understood what this means and in his sinfulness cried out “cast me not away from your presence oh Lord”- Psalm 51:10
The presence of the flaming swords guarding Eden from reentry of the fallen pair is not only an indication that they are persona non grata, but that now grave hostilities exist between man and God.
This is our world as we know it today, pain and suffering, from the jungles of Congo to the plains of Eastern Kenya, From Afghanistan to the streets of Paris. Man is restless and fights for power, resources and survival (Romans 8:21-23-creation now groans)
The broken Law and legal liabilities-Adam’s legal standing before God
Apart from federal and familial aspects of his relationship to God, Adam also had a legal arrangement with God and his government. This arrangement takes two shapes;
First; Adam is given responsibilities (Genesis 1:26-27) this is what is referred to as vice-regency. Adam is brought into a management role in Gods kingdom
Secondly; Adam is given prohibitions which carry sanctions (Genesis 2:17)
Breach of the law by Adam constituted a treasonous crime and guilt kicked in by the standards of the law pronounced. Adam is a law breaker and as such constituted a sinner as also his descendants after him.
• Romans 3:19 & 23
• Romans 5:19
Man therefore finds himself with a hopelessly corrupt heart, dwells in a wilderness of pain and suffering, estranged from God, without hope and without God in the world and above all these man now stands guilty before Gods tribunal.
The sight is pitiful and tragic
The one true Gospel must see this situation with clarity and speak it with candor. This diagnosis is essential to a right presentation of the Gospel message. If sinners will be saved and the dwindling fortunes of true religion restored, then this must be clear.
SO WHY MUST WE HOLD TIGHTLY TO THE DOCTRINE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY?
Today most Gospel presentations proceed from the premise that men are capable of good, that in fact they are basically and essentially good. The Job of the preacher in this sort of thinking is to motivate, encourage and spur the people to doing better, become a better version of themselves. You will hear such slogans as “discover the champion in you, live to your fullest potential and so on”. As we should see in this doctrine that such presentations of the message misses the point by a very wide margin. So wide is that margin that it can hardly be called Gospel at all.
This is a doctrine which shapes our understanding of scripture.
Every doctrine of scripture (salvation, justification, sanctification, Christian life) cannot be removed from our answer to the question of how depraved man is. Redemptive history can legitimately be summed up as a record of God’s rescue plan for fallen man. It is set in motion with the climactic events of the fall in Genesis 3 and it ends with the glorious picture of restoration in the last book of the Bible.
This again from A.W Pink
“According as is our answer to that question, so will be our views on many others. It is on the basis of this dark background that the whole Bible proceeds. Any attempt to modify or abate, repudiate or tone down the teaching of Scripture on the matter is fatal”
“Almost every page of the Bible bears witness to this truth. The whole scheme of redemption takes it for granted. The plan of salvation taught in the Scriptures could have no place on any other supposition.”
It is diagnostic cutting through to the very roots of the human problem. I
t is Dr. Lloyd Jones who described preachers as “doctors of souls”. This is the subject above all else which explains the need for a savior (Matthew 1:21).The Lord Christ responding to an accusation on how He could interact with the sinful lot says “It is the sick which need a physician”, but what would a physician be good for if the disease is not rightly understood? The subject before us helps us with that.
Spurgeon in his book the soul winner advises preachers that “a soul must be so wrestled on his back so that he can do nothing else but look up”
Our understanding and preaching of the Gospel is greatly shaped by what we think of the subject before us.
Total depravity is the ugly, terrifying darkness against which the brightness of the Gospel shines forth. It can be legitimately said that it is this doctrine that makes the Gospel truly “good news”. Without this understanding, the message which mostly passes for gospel is little more than self-help, motivational speeches, seeker friendly ordering of services. It is sad that most pulpit messages differ little from what is taught in economic, life skills and career development classes
Christian life and responses are moderated by this doctrine
“The foundation of all true piety lies in a correct view of ourselves and our vileness, and a scriptural belief in God and His grace. There can be no genuine abhorrence or repentance, no real appreciation of the saving mercy of God, no faith in Christ, without it, there is nothing like a knowledge of this doctrine so well calculated to undeceive vain man and convict him of the worthlessness and rottenness of his own righteousness”
1) Our attitude towards the unconverted, others struggling with sin, even in administration of Church discipline. Do we think of them as little outlaws unlike our well behaved selves? Or do we see them as blind men, desperate just as we once were, needing a savior? Our Lord when he saw the milling multitudes did not go “look how stupid and undiscerning they are”, we read that he was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. It is ever so easy to take the Pharisaical position of “I thank you Lord that I am not like that tax collector”. This doctrine humbles us.
2) Our worship is that much deepened with gratitude and a sense of the amazing Grace of God (John Newton penned amazing Grace in reflection of the depths from which the Lord had lifted a debased, immoral slave master like him)