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How Total Depravity Affects Evangelism

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I have a confession to make, I hate kale. It is not that I simply do not prefer to eat it. It is not simply just another green thing I do not care to eat. No, I hate that evil seaweed. It is gross to my taste. The only way kale enters my body is through my wife hiding it in a smoothie blend of delicious fruits. If you put kale on my plate it will go straight where it belongs, in the trash.

As much as I hate kale and refuse to eat it, I do not hate kale to the same extent that man hates God. Evangelism Scriptures like Romans 8:7 make it clear, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” This is what we call the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Total Depravity is not the belief that man is as evil as he could be, however, that every person is so affected by the curse of sin that every aspect of their whole nature suffers from corruption. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith summarizes Total Depravity in Chapter articles 3 and 4:

They [Adam and Eve] being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

1689 LBCF ch. 6

Because we have inherited our sinful nature from our father Adam we are by nature children of wrath. We are not all born children of God but rather we are born under the curse of God. There is hostility between God and man. Therefore rather than seek God we hate Him and are incapable because of our evil desires to do anything on our own nature to serve God.

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There are many evangelism Scriptures that point to the reality of this great dilemma for mankind: Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:13; Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 8:44; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 5:19; Romans 6:20; Titus 3:3; John 6:44; John 6:65; Romans 3:9-12; Romans 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14.

Now that we understand man’s helpless state before God we must evaluate our evangelistic methods in reaching fallen man. If you believe that man will of his own good nature can and might choose Christ than you will be disappointed. Worse yet you may even begin to invent ways to force quick decisions from people in order to declare them saved when God has not necessarily done the work.

How often do you see preachers preach a sermon, sometimes not even mentioning the gospel, and then they tell everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. They then lead in a prayer saying something like, “If you want to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior than repeat after me.” After they have said this prayer they may ask anyone who repeated it to either raise their hand or if they are really bold to walk forward down the aisle. When someone does so the preacher popishly declares them saved and they get a new Bible.

The problem with this practice is threefold. 1) Nowhere in scripture is this kind of prayer ever practiced. 2) This kind of “evangelism” is totally centered on man. In this practice, all the weight is put on sinful men to approach God. True biblical evangelism is God-centered. 3) This form of “evangelism” can be disastrously counterproductive. I have no doubt that some brothers and sisters have come to Christ praying a pray like this with a genuine desire for Christ wrought in them by the Holy Spirit. However to popishly declare someone saved who is not is one of the most damaging things to a person’s true conversion. Especially when done through a practice not instituted by God. The people who are hardest to reach are those who think they are right with God. Often this prayer reinforces the false hope of dying men and women who never sincerely understood the gospel in the first place.

Salvation is of the Lord (Psalm 3:8, Psalm 62:1). In order for man to be saved God must do the work. God must do the whole work. This is the picture we see in Scipture. Ephesians 1:1-14 lays out the reality that God the Father has chosen for himself a people. (4-6). That Christ has redeemed us by his blood that one day we might have fellowship with Him (7-12). Lastly, upon hearing the gospel preached we are regenerated and sealed with the Holy Spirit (13-14).

Because salvation is a work of God, the evangelist ought to have all His confidence in God rather than on his audience. Although the preacher ought to be excellent in His preaching it is not his persuasive abilities that will save a mans soul. No, it is the power of our Sovereign Lord that saves sinners.

God is mighty to save and He has given us a mighty weapon in the salvation of sinners, that is His word. God the Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to bring unregenerate sinners home to Christ (Romans 10:14). I would exhort you in your evangelism endeavors to hope in God as your proclaim His glorious gospel.

Do not give any credibility to the deceitful, underhanded ways false prophets seek to make their converts. You preach the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man revealed in God’s law. You preach the amazing work God has done in Christ, that he lived perfect, died in the place of sinners, and rose from the grave. You preach the reality of faith in Christ evidenced by repentance wrought in the sinner through the power of the Spirit. You preach the imminent return of our King to judge the living and the dead. Preach the word and trust God to do the rest.


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