This sermon excerpt addressing total depravity is from Reformed Theology by Adrian Rogers. (Archived by Louisiana College) Read the full sermon.
And let’s take first TOTAL DEPRAVITY. I believe a man is a sinner. I believe he’s a sinner by birth…a sinner by choice…a sinner by nature…a sinner under condemnation…a sinner deserving hell – totally depraved. But I do not believe what some reformed theologians believe and some hyper-Calvinists believe, and that is that a man in that condition cannot hear God until he’s first regenerated.
They say it’s like speaking to a dead man. The dead man has to have life before he can hear. And so, some people get themselves in the position of saying that somebody is regenerated before he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, that’s getting it backwards. They say, “Well, a dead man cannot hear.” Of course, a dead man can hear. When Adam sinned, was he dead in trespasses and sin? Of course, he was. He was dead in trespasses and sin. “In the day that ye eat thereof, ye shall surely die.” God came walking in the Garden and God said, “Adam, where art thou?” Of course, Adam could hear.
The problem comes when we talk about death. They say, “Well, what can a dead man do?” Well, a dead man can do a lot of things. You need to understand what “death” is in the Bible. There are three kinds of death mentioned in the Bible. For example, Luke 16 talks about a rich man who died and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he said, “Father Abraham, send Lazarus that he might dip his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame.” He was dead, but he was not annihilated. He was still conscious.
Again, you could read in 1 Timothy 5:6, and the Bible speaks there of a woman who is living in sin, and the Bible says that “she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she lives.” Now, she might be walking around the city of Memphis tonight…she’s dead, but she can certainly hear, she can certainly talk, she can certainly feel, she can certainly think. See, death in the Bible is not annihilation. The Bible never calls you a corpse. This body is just what you live in. You always will have consciousness.
Then the Bible speaks of the “second death.” In Revelation 20:14…the second death. That is when a person dies and goes to hell…but the Bible says there “in hell they have no rest day or night.” So, in hell, there is the “second death.” What I’m trying to say is this…Sometime people will say to me, “Well, how on earth could a dead man hear before he’s first given life?” Of course, the dead can hear and understand. Unsaved people can know truth. Turn to Romans 1 for just a moment and look in verse 19… if this gets too deep and you say, “What difference does this make?” Well, just listen anyway! Alright, let’s begin in verse 18. God speaks of His wrath. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness…(the word “hold” here means literally “that hold back the truth…that smother or stifle the truth”) because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them.” Now, he’s not talking here about regenerated people. He’s talking about sheer, raw pagans…God has shown Himself unto them. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen…” Now these are dead people he’s talking about…spiritually dead…pagans…“the invisible of Him”…that is God’s spiritual nature…“are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
Some hyper-Calvinists have gone so far as to say, “Well, man has to be regenerated before he can even believe because if God didn’t give him life, what could a dead man do?” No, a dead man can hear. A dead man can know God. A dead man can resist the truth. I didn’t say he’s saved, “but when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” They know who God is. They are without excuse. You must believe first in order to be saved! The Bible makes that so clear. Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God.” Faith first! John 1:12: “As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”
So, I believe that man is depraved. I don’t believe that any man can come to God except God enable him to come. I don’t believe that we seek God. God seeks us. I don’t believe that we could have faith unless God gave it to us. I don’t believe that we could repent unless God granted us repentance. But, I reject with all of the unction, function and emotion of my soul that a man is regenerated before he believes. That’s just totally contrary to Scripture!
Now, you can’t come unless the Lord draws you. That’s very clear. I base my whole ministry on that. That’s why before I preach I get on my knees, I have a place where I kneel every Sunday, and I say, “Oh God, open hearts, open understandings,” because Jesus said in John 6:44, “No man can come unto Me except the Father that hath sent Me draw him.” But you know, He does draw them and how many does He draw? Or does he just draw the “elect”? John 1:9: “Christ is that light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” He’s the light that lights every man…every person has that light.
Man is totally depraved, but he can hear God even if he’s a raw pagan like Romans 1. So, therefore I reject the hyper-Calvinist view of totally depravity.
(Stay Tuned for PART THREE…)