Continuing the bad news...
Man is spiritually dead
One of the most important and foundational doctrines in scripture dealing with man and his need of salvation is the fact that he is spiritually dead. This is often disputed. But, the Bible is clear- mankind is born spiritually dead; separated from God and unable and unwilling to glorify him as Lord. Spiritually dead people are just that- they are devoid of life. Their souls are dead. Dead to God, dead to his glory, dead to faith, dead to love for God, dead to Christ and his amiableness, dead to the Holy Spirit’s work and prompting. Man is merely an animated body housing a dead soul.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2:13). “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Eph. 2:1). “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to the hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18). We are born dead!
Spiritual deadness manifests itself by exhibiting man’s lifelessness when it comes to God, righteousness, good, and holiness. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:2-5).
Because man is dead spiritually, he is separated from God who is the source of all life. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Is. 59:2). “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24). “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers” (1 Jn. 3:14). “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2:13). “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [he] 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” (Eph. 2:5-6).
Man stands guilty, condemned, without hope, and destined for wrath and hell
As a result of our sin and deadness, we stand to inherit misery. God is the righteous judge and we stand before his bar as guilty, law-breaking, hell-deserving, God-hating, Christ-forsaking, Spirit-blaspheming, wretches. “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin” (Rom. 3:9). “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18). “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).
Scripture cannot be denied: mankind is spiritually dead, separated from God, guilty of trespasses, condemned, doomed, and worthy of eternal punishment. Thomas Brooks, with his arresting verbiage, wrote,
The sentence that shall be passed upon them shall be eternal... There is the vengeance and continuance of it, you shall go into fire, into everlasting fire, that shall never consume itself, nor consume you. Eternity of eternity is the hell of hell... if all the fires that ever were, or shall be in the world, were concentrated into one fire, how terrible would it be! Yet such a fire would be but as a painted fire upon the wall, to the fires of hell.1
Brooks went on to write,
Impenitent sinners in hell shall have end without end, death without death, night without day, morning without mirth, sorrow without solace, and bondage without liberty. The damned shall live as long in hell as God himself shall live in heaven.2
All efforts to save self fall short
Because of the woeful state that man finds himself in, he is unable to contribute anything to salvation. What could he offer? All we as sinners posses is contaminated and corrupted by iniquity. So many of the fundamental truths that have been discussed thus far culminate here in man’s inability to merit salvation or impart something toward it. Humanity is desperately wicked and depraved. Our nature is dead spiritually, yet alive sinfully. A sinful nature produces sinful actions. Just as a dog barks, licks itself, chases its tail, and returns to its own vomit, sinful man sins, only sins, and will continue to sin. Nothing good can come from something tainted and evil.
A sinful, depraved person could never offer anything good enough to save himself. A holy God will not accept an unholy offering. In fact, as we will see shortly, God is so holy, righteous, and pure that He appeases himself. That is the gospel: what man cannot do, God does in sending his Son to offer himself as a perfect sacrifice.
Our works fall short. There is nothing pure or pleasing to God in them. Even if they seem good to us, our works (before conversion) are sinful. Impure motives, pride, self-righteousness, greed, self-love, and hypocrisy stain our oblations turning them to rancid feces. Who would dare present such filth to Almighty God? Who in their right mind would soil God’s hallowed sanctuary with this foul waste?
“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ... by works of the law no one will be justifies” (Gal. 2:16). “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Tit. 3:4-5). “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9). “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is. 64:6).
1Thomas Brooks, “The Golden Key To Open Hidden Treasures” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 vols. (Banner of Truth, 1980), 5:130.