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LUTHER’S VIEW OF THE HUMAN HEART

(A SERMON PREACHED ON THE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION)

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers Jr. and Mr. John Samuel Cagan
and preached by Mr. Cagan
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, October 28, 2017

“For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”
(Genesis 8:21).


This is a strong picture of the total depravity of man’s heart. Our pastor, Dr. Hymers, noticed that although the modern translations make this the “inclination of his heart” (NIV), and “the intent of man’s heart” (NASB), the older translations render it, “the imagination of man’s heart” (KJV). But these inclinations and imaginations are two different things. Which is it? Is it that man’s heart is only inclined to evil, or are “the imaginations” themselves “evil from [man’s] youth”? The Hebrew reveals that the appropriate translation is the “imagination,” not the “inclination” or “intent” of man’s heart. The imagination of man’s heart is evil. “Inclination” means “tending to evil, a leaning toward evil, an aptitude or propensity toward evil.” These modern translations thus weaken the true meaning of the text, which tells us in Hebrew that man does not simply incline or lean toward evil, but that the very imagination of man’s heart is evil, itself. Not just a tending toward evil, not just a “leaning toward evil,” but evil itself!

The heart is gripped in its every imagination by evil. It is thoroughly evil. The heart is not inclined to evil as if evil could be repelled by the unconverted heart. The heart is not vulnerable to evil as if somehow a victim of the sin of its surroundings. No! The heart is the culprit. The heart is evil itself.

The modern translations have moved away from the Reformation doctrine of total depravity, back to the view of the Catholic Church. They have regressed to saying that man is only “inclined” to evil. The modern translations take us back to the Roman Catholic view of man’s heart only “inclining” toward evil. This is not the same view as that of Luther, the Reformers, or the early Baptists.

Martin Luther stood against the entire Roman Catholic Church when he nailed the ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenberg church 500 years ago. Luther said concerning the human heart, “This passage clearly teaches original sin. Those who regard original sin lightly are like blind people that grope around in broad daylight. They do not observe the evil which they daily do and see.” Luther was not blind to the extent of the evil imaginations of the human heart. He saw man’s evil everywhere, and knew that there must be something more threatening than an inclination within the human heart.

To Luther and our Protestant and Baptist forefathers, man is more than partly depraved. Man is not capable of giving some help in overcoming his sinful condition by contributing “his part” to saving himself. This idea is called “synergism” by theologians. But the old Reformers and Puritans believed no such thing. They believed that man is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

Luther was right, man in sin doesn’t just have a tendency to sin. No!

“The imagination of man’s heart [not its inclination] is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

Luther said, “Sin shows itself even in the youngest children who require much discipline to keep them in order. After a few years they increase in disobedience. As the years increase, so also does sin. Just as the proverb says that the older a person becomes the worse he turns out to be.”

The Hebrew word shows that the older preachers and theologians were right and the newer ones are wrong. The new ones tend to downplay that word in the text, and give it a Roman Catholic meaning. This meaning tends to be softer and more acceptable to the carnal mind of unconverted man. The Hebrew word translated “imagination” should not be translated “inclination” or “intent.” The word “imagination” comes from the translation of a Hebrew word which means “purpose, form, frame [of mind]” (Strong #336). The purpose, form and frame of man’s heart “is evil from his youth,” not just his inclinations and intents! “Imagination” speaks of the whole heart, not its inclination or intent.

The Bible says,

“for the imagination [purpose, form] of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

I. First, this was the condition of man before the Flood.

The Bible says,

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

This is not the view of human nature held by most people. In ancient times the heathen nations spoke of the dignity and goodness of man. The ancient philosophers said that man was a superior creature, with the power to make himself good, as did Socrates in the West and Confucius in the East. Later, even in the age of Christianity, many spoke highly of man’s abilities and nature.

This was the main difference between the Catholic teaching and that of the Reformers. Was man totally depraved, or was there something left in human nature that could cooperate with God? Some said that man’s heart was free to cooperate with God, that man could make a “decision” to obey God. The Reformers said that this was false, that

“every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

Total depravity was what Luther called the “hinge on which all turns,” because it determined whether Christianity would be a religion of grace or of works.

