Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation


By Doyle D. Dewberry - Updated 10/5/2000

Text - Ephesians 2:4-5

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were DEAD IN SINS, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

This passage of scripture speaks of every Christian's condition before salvation. We were dead. In fact, it descibes every man's spiritual condition. Now this death is not physical death, and since it speaks of the need of quickening, a work of the Holy Spirit, it must mean we were dead to spiritual things. Death is total inability or depravity. (Depravity is from a combination of French and Latin words: de - pravus - One usage of de is "derived from" and the Latin pravus crooked, or bad, thus "derived from crookedness).

Paul said, But the natural man (soulish man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned 1 Cor 2:14.

This condition goes back to Adam in the garden. At his creation out of the dust of the ground, and after being placed in the garden which God had planted, he was told, ..of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the DAY that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely DIE Gen 2:17. In that Adam did not die physically on the day he ate of the tree, what death did he die? He died spiritually, and would die physically at an appointed time.

His whole nature changed. Before he ate he was not ashamed of his nakedness. After, both he and Eve were ashamed, and covered themselves with fig leaves revealing he had conscience in his fallen state. (Gen 3:7). Before, Adam walked with God, but after having eaten of the tree, he hid himself from God. His nature was passed on to his offspring, as the first man born of a woman was a murderer. Cain slew his brother Abel.

Man in his spiritual deadness today demonstrates this same condition. He covers himself because of the lust of the flesh. Some say 'Clothes make the man', but in reality, clothes cover the man. Man seeks to hide himself from God ever since. Man from birth is dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph 2:1). Even after the flood, the sin nature continued, and Noah's sons covered him in his nakedness. (Gen 9:21-23.) They walked in backwards to avoid seeing the nakedness of their father, and covered him with a garment. The sin nature lived on. Paul said, Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death (both physically and spiritually) by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that (in whom) all have sinned Rom 5:12.

For to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, NEITHER INDEED CAN BE. Rom 8:6-7.

We speak of man as having a sin nature. This indicates that sin is his way of life. Everything lives and exists according to its nature. In the garden, Adam was created with a righteousness and holiness, but was a mutable creature. Only God is immutable. This indicated that righteousness and holiness was Adam's way of life, or his nature. Solomon said, ..God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions Eccl.7:29. Paul speaks of the one in Christ as having been renewed in the spirit of his mind, and adds, ..put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness Eph 4:23-24. Saved man has this nature Adam possessed in the garden restored and it is called the new man. Now the Christian has a new nature, and it becomes his way of life. Yet it is true, in this life he still has the old man, and he is told to put him off because his behavior is corrupt according the deceitful lust Eph 4:22.

John Gill, noted Baptist theologian said this concerning the effects of the sin and fall of Adam, is represented as without strength, having lost it, and become unable to do anything that is spiritually good; to which may be added, that sin has brought man into a state of slavery of sin, Satan, and the world; this is what we commonly call the corruption and depravity of nature .. this is the pandora from whence have sprung all spiritual maladies and bodily diseases; all the disasters, distresses, mischiefs and calamities, that are, or have been in the world. Body of Divinity, P 324.

While all men suffer the same depravity, it does not mean that all are equally open with acts of sin. Pride may keep a man from violating a law as he may be ashamed of going to prison. The same holds true for drunkenness and adultery. The Bible tells us that even pride is a sin. Man's corrupt heart is the spring board of his wickedness, Jesus said, For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies .. Matt 15:19. Man is likened to a tree, where a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit, because a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit Matt 7:17-18.

Nevertheless, the nature of sin is within, and man, rightly provoked, can commit the most violent crimes and sin. Man's condemnation is based more on what he is rather than what he does. The acts of sin follow because of his sin nature. The rotten apple in a barrel is cast out because it is rotten. It is unfit to eat because it is rotten. since the fall is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil. He possesses a fixed bias to the will against God, and instinctively and willingly turns to evil. He is an alien by birth, and a sinner by choice. The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volitions, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions. And it is this phase of it which led Luther to declare that 'Free-will is an empty term, whose reality is lost. And a lost liberty, according to my grammar, is no liberty at all'. In matters pertaining to his salvation, the unregenerate man is not at liberty to choose between good and evil, but only to choose between greater and lesser evil, which is not properly free will. The fact that fallen man still has ability to do certain acts morally good in themselves does not prove that he can do acts meriting salvation, for his motives may be wholly wrong. (L. Boettner)

The flood, wherein Noah and his house were saved, was a consequence of this sin nature reaching a point where only near annihilation of the world by the just God was necessary. We are told, And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was CORRUPT; for all flesh had CORRUPTED his way upon the earth Gen 6:12.

What was the extent of this corruption of man? We are told that God saw that the wickedness of man was GREAT in the earth, and that EVERY imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY Gen 6:5. And again it is said, ..for the imagination of man's heart is evil FROM HIS YOUTH Gen 8:21.

Now this verdict upon man was made by God, and even Noah was part of the evil world. We know this because of this verse, But Noah found grace IN THE EYES of the Lord v 8. Only sinners need grace, but Noah by faith was justified in the sight of God. We are told, Noah was a JUST man.. v 9. This, as it is taught in the New Testament, is a declared righteousness, which is only attained through faith. Jesus' righteousness is imputed to them. We are told, and we see it demonstrated, that Noah believed God. The writer of the book of Hebrews said of him, By faith, Noah, being warned of God of the things not seen as yet.. (11:7).

