I'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! (Phil Johnson

Ephesians 2:1-6   |   Sunday, September 7, 2014   |   Code: 2014-09-07-PJ

For several years I participated fairly actively in some

forums on the Internet where biblical and theological issues

were being discussed and debated. My favorite forums were

not the ones where doctors of divinity and seminary

professors were discussing theoretical and philosophical

issues. I referred the forums where serious lay-people were

talking about theological issues that intersect with real life.

I've been active on the Internet since 1995, and one thing I

have noticed is that certain issues keep coming up again and

again. Participating in these forums gave me a pretty good

grasp of which doctrines confuse or intrigue the most people.

And over the years in my teaching, I have tried to deal with

as many of those troublesome issues as possible.

One thing I have noticed is that the doctrines that pertain

to human sin are some of the hardest doctrines for people to

understand and embraceCparticularly the doctrines of

original sin and universal depravity. The average person

loves to hear that people are fundamentally good, that God is

in love with us just the way we are; that no matter who you

are or what you do you are going to be OK because God

values you and His love and forgiveness are unconditional.

Ephesians 2:1-6 2

That's not quite true, of course. First John 4:8 and 1 John

4:16 both say, "God is love." No one would dispute that. "The

LORD . . . is good, [and] his steadfast love endures forever."

That's Psalm 106:1. Psalm 136 repeats the refrain ("his

steadfast love endures forever") twenty-six timesConce for

every verse.

But there's another side to this truth as well. Psalm 112:9

adds that "his righteousness endures forever"; Psalm 119:160

says, "every one of your righteous rules endures forever."

Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29 say, "our God is a

consuming fire." And Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a fearful thing

to fall into the hands of the living God." Furthermore,

forgiveness is not unconditional. Hebrews 9:22 says, "without

the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Jesus

Himself said in Matthew 25:41 that at the final judgment,

many will hear him say, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the

eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Our guilt

simply cannot be swept aside with an appeal to the love and

mercy of God. We can't atone for our own sins or make our

own transgressions right. We need a Savior.

Of all the doctrines taught in Scripture, the one doctrine

that comes under attack more than any other is the Bible's

teaching that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of

God, that we inherited a sinful nature from Adam, and that it

means we are helpless to redeem ourselves from the

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 3

condemnation of God. Those ideas run counter to every other

religion man has ever devised.

People want to believe the gospel according to Joel

OsteenCthat they are noble and good; that God is pleased

with them, and that if they just set their hearts and minds to

do a bit of good, or perform a few acts of random kindness,

they will be welcomed into heaven in spite of whatever

wrong they have done.

People don't want to believe that Adam's sin put the

whole human race in a spiritually hopeless state. They don't

want to admit that they are sinful to the very core of their

beings. They don't want to admit that their most basic

desires, and even the private imaginations of their hearts are

utterly and hopelessly sinful, and they are powerless to

change themselves. By any standard, these are hard truths.

And yet every bit of evidence we examine confirms all

these things. Scripture clearly teaches that "None is righteous,

no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have

turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does

good, not even one." Human experience confirms this. G.K.

Chesterton once wrote that the doctrine of original sin is the

easiest of all the doctrines of Scripture to prove. Evidence of

it is all around us. No one in all our acquaintance is sin-free.

Proof that the whole human race is fallen is everywhere,

smeared all over the Drudge Report, it's on the evening news,

and clearly evident in every life we encounter, right? Even

Ephesians 2:1-6 4

on FaceBook, where most people try to put the best possible

face on their character, it's clear that we are fallen. Most of

all, if we're honest with ourselves, the most persuasive proof

that the human race is hopelessly depraved is inside our own

hearts. And Chesterton said if we don't believe this doctrine,

which we have abundant empirical evidence to support, how

can we possibly believe the truths of the Bible we're required

to accept by faith?

The Bible's teaching on original sin and human depravity

is vital to orthodox Christianity. Every movement in

Christianity that has rejected these truths has gone badly

astray. Some of you will remember when we studied history

of the major heresies. The arch-heretic was Pelagius, whose

error was the worst of all the major heresies, because he

essentially eliminated the need for divine grace. His

fundamental error lay in his rejection of the doctrine of

original sin. The liberalism of the Socinians grew out of the

same error. And those today who reject original sin or total

depravity are generally liberals and cultists. This is a vital

doctrine, and those who reject it place themselves in eternal

peril and make shipwreck of the faith.

One significant fact that should strike you as you study

Scripture is that the most godly men on the pages of

Scripture all had a deep sense of their own sinfulness. David

was a man after God's own heart, yet in Psalm 52:5 he

confessed that he was sinful from the moment of his

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 5

conception. Isaiah was perhaps the greatest prophet in all the

Old Testament, and yet in Isaiah 6:5, he wrote, "Woe is me!

For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the

midst of a people of unclean lips." The apostle Paul, the figure

who towers over the early church, representing perhaps the

ultimate example of godly scholarship, wrote in Romans

7:18: "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my

flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability

to carry it out." In verse 24 he wrote, "Wretched man that I am!

Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Again and again

in Scripture, we see that the people who are the prime

examples of godliness had the keenest perception of their

own sinfulness.

This is true throughout Church history, too. Augustine,

perhaps the greatest post-Apostolic defender of the doctrines

of God's grace, spent years in frustration, coming to grips

with the reality of his own sin. Martin Luther, whose

teaching launched the reformation, was so obsessed with his

own sin that before his conversion he used to spend hours in

the confessional booth, confessing long laundry lists of

things that made him feel guilty. Charles Spurgeon spent

several years of his childhood secretly wrestling with the

terrifying realization that sin had so infected his heart that he

was worthy of nothing but divine wrath.

Again and again we see that those who have embraced

these truths of original sin and human depravity have been

Ephesians 2:1-6 6

used by God in tremendous ways, while those who have

resisted or rejected those truths invariably make shipwreck of

the faith.

So this is a very crucial issue. And since I know that so

many struggle with it, what I want to do today is examine it

biblically, and try to help you unravel the toughest questions

about original sin and its impact on our souls.

Let me start by saying that Scripture is very clear and

consistent in its teaching that everyone is born into a state of

spiritual death, and from a human perspective, their situation

is utterly hopeless.

Look at Ephesians 2:1-3. What Paul said was universally

true of the Ephesian believers is equally true of every one of

us: He told them: "You were dead in the trespasses and sins in

which you once walked, following the course of this world,

following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now

at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once

lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the

body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the

rest of mankind." That's applicable to everyone: "you [and] the

rest of mankind." He is describing the state of every person

who comes into this world. This is a description of fallen

human nature: "dead in . . . trespasses and sins"

The apostle is teaching that every unregenerate person is

spiritually dead, walking in accord with Satan, by nature a

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 7

child of wrath and a son of disobedience. No one escapes

this verdict; evil is the native expression of our fallen, sinful

human nature.

Someone might be tempted to ask, like the disciples did in

Matthew 19:25: "Who then can be saved?"

What was Jesus' answer? "With men it is impossible, but

with God all things are possible." Jesus was affirming that only

God's grace can accomplish the salvation of a sinner.

When Adam fell, it was as if he had committed moral and

spiritual suicide. He forfeited his moral freedom. He placed

himself in a bondage to evil from which he was helpless to

extricate himself. He was helpless to undo the damage he had

done. He had fallenCand he couldn't get up.

I've noticed recently that they resurrected and remade that

classic television ad where an old lady lies crumpled at the

foot of the stairs, while she shrieks into a transmitter that she

wears around her neck that she has fallen she can't get up.

The new version is a little bit terrifying. (Or maybe I'm just

closer to that reality so I have more empathy.) The classic

version thirty years ago was kind of funny. It was such an

obnoxious commercial that it soon became the punch line for

every joke.

But there's some good theology in that line: "I've fallen,

and I can't get up." And spiritually, this is no joke. We are

fallen and we can't get up. We are helpless to help ourselves.

