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John 3:16 Conference: Message on Total Depravity from Dr. Paige Patterson

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Congregation singing: “O How Marvelous, O How Wonderful”

Dr. Paige Patterson:

The most hated doctrine is not the doctrine of election, but the doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ. The second most hated doctrine is that of human depravity.

“Everyone knows that I am not a Calvinist, I am not Reformed.”

Thank God that our Calvinist brothers are trying to preach the Word of the Lord; many non-Calvinists are entertaining their hearers rather than preaching the Word of God.

I commend my Calvinist friends for being mostly the ones who are the Bible teachers.

Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-26

You will not hear these verses read in most post-modern churches; you will even more seldom here them preached upon.

1. What does depravity mean?

a. “There is not a single human being on the face of the earth who is righteous before God” prior to regeneration. (Romans 3:10)

b. Those in a state of total depravity do not perceive God, and when they perceive things about Him, those things are distorted (Romans 3:11a.)

c. There is no one who seeks God; even good deed are done in a state of depravity (Romans 3:11b.)

d. We have become spiritually unprofitable (Romans 3:12a,)

e, No one can do anything good as counting toward a right standing before good; any good deed is tainted with the results of our sinfulness (Romans 3:13)

f. There is no ultimate peace in the sinner’s heart (Romans 3:14-17)

g. There is no real fear of God, though there may sometimes be fear of death or other things that mimic fear of God (Romans 3:18)

2. How does depravity come about? (Romans 5:15-18)

a. We all fell in Adam; in Adam all died.

b. Reference to the narrative in Genesis 3; Dr. Patterson did the best job I’ve ever heard of illustrating the stupidity and inadequacy of using fig leaves to cover the shame of sin. Dr. Patterson also brought out the significance of Adam and Eve covering their reproductive organs, and how this action points to the fact that the offspring of Adam and Eve would in sin as well.

c. Are we born guilty before God? “I do not think that can be demonstrated from Scripture.” We are born with a sin-sickness. Scripture is consistent that we are considered guilty only for our own sin.

Transition: What about Ephesians 2?

3. What can a dead man do?

a. “Dead” is a metaphor

b. Reference to Abraham being considered ‘as good as dead,’ and the ‘deadness of Sarah’s womb’ from Romans 4:19 to prove that faith can overcome deadness.

c. Illustration of a sailor damaged by an explosion, and cast into the sea. An admiral sees the sailor knocked into the sea and sends a helicopter to save the sailor. The sailor can barely hear, but faintly hears the whir of the helicopter blades, and he signals the helicopter, which saves him. Dr. Patterson says that we are like the sailor in the sea, God is like the admiral, and the whirring of the helicopter blades is the preaching of the gospel. We can barely hear the gospel due to our depraved condition, but if we respond to what we hear, we will be saved. Dr. Patterson acknowledged that this analogy, like all others, breaks down at a certain point, but was clear in asserting that everyone can respond to the gospel.

Dr. Patterson consistently referred to his position as “Total depravity.”

Dr. Patterson concluded with having everyone bow our heads, close our eyes, and raise our hands if we had never before truly called upon Christ for salvation, and now want to be saved. No one responded to this, but Dr. Patterson felt it was important to give everyone a chance to respond to the gospel.


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