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What is the…
fall of man to worldwide depravity

also known as: fall to sin, The Fall, original sin, universal depravity of Man


This expression is probably borrowed from the Book of Wisdom (apocryphal), to express the fact of the revolt of our first parents from God, and the consequent sin and misery in which they and all their posterity are involved.

The history of the Fall is recorded in Genesis 2 and 3. That history is to be literally interpreted. It records facts which underlie the whole system of revealed truth. It is referred to by our Lord and his apostles, not only as being true, but as furnishing the ground of all God’s subsequent dispensations and dealings with the children of men. The record of Adam’s temptation and fall must be taken as a true historical account, if we are to understand the Bible at all as a revelation of God’s purpose of mercy.

The effects of this first sin upon our first parents themselves were…

  1. “shame, a sense of degradation and pollution

  2. dread of the displeasure of God, or a sense of guilt, and the consequent desire to hide from his presence.

These effects were unavoidable. They prove the loss not only of innocence, but of original righteousness, and, with it, of the favor and fellowship of God.

The state therefore to which Adam was reduced by his disobedience, so far as his subjective condition is concerned, was analogous to that of the fallen angels. He was entirely and absolutely ruined.” —Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology

But the unbelief and disobedience of our first parents brought not only on themselves this misery and ruin, it entailed also the same sad consequences on ALL their descendants.

  1. The guilt, i.e., liability to punishment, of that sin comes by imputation upon all men, because all were represented by Adam in the covenant of works. See: IMPUTATION.

  2. Hence, also, all his descendants inherit a corrupt nature. In all, by nature, there is an inherent and prevailing tendency to sin.

    This UNIVERSAL DEPRAVITY is taught by universal experience. All men sin as soon as they are capable of moral actions. The testimony of the Scriptures to the same effect is most abundant (Romans 1; 2; 3:1-19, etc.).

    “…all have sinned…” —Romans 3:23

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…

    For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

    And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” —Romans 1:18-32 NASB

  3. This innate depravity is total: we are by nature spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins,” and must be “born again” before we can enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:7, etc.).

    “Do not be amazed that I [Jesus Christ] said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” —John 9:3 NASB

  4. Resulting from this “corruption of our whole nature” is our absolute moral inability to change our nature or to obey the law of God.

Why did God allow the Fall?

“Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” —John 9:3 NASB

Commenting on these words, evangelical Anglican John Charles Ryle well remarked:

“A deep and instructive principle lies in these words. They surely throw some light on that great question, the origin of evil. God has thought fit to allow evil to exist in order that he may have a platform for showing his mercy, grace, and compassion.

If man had never fallen, there would have been no opportunity of showing divine mercy. But by permitting evil, mysterious as it seems, God’s works of grace, mercy, and wisdom in saving sinners have been wonderfully manifested to all his creatures.

The redeeming of the church of elect sinners is the means of “showing to principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10).

Without the Fall, we should have known nothing of the Cross and the Gospel.”

Cultural remembrance of The Fall

On the monuments of Egypt are found representations of a deity in human form, piercing with a spear the head of a serpent. This is regarded as an illustration of the wide dissemination of the reality of the Fall described in the Bible. In the mythology of Greece and Rome, there are representations of a “golden age”—an age of purity and innocence—which is lost, followed by a time when man becomes a prey to sin and misery. This also is regarded as a rememberance of The Fall.

Streaming video— 
“Are you a good person?”
Voice of Paul Washer, HeartCry Missionary Society, M.Div. from Southwestern Theological Seminary
Length: 9 minutes

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Article Version: June 6, 2019