The Apostle Paul Plays Doctor


Bad News Necessary for Good News

The message of total depravity is not a popular message. You will not see it plastered on t-shirts. It is not coffee mug material. However, shouldn’t more of our conversations over coffee concern this vital doctrine. I mean Paul did spend three chapters in Romans (1-3) describing it. It is important and vital, but it is not fun or popular per se. But hey, neither is the news that you have cancer. When the doctor comes in and informs the single mom that she has breast cancer and without intervention will die, it is not received as good news. It is not something she wants to brag about. It isn’t fun. It isn’t a coffee conversation starter. It is without a doubt, depressing and it is terrible, horrible, bad news. The doctrine of total depravity is the same. It is bad news. We are all dead in our sin. We are all under sin. And the result of this is that the wrath of God remains on us (John 3:36). However, we are not left with this terrible diagnosis without a remedy. While the single mom diagnosed with cancer wrestles with the bad news, she is not left with this. The doctor tells her that he has good news. He has found the cancerous lumps just in time to cure them. He tells her there is a cure. He gives her hope. And although she has reason to be depressed over the bad news of cancer, she can rejoice in the hope of the remedy that will free her from her deadly condition. Now, if the doctor wanted to avoid the bad news in order to not cause any depression or heartache, he could have kept silent once he knew her cancer was in her body. This would have been much easier. However, would this be loving? Would he be considered a good doctor? Absolutely not! What a crook this man would be! If he has bad news, he must proclaim it in order to get to the good news. The good news of a cure for cancer is only good because of how bad cancer is.

Sinful man has this same hope of a cure and remedy. This cure is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And at this point, I want to be very clear. The reality of total depravity is meant to awaken a deep joy in your heart. Paul has this same aim in mind. He plays the role of the good doctor as he spends three chapters diagnosing our deadly condition only to give us the hope of the cure found in Christ Jesus. He exposes the depths of human despair only to later expound the heights of God’s grace in the gospel of Christ. Paul plays doctor by diagnosing us with a sinful condition only to give us the sweet taste of the remedy of Christ’s righteousness. We should have the kindness of Paul and give the bad news to those who are dying of the cancer of sin while they are still in a curable state. Good doctors inform their patients when they are in need of a cure. We must play doctor like Paul does and proclaim the bad news of total depravity in order to joyfully proclaim the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is so good because the effects of sin are so bad. It is loving to tell those who are dead in their sin, the truth of their condition before you give the remedy. One will not drink an initially revolting antibiotic if he or she is not aware of the bacteria that is infecting his or her body. The gospel will not be received in joy if the reality of total depravity is ignored and left out. The joy will not be the same.

If you are in Christ Jesus by his grace and through your faith in him, I encourage you to rejoice today. Rejoice in the fact that once you were blind, but now you see. Once you were dead, but now you live! Celebrate the light that was shone in your heart and the life that was given to you through the redemption and resurrection of your soul by God (see 2 Cor. 4:6 and Eph. 2).



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