|DEPRAVITY and FREEWILL||
Depravity refers to the sinful condition of the human
race that originated when Adam and Ishah (the woman)
disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. It refers
primarily to the corruption of man’s nature through a
mental mutation that produces an ever present
influence toward independence from God (sin nature),
and then, from that INFLUENCE or inclination, to the
morally and spiritually sinful expressions that
dominate and characterize man’s existence (personal sin).
Inherent sin refers to the sin nature which was (came
into existence) in Adam and passed on to his progeny,
“in his image” (Genesis 5:3), through procreation.
Thus, it is through a physical inheritance.
At Psalm 51:5 both aspects of physical birth are covered.
1. In iniquity (awon) I was brought forth (birthed).
This refers to the presence of the sin nature
in the newborn child.
2. In sin (ch@te) I was conceived. This refers to the
physical transfer of the sin nature through the
combination of both male and female seeds.
The use of two different words for “sin” (awon and
ch@te), is an example of synonymous parallelism, a
device of Hebrew poetry that uses two different words
to refer to the same idea.
The sin nature is a disposition to independence from God.
In experience, it expresses itself as an “ungodly”
influence or mover in our life.
Genesis 8:21 (NASB)
“for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his
The word, intent, is the Hebrew word, y@tser, which
describes an influence or inclination. Thus it refers
to the natural and dominant force upon man’s mentality.
The word, evil, is ra, which always refers to some
idea of HARM. It has thus, become the standard Hebrew
word for evil. However, whereas all ra is harm, not
all harm is evil. But in this context, it refers to
that which is harmful to self and others according to
God’s moral and spiritual standards.
The idea of “from his youth,” indicates that the
influence is present from the earliest days of the
person’s life. The phrase can be compared to Genesis
6:5, “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart
was only evil all the days,” where “all the days”
would indicate not only the idea of “continually
(NASB),” but the idea of all throughout his life
beginning with birth. This verse also details the
inclination by saying, “the inclination of the
THOUGHTS of his heart.” In other words, the influence
of the sin nature affects the mentality and manifests
itself in the thoughts. From Proverbs 22:15a, we learn
that FOOLISHNESS (creature independence and arrogance)
is present in the heart of children, and from Psalm
58:3, that the wicked are ESTRANGED (independent from
God) from the moment of birth (from the womb).
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart (influenced by
this evil INCLINATION; dominated by the sin nature) is
deceitful and seriously sick (out of alignment with God).
At Mark 7:21-23, we see that from the HEART (influenced by
this evil INCLINATION; dominated by the sin nature) come all
the harmful attitudes and actions that are contrary to the
righteous standards of God’s divine value system.
At Romans 7:14-23, Paul tells us that the hurtful things
he does come from THE SIN (nature) that exists in his
physical BODY, and that it is continually waging war
against the righteous standards (law) that exist in his MIND.
By comparing all these factors, we learn that although
the HEART is the means by which evil is EXPRESSED, the
INFLUENCE comes from the PHYSICAL mutated mentality
genes in THE FLESH, where the sin nature resides.
At Ecclesiastes 9.3, Solomon makes a valid observation,
“Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full
of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout
their lives,” (NASB).
The word, insanity refes to the distortion/mutation of
the soul that produces an evil INCLINATION.
The Hebrew word is hol@lAh in the plural and occurs
only 4 times (Ec. 1:17; 2:12; 7:25; 9:3). It comes
from the verb, hAlal, which means to be boastful (root
meaning). In the piel stem it means to praise, honor,
and to recognize the merit in something. The plural
indicates many expressions of boasting, pride,
arrogance and independence from God. This attitude
refers to self-promotion and is a distortion from the
original design of the soul. Thus, the idea of
insanity and madness.
The guiltiness associated with this sin nature is
mentioned at Ephesians 2:3, “Among them we too, all
formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh (sin nature),
indulging the desires of the flesh (body) and of the
mind (soul), and were by NATURE children of wrath
(under the condemnation of God’s justice), even as the rest.”
The word, nature, is phusis, and indicates something
that is a NATURAL part and expression of one’s humanity.
