The Depravity of Man

What have we inherited from Adam?

"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him." We read these lines in Genesis 1:27. This image of God that came into existence at Creation was subsequently corrupted by sin. That means that the moral nature of man was poisoned and the divine element of holiness was lost. Generally, this is referred to as "depravity" or our "sinful nature." But how exactly is this to be understood? We would like to discuss four points that clearly demonstrate the poisoning of man's moral nature in our practical lives. First however, we need to establish that this depravity manifests itself to different degrees in different people. Observe the various children in a family. Though all are raised in the same way by the same parents, we notice varying degrees of corruption among them, proving that depravity is truly inborn.


1. Weakening of the Conscience

We have already seen in Lesson 18 (September 2012) that the conscience operates variously in different people. One reason for this is that some people have hardened their conscience by their lifestyle. However, one can often already detect either a tender or a dull conscience in children. The function of the conscience is weakened by the first committed sin. The conscience is rendered incapable of discerning right from wrong because its sensitivity to what is right has been dulled. We are perplexedto hear people say, "How can a passionate love affair be sin?" It clearly shows us that people no longer recognize wickedness. Their conscience has become desensitized to the wickedness they commit against the opposite sex when they engage in sexual activities that God designed for marriage alone.

2. Corrupted Inclinations

The image of God came into sharp focus in original man through specific moral characteristics of God, characteristics such as holiness, righteousness, love, compassion and truth. However, these moral charac- teristics were corrupted through the fall of man into sin. The high standards of these moral characteristics were severely degraded; in many cases, they seem to have vanished completely from the lives of people. Take the moral characteristic of righteousness, for example. By it we are filled with indignation and anger when we observe, for example, others being treated wrongly. The sinful nature can either weaken our sense of righteousness, so that we are unconcerned when others are treated wrongly, – as long as we are not disadvantaged - or it can maliciously strengthen it, so that we become hot-tempered and reach for revenge. In the same way, the sinful nature corrupts humility to become vanity, pride, and jealousy. Cor- ruption changes the initial love and inclination man had towards God to egoism and narcissism. Thus, the natural tendencies exhibited in a person's character are, to different degrees, altered and corrupted.

3. Enslaving of the Will

The will is also weakened through the sinful nature. The evil people do not want to do, they do, while the good they want to do, they are unable to do. Please take the time to read Romans 7:19ff. This passage also provides the reason why man does what he does not want to do. How often people resolve to do better! Take the mother-in-law, for example, who resolves no longer to be so cruel to her young daughter-in-law. But her willpower is just not sufficient. Even though she may regret it afterwards, she cannot help but to insult and hurt her daughter-in-law time and again.

4. The Disposition to Sin

The Bible shows us through many examples that one sin usually breeds many more. Please read as an example the incident with David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). One reason for this is the inherent inclina- tion to sin. We already see this in small children. They learn bad behavior more quickly than good behavior. Children do not need to be taught to lie or to be selfish; that comes on its own. And this continues throughout life. This principle is further evident in that a person may regret his sinful behavior, but still does not have the strength to avoid sin. In John 3:19-20 we read: "[...] men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." This Scripture reveals that people in sin love the darkness and hate the light of God's ho- liness. One can often see how people deliberately commit sin; they intentionally engage in the most grievous and wicked sins. There burns within them a fire ignited by hell: the fire of sin.

We want to make the Reader aware again of the tragedy of the fall of man into sin. The sinful nature is the reason why all people born after Adam are sinners. Paul writes in Romans 3:9: "For we have previously [Romans 1:18–2:24] charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin." And later (verse 23): "For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Thus, there is no person who can, in his own strength, live without sin.

But wait, there was one such Person! Jesus Christ, who, though being without sin, was made to be sin for us so that we could be freed from the power of sin!

User Login

You are here: Home Biblical Doctrine The Depravity of Man