The Pollution of Man

The pollution of man shows itself in two ways: total depravity and total inability.

Knowing our complete inability to save ourselves highlights the grace and mercy of God. If I owe someone $5 and you pay it for me, I appreciate it, but I may not be overwhelmed with gratitude because I could have come up with the $5 myself. However, if I owed someone $5 billion dollars, then I’d be overflowing with thankfulness if you paid it for me knowing I never could have come up with that much money. 


Since the fall of man, each person has been born with a sin nature. By the sin of Adam all men were made sinners (Romans 5:19). We were created to worship and serve God, yet that has been tainted and perverted. Instead of worshipping God we worship ourselves; instead of living for God’s glory, we seek our own; we want our will instead of God’s, and we want to further our kingdom instead of his. We see the effects of sin each day as we live in this cursed world.

We continue our study of Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) by examining chapter 18 entitled, “Original Pollution.” The pollution of man shows itself in two ways: total depravity and total inability.

Total Depravity

As a result of the fall, man is totally depraved. MLJ argues that many misunderstand this doctrine, so he begins by providing a few examples of what total depravity does NOT mean (202):

  • It does not mean that we are as bad as we possibly can be. Some unbelievers do unthinkable deeds, while others look somewhat moral and respectable.
  • It does not mean that we have no innate knowledge of God. There is a sense of God within us that renders us without excuse, but we naturally reject it (Romans 1).
  • It does not mean we lack a conscience. There is a general idea of good and evil, and even the possibility of feeling guilty.
  • It does not mean that we are incapable of recognizing or even admiring virtues.
  • It does not mean that the natural person will indulge in every form of sin.

Instead, total depravity means:

  • “That man in his fallen condition has an inherently corrupt nature, and the corruption extends through every part of his being, to every faculty of his soul and body” (202).
  • There is no spiritual good in man. An unbeliever may do a good deed, but it is not done out of worship to God and for his glory, therefore the very motive is corrupt.

In Genesis 6:5, God sees the wickedness of man and that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” One may argue that verse is speaking of Noah’s day only, but other verses teach the same thing applies to all of us. Consider Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Jeremiah 17:9 teaches us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

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