“All human beings are corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, spiritually) and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and restore us to Himself.”
We confess that “all human beings are corrupted in every aspect of their being.” Everyone is broken and bent towards evil. Yet this is often misunderstood. Some have wrongly thought that human beings are as evil as possible. But that’s not what we mean. Even Hitler loved his mother. Others ignore the biblical picture of our fundamental problem (radical sinfulness) and paint a new one: “our problem now is that we have low self-esteem. We have thought too lowly of ourselves, and, if we are to be saved, we must learn to see ourselves as the beautiful, amazing people that we are.”
The problem is that this jettisons the truth about our radical sinfulness, that we are physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, and spiritually corrupt. Our problem is not that we have not loved ourselves enough, but that we have “loved the darkness rather than the light” and that our “works are evil” (John 3:19). We sin because our loves are disordered: “what comes out of the mouth is what defiles a person . . . what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,” and out of the heart comes “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander” (Matthew 15:11, 18, 19). We sin because we are physically and emotionally corrupt.
We are mentally corrupt in the sense that we “do not accept the things of the Spirit of God . . . and are unable to understand them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). These aspects (physical, mental, and emotional) are connected. Our heads, hearts, and hands are all radically fallen. We confess that we are volitionally corrupt. “Volition” refers to our will, the part of us that chooses what we do. So the part of us which chooses our actions (our will) is bent towards evil. The Bible says, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9); “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Our corruption is so radical that it affects even our will. Paul argued that we are “hostile to God” and “cannot please God” (Romans 8:7, 8).
This brings up an interesting question about human freedom. If it’s true that our wills are radically fallen such that we cannot please God, what room is left for human freedom? Are we even truly free? The biblical answer is no, we are not truly free. We do not have the kind of free will that most people think we do precisely because our wills are enslaved to sin. Jesus himself said that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and again, “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:44, 65). Jesus elsewhere says that “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 7:34). Our wills are not free; they enslaved to sin. That’s why we need the Son to set us free: so that we “will be free indeed” (John 7:36).
We also confess that we are spiritually corrupt. Paul says that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” and that we are “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1, 3). Elsewhere he said that we belonged to “the domain of darkness” (Colossians 1:13). One way to characterize our spiritual corruption is to say that we “have no hope and are without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). We are alienated from him and unable to bring ourselves back into right fellowship. That’s also why we confess that “all human beings are condemned finally and irrevocably to death.” Paul says that the punishment for sin is death (cf. Romans 6:23), and therefore we all deserve death because we are all characterized by sin. We are corrupt and sinful in all aspects of our being. We are rebels who “hate God” (Romans 1:30).
Thus, what we need is divine rescue. We confess that we all stand condemned, apart from God’s own gracious intervention. We are utterly hopeless in ourselves, and therefore need someone outside of us to save us. To use an illustration, it’s not as though we’ve suffered a shipwreck and now must swim to shore; it’s not even that we’re floating on top of the water and need a lifesaver to be tossed toward us; rather, the biblical truth is that we are dead at the bottom of the sea. What we need is someone to jump into the water, swim to the bottom, give us new life, and bring us back to the surface (all at the cost of his own life). In other words, “our supreme need and only hope is the undeserved love of God” in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Only he can rescue, redeem, and restore us back into right fellowship with God.
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