Man’s Depravity and God’s Salvation.

Imagine a doctor who discovers a long-time patient has cancer. She knows the news would make her patient very upset, so she only tells him to keep eating healthy and exercising, and he should be fine. The patient feels relieved when he leaves the office, but how has the doctor served her patient?

There is a difference between hearing what we want to hear and hearing the truth that we need to hear. Psalm 53 is one place the Bible tells us the difficult truth we need to hear.

God’s Word has made a diagnosis about man’s spiritual health in Psalm 53:1-5. Psalm 14:1-3 is similar. If you want a second opinion, see Jeremiah 17:9-10, Matthew 15:18-19, John 8:34, Ephesians 2:1, and Romans 8:7.

Theologians call this condition total depravity – that man’s entire being has been so affected by sin that he stands completely at odds with God both in his behavior and his disposition. God looks down over the whole of His creation in an attempt to find someone who consistently meets with God’s approval and answers the demands of His law, and He finds no one.

This can be hard to swallow when we see plenty of people behaving in a decent way that doesn't require them to be a Christian.

Not Understanding Depravity Is Not Understanding God (verses 1, 4)

Theoretical Atheism is denying God's existence. Practical Atheism is denying His oversight, care, or role in your life. The statement “There is no God” is more an act of defiance than a sincere conviction about his existence. This is a life lived as if God didn’t exist. In fact, to the practical atheist, God may or may not exist, but it is irrelevant to how one lives life.

The “fool” here is not someone who lacks intelligence, but someone who is morally deficient. He lives without direction from God or acknowledging God in any meaningful way; he is “corrupt” and has committed “abominable justice” against God’s people.

When God’s people are suffering at the hands of the fool, the temptation for both the persecutor and the persecuted is to ask, "Where is God?"

Not Understanding Depravity Is Not Understanding Good (verses 2-5)

Good is defined as seeking after God. We are acceptable to God when we come to Him on His terms – He defines good, because He is good (Psalm 100:5).

By understanding good, we understand why man is depraved by contrast (verses 2-3). Our behavior is not done for love of God (Deut. 6:5). Our behavior is never pure goodness – it will always be stained by the sin nature we have. Because of our sin nature, our good works will always carry the residue of sinfulness. Our behavior is not a pattern or lifestyle of goodness; if there was any action considered “good,” it would be a singular event and not a covenant faithfulness like God and His law would demand.

Understanding Depravity Starts with Understanding the Need for a Savior (verse 6)

By making this diagnosis about the depravity of all mankind, David the Psalm writer put himself in the same category as Israel’s oppressor. Both Israel and her enemies needed salvation, a deliverer from both physical oppression but also, and more importantly, deliverance from their spiritual condition. While this text refers to God restoring Israel, the need for a savior extends to all mankind, Jew and Gentile.

Romans 3:9-26 expands this solution. Verses 10-20 give the same spiritual diagnosis, and not even the good works of man can a person be justified (v. 20). While this is the diagnosis we did not want to hear, it is not without the treatment – the righteousness of God has been revealed through Jesus Christ (v. 22). We all are sinners and stand condemned (v. 23). Jesus offers to buy us back out of our slavery to sin, having made the payment for our sin by shedding His blood on our behalf, mercifully taking the wrath that we deserve so that we might respond in faith and be declared righteous by God Himself.

Notice the words “justified” and “justifier” in verses 24 and 26. The picture here is a legal one, where the Judge, who has the authority to condemn, is the one who declares us righteous. The Judge is not some neutral, dispassionate authority. Through the work of Christ, the Judge is on your side!


Application Points

  • Don't be like a person who receives a cancer diagnosis or sees his car billowing smoke and says "I'll be okay." Admit that your good is not good enough, and come to Christ for salvation from your sin.
  • Christian, we must not have an “us vs. them” mentality – because we used to be “them”! See 1 Timothy 1:12-17. When we focus on all the things that make us upset about the world around us, we forget or gloss over the depravity we once lived in. Do we think as if God scans over the earth looking for anyone who seeks after Him, and He found us? The unbeliever is an enemy of God – but so were we! God hates sin in every form, but we were just as sinful – if not worse!
  • Salvation is available to each person living on the earth. We must never view any individual or group of people as beyond hope. Whose souls will you pray for today?