Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD BIBLE STUDIES STUDY THREE

BY COLIN MAXWELL

Reading: Romans 3:9-20

THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF THE HUMAN RACE

SHORT HISTORICAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION

These "doctrines of grace" (commonly known as "Calvinism" after John Calvin who formulated them so brilliantly) were the standard teaching of Reformation Christianity. However, before his death in 1609, Dutchman Jacob Arminius challenged these doctrines. His followers (Arminians) pressed the matter further and in 1619 the Synod of Dort took up the challenge and ruled in favour of the traditional Protestant doctrine. The Arminians believed that man was not totally depraved - that his election to eternal life was conditional upon his faith which God foreseen - that Christ died for the sins of the reprobate - that God's Spirit could be finally resisted even by the elect - and that it was possible for a truly born again child of God to apostatise from the faith and be damned in hell. It was the Arminians who dictated the field of battle and so the "5 points of Calvin" are a response to these attacks upon the Reformed Faith. The battle has raged ever since. Our final court of Appeal ought not to be the Synod of Dort (with all due respect) but the written word of God. This leads us on to consider the following:

  1. GOD ORDAINED THE CREATION OF MAN
  1. Note the link to the sovereignty of God in Psalm 135:6 Proverbs 16:4/Revelation 4:11

B) Show from Romans 9:20/Matthew 20:15 how this position of God as Creator endows Him with certain inalienable rights. (Although we say that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"…such an observation cannot be applied to our Thrice Holy Creator/God: Revelation 15:3)

  1. GOD ORDAINED THAT ADAM WOULD REPRESENT MANKIND IN EDEN:

    A) Such truth is observed from the events of Genesis 5:3 and expounded in Romans 5:12-19/1 Corinthians 15:22

    The world too has its representative men. When Chamberlain declared on 3rd September, 1939 that "Britain is at war with Germany" he was not speaking as an individual, but as the representative of Britain. Every British subject knew that it had far reaching implications. Adam represented us all.

  2. GOD ORDAINED THAT ADAM WOULD FALL IN THE GARDEN:

A) This leads us to the very thorny issue of the origin of sin.

The Bible does not tell us of how/where sin originated. it is largely futile for us to probe into this. Speculation is useless. We just know that God is not its author. Do we now appreciate the observations of Psalm 36:6?

Show how the following verses prove that God hates sin: Proverbs15:9/Habakuk 1:13/Jeremiah 44:4/1Kings 16:2

  1. We may fall back on the general observations of scripture that "God works all things after his own will" (Ephesians 1:11/Isaiah 46:10) Again…God's eternal provision of "the blood of the everlasting (eternal) covenant" points that way also. What light do you think the incident in Genesis 20:2-6 throws on what God could have done? Was God any less free to intervene in Eden?
  1. ADAM PLUNGED THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE INTO SIN:
  1. Adam was our Federal Head and so the human race all bear his guilt (Romans 5:19) More than this, we inherit his sinful nature. Already mentioned Genesis 5:3. Show how Psalm 51:5/58:3 builds upon this. Also Job 14:4/Matthew 7:17-18/John 3:6

The question is: To what extent is our nature sinful? Is it partial or total? The Bible teaches us that it is total.

  1. WHAT TOTAL DEPRAVITY MEANS:
  1. It means that "man became wholly defiled, in all the faculties and parts of soul and body." (WCF) What do the following verses teach?

[1] Isaiah 1:5-6

[2] Jeremiah 17:9

[3] Mark 7:20-23/Proverbs 23:7

[4] Ephesians 2:1

[5] John 8:34/Ephesians 2:2/2 Peter 2:19

B) Such depravity has a knock on effect as regards the gospel. Man is unable to grasp the truth of the gospel…not because God has wilfully blinded Him…but because his sin blinds him to its central truth. What do the following verses teach?

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[2] John 6:44/65

Where does the inability lie? John 5:40

[3] 1 Corinthians 1:18/Acts 17:18

  1. WHAT TOTAL DEPRAVITY DOES NOT MEAN:

A) It does not mean that all men are equally bad or that every man's actions are murderous and every word is slanderous.

What do the following verses show?

[1] Luke 6:33/Luke 10:33

  1. Such acts of decency/compassion are as a result of God's intervening and common grace. God has put a restraining order on man's sin. Left to himself, man's life would manifest the fruits of Genesis 6:5. But God often restrains wicked men (Genesis 20:2-6 is an example) and often overrules his wicked designs (Genesis 50:20) If God took off the brake and left man to his own devices…this world would be a veritable hell.
  2. 2 Kings 8:11-13/13:7 shows us how we cannot even plumb the depths of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) It is only the mercy of God that holds us back from the worst excesses.
  3. What petition in the Lord's Prayer (Our Father) teaches us the same truth of God's restraining hand?
  1. WHY TOTALLY DEPRAVED MAN IS STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS ACTIONS:
  1. We have been learning that man is under bondage to sin. This sinful bondage - which man enjoys (Romans 1:32) - makes man incapable of repenting or believing the gospel. Yet, we are still to urge sinful man to repent and believe (Mark 6:12/Luke 24:47/Acts 20:21) Is it fair/just to exhort men to do what they cannot do? Does the Bible give us any other examples of this?

8) OUTCOME OF THIS RESPONSIBILITY:

A) Man is unable in himself to believe the gospel with a saving faith. He may produce a non saving faith similar to that of James 2:19 or a false repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) but his own sin prevents him from coming savingly to Christ. No man can sin himself out of responsibility before God. It was CH Spurgeon's great maxim that:

"Salvation is all of grace…damnation is all of sin."

Show how the following verses emphasise man's responsibility in his own damnation:

[1] Acts 1:25

[2] 2 Peter 2:12

[3] Psalm 9:16

[4] Proverbs 5:22/6:32/8:36/11:5/14:14

Room for discussion: It is necessary for us to understand the full impact of the effect of the fall upon the human soul. Bishop Ryle observed long ago: "He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness, must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption." How do you think such might manifest itself in this day of low theological understanding and yet mass evangelism?

STUDY FOUR: UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

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