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Depravity

Depravity is a Biblical word used to describe the sinfulness of the human race.  It means that we, though created in the image of God with value and worth, are morally bad, evil and corrupt. (For the best Biblical illustration of this see Romans 1:18-31).  There are two types of depravity: Total Depravity and Utter Depravity.

Total Depravity

Total depravity means that every member of the human race is to some degree corrupt, evil and morrally bad in thought, action, word and motive. (Romans 3:23)  Every part of our being has been affected and stained by sin. Our mind and heart (Ephesians 4:18, Jeremiah 17:9), will (Romans 6:16-17, John 8:31-37), emotions (Titus 3:3), conscience (Titus 1:15) and physical body (Romans 8:10) are all corrupted by sin.  As Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears state in their book “Doctrine,” “The totality of a person is pervasively affected by sin, and there is no aspect of their being not negatively impacted by sin.”

Practically this means two things.  First, their are no ‘good’ people.  The existance of seemingly ‘good’ people is only the result of God’s common grace toward humanity to keep us from being completely corrupted by our sin.  We are not good people who can get better, but are evil people in need of saving. 

Second, we all desperately need Jesus.  Though God created us in his image with perfect value, dignity and worth, (Genesis 1:26-27) we have become depraved in the totality of our being both by nature and choice. (Romans 5:12-21, Romans 1:18-31)  We disobey God, harm one another and, as slaves to sin, condemn ourselves to hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Psalm 14). We are powerless to overcome our depravity by good, moral works. Knowing this, God sent Jesus Christ (the only morally good and pure person) to live the life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, on the cross in our place and for our sin.  (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18) God then raised Jesus from the dead 3 days later to set us free from our depravity by destroying the power of sin. (1 Corinthians 15)  As a result, those who trust in Jesus’ work of the cross are set free from Satan, sin, hell and death to live for God, while those trust in themselves die in their depravity and face the eternal corruption of their souls. (Romans 6-9We can not achieve freedom from depravity by our work, but must receive it by the saving grace of God available to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This means that we can only overcome the power of sin by the work of Jesus Christ. It also means that as J.C. Ryle states, “we need the Spirit of God, the Word of God and the people of God [as well as the grace of God] to help us live wisely.” 

Utter Depravity

Utter depravity, then, would describe someone who is completely evil.  An utterly depraved person cannot get any worse because he or she is already as bad as he or she can be.  Since no one is outside of the common grace of God no one is subject to utter depravity, accept, perhaps, Satan and his demons. By the common grace of God we are free from utter depravity and are not as bad as we could be. By the saving grace of God we can experience freedom from, and victory over, the affects of total depravity by faith in the person and work of Jesus.

Question: How does understanding your depravity help you appreciate the grace of God? You can leave your comments here.

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