Total Depravity Implies Total Inability

Matthew 19:16-26 ESV

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

He said to him, “Which ones?”

And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

You see? The doctrines of grace are biblical, if one would only open his mind, heart and eyes to find them on the surface of the text of the Bible.

The doctrine of Total Depravity is the foundation of the rest of the doctrines of grace, also known as the TULIP. Edwin H. Palmer, in his book, The Five Points of Calvinism (©1972, Baker Books), outlines the doctrine of Total Depravity as follows (pages 9-16):

  1. What It Is Not
    1. It is not absolute depravity
    2. It is not a complete absence of relative good
  2. What It Is
    1. Positively: only and always sinning
    2. Negatively: total inability

i. Man cannot do the good

ii. Man cannot understand the good

iii. Man cannot desire the good

Palmer’s conclusion: “There are three lessons to be drawn from the Biblical teaching of the total depravity of man” (page 19)

  1. Total depravity explains the troubles in our world.
  2. A knowledge of total depravity should also teach us that we are thoroughly bad and in a terrible state of affairs unless God helps us.
  3. A knowledge of total depravity will teach a person that if he has a desire to ask God to help him, it is only because it is God who is working within him to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12, 13).
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