Total Depravity Of . . . The Saints?
the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:25 ESV)
When victims of domestic abuse disclose to a pastor that their mate is abusive, some pastors respond like this: “Total depravity means you are a sinner just like your spouse. So take your eyes off your partner’s sin, and examine your own sin!”
Not only is this pastoral response unbiblical, it’s also extremely confusing and hurtful to the victim of abuse. We call it a type of ‘sin leveling’ — the idea that all sins are equally heinous in the sight of God. I previously addressed the erroneous doctrine of sin leveling in my Levite’s Concubine video, and Jeff Crippen addressed it in his post Not All Sinners Are The Same. I’m offering today’s post in the hope that it will be one more help to our readers on their journey from being entrapped in false doctrine to knowing their freedom in Christ.
One of our aims at this blog is to dispel from the farthest recesses of a survivor’s mind the idea that she is just as wicked as her abuser. False guilt and shame are impediments to the survivor’s path out of abuse and into recovery . . . and to advocacy for those who are still trapped. But Jesus came to set the captives free. His law is the law of liberty, as the above quote from the James shows. Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Th article below, by Joel Taylor [Internet Archive link], was first published at Joel’s blog 5ptsalt.com [Internet Archive link]. The original title was Matt Chandler: Total Depravity of…The Saints? [Internet Archive link] It was first published on December 17, 2011. We are republishing it with Joel’s permission. Thank you Joel.
According to many Christians these days, Christians are wicked. Now, it is one thing to describe the Christian as being able to fall into sin, but according to Scripture, the wicked live there, they are enemies of God and they will not be in heaven.
Matt Chandler in the video below[*] declares himself as wicked. Such words seem to contradict Biblical teaching.
“In this moment, I am a wicked sinner, redeemed by the blood of Christ.”
Other well known conference speakers and preachers also teach the same in what can easily be labeled the doctrine of the total depravity of the saints. It is a doctrine not found in Scripture. It certainly is not the position of historical Christianity:
The design of heaven is unsuitable to them. The design of God in making heaven was, that it might be a place of holy habitation, for the reward of the righteous, and not an habitation for wicked men. It would greatly reflect on the wisdom of God to dispose of wicked men there; for it would be the greatest confusion. But God is not the author of confusion, I Corinthians xiv. 33. It would be contrary to the holiness of God, to take wicked men so near to himself into his glorious presence, to dwell forever in that part of the creation which is, as it were, his own palace, and to sit at his table. We read in Psalm v. 4. “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee.” Therefore it would doubtless be impossible that the end of the existence of wicked men should be in any wise answered by the placing of them in heaven.
It may be objected that in Romans 7:24, the Apostle Paul calls himself ‘wretched’ and indeed he does – Wretched man that I am!
However, ‘wretched’ is not ‘wicked’. The word for wretched in Romans 7:24 is talaipōros, which is one who is enduring trials, afflicted. It comes from two base words meaning enduring or under weight, bearing a test. Apostle Paul in that passage, is not a ‘wicked’ man, he is a mature believer in Christ persevering! The inescapable point is that the wicked, if they perish in their sins, will not dwell in heaven.
William Hendriksen says it well in his NTC commentary on Romans 7:24: The writer genuinely deplores the fact that due to the law of sin still operating in him, he is unable to serve God as completely and whole-heartedly as he desires. The poignant grief here expressed is definitely that of a believer. No unbeliever would ever be able to be so filled with sorrow because of his sins! The author of the outcry is Paul, speaking for every child of God. The cry he utters is one of distress, but not of despair, as verse Rom_7:25 proves. Paul suffers agony, to be sure, the wretchedness brought about by strenuous exertion; that is, by trying hard, but never satisfactorily succeeding, to live in complete harmony with God’s will but failing again and again. He is looking forward eagerly to the time when this struggle will have ended.
On the other hand, ‘wicked’ in the New Testament is an entirely different matter altogether. Take John 3:20 for example:
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
Here, the word is phaulos, “foul”, evil, ethically bad. In Scripture, the saint is never described as wicked, for the wicked are dead in their sins and they hate the light.
It’s an important distinction, and with many young Christians these days, often boasting in their ‘vileness’ and ‘wickedness’, a distinction that needs clarifying.
In Scripture, the wicked are not the children of God. They are not the saints. In fact, they are compared to:
Abominable branches Isa. 14:19
Ashes under the feet Mal. 4:3
Bad fishes Mat. 13:48
Beasts Ps. 49:12; 2Pet. 2:12
Blind, The Zeph. 1:17; Mat. 15:14
Brass and iron Jer. 6:28; Eze. 22:18
Briars and thorns Isa. 55:13; Eze. 2:6
Bulls of Bashan Ps. 22:12
Carcasses trodden under feet Isa. 14:19
Chaff Job. 21:18; Ps. 1:4; Mat. 3:12
Clouds without water Jude 1:12
Corn blasted 2Kings 19:26
Corrupt trees Luk. 6:43
Deaf adders Ps. 58:4
Dogs Pro. 26:11; Mat. 7:6; 2Pet. 2:22
Dross Ps. 119:119; Eze. 22:18; Eze. 22:19
Early dew that passes away Hos. 13:3
Evil figs Jer. 24:8
Fading oaks Isa. 1:30
Fiery oven Ps. 21:9; Hos. 7:4
Fire of thorns Ps. 118:12
Fools building upon sand Mat. 7:26
Fuel of fire Isa. 9:19
Garden without water Isa. 1:30
Goats Mat. 25:32
Grass Ps. 37:2; 92:7;
Grass on the housetop 2Kings 19:26
Green bay-trees Ps. 37:35
Green herbs Ps. 37:2
Heath in the desert Jer. 17:6
Horses rushing into the battle Jer. 8:6
Idols Ps. 115:8
Lions greedy of prey Ps. 17:12
Melting wax Ps. 68:2
Morning-clouds Hos. 13:3
Moth-eaten garments Isa. 50:9; 51:8
Passing whirlwinds Pro. 10:25
Potsherds Pro. 26:23
Raging waves of the sea Jude 1:13
Reprobate silver Jer. 6:30
Scorpions Eze. 2:6
Serpents Ps. 58:4; Mat. 23:33
Smoke Hos. 13:3
Stony ground Mat. 13:5
Stubble Job 21:18; Mal. 4:1
Swine Mat. 7:6; 2Pet 2:22
Tares Mat. 13:38
Troubled sea Isa. 57:20
Visions of the night Job 20:8
Wandering stars Jude 1:13
Wayward children Mat. 11:16
Wells without water 2Pet. 2:17
Wheels Ps. 83:13
Whited sepulchres Mat. 23:27
Wild ass’s colt Job 11:12
Does that describe you, reader? Bottom line is clear in Scripture; either we are a new creation in Christ, or we are not. If we are, our lives will evidence good fruit, not wickedness as a way of life. Words mean things. If ‘wicked’ does describe you, repent and believe in the Gospel and be saved.
[*] Footnote by Barb Roberts: Joel Taylor’s post had a video at the bottom of the text but the video link no longer works. The non-working video may have something to do with this message which now appears on Matt Chandler’s Village Church website Internet Archive link]. Click on the image to enlarge it.