The nation Israel was given the law. It is evident that it was not given to keep for anyone's salvation, but was to give man a definition of sin, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. The law is as a mirror. It reveals exactly how we look; in every detail; every marred aspect of our appearance; every blotch upon our exterior. The mirror can do no more than reveal our condition, it can change nothing, but can only show. Such is the law. Those who seek any relief from the law expect the impossible. It cannot save, only condemn.

However, grace was evident here as God, in addition to the law, gave the nation ceremonial laws, that is, a system of offerings wherein a coming short of the law could stay the wrath of God for sin. It involved the shedding of blood in animal sacrifices, and was temporal at the most. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can take away sin. However, Israel, as any man would, failed this mandate, and it became a burden they could not bear.

The prophets made Divinely given charges against Israel's failure. Ah sinful nation, a people LADEN WITH INIQUITY, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward Isa 1:4. The nation Israel shows man cannot accomplish favor with God in the flesh.

What was the extent of their condition? <1>.. the WHOLE head is sick, and the WHOLE heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is NO SOUNDNESS in it; but wounds. and bruises, and putrifying sores.. Isa 1:5-6.

Man cannot face a Holy God with his own righteousness because he does not possess a valid one. Isaiah said, But WE ARE ALL as an unclean thing, and ALL our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (menstrual) Isa 64.6.

It is impossible for man to change his nature through reformation, or otherwise. Psychologists and psychiatrists have no method to effectually eliminate this dread condition of man. Jeremiah said, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil Jer 13:23. He said again, The heart is deceitful ABOVE ALL things, and desperately wicked (incurably): who can know it? Jer 17:9

David indicates that the sin nature passes from parents to children. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me Psa 51:5. We are told also The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies Psa 58:3. The parent does not have to teach the child to do wrong, but he does have to teach him to do right. The only one in the world without sin did not have a human father, the Lord Jesus Himself.

In the New Testatment, we learn more about the Gentile world and its inability. Paul said, .. for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are ALL UNDER SIN Rom 3:9. And what is the extent of their sin?

There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God .. there is none that doeth good, no, not one. There throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes .. for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God Rom 3:10-18,23.

Man in the flesh has no ability to see spiritual things. Jesus said, It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing John 6:63. Before man can believe, he must be born again (or, from above). Jesus said, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (from above) John 3:6-7. It is said of those who received Christ, that they were born, not of blood, nor OF THE WILL of the flesh, nor OF THE WILL OF MAN, but of God John 1:12-13. Man has no ability to come to Christ apart from God's power to quicken. Jesus said, .. no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my father John 6:65.

Jesus performed many miracles in the presence of the people, yet this does not produce faith. It is said, But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him .. therefore they COULD NOT believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them John 12:37-40. God's actions in performing this inability is to do nothing; he leaves them to themselves. The condition of man is already spiritual blindness and hardness of heart. If God does not open eyes nor give new hearts, then men see not nor understand.

While it is true man has will, he possesses a limited degree of freedom in it. He is free to be what he is; if corrupt, he is free to be corrupt; if spiritual, he is free to obey the Spirit. Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, Ye will not come to me that ye might have life John 5:40. The most obvious aspect of this verse is, as Spurgeon has said, they did not have life, but death (spiritual) and thus did not come to Christ.

(Man) is free to turn to Christ, but he is not able. I am free to make a million dollors, but so far it seems that I am not able. Turning to Christ is a spiritual act, and the sinner is spiritually dead. (Frank B. Beck)

Man's will is in bondage to his nature. He is like a man in prison. A.W. Pink said,

It has been well said that the will of the sinner is like a manacled, fettered prisoner in a cell. His movements are hampered by his chains, and he is hindered by the walls that confine him. He is free to walk, but in such a constrained way and within such a limited space that his freedom is bondage--bondage to sin. Gleanings From the Scriptures, P 85.

The Jews were claiming to be Abraham's seed, and as such maintained they were never IN BONDAGE to any man. Jesus's answer was, Whosoever committeth sin is the SERVANT (slave) OF SIN John 8:33-34. Man may not be a slave of man, but he is subservient to his nature. It controls his every being.

Seeing this overall description of man from Old and New Testament, we ask, "What ability does he have?" Man is as a dead bird. He has everything necessary to fly, but does not have the ability or freedom to do so. So is man, dead in trespasses and sins. His only hope is in a Sovereign, Omnipotent, and merciful God, and this hope is more substantial than in himself. We can not talk of grace until we have talked of the sin nature, therefore it heads up any doctrines of grace. Man's only hope, if he senses his own condition, is to cast himself upon the mercy of God, and cry out for this merciful and gracious God to save him. Jesus said, Come unto me all ye that LABOR and are HEAVY LADEN.

This verse is not an option, but a command. Man is responsible even though he has no ability to do so. It is not as the Arminian claims, "No ability - no responsibility". The plea, "I am not able, therefore, not responsible," depends "on how the inability arose. If it is a created inability (the fault lies with the Creator), then there can be no obligation (on man's part). But if acquired, the obligation remains" David S. Clark)

For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES, it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Comments Welcome
E-Mail: Doyle Dewberry
Pastor, Alameda, Calif

Return to Doctrines Page

Return to Main Home Page