Total Depravity

by Matt Slick

Video Presentation of this topic is found at

Return to Tulip Week Notes

These notes were used by me in my defense of Total Depravity on the radio show.  I did not use everything listed here.  Nevertheless, they should help should you desire to follow along.


Total Depravity  (also known as Total Inability) - Man is completely touched/affected by sin in all that he is (in nature he is completely fallen), but is not as bad as he could be (in action, i.e., not all murder, etc.). Furthermore, this total depravity means that the unregenerate will not, of their own free will, choose to receive Christ because they are enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:14-20), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and can do no good (Rom. 3:10-12).  They have free will to choose but they will freely choose to do what is contrary to God.

  1. Quote:  "Man's total lack of spiritual good and inability to do good before God." (Grudem, Wayne A. (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
  2. Original Sin - Original sin is the state, the condition of sinfulness that people are born into because of Adam's sin. This means that our natures are born fallen. Adam represented all of mankind when he died.
    1. Rom. 5:19, "For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous."
      1. "were made sinners" is katestathēsan which is the aorist indicative.  This signifies a completed past action. 
    2. 1 Cor. 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."
      1. "in Adam" a term of Federal Headship
    3. Objection:  It is not right for Adam to represent us.  His sin cannot be held against us and should not affect us.
      1. Jesus is called the last Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45, "So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit."
  3. Man's Condition
    1. It is man who is deceitful (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and cannot come to God on his own (John 6:44), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12), is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6), is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20; John 8:34), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15).
      1. Verses:
        1. Jer. 17:9, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?"
        2. Mark 7:21-23, "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness."
        3. John 3:19, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil."
        4. John 6:44,No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
        5. Rom. 3:10-12, "as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good.  There is not even one.’"
        6. Rom. 5:6, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly."
        7. Rom. 6:20, "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness."
        8. John 8:34, "Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin."
        9. 1 Cor. 2:14, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them (Gk, ginosko, know), because they are spiritually appraised."
        10. Eph. 2:1, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins."
        11. Eph. 2:3, "Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
        12. Eph. 2:15, "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace."
      2. The unbeliever CAN respond to God. His response will be in accordance with his fallen, unregenerate nature which is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), can do no good (Rom. 3:12), is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20), is incapable of understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). Therefore, we conclude that his free will is restricted by his depravity and his natural inclination is to reject God.  This is in accordance with the conditions described of him by scripture
        1. Question: How is it possible that an unbeliever who cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), who does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12), and who is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:14-20), simply "chooses" God?  The scriptures say he cannot.  That is why God appoints people to eternal life (Acts 13:48) and grants that they believe (Phil. 1:29). Otherwise, no one would be saved.
    2. Because of man's fallen state and inability to come to God of his own free will, we then find that God must act in order for anyone to be saved.
  4. God's Work
    1. It is God who appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48), chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4), predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5), calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9), chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13), grants the act of believing (Phil. 1:29), works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29), grants us repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-25), causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3), makes us born again not by our will but by His will (John 1:12-13), draws people to Himself (John 6:44), grants that we come to Jesus (John 6:65), predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30),  and he does all of this according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11).
      1. Acts 13:48, "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
      2. Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love."
      3. Eph. 1:5, "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."
      4. 2 Tim. 1:9, "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity."
      5. 2 Thess. 2:13, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."
      6. Phil. 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
      7. John 6:28-29, "Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' 29 Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"
      8. 2 Tim. 2:24-25, "The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."
      9. 1 Pet. 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
      10. John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
      11. John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
      12. John 6:65, "And He was saying, 'For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.'"
      13. Romans 8:29–30, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."
      14. Eph. 1:11, "also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will."

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.