Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Briefing Library: The very practical doctrine of total depravity

The Bible's teaching about original sin and total depravity is foundational. If we reject Scripture's doctrine of sin, eventually we will reject other doctrines connected to it, such as Scripture's teaching about God, salvation, and the after life. In addition, we will be confused about how to raise our children and where to look to find wisdom for living.

In our day teaching about original sin and its effects, i.e., total depravity, is more unpopular than ever. We have arrived at that point Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 4: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

Teaching people about the depth of their sin is difficult in a generation that has grown up with self-esteem teaching. Actually, teaching people the depth of their sin is not the problem as much as people's receiving such teaching! The soil in many hearts is concrete-like. But we serve a God who can prepare and soften even the most hardened hearts, for nothing is impossible with him.

The Reformation argued that every sermon should contain both law and gospel. We need to recover this emphasis. Very few people preach both law and gospel today, even among those who advocate law and gospel in theory. When law and gospel are both preached it is usually a compelling sermon because there is a built-in plot or tension in the sermon.

Preaching the law in all of its severity and the gospel in all its sweetness does come with a price for the preacher: he will be disliked by some and loved by others. Those who want to feel good about themselves won't like the negativity of the doctrine of original sin. Those who want something relevant and practical will complain about the minister's dry doctrine. Those whose consciences are not deadened will be shocked and horrified by the truth about themselves, and will often blame the teacher. But some will come to a genuine Spirit-wrought conviction of sin which will lead them to be united to Jesus Christ through the gospel. These good soil hearers will love the preacher/teacher for telling them the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.

I commend this article from the Briefing to you. --Bill

The Briefing Library: The very practical doctrine of total depravity

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