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Man's Sinful Condition

"The evangelist who preaches for eternity is never great on numbers. He is not apt to count hundreds of converts where there is no restitution, no confession, and no glad cry which proclaims, ‘The lost is found, the dead is made alive again!' "

E. M. Bounds


The majority of humanity believes that some amount of good works is sufficient to gain them entrance into heaven. This belief is due to a faulty concept of man's true condition. Helping people understand the concept of "original sin" will enable them to see their need for the Savior.

Two things are meant by the expression "original sin": the first sin of Adam, and the sinful nature possessed by every person since Adam, due to Adam's first transgression. This sinful nature is called "depravity." Depravity consists of four things, which are true of every individual when he is born:

1.   He is completely void of original righteousness. "Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5).

2.   He does not possess any holy affection toward God. "They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever" (Romans 1:25). "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:10, 11). "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, ... lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:2-4).

3.   There is nothing from without a man, that can defile him; but the things which come out of him, these are they that defile the man. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:15, 21-23).

4.   He has a continual bias toward evil. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagining of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).

Lest the term "depravity" be misunderstood, it is well to note the following, quoted from Lectures in Systematic Theology by Henry C. Thiessen:

From the negative standpoint, it does not mean that every sinner is devoid of all qualities pleasing to men; that he commits, or is prone to commit every form of sin; that he is as bitterly opposed to God as it is possible for him to be ... Jesus recognized the existence of pleasing qualities in some individuals (Mark 10:21; Matt. 23:23).

... From the positive standpoint, it does mean that every sinner is totally destitute of that love to God which is the fundamental requirement of the law: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Dt. 6:4, 5). See Matt. 22:35-38; that he is supremely given to a preference of himself to God (2 Tim. 3:2-4); that he has an aversion to God which on occasion becomes active enmity to Him: "because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7); that his every faculty is disordered and corrupted: "having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:18); that he has no thought, feeling, or deed of which God can fully approve: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not" (Rom. 7:18); and that he has entered upon a line of constant progress in depravity from which he can in no wise turn away in his own strength.

The result of man's depravity, or sin nature, is his willful rebellion against God. Such an attitude cannot but bring forth evil results. The awful results of sin are obvious. It is not possible for men to continue sinning and receive anything but a harvest of sorrows of the worst kind. Paul states in Galatians 6:8, "For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." Hosea said concerning Israel, "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7). He also declared, "You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity; you have eaten the fruit of lies" (Hosea 10:13).

One would have to be blind not to see the result of sinful depravity in the minds and bodies of the human race today. Superstition, barbarity, and the grossest iniquity are seen in every land where the gospel has not yet gone. Where the message of salvation from sin has been preached and rejected, the condition is almost worse, for here is added the condemnation of light that has been rejected. In the United States, probably the richest Christian nation in the world, every institution of correction, every prison of punishment, every sanitarium and asylum is bulging with the results of sin. Every policeman in the country is a silent tribute to the reality of sin.

So devastating is its influence upon the human consciousness that now sin is glamorized until it is being recognized in society as the thing to do. A great man once said, "Our greatest defense against sin is to be shocked at it"; and when this attitude ceases, sin has accomplished its direst results. Paul, in that terrible list of gross iniquities in Romans 1:24-32, climaxed the whole dread situation when he said, "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (v. 32). When sin loses its sinfulness, and men take pleasure in the grossest of sinful practices, there is little hope left ... but for the grace of God.[1]

[1] Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically-the way Jesus did (pp. 161-164). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.