At Romans 5:12ff, Paul writes “just as through one
man, THE sin (nature) entered into the world (human
race), and THE (spiritual) death through THE sin
(nature), and so THE (spiritual) death spread to all
men because of which (sin nature) all have sinned
(manifested sinful thoughts and actions). The mention
of sin here, refers to the presence of the sin nature
and not to any idea of an imputation of Adam’s
specific sin to his progeny. See Theory of imputed
sin for details on this passage.
Paul is telling us that spiritual death exists upon
all members of the human race because they have within
themselves THE sin nature; the INCLINATION to do evil
that God identified in mankind at Genesis 6:5 and 8:21.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL DEATH
The term spiritual death does not occur in the Bible,
but is a man-made vocabulary term to communicate what
the Bible teaches about the condition of mankind as a
result of sin. However, it gives the wrong impression
that the human spirit of man is dead, but this is not
the case. When Adam sinned, he did not lose any part
of his human makeup. His Body, soul and spirit were
still there and functioning (Genesis 7:22; Job 34:14;
Isaiah 42:5; 57:16).
The statement of judgment on Adam's sin follows the
pattern of Genesis 2:17, which says, “You shall surely die.”
The Hebrew here is, muth as a qal participle + a qal
imperfect, and is an intensified, emphatic
construction which refers to the spiritual
death that resulted from the act of independence from
God. When Adam and Ishah disobeyed God by eating from
the tree, they lost both relationship and fellowship
with God. They became separated from Him and from His
blessing. Thus, they lost their ability to interact
with God on a SPIRITUAL level, and that is the basis
for the term spiritual death.
Spiritual death is the inability to relate to God,
self or others from the perspective of Divine viewpoint.
The capacity to understand these three areas using
God's logic is neutralized.
This causes a natural alienation to God, others and
even to self. This alienation is called nakedness at Genesis 3:7-10,
and refers both the physical nakedness that now shamed
them, as well as the nakedness of soul that caused them to fear God.
4. When Adam sinned against God by disobeying His
instructions, he died. Gen. 2:17 says, “in the DAY
that you eat from it you shall surely die.” But he
did not die physically (Genesis 3:7).
He died in the realm of his relationship with God. In
fact, he lost that relationship, that communion, that
fellowship as is evidenced by his indifference to God
immediately after the sin (Genesis 3:7), and his fear
of God later, when God came into the garden (Genesis 3:8-10).
He was now afraid of God and hid from God, and it is
this loss of relationship with God that is the death that he died.
The “principle” is seen at Isaiah 59:2, “But your
iniquities have made a separation between you and your
God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so
that He doesn’t hear.”
The basis for this death of Adam was his disobedience
to God. An act of negative volition that constituted
an attempt at independence from God.
The act of negative volition caused a distortion of
both the soul and the body which distortion became a
major part of man’s makeup.
This distortion came about because when Adam sinned
his “nature” changed. It became “evil.” It is a nature
or “influence” within that consistently operates
contrary (negative) to divine viewpoint.
This possession of a “sin nature” puts man in a place
of perpetual resistance to God. Gen. 6:5; 8:21
Spiritual death entered into the realm of the human
race through Eve's and Adam's original act of sin.
This is what caused their personal separation from God.
Other things resulted but these are not the cause of
spiritual death, but rather indicate the fact of that
original sin and the spiritual death that resulted.
(Sin nature; physical death; curse on the earth; Satan's rule).
Spiritual death then is passed down to all members of
the human race because Adam's children all inherit
from him the sin nature. It is the presence of the sin
nature that causes spiritual death in each individual.
The commission of personal sins further demonstrates
the reality of spiritual death and man's separation
from relationship and fellowship with God. Thus, the
indictment found in the bible is that man is DEAD in
trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and DEAD in
transgressions (personal sins) and the uncircumcision
of your flesh (sin nature), Colossians 2:13.
This expression of personal sin is called functional depravity.
Unless there is a "faith in Christ" decision, this
spiritual death will be perpetuated for all eternity
as the second death in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
Functional depravity refers to personal sin; all the
rebellious thoughts and actions which violate God’s
perfect standards. These are manifested in the lives
of people PRIMARILY because of the influence of the
sin nature, however it needs to be kept in mind that
Adam and Ishah sinned against God WITHOUT that
influence. The expressions of sin, therefore, come
directly and specifically from the volition of man’s
soul. The influence may come from the outside, as in
Adam’s case, or from the inside, as in the case of all
of Adam’s progeny, but ultimately it is the volitional
capacity of the self-consciousness of the soul of man
that CHOOSES what will be thought and attempted.
