Jun 19, 2017

Depravity and Saving Grace

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by Grace Community Church

We believe that man was created in the image of God, that he sinned and thereby incurred not only physical death, but also spiritual death which is separation from God. We believe that all human beings are born with a sinful nature, lost and without hope except for His sovereign mercy and grace.

There is a long-standing story from the early 1900’s about an inquiry sent out from the English newspaper, The Times, which stated, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Daily, we experience the brokeness of the world through wars, murder, corruption, prejudice, poverty, broken relationships, and more.

The Bible provides critical insight into our concern for the world around us. Rewind to the beginning of time when God reveals His unmatched creativity in shaping and forming all things “good.” (Genesis 1:31) In that moment, all the earth was functioning just as God intended! We’ve never experienced this kind of perfection because of what takes place just two chapters later: the fall of man.

The Fall of Man

Genesis 3 describes the sobering event that changes everything: sin enters into the world, and everything that was created in its perfect form is now broken. From that moment on, the world began to operate in a way that God did not intend. Whether it’s the injustice suffered by the lowly, the corruption of a government, the physical or emotional pain of an abusive husband, the prejudiced actions towards one of a different skin color, or the multitude of lies that can paralyze us, we all feel the harsh sting of a broken world.

James Sire, in his book Naming the Elephant, explains that all men and women of all cultures throughout history have asked four essential questions: 1) Who am I? What is the nature, task, and purpose of human beings? 2) Where am I? What is the nature of the world and universe I live in? 3) What’s wrong? What is the basic problem, or how do I understand evil? 4) What is the remedy? How is it possible to overcome this broken world? A proper grasp of biblical theology is important because biblical theology helps us understand that all the evil in this world exists because of sin, and sin exists because of the fall.

Sin Enters

If sin is the source of all evil in the world, where did sin originate? Sin entered the story first in heaven, in the immediate presence of God. The thought, the wish, the will to resist God arose first in the heart of the angels. Peter explained in 2 Peter 2:4, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.”

Then we see Satan approach Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the temptation to give in to sin (Genesis 3). This is where we get the Doctrine of Depravity, the belief that from the moment of the fall and throughout all of human history, every human operates in and lives in the total brokenness of a sinful nature. The Apostle Paul gives us one of the best explanations of depravity in Romans 5: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) This is where theologians get the term “Original Sin,” which means all human beings are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being.

Soren Kierkegaard, in his book The Sickness Unto Death, defines sin as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God, not as much on “doing bad things” but on “making good things into ultimate things.”

In response to the question sent to The Times, an English poet and theologian G.K. Chesterton responded, “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.” Chesterton’s response is challenging because the vast majority of us want to place the blame on everyone around us and believe that we are the exception to what is wrong with the world.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Ephesians 2:1-3. He essentially says, “Dear Sirs, the problem with the world is us.” Nothing levels the playing field like sin does. We are all sinful and broken.

Redemption for All

If Ephesians 2 stopped at v.3, all humanity would be in a very dark and hopeless place. Yet Paul doesn’t stop at v.3, and the way he begins v.4 is remarkable. God’s solution to our depravity is not for us to avoid major sins or sins that hurt people.

God’s solution is two words: “But God.” In the following verses, Paul declares, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5).  The story of the Gospel is a story of redemptive grace which makes the story of your life a story of redemptive grace! God wanted you to be His, and He was willing to pay a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20). Christ was willing to pay the price when you were at your lowest point, and Christ has proclaimed that no one will ever love you more than He does. Christ was willing to pay the price for every sin you’ve committed, for no sin is bigger than the cross. Christ paid the price to redeem you, the wayward and lost and broken and sinful you.

Because God has redeemed you, you are forgiven and free from your depravity. You are new and righteous in His sight. It is God’s grace at the beginning and at the end that redeems us so that when you and I come to lie upon our death beds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us is the thing that helped us in the beginning: not what we have been, not what we have done, but the grace of God in Jesus Christ! The Christian life starts with grace, it continues with grace, and it ends with grace. By the grace of God I am what I am.

Additional Resources

The Great Exchange by Jerry Bridges 

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller