The devil told Adam’s wife that she would not die if she ate of the forbidden fruit. Many people still today think that what the devil said was true.
Viewed externally, it might appear that what the devil said was correct. Adam and his wife both partook, and yet their bodily life continued. Contrary to what might have been expected, they did not drop down dead on the spot.
But what happened to Adam and his wife on the inside? Instead of communing with God, they ran away from Him. Instead of confessing their sin with sorrow, they made excuses and tried to throw the blame on someone else. From a spiritual point of view, something had definitely happened to them. Before, they had served God in genuine love. Now, they were prone to hate both God and one another. Though their bodily life would continue for many years, they really had died on the very day they ate of the fruit that God had forbidden. Starting on that day, they had a nature that was dead in trespasses and sins.
An unbeliever: A person with a dead spiritual heart
The Scripture speaks of an unbelieving man as a dead man. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Eph. 2:5).
An unbeliever, therefore, is a living dead person. There is a sense in which he is alive, and there is a sense in which he is dead—really dead.
God created man with a material body and a spiritual soul. The spiritual soul of man is invisible, and yet it is real. Something spiritual is not something make believe. Though undetectable with the eye of the body, man really does have a spiritual soul.
The spiritual center of man is called his heart. Man has a physical heart that can be seen. But he also has a spiritual heart that cannot be seen. Understanding this twofold nature of man is of central importance to grasping the difference between a believer and an unbeliever.
An unbeliever on this earth has one heart that is alive while his other heart is dead. A believer, on the other hand, has two living hearts.
So how did the believer obtain this living spiritual heart? Did he request it? No, he was dead before he received it, and was completely unable to request it, or even to desire it. He received it solely because God gave it to him. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).
Before God resurrects a person, that person has a dead spiritual heart, which is like a stone. Then God breathes new life into him, giving him a living spiritual heart, which is pictured by a healthy heart of flesh.
An unbeliever does not have this living spiritual heart. His spiritual heart is not like a healthy heart of flesh. Rather, his spiritual heart is lifeless, hard, and unbendable, like a stone.
Only one in the Life has life
Scripture speaks of this elsewhere, when it stresses that only those who are in Christ, and partake of Him, have life: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53b).
Christ here was telling some unbelievers that they had within them no life. It is true, they still had a bodily life, which they would have for just a little while longer. But Christ is Life: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25a).
Therefore, one must have Christ to have life: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12).
Those in Christ have Christ’s life. In fact, it is correct to say that Christ Himself is their life: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear . . .” (Col. 3:4a).
Therefore, all those outside of Christ have no spiritual life. All this serves to bring out clearly that when man fell into sin he really did die. The only ones today who are spiritually alive are those who by God’s grace have been engrafted into Christ and have Christ’s life flowing into them.
Only evil flows from a dead spiritual heart
A dead heart is not an inactive heart. Thoughts do arise out of a heart that is spiritually dead. But those thoughts are not good thoughts. Rather, they are perverse, evil thoughts, which arise out of the unbeliever’s heart and render the entire man to be thoroughly polluted: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).
Such evil is what arises out of an unbeliever’s heart not only on some occasions, but continuously: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
Out of the carnal mind of an unbeliever arises only evil thoughts. In his heart he hates the true God and is not able to subject himself to what God tells him to do: “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7–8).
This text says that a carnal mind—the mind of someone who has a spiritually dead heart—is not subject to God’s law. In fact, it stresses the fact that an unbeliever’s mind cannot subject itself to God’s law. The sinful mind of man is unable to think the thoughts God’s law requires. Only evil thoughts arise from within him.
The unbeliever’s problem, therefore, is not merely what he thinks and what he does. His problem is rooted in what he is. It is rooted in the fact that his spiritual heart is dead, and that in his heart he has nothing but hatred for God: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).
The problem with sinful man is not merely that he speaks lies sometimes, but that his very heart itself is deceitful. Completely deceitful “above all things, and desperately wicked” is how Scripture describes an unbelieving heart.
This, in short, is what is meant by total depravity. That man by nature is totally depraved means that his spiritual heart is dead, and that only evil flows from this dead heart. There is no good in him whatsoever, and there is nothing good in anything he does.
Few today are willing to confess this truth. Rather, they would prefer to believe the devil. Yet what God says is true. And it is only in the way of confessing how great our sin really is, that we come to look to Christ for the deliverance from this misery—the deliverance that we can and do obtain only from Him.