The Bible indicates that these expressions of sin are
the EVIDENCE of the fact that all men are
(spiritually) DEAD to God (Ephesians 2:1).
“And you were dead in trespasses and sins” (plural).
These trespasses and sins are usually summarized best by Romans 3:10-18.
The premise is that the manifestation of sins is
present in the life of every member of the human race.
Sins are violations of God’s established standards for
both relating to other people (morality) and to
Himself (worship). Solomon acknowledged to God, “for
there is no man who does not sin, (1 Kings 8:46).
The essence of these sinful expressions are found in
the description of the sin nature, which is revealed
to us in several passages.
1. inclination: the noun, yātser, refers to an
influence or natural “bent” or impulse affecting the
2. evil: ra refers to that which is functionally
harmful, and as such, expresses ideas contrary to the
viewpoint and policy of God.
Ecclesiastes 9:3 insanity - the distortion/mutation of the soul
1. The word is holālAh. It occurs in the plural only
and only four times, all in Ecclessiastes. (Verses
1:17; 2:12; 7:25; 9:3)
2. It comes from the verb, hAlal, which means to be
boastful in its root meaning. In the piel stem, it means to praise,
honor, or to recognize the merit in something.
3. The plural indicates expressions of boasting,
pride, arrogance and independence from God.
a. This is self-promotion and a distortion from the
original design of the soul.
b. Thus, the idea of insanity and madness; a
sickness of the mentality that is seen in the next
1. deceitful above all else: The word, Aqōbh, speaks
of error and falsehood; imitation and counterfeit.
2. desperately sick: The adjective, Anash, speaks of
distortion and abnormality; a sickness of the mind
that is natural and common to all members of the human race.
With this understanding, we should expect a
preponderance of sinful activity from all the peoples
of the world. Paul gives us a list of such sinful
activity that CHARACTERIZES the human race in general, at Romans 3:10-18.
This list does not suggest that everyone does every
sin that is listed, but that in general, all men are
characterized by one or more of these sinful
expressions. The prevalence of personal sin in the
human race indicates that INCLINATION of the sin
nature is very difficult to resist, but it in no way
suggests that it is impossible to resist. That
inclination is, in fact, resisted in areas of DIVINE
morality as well as in God’s saving call. The passage
at Romans 3:10ff is a compilation of several quotes
from the Old Testament that describe certain
individuals and never have the entirety of the human
race in view. Each of the specific contexts should be
examined carefully to determine this. The passage thus
serves as an illustration of how bad man is in general
and is not intended to indicate an INABILITY for man
to truly seek for God and respond to Him when they find Him (Acts 17:27).
“that they should seek God, if perhaps they might
grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from
each one of us.”
“Seek Yahweh while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.”
The depravity of the human race is uniquely
categorized and summarized for us by Paul at Romans
5:6-10, where we find four words that give us the
(1) For while we were still HELPLESS.
Helpless is mentioned first, but should actually be
It refers to the inability of man to do anything about
his depravity, in and of himself. Paul states the
helplessness of man and then explains the three
factors of depravity which man can do nothing to
resolve. The solution comes entirely from God’s love
and grace. Man cannot earn the solution. He cannot
work for it. He cannot inherit it.
He cannot willfully determine it for himself. He
cannot buy it. He cannot be born with it. He cannot
accomplish it for another nor can another sinner
accomplish it for him. God must reach out to man in
His love and grace and not only PROVIDE the solution
(the Savior), but also OFFER the solution to all men,
and then convict them of the issues so that they are
then ABLE to choose whether to accept it or not.
Even though the sin nature is a powerful and even
DOMINANT influence in everyone’s life, there is still
the ability in man’s soul - his self-consciousness,
where there exists the capacity of volition - to
resist it. Just as God tells Cain, when his problem is
identified as the influence of the sin nature. “but
you must master it.”