Our only hope is the grace of God. And that is as true of you

Ephesians 2:1-6 8

and me in our natural state (apart from the grace of God) as it

is of the vilest, most wretched derelict who was ever in

bondage to Satan.

What we are really talking about here is the doctrine

known as "total depravity." Now someone will accuse me of

simply regurgitating Calvinist doctrine, because "total

depravity" is the T in the "tulip" acronym. But this doctrine

was not invented by Calvin. It is a biblical doctrine. It was

standard orthodox Christian theology for more than a

thousand years before the Protestant Reformation.

I will say this, however: When you understand the

doctrine of depravity, you will see the truth at the heart of

Calvinism's emphasis. This is why we stress divine grace

rather human free will as the prime factor in our salvation.

And I won't apologize for being emphatic about this:

Scripture clearly teaches that God is utterly sovereign, and

sinners are totally powerless to save themselves. Once you

grasp those truths the way Scripture presents them, you will

have embraced the very heart of what is commonly labeled

Calvinism. This dual emphasis on human depravity and the

necessity of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners

is the basis of all truth that can legitimately be called

"evangelical." I yield no ground to those who want God's

sovereignty or the sinner's inability to be watered down. To

do so is to corrupt the gospel itself.

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 9

So let's look at this doctrine of total depravity. This

morning I want to try to answer four of the hardest questions

about the doctrine of depravity with clear, biblical answers:

1. In what sense is depravity total?

2. How can we be held responsible for our own inability?

3. How did we inherit Adam's sinfulness?

4. Is there an antidote for human depravity?



Look again at Ephesians 2. Verse 1 says sinners are dead

in trespasses and sinsCspiritually dead. They walk in

worldliness and disobedience (v. 2). They live in the lusts of

their flesh, "carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,

and [are] by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind"

(v. 3). According to verse 12, they are "separated from Christ,

alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the

covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the


That describes the state of every unbeliever as alienation

from God and bondage to evil. In Romans 6, Paul calls it

slavery to sin. He furthermore says in Romans 6:20 that

people who are slaves of sin are utterly devoid of true

righteousness. Those in this state of sin and unbelief are

God's enemies (Rom. 5:8, 10). Colossians 1:21 says they are

"alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds." That is what

Ephesians 2:1-6 10

it means to be totally depraved. That is what it means to be

spiritually dead.

Spiritual death is a total inability to love God, a total

inability to obey Him, and a total inability to please Him.

Paul says in Romans 8:6-8, "For to set the mind on the flesh is

death. [This, then, is the state of spiritual death:] The mind

that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to

God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot

please God."

Now, lots of non-Christians will deny that they are hostile

toward God. But they are self-deceived. In fact, many who

invoke the name of Christ and claim to love God actually do

not love the God of the Bible. They love a god who exists

only in their imaginationCa tolerant, unholy, passive, feeble,

weakling god. That is not the God of Scripture. The God of

the Bible is too holy for the sinner's tastes. He is too wrathful

against sinners. His standards are too high. His laws are not

to their liking. So though they profess to love God, they do

not love the one true God who has revealed Himself in

Scripture. They are not able to love Him.

That inability to love God is the essence of total

depravity. It leaves us unable to fulfill the first and great

commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your

heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all

your strength" (Mark 12:30). So everything the sinner ever

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does is permeated with sin, because he's living life in

violation of the First and Great Commandment.

"Total depravity" does not mean that unbelievers are as

bad as they could be. It does not mean that every sinner will

live out his or her depravity the fullest. It doesn't mean all

non-Christians are like brute beasts or people like Charles

Manson. It doesn't mean that unbelievers are incapable of

acts of kindness or goodwill to fellow humans. In fact, Jesus

Himself stated that unbelievers do good to people in return

for good that is done to them (Luke 6:33). The human race

was created in the image of God. Though sin has spoiled that

image, even non-Christians are capable of rising to great

heights of human goodness, honesty, decency, and

excellence. "Total" depravity does not mean that every

unredeemed woman must be a raging, malicious, ugly old

hag, or that every unbelieving man is a twisted, degenerate

psychopath. It does mean that unbelievers, those who are in

the flesh, cannot please God.

