Man’s “total depravity” has its roots in the Garden of Eden where we learn of a test that God gave to Adam and Eve, who represented the whole human race. In Genesis 2:16-17 we read, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
The death that God had in mind was not physical death (although that did occur as the evidence of man’s fall into sin), but rather eternal, spiritual death, which plunged all mankind into spiritual deadness (or “total depravity”) and subjected man to eternal damnation in Hell.
Thus, Romans 6:23a discloses, “For the wages [or payment] of sin is death…” Romans 5:12 paints man’s sad condition: “Wherefore, as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:19 also affirms, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…” 1 Corinthians 15:21a further reveals, “For since by man came death…”
As a consequence of Adam’s disobedience, each person born after him, starting with Cain, was born with a spiritually dead soul, infected with sin, and alienated from God, as Psalm 51:5 indicates, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 58:3 also asserts, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Lastly, let us consider the ominous warning God gives to the human race, who are thus by nature “totally depraved”, as Ezekiel 18:4 points out, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”