The focus with, “but you,” establishes the presence
and function of human volition (or free will) and
makes Cain responsible for his own decisions. He could
GIVE INTO the sin nature influence, as he has already
done in reference to this specific issue - or he can
resist it and accept the Messianic promise, and begin
to follow God’s righteous standards. The fact that
Cain is an unbeliever, and “of the evil one” (1 John
3:12), does not mean he CANNOT choose for God, for God
requests this kind of choice from him - and indeed,
from all members of the human race. Jesus put it into
perspective when he gave the invitation at John 5:24,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and
believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life,” and then
explained at verse 40, “and you are NOT WILLING to
come to me so that you may have life.”
This was Cain’s problem. Yes, the influence from the
sin nature was strong, but he was not forced into
yielding to it, just as God told him, “but you must
master it.” The words must master, are from mAshal, as
a qal imperfect, which means to rule over or to
master. Usually this imperfect tense would be
rendered, “but you SHALL rule over it,” but the
context requires the idea of MUST or SHOULD.
Obviously, they cannot both be MASTER of the soul, so
in order to prevent the influence of the sin nature
from dictating EVERY thought and action in one’s life,
the self-consciousness is called upon and able to
resist - sometimes, simply from the standpoint of
SELF-PRESERVATION. In fact, God’s standards (as
revealed by God’s prophets and from there by societies
that have been influenced by God’s word) are directed
to the free will of man to make such decisions
concerning both morality issues and the issue of the gospel.
When we learn about or experience something that is
adverse to our personal well-being, quite often we
will make adjustments to protect ourselves. There are
also moral standards that a society and individuals
within that society hold to. This does not make a
person RIGHT with God, but it indicates the function
of volition in doing what is deemed as right and
proper in a moral context. So also the message of the
gospel appeals to the self-preservation mode of our
self-consciousness and offers a way of escape from the
penalty of sin and the wrath of God. Such an appeal to
man’s soul PRESUPPOSES an ability to choose the way of
escape, and that is what Yahweh is doing with Cain.
The mastering of the sin nature, or the RULING OVER of
the sin nature refers, then, to the CONSCIOUS
resistance of its influence so that a RIGHT and PROPER
decision is made, whether it be right moral choices,
or the choice to trust in the Messiah. Such a decision
in either area, does not remove the presence of the
sin nature or its constant influence on the soul, but
it simply resists a particular inclination at that
moment of time.
(2) at the right time Christ died for the UNGODLY.
Ungodly: Literally means, un-worshipping (asebes). The
word comes from the verb, sebo, which means to bend
the knee in respect, adoration or worship. The “a” is
a negative, and indicates an attitude and/or action
that does not respectful, adoring or worshipful. It
refers, then, to the general nature of man as an
un-worshipping creature, with a natural inclination
(sin nature) to act independently from God.
(3) But . . . while we were yet SINNERS.
Sinners, refers to functional depravity; the many
thoughts and acts of sin committed throughout his
life. This refers to the “trespasses and sins” of
Ephesians 2:1, and the list of sinful expressions
found at Romans 3:10-23.
(4) For if while we were ENEMIES.
Enemies indicates that because man is "naturally"
depraved (ungodly) and because he is "functionally"
depraved (personal sins), he is an enemy of God; no
affinity, no compatibility, no rapport and no fellowship.
Only God can solve these four problems, and that
solution is described at 1 Corinthians 1:30, and is
represented by the letters, W.R.S.R. (wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, redemption)
But by HIS (The Father's) doing you are IN Christ
Jesus, Who (Christ) became to us:
A. Wisdom from God: Wisdom refers to the divine
solution to our sin problem and offsets the
"Helpless" factor of Romans 5.
B. And righteousness: this refers to the imputation
of God's righteousness to the believer, which is
God now sees us as perfectly righteous in his eyes,
from a positional or relationship perspective.
This offsets the "ungodly" factor at Romans 5.
Even though we are still sinful by nature while alive
here on earth (the sin nature is a physical mutation
of the mentality genes and will be present as long as
we are in these mortal bodies), yet in our position IN
CHRIST, God sees us as righteous.
C. And sanctification: This refers to POSITIONAL
sanctification; the fact that we are positionally
united with Christ in His death and resurrection so
that we are right now "seated together" in the
heavenlies IN Christ (Ephesians 2:6). The idea of
sanctification refers to being set apart from others
in a unique and privileged status. That is what
happens when God the Holy Spirit takes every person
at the very moment of faith in Christ
and IDENTIFIES (baptizes) him into the body of Christ
(1 Cor. 12:13). 1 Corinthians 1:2, “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”
Because of this union with Christ and the possession
of God's perfect righteousness, we are reconciled to
Him and are no longer enemies.