The word total in "total depravity" refers to the extent of

our sinfulness, not the degree to which we manifest it. It

means that evil has contaminated every aspect of our

beingCour wills, our intellect, our emotions, our conscience,

our personality, and our desires. Let's put it in biblical

terminology: sin has corrupted the human heart, Jeremiah

17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately

Ephesians 2:1-6 12

sick; who can understand it?" If the heart is corrupt, the whole

person is defiled.

Our depravity is a heart corruption. In other words, it goes

to the very core of who we are. We are infected by sin in

every part of our souls. We are profane, sinful, thoroughly

debased before God, no matter how good we appear in

human terms.

This is as true of someone like Mahatma Ghandi as it is of

someone like Adolph Hitler. The relative goodness of the

world's best people is never enough to please God, whose

only standard is absolute perfection. The best of sinners do

not come close to His holy criteria. Let me illustrate.

Suppose we lined up all the men in Grace Life and

demanded that they swim to Singapore. We drive them down

to Malibu, line them up at Point Dume, and send them off.

Some of them would drown before they even reached

Catalina. I would undoubtedly be the first to go under, about

a hundred yards offshore. Others, the really athletic ones,

might make it as far as Catalina, though that's unlikely. But

one thing is certain; no one would make it to Singapore. All

of them would be dead long before the goal was met. No one

would even get as far as Hawaii, less than halfway.

Now, would those who died before swimming five miles

be any worse off than those who died forty miles offshore?

No, all would be equally dead. The goal was just as hopeless

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 13

for the trained, expert swimmer as it was for the fat guy who

did his training by sitting in front of a computer all day.

That is how it is with sin. All sinners stand condemned

before God. Even the best of Adam's offspring are

thoroughly sinful at heart. They are in exactly the same

hopeless state as the lowest degenerateCmaybe even in a

worse state, because it is harder for them to acknowledge

their sin. So they compound their sin with self-righteousness.

People are prepared to be called sinners in their sin, but

they do not want to be labeled sinners in their religion. But

this is crucial: Human religion does not contradict depravity;

it only proves it. Human religion substitutes other gods in the

rightful place of the true God. That is the very essence of

God-hating. It is false worshipCnothing but an attempt to

depose God. It is the very worst kind of depravity.

Remember, it was the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned

with the harshest invective He ever uttered. Why? After all,

they believed the Scriptures were literally true. They tried to

obey the law rigidly. They weren't like the Sadducees,

religious liberals who denied the supernatural. They were the

theological fundamentalists of their day.

But they refused to recognize the bankruptcy of their own

hearts. They trusted in themselves that they were righteous

and went about trying to establish their own righteousness,

instead of submitting to the righteousness of God. (That's

Paul's verdict on them in Romans 10:3). Remember what

Ephesians 2:1-6 14

they told the man born blind in John 9:34? "You were born in

utter sin"Cas if they weren't.

In other words, they rejected the doctrine of total

depravity, and it led to their utter condemnation. Jesus said,

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who

are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark

2:17). "the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke


They thought all their good works made them righteous.

But religion and good works do not cancel out depravity.

Depravity corrupts even the highest forms of religion and

good works. George Whitefield said that God could damn us

for the very best prayer we ever put up. John Bunyan agreed.

He said he thought the best prayer he ever prayed still had

enough sin in it to damn the whole world. Isaiah wrote, "We

have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous

deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our

iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isaiah 64:6).

Unredeemed sinners are therefore incapable of doing

anything to please God. They cannot love the God who

reveals Himself in Scripture. They cannot obey His law from

the heart, with pure motives. They cannot even grasp the

essentials of spiritual truth. First Corinthians 2:14 says, "The

natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,

for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them

because they are spiritually discerned." Unbelievers are

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 15

therefore incapable of faith. And "without faith it is impossible

to please [God]" (Hebrews 11:6).

The key word in all of that is inability. We are unable to

respond to God. Listen to what John MacArthur wrote in one

of his books: "Unregenerate sinners have no life by which

they can respond to spiritual stimuli. No amount of love,

beseeching, or spiritual truth can summon a response. People

apart from God are the ungrateful dead, spiritual zombies,

death-walkers, unable even to understand the gravity of their

situation. They are lifeless. They may go through the

motions of life, but they do not possess it. They are dead

even while they live (1 Tim. 5:6). They dwell in utter

darknessCthe eternal night of the living dead."

That brings us to our second question:



The Westminster confession states the doctrine of total

depravity in these terms: "Man, by his fall into a state of sin,

hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good

accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being

altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able,

by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself

thereunto" (Chap. IX, sect. iii).

Every element of that statement is crucial. Note exactly

what kind of inability is described here. It is not an inability

Ephesians 2:1-6 16

to do good things. It is an inability for "any spiritual good

accompanying salvation." In other words, sinners have no

ability to do spiritual good that merits salvation from sin.

They are completely antagonistic to real righteousness. They

are hopelessly in thrall to sin. They cannot save themselves

or even make themselves fit for God's salvation. They have

no appetite for spiritual truth, no ability to understand it.

Therefore, they cannot possibly believe the truth or

appropriate salvation for themselves by any means.

In John 8:44, Jesus told the Pharisees, "You are of your

father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires."

Their desires were corrupt, and it was a corruption that

emanated from the nucleus of their very nature. Jesus said

they were like the devil. He went on to say, "[The Devil] has

nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.

When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar

and the father of lies." The implication is, You are in the same

boat. It is your nature to be evil. There is no way you could

do otherwise. There is no way you can make yourself other

than what you are. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the

leopard his spots? [Nether can you] do good who are

accustomed to do evil" (Jeremiah 13:23).

At this point, some of you must be asking, "If this is soCif

we are sinful by nature, totally unable to be any other

wayChow can a just God hold us responsible for that? It

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 17

wouldn't be fair to command a paraplegic to run a marathon

and then punish him because he was unable, would it?

But our inability isn't like the physical inability of a

paraplegic; it is more like the inability of a drug addict to

walk away from his addiction. It is the inability of a will in

bondage to sin. Our inability does not arise from a lack of

physical, rational, or cognitive faculties. It arises from a

wrong moral inclination.

All our facultiesCour minds, emotions, and willsCwork

just fine. That is, we can think and act and choose freely

according to whatever our own desires and motives are. But

that is precisely the problem: our desires and motives are

corrupted by our addiction to sin. Our desires are defective.

So the will itself is therefore bent against righteousness. Our

corruption is therefore a willful depravity. It is a moral

defect. It is not the kind of inability that keeps a paraplegic

from running a foot race.

Or to put it another way, our depravity so inclines our will

to love sin that God's righteousness becomes morally

repugnant to us. We are left unable to love Him, unable to

choose obedience to His law. It is a moral defect, and

therefore we are morally culpable.

Doe that mean we have no free will? People always ask

this. What about free will? Here's the problem: Our will is

free to choose according to our desires, but it has no power

to alter our desires so that we suddenly desire something that

Ephesians 2:1-6 18

is contrary to our nature. The will is therefore free in the

sense that it is not constrained by any external force, but it is

not sovereign over our moral nature. We cannot by an act of

will change our character for the better. "Can the Ethiopian

change his skin, or the leopard his spots? [The sinner has

exactly that much ability to turn his own heart to do good.]

[Neither can you] do good, [who] are accustomed to do evil"

(Jeremiah 13:23).

In other words, our depravity corrupts our heart and

perverts all our appetites. It so inclines our nature that we

love sin. Evil desires therefore govern the choices we make.

Since we make those choices freely and with great delight,

we are guilty for them.

So our inability is no excuse for our sinfulness. It is

precisely the opposite. It is the very reason we are

condemned. Sin flows from the very core of our souls. The

heart of who we are is evil. We are "by nature children of

wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). That is why we do evil things. Jesus

said, "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil

thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting,

wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person"

(Mark 7:21-23).

Follow this carefully: We are not sinners because we sin;

we sin because we are sinners. We were born sinful, and all

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 19

our acts of sin proceed from that. We are born sinners, and

therefore we sin.

That brings us to a third question:


How did we get in this state? Scripture lays the blame at

Adam's feet. Roman's 5:12 says, "Sin came into the world

through one man, [Adam,] and death through sin, and so death

spread to all men because all sinned." Sin entered the world

through Adam, then passed to all men. Adam's sin brought

spiritual deathCtotal depravityCupon the entire race. First

Corinthians 15:22 says, "In Adam all die."

Remember, we are sinners before we ever commit one

overt act of sin. We are born with the taint of sin. In fact, it is

appropriate to say, as David did, that we are sinful from the

moment of our conception (Ps. 51:5). Theologians refer to

this as "original sin."

The question is, how does Adam's guilt get passed on to

you and me? As we saw in our study of Romans 5, we are

partakers of both the guilt and the corruption of his sin,

because when he ate that forbidden fruit, he was acting as

our representative. If you want to delve into the question

more deeply, I recommend John Murray's book, The

Imputation of Adam's Sin.

But it is not necessary for us this morning to go into great

detail on the how sin was transmitted to us from Adam. We

Ephesians 2:1-6 20

don't have to delve deeply into the mysteries that surround

this question. It is sufficient for our purposes simply to

declare what God's Word has to say on the matter: "Many

died through one man's trespass" (Romans 5:15). "The

judgment following [that] one trespass brought condemnation"

on all Adam's offspring (v. 16). "By the transgression of the

one, death reigned" (v. 17). "One trespass led to condemnation

for all men" (v. 18). "By the one man's disobedience the many

were made sinners" (v. 19).

Five verses in a row all state in different ways that Adam's

sin corrupted the entire race. Adam, as the representative

head of the human race, plunged us all into sin.

But we cannot stand aside and point the finger of blame at

Adam in an attempt to exonerate ourselves. We inherit his

guilt as well as his sinfulness. We are as blameworthy as

Adam. The question of how his guilt was passed on to us is

ultimately not as important as the reality that it happened. No

fact in all of philosophy or religion is attested to with so

much empirical evidence. All Adam's offspringCwith one

significant, divine ExceptionCall Adam's offspring have

been sinners. We are born morally corrupt.

I do want to call your attention to a couple of corollaries

to this doctrine. First, it suggests Adam was a historical

person. Those who want to treat the early chapters of Genesis

as symbolism or myth destroy the doctrine of original sin. If

Adam was not a historical individual, none of this makes

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 21

sense. There's no reasonable explanation for how our race

became sinful, unless the account of the fall in Genesis 3 is

literally true. So the sinfulness of all humanity bears witness

to the truth of Scripture's account of the fall.

Second, those who deny that human nature is sinful are

guilty of willful ignorance. The universality of human

sinfulness is irrefutable. It is self-evident. Everyone we know

is sinful. There's no evidence whatsoever for the myth that

people are basically and fundamentally good.

Original sin is not a minor blemish on the human soul. It

corrupts every aspect of our character. Listen to these words

from Romans 3, where Paul summarized the doctrine of

universal depravity. These verses come after two chapters of

argument showing that pagans, moral Gentiles, and even

religious Jews are all hopeless sinners. In Romans 3:9-19,

Paul sums up and makes the point so that no one can miss it:

We have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks,

are under sin,

10 as it is written:"None is righteous, no, not one;

11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.

12 All have turned aside; together they have become

worthless; no one does good, not even one."

13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues

to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips."

14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."

15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;

Ephesians 2:1-6 22

16 in their paths are ruin and misery,

17 and the way of peace they have not known."

18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to

those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be

stopped, and the whole world may be [become guilty

before] God.

That brings us to the final question we want to consider:


I want you to turn back to the passage where we began at

the very outset, Ephesians 2. Let me read the first three

verses of that chapter again:

[You] were dead in trespasses and sins,

2 in which you once walked according to the course of

this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,

the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in

the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and

of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as

the others. But God . . .

Stop right there. I want you to notice those two words: "But

God." Martyn Lloyd-Jones once preached an entire message

on those words. "But God." Those two little words are the

crucial turning point of this entire chapter. Paul is writing to

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 23

remind the Ephesians that salvation is entirely God's work.

You can read all the Calvinistic theologians in the world and

you won't find any more explicit statement of the sovereignty

of God in salvation than right here in Scripture, in the second

chapter of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians. Paul's main point

here is to demonstrate that God is entirely sovereign in every

step of the process of salvation.

Beginning in chapter 1, he says God chose us (4),

predestined us (5), guaranteed our adoption (5), bestowed on

us his grace (6), redeemed us (7), forgave us (7), lavished

riches of grace on us (8), made known to us His will (9),

obtained an inheritance for us (11), guaranteed that we would

glorify Him (11-12), saved us (13), and sealed us with the

Spirit (13-14). In short, He "has blessed us with every spiritual

blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (3). All of this was

the work of His sovereign grace, performed not because of

any good in us, but simply "according to the good pleasure of

His will" (5, 9) and "according to the purpose of Him who works

all things according to the counsel of His will" (11).

In Ephesians 2, Paul begins with the utter inability of

those who are spiritually dead, and works his way to this

truth in verse 10: Even the good works of believers were

prepared by God beforehand! There is no way Paul could

have emphasized his message any more or stated it more

clearly: salvation is entirely God's work. There is no human

work that can be contributed. That is the whole point of

Ephesians 2:1-6 24

verses 8 and 9: "For by grace you have been saved through

faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of

works, lest anyone should boast" (8-9).

And right in the middle of this passage about the

hopelessness of the human condition, we find these two

simple, profound, doctrinally-laden words, "BUT GOD."

I once counseled a woman who was desperately trying to

reform her life so that she could become a Christian. I told

her no amount of effort on her part would ever result in her

salvation from sin; no amount of determination on her part

could ever free her from her own sinful desires. And then I

showed her the truth of Ephesians 2:1, that she was "dead in

trespasses and sins." When I showed her that verse, she let

out an audible gasp. and you know what? That is a fitting

response to the truth of human depravity. We ought to gasp

at the utter, hopeless, futility of our lostness. It is a

frightening and horrifying thought.

"But God!"Cand here we see the only possible cure for

human depravity, the grace of a loving God (verse 4)::

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love

with which He loved us,

5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive

together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in

the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

I 'm Fallen, and I Can't Get Up! 25

7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding

riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ


8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and

that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Perhaps there is someone here who does not know Christ.

Perhaps you are someone who has been coming to GraceLife

a long time, knowing you are without Christ. You know the

sinfulness of your own heart. You have no doubt that your

own depravity is total. You know you are by nature a child

of wrath, an enemy of God. You feel the hopelessness of

your lost condition. You are burdened by the weight of your


If that describes you, Christ issued an open call to people

just like you. He said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and

heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you,

and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you

shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is

light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Did you know that Christ died for people who were

utterly, totally depravedCenemies of God? Scripture says,

"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we

were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). "While we

were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of

His Son" (v. 10). No matter how fully your depravity has

Ephesians 2:1-6 26

played itself out, no matter how weary and heavily laden

with sin you may feel you are, you are not out of reach of

divine grace.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with

which He loved us, even when we were dead in our

transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you

have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with

Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus."

If you are a Christian, your heart ought to be moved with

gladness and gratitude at the mercy and grace of God.

If you are someone who is burdened with a sense of sin,

those verses ought to give you hope and send you fleeing to

Christ for salvation.

But if you can hear these things and not be moved,

something is seriously wrong with you spiritually, and you

ought to fear for your soul.

If the Lord has moved your heart to turn to Christ and

seek freedom from the bondage of your sin, please seek out

one of us in leadership here in GraceLife and talk to us about

the state of your soul. We can give you counsel and prayer

and explain to you more from the Word of God what it

means to repent and believe in Christ.