Although the Catholic Church and “Decisionist” Baptists and Protestants teach that you have the freedom to respond to God, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. The Bible teaches that man fell in the Garden of Eden.

“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).

By Adam’s disobedience all men were constituted sinners because

“In Adam all die” (I Corinthians 15:22).

Fallen, sinful Adam then

“begat a son in his own likeness” (Genesis 5:3).

It was not possible for him to father any other kind of son, for

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4).

As a result, all mankind inherited natures that are

“dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5),

“having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

And so, all human beings are born as

“children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2),

“by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

Thus, every human being can truly say,

“I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5);

for

“they are all under sin” (Romans 3:9).

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Therefore God looked down at mankind and said,

“There is none righteous, no, not one…They are all gone out of the way…there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 12).

Therefore, when God looked down from Heaven, He

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

This is a central point of the Protestant Reformation. This point is ignored by evangelical “Decisionism.” This is the doctrine of total depravity. This is the doctrine of man’s total depravity, which was “the hinge on which all turns.” The Bible gives a dark picture of man before the Flood.

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

II. Second, this was the same condition of man after the Flood.

Nothing in man was changed by this great catastrophe. Before the Flood, God looked at man and saw

“that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

And after the Flood God said,

“the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

So, the only additional thought is that the evil nature of man’s heart exists from childhood, “from his youth.” The Bible says,

“They go astray as soon as they be born” (Psalm 58:3).

“Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

“The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Ephesians 4:18).

Luther said, “This declaration excludes no one, not even the patriarchs who had just survived the flood. This shows that the nature of man is corrupt. In addition to the gross transgressions, there is much worse. Worse are the inward sins of the heart. The nature of man is corrupt. An inclination may be changed (allegedly by Christian training).” An inclination could be changed. But every imagination of the heart cannot be changed, it must be cleansed.

That is why the eighteenth century hymn writer Joseph Hart spoke of man as, “Sinners base; a hardened herd, a rebel race” (“Come All Ye Chosen Saints of God” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

The great evangelist George Whitefield, of the 18th said that no one can be truly converted unless he is convinced that he is a totally depraved sinner, which makes him feel,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Without a sense of inner despair, you will not find rest in Christ, or cleansing by His all-atoning Blood.

And how is it with your soul? Are you cold toward the offer of salvation in Christ? If you are, is it not because you haven’t felt that horrid nature of your heart? Is it not because you have failed to realize that you are an unclean thing, that deeply in your heart you feel no need for Jesus?

If you felt that your heart was corrupted and evil you would flee to Christ, asking no questions, seeking no answers on how to come to Him. You would run to Jesus, fall at His feet, and plead with Him to save your ruined soul, so mangled and dead by reason of sin.

He died for you on the Cross, to pay the awful price of your sin! He rose from the dead to give life to your soul, depraved and ruined by the Fall! If you feel even a little of your corrupt condition, then flee to Christ, then plunge into His arms, and Jesus will cleanse your sin. If you feel your sin at all, come to Jesus at once! “Plunge now into the crimson flood that washes white as snow!” Trust Jesus now and be saved from your evil heart!

For Jesus shed His precious blood,
   Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood
   That washes white as snow.
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
   Only trust Him now.
He will save you, He will save you,
   He will save you now.
(“Only Trust Him” by John H. Stockton, 1813-1877).

Dr. Hymers, please come and close this service.


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Only Trust Him” (by John H. Stockton, 1813-1877).


THE OUTLINE OF

LUTHER’S VIEW OF THE HUMAN HEART

(A SERMON PREACHED ON THE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION)

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers Jr. and Mr. John Samuel Cagan
and preached by Mr. Cagan

“For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”
(Genesis 8:21).

(Ephesians 2:5)

I.   First, this was the condition of man before the Flood, Genesis 6:5;
Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:22; Genesis 5:3; Job 14:4;
Ephesians 2:5, 12, 2, 3; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:9, 23, 10, 12.

II.  Second, this was the same condition of man after the Flood,
Genesis 6:5; Psalm 58:3; Ephesians 4:18; Romans 7:24.