The Effects of Sin in the Unconverted – 1689 6:4 | Sam Waldron

by | Jul 5, 2022 | Systematic Theology


We have considered the origin and nature of sin, the solidarity in sin, and its results. The last two paragraphs of the chapter speak of the effects of sin in the regenerate and the unregenerate. Chapter 4 speaks of the effects of sin in the unconverted or unregenerate:

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

2LCF 6:4

The effect of the fall in the unregenerate may be summarized as total depravity and total inability. Men are bad in every part of their being; and they are so bad that they can do nothing good or pleasing to God.

Men are totally unable, then, as chapter 9 will say to do anything to save themselves or prepare themselves for salvation. Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 13:6. But faith itself is something pleasing to God. Thus, it is clear that man cannot please God. Where does the Bible teach this? In many places … one classic place is a saying of Jesus in Matthew 12:33-35:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.

Matthew 12:33-35


This total inability to please God or do anything good means, of course, that from first to last salvation is of God. Faith is not possible for men characterized by a total inability to do anything that pleases God. Thus, we read in John 3:3-5:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”… Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3-5

But is this not a far too negative view of human nature? Does not the Bible actually say that some unconverted people do good things?

Well, the Bible says that from a civil and outward standpoint they do. Sometimes the consciences of unconverted men excuse them from having committed certain sins. But such good deeds are only outwardly good. For something to be truly good, it must be done for the glory of God and out of faith in Christ.

 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6

 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
2 Thessalonians 3:2

Since the unconverted do not have faith, they never truly please God or do good, they simply do certain things that outwardly conform to the dictates of the law of God.
The reality of total depravity means that the sins which people commit are not mistakes or glitches in an otherwise good person. No, the Confession draws the opposite conclusion: “From this original corruption … do proceed all actual transgressions.” Sin is not good people doing bad things. It is bad people doing bad things because they are bad and need to be saved.

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