This offsets the "enemy" factor of Romans 5.
D. And Redemption: This refers to the payment for and
release from the penalty for sins. Ephesians 1:7,
IN whom we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness (release) from our sins.
This offsets the "Sinner" factor of Romans 5.
There are some who teach that man is totally UNABLE to
come to Christ because the extent of depravity reaches
to the very core of their will, so that their will is
actually STUCK in rebellion against God so that they
won’t even seek for God. The passages used for this
are Romans 3:11-12, 1 Corinthians 2:14 and John 6:44
and Romans 8:7. These are simply misunderstood because
the Scripture teaches as a whole, that not only is man
ABLE to search for God, but is also able to CHOOSE to
accept God’s offer of grace.
They also teach that since man is DEAD, he is unable
to do anything that can only be done by the living.
They love to use Lazarus who was dead, and unable to
bring himself out from the tomb, but needed the divine
assistance of Jesus in order to live. So also, it is
claimed, those who are spiritually dead, must be made
alive by the divine regeneration of God before they
can do anything of a spiritual nature, and that
includes expressing faith in the gospel. The problem
with this is, that there is no scriptural teaching of
this or basis for comparing the condition of spiritual
death with physical death. It is obvious that in
physical death, there is no physical FUNCTION,
however, in spiritual death, the soul continues to
function with full ability to comprehend divine
morality, the existence of God, and the plan of
salvation. Practically every page of Scripture screams
that man is both ABLE to respond to God and indeed,
called upon by God to respond.
It is therefore necessary in this dissertation on
depravity to recognize and establish that the soul of
all men has a functional free will, certainly
influenced toward evil, but in no way, incapacitated
in its search for God. We have seen the presence and
influence of the sin nature upon the “heart”
(mentality) of man. But does the Scripture teach that
this evil influence actually PREVENTS any kind of
positive response to God? The answer is a resounding NO!
I am only going to discuss examples of unbelievers
with volitional capacity, since these are the ones who
are under the fullness of sinful depravity.
The first occasion for us to observe the function of
man’s free will in general, is with the UNBELIEVER,
Cain. This has already been discussed and I refer the
reader back to that discussion via Genesis 4:7, “If
you do right, will there not be an acceptance? And if
you do not do right, sin (principle and influence of
the sin nature) is residing at the door, and its
desire is for you, but you must master it.”
The next occasion for this observation is at Genesis
4:26, where we have a somewhat NEUTRAL focus. Here,
without any reference to CAUSE, we find that statement
that “men began calling upon the name of the LORD.”
This should remind us of the general invitation
extended to all from God through Joel 2:32 and Romans
10:13 that, “whoever calls upon the name of the LORD,
will be saved.”
The next occasion concerns Abram as an unbeliever.
In the Old Testament we do not have any record of his
salvation decision nor of when God FIRST contacted
him. But we learn from Acts 7:2-3, that God had
appeared to him while he was still in Ur of the
Chaldees. Thus, the appearance and INVITATION to “go
forth,” that is recorded at Genesis 12:1, is a SECOND
one. The initial act of obedience to God was then made
while Abe was still in Ur, and would indicate that it
is at that time or before, that Abe trusted in Yahweh
and the messianic promise for salvation. There is no
hint that God CAUSED Abe to believe or obey, but that
Abe had entered into a relationship with God based on
the pattern mentioned at Genesis 4:26; the pattern of
faith being expressed first BEFORE any spiritual benefits.
The next occasion is when we encounter an unbeliever
Pharoah of at Genesis 12:14-20. This man wanted
Abe’s “sister” for his wife and had her brought into
his house. When God began to judge him, he learned
that Sarah was actually Abe’s wife, and in response,
he did the MORALLY RIGHTEOUS thing. He took her back
to Abe, and sent them on their way without any IMMORAL
actions. He certainly was “free” and “able” to make
right and proper decisions when given the right facts.
These truths can be denied, but cannot be disproved.
©Ron Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com.
Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,