“There is good in everyone”. “People only become bad because of what others do to them”. “I was a good person before I met you”. “I am not as bad as you or them”. “He/She is such a good person, I don’t know why they did what they did”. I am sure that you have heard statements like these in your life, that describes human beings as inherently good or as good by nature. The problem with all these statements is that, those who make them, use worldly or human standards to judge whether people are good or not. What would happen if they used God’s standard? Should they not be using God’s standard? After all, God is the creator and therefore knows what is good and what is not. In this message, we will be looking at every single human being from God’s eyes. We will be describing every human being, how God sees them. In other words, in this message, you will get to see yourself as God sees you.
Background to Romans 3:9-18
Paul is the author of Romans and he wrote this letter from Corinth around AD 56-58, most likely AD 57. Paul was at this stage facing a lot of opposition from those who did not agree with him, and even those who believed that Paul’s preaching was affecting their livelihood. By the time Paul wrote the letter, there were both Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. However, Gentiles were in the majority. The purpose of writing this letter was threefold.
- Paul wanted to explain his gospel to those in Rome so that they may support his trip to Spain
- Paul was writing a defense of his gospel to the Romans as a rehearsal for his defense in Jerusalem
- Paul was writing to unify Jews and Gentile Christians in Rome
With this background in mind, Paul has been making an argument since chapter 1 from verse 18, that God’s wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, who by their unrighteousness, suppress the truth. In verses 1:18-32, Paul argued that the wrath of God is revealed against all those who refuse to acknowledge God as God. From verses 2:1-29, Paul turned towards the Jews, and told them that, they too were facing God’s wrath, and their mere possession of the law and their physical circumcision, will not protect them. Paul told them that both they as Jews, and Gentiles or Non Jews, will face the same judgement, and will be judged in the same way. Since they as Jews, are not obedient to the very same law that they possess, they are equally going to face God’s judgement.
In verses 3:1-8, Paul rejects the argument that if the disobedience of the Jews, leads to God being glorified, then the Jews should not face God’s wrath. Instead, Paul repeated what he had already told them that, they will be judged the same way as Gentiles, and they as Jews are also under God’s wrath like the Gentiles are. This brings us to our passage of this message and that is Romans 3:9-18.
“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Romans 3:9–18, ESV)
Every Human Being is Guilty Before God (Rom 3:9-12)
“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”” (Romans 3:9–12, ESV)
At this point of Paul’s argument, he has now come to a conclusion of his sustained argument that both Jews and Gentiles are under God’s wrath which, he started since chapter 1:18 until 3:8. He starts off his conclusion with a question. The question comes after Paul has clearly argued that Jews are also under God’s wrath just like the Gentiles. This question wants to know whether Jews are any better than Gentiles, now that they are both under God’s wrath, and the answer to that is “no, not at all”. Jews are definitely not any better than Gentiles and the reason is that, as already charged, both Jews and Gentiles are under sin.
Paul says Jews are not in any way better than the Gentiles because Paul has already brought charges against both Jews and Gentiles, and the charge is that they are both under sin. By charges, Paul refers to accusations. Similar to accusations or charges leveled against an accused person in court. Both Jews and Gentiles are accused or charged with being under the power of sin. A similar wording is used when someone is charged with drinking and driving. The court will say that you are charged with drinking under the influence of alcohol. In this case, it is not alcohol that both Jews and Gentiles are under the influence of, but it is sin that they are under the influence of. The phrase “under sin” refers to being under the control of, being captured by, or being enslaved by sin. This means the accusation against both Jews and Gentiles is that they are both helpless slaves to sin. Sin is the master and they are slaves to sin, to do what sin commands them to. They have no power to free themselves from the power of sin.
Then, from verses 10 -18, Paul uses the Old Testament to provide evidence that indeed the charge he has brought against both Jews and Gentiles is fair and beyond reasonable doubt. Paul starts by quoting Psalm 14:1-3 in verse 10. In quoting this Psalm, Paul points us to a Psalm of David, where David says that a fool is one who says in their heart that there is no God. David goes on to say that these fools are corrupt, they do abominable deeds and none of them does good. David says that God looks down from heaven on the human beings and the purpose is to see if there are any who understand or who acts wisely, and that means, those who seeks after God. Seeking after God is acting wisely. What God finds when He looks is that all have turned aside from Him, they have all become morally corrupt, not a single one of them does good. Paul says when God looks at both Jews and Gentiles, He sees the same thing. When God looks at both Jews and Gentiles, God sees that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.””. The word righteous here means to have a right standing with God. Paul says I am not the only one who believes that both Jews and Gentiles are under the power and control of sin, even God agrees with me because when He looks down on both Jews and Gentiles, that is all that He sees. When God looks at both Jews and Gentiles, He sees people who are slaves to sin, who are under the power and control of sin, to do exactly what sin commands.
To prove his case, just like a prosecutor would do in court, Paul has called his witness. This is a very strong witness because the witness is an eye witness. The witness has seen what Paul is accusing both Jews and Gentiles about. This witness testifies that indeed both Jews and Gentiles are under the power and control of sin, because they have seen them. And what makes this witness even more powerful, it is that, this witness is God Himself. Now, I do not believe that there exists any defense attorney, that can cross examine God. This is the part where the defense attorney tells the court: “Your honor, I have no questions for this witness”, and that would be the best and only thing to do. God has spoken and the case is settled. The verdict is that both Jews and Gentiles are under the power and control of sin and they deserve God wrath. Not a single Jew or Gentile is innocent, they are all guilty. What is sad is that not only is every single Jew and Gentile under the power and control of sin, but they are also slaves to sin and they are helpless to free themselves from this slavery.
When Paul referred to Jews and Gentiles, he was referring to every single human being. Paul was speaking about Jews and every one else who is not a Jew, and this would include every single human being that was not a Jew. Therefore, Paul was speaking to every single human being when he said that we are all under the power and control of sin. And this has not changed from the time that Paul wrote these words up until today as I write this message. Today, the accusation still stands and the accusation is that every single human being today, is under the power and control of sin, human beings are slaves to sin, and do exactly what sin commands them to do. God today still looks down on every single human being and sees that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.””. Therefore Paul’s case against humanity is still as good as it was then, and even better today, given what is taking place around us. Therefore, the verdict against humanity today is that, we are all without exception, guilty of being under the power of and under the control of sin, and therefore deserves the wrath of God.
This is the reason why Jesus died on our behalf. He died to redeem us, to free us from the power and control of sin.
“and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18, ESV)
It is only trough the death and resurrection of Jesus that we have been set free from being slaves to sin and now, we are slaves to righteousness. Jesus paid the price to free us from being slaves to sin. Jesus now commands us to repent and place our trust in Him. Will you repent and put your trust in Jesus, or will you remain a slave to sin and face God’s wrath?
In the next message, we will look at the specific charges that Paul was accusing both Jews and Gentiles with, and we will also look at the source of these charges.
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