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No One Is Righteous  (ch. 3:9-20)

 

The verses from Romans 3:9 to 20 are transitional in nature.  Paul gives a quick conclusion with some Scripture to back up his point and then ends this section with the next topic he will address.

 

In verse 9 Paul asks, "What shall we conclude"?  Another question that he asks is, "are we any better"?  The word "we" refers to the Jews.  The question is meant to sum up what he has explained so far.   The only logical conclusion is that Jews and Gentiles are alike.  They are both under the rule of sin.  Even though the Jews had an advantage over the Gentiles when it comes to the things pertaining to God, they were just as sinful as the Gentiles.  

 

With Romans 2 in mind, God has given both Jews and Gentiles over to sin with resulting judgment.  In verse 10 Paul begins to quote from Psalm 14:1 to 3 and 53: 1 to 3.  He points out that there is none righteous, no not one.  That doesnít sound like the secular philosophy of ďIím Okay, Youíre OkayĒ that has infiltrated the church these days.  That was the name of a popular book back in the early 1970's that basically said we're all just fine. 

 

We should remember David's sin of adutery.  I picture him being so down in the dumps that he simply thought that all of humanity is sinful.  He was just as sinful as everyone else in the world.  The Biblical fact is that David was right.  We are all miserable sinners, just as Paul is teaching in this passage.   Remember what Jeremiah 17:9 states.  We as humans are so depraved and wicked that we don't know how depraved and wicked we really are.                

 

The idea that Jews are in the same boat when it comes to sin would not sit well with the Jewish leaders.  This is one reason why Paul experienced the same trouble from the Jews that Jesus had experienced. He is telling the truth about them and they don't like it.  

 

Without commenting on each quote Paul uses to support his point, he does say in verse 12 that all have become worthless.  Remember our definition of the word "depraved".  Depraved means worthless.  We see here again the historic doctrine of the ďDepravity of ManĒ.  If you really want to understand how God feels about mankind, read verses 10 through 18.  It paints a very bleak and ugly picture of us, something modern man refuses to believe about himself.  The final thing that is said about man in this list of depravity is that we "do not fear God".  Not fearing God is the underlying problem that makes us the sinful and depraved people we are. 

 

Paul's view of fallen man here is fundamental to the gospel of salvation that we preach.  It's my thinking that much of western world Christianity does not teach this fundamental truth as Paul does here.  I strongly believe that if you ignore the doctrine of the Depravity of Man, you corrupt the true gospel of Christ.  At that point it is no longer the gospel.  Since we're forsaking this important truth, we're also forsaking the doctrine of repentance.  The simple fact is that if you don't believe that man is sinful, then there is no need to preach repentance of sin.  The modern gospel in many respects skips the depravity of man and repentance and goes straight to faith.  The fact of the matter is that one can't have real faith unless he admits to his sin and repents of his sin.

 

Paul ends these quotes with Psalm 31:1, "There is no fear of God before their eyes".  This may be one of the fundamental sins of man.  We have no fear of God.  We do what we want to do despite the fact that we know God's standards by which we are to live.  Whether you interpret fear as reverence for God or being afraid of Him, the fear of God has been lost from the minds of men.  We no longer reverence God.  We are no longer afraid of Him.

 

In verse 19 Paul says we know that whatever the law says, it says for those who are under the law.  There is some debate over what law Paul is really speaking about here.  Is it the Law of Moses, and if so, why doesn't the NIV and other translations capitalize the word "law"?  Some people believe Paul is speaking of the Law of Moses while others say it is law in general.  I tend to believe Paul is speaking about the Law of Moses, partly due to the fact that the Greek text uses the word "the" before the word "law", meaning one particular law.  However, because this verse states that because of this law will stop every mouth throughout the world might suggest Paul is thinking of more than the Law of Moses.  At this point I believe Paul is talking about the Law of Moses.   

 

If Paul is thinking about the Law of Moses here, then, one result of what he is saying is that the Law of Moses doesn't apply to Gentile Christians.  It was meant for Jews and to the Jews only.  This is important because the major problem in the early church was over Christian Gentiles having to obey the Law of Moses.  What Paul says here should tell us that the Law of Moses wasn't written for Gentiles, so when they become Christians it does not apply to them, or this is what I believe can be assumed here.    

 

Even if what Paul is speaking of here is law in general, that would be fine.  It does not take away from his point, which is that law, whether God's law or any other law, can make no one righteous, as he says in verse 20.  This would apply to the Law of Moses, and if it applies to God's Law, it surely would apply to any man made law.  Humans always have a tendency to add their own laws to God's laws, which in my opinion is blasphemy.

 

Verses 19 and 20 presents a great truth about the good news of Christ.  Paul gives one reason for the existence of the Law.  The reason is to silence every mouth and to make the whole world accountable.  Therefore, as Paul puts it, no one will be declared righteous Ö by observing the Law; rather through the Law we become conscious of sin. This is one reason why I believe Paul is talking about God's law, not any human law. 

 

We should note here, that the whole world is now accountable to God.  No one is left out, whether you have the Law of Moses or not.

 

Note the word "declared".  God declares us righteous.  That doesn't mean we are righteous.  He only views us as being righteous.  Righteous simply means living right according to God's standards, even as God Himself lives.  God thus views the believer as living right even as He Himself lives right.   

 

No law in the world, whether it is Godís Law or a man made law, can make us righteous in Godís eyes.  If Godís Law canít do it, let's not think that any of our ecclesiastical laws can do it either.  It's sad to say, but Christians tend to settle into a salvation by law, or, by the good works of our own hands.  We always have to feel that we need to do something, or obey something to be made right before God.  This is not the case and this is how Paul introduces his next topic, which is, righteousness by faith. 


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