Before I start, one thing needs to be made perfectly clear…
Without Christ, man is totally depraved.
Why do I say this?
Romans 8:5-8 (NASB)
“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
I need to emphasize the above two, bolded characteristics of someone who is according to the flesh. Such people are hostile toward God and do not subject themselves to the law of God because…
1) They are not even able to do so.
2) They cannot please God.
When Paul is referring to those who are according to the flesh, what he is saying is that such people are totally depraved. Such people are utterly corrupt or completely wicked. It is what is meant by the “T” in the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.,” which describes the “five points” of Calvinism…
Perseverance of the Saints
(For full explanation of all five points, click here.)
Unfortunately, there are some of us (Christians) who can, at times, use what I call the “Total Depravity Excuse” when it comes to our own sin.
Here’s what I mean…
We all deal with temptations. Some of us have more, and some of us have less. And, some of us who even have the same temptations, the intensity of those same temptations will vary for each of us. But, regardless of these factors, we are no longer totally depraved (which I will get to in a moment). It means that our past condition, our former total depravity, could never be used as our excuse for sinning. As odd as that may seem, it’s how some of us actually tolerate or overlook our personal, moral, short comings. The thought process can go something like this…
“Until I’m glorified, I remain totally depraved. And, since I’m in Christ, which means He took care of my total depravity, I then shouldn’t be concerned about my sin because, ‘…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8:1) Plus, I can’t help it anyway, because that’s what Paul says in Romans 8:7-8… that I both cannot please God, and that I am also not able to please God, right?”
Well, partly “yes,” but mostly “no.”
“Yes,” to the part that, for the believer, there is now no condemnation, because such a person is in Christ. Such is completely true, praise God! However, the rest of the thinking is completely wrong. As Christians we are no longer totally depraved. We now can help it. We now can please Him because we are now able to please Him, due to what Christ has done for us.
Dr. James White, director for Alpha and Omega Ministries, was a guest on the “Unbelievable” podcast on May 27, 2016 entitled, “Grill James White + Larry Taunton on bible study with Christopher Hitchens.” At about 50:17 the show’s host, Justin Brierley, took a live call from a listener who asked Dr. White seven questions (which he, the caller, demanded that they only be answered with a “yes” or a “no”). The caller had the intention of criticizing Calvinism and the reformers. In answering two of the seven questions posed by the caller, Dr. White indirectly debunked what I refer to as the “Total Depravity Excuse.”
Here’s how it happened…
Caller: Number six… Does “total depravity,” the “T” in “T.U.L.I.P.,” also apply to believers?
Dr. White: No.
Caller: …According to the reformers, do Christians remain totally depraved?
Dr. White: Not in regards to ability, no. There’s a new creation, so there’s a fundamental shift and change of spiritual life.
Caller: Thank you, number seven… Can a Christian do any work pleasing to God?
Dr. White: Only by grace. So, yeah, the answer is “yes” because you said “Christian.” That means a new creature in Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God. So, yes, obviously we can.
Notice how Dr. White clarified the notion of “ability” and “pleasing God” with respect to the Christian. Two things that the unconverted or non-Christian person cannot do. But, when in Christ, a person can then both please God and also have the ability to do so. This means that for the Christian to assume that they remain totally depraved is to misunderstand who they now are in Christ, removing any validity on their part in thinking that the old condition brings excuse.
Paul goes on…
Romans 8:9-17 (NASB)
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
We are obligated to put to death the sinful deeds of the body. We are certainly not to look for excuses in our former, total depravity, but we are to now recognize that we are a “new creation” (as Dr. White pointed out), made for good works…
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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