MAN’S DEPRAVITY AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS

(Romans 3:1-20)

It would seem from Romans chapter two that a Jew having the covenant of circumcision was no better off than a Gentile because it is only in Chapter 9 verses 4 and 5 that Paul would enumerate all the Jewish advantages. In our day, of course, it is an advantage to be born of Christian parents, to be able to attend church, to be baptized, and to read the Bible, but really, none of these can save us. Here at the start of chapter three, Paul continues to present his argument as he says, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?” – we would expect him to say, “None at all”. But he doesn’t, he says, “Much in every way!” – the Jews have an advantage, although he says all men are guilty, and all men must come to Christ. He never says that God is not going to use the Jews in a special way. You can’t read Romans 9 through 11 without realizing God has a special plan in place for the nation of Israel even in the ‘eschaton’. “…what value is there in circumcision (for the Jews)? Well they are great from every point of view. In the first place, “…the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.” – this is a reference to the Old testament passages in Deut. 4:8; and Ps 147:19. They had the self-revelation of the only One True God, and how He worked in their lives and dealt with them. Notice as it says in verse 3, “What if some were unfaithful?…” – the word here is ‘apisteo’ meaning ‘to betray a trust’, “…Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?” You ought to see 2 Timothy 2:13 where it emphasizes the fact although man is unfaithful, God will never prove false to His character of faithfulness. The word ‘faith’ in the Old Testament especially in Habakkuk 2:4 which will be so prominent in chapter 4 is basically the truth that ‘the just shall live by faithfulness’. I think it’s so important that you understand this crucial Biblical in light of the Bible’s definition, not your definition. When we speak of faith, we speak of our trusting in the trustworthiness of God, or loyalty to His supreme loyalty. We must remember that faith is not an act; it is a response that is already engendered by God, and i think that’s very important.

Now verse 4, “Not at all!” – King James has it, “God forbid!”, Paul is struck by his own question. Let me show you a few places where Paul uses this expression so well. You might want to look down in verse 6 of this chapter, chapter 11 verse 1; Galatians 2:17 and 3:21 where he says “God forbid”, what he just said is so unbelievably untrue, it shocks him. “Let God be true, (present middle imperative), and every human being a liar. As it is written:” – he’s going to quote Psalms 51:4 and Psalms 116:11. I like this whole passage here because it sounds so paradoxical, as all of God’s unconditional promises are conditional on man’s response. I know it sounds paradoxical but i think it’s Biblically true. Now in verse 5, “But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us?” – up until verse 8, Paul anticipates an objector, as in a diatribe, who would wrongfully theorize on his teachings so as to think that if our wrongdoings highlight God’s righteousness, or if our sin makes God look good, how can God judge us? Well, Paul says that’s just the dumbest argument he has ever heard, and in the following verses goes on to tell why he thinks that’s so dumb. People who think otherwise deserve condemnation, for their true focus is not on glorifying God but on giving free rein to their sinful desires. “What shall we conclude then? Do we (Jews) have any advantage?” – the basic summary of this is: All humanity is in spiritual need of the grace of God. “Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:” – here is a long series of Old Testament citations (cf. Psalm 14:1–3; 53:1–3; Ecc. 7:20; Ps. 5:9; Ps. 140:3; Ps. 10:7; Isa. 59:7, 8; Ps. 36:1) that just jump through the Psalms mostly, and it deals with different part of the body that show the sinfulness of man. I believe in total depravity, not in the sense that man is as bad as he can be, but that every aspect of man’s nature has been affected by the fall. “There is no one righteous,…” – now the word righteous here means the ‘standard’ the ‘straightedge’ – God Himself. Notice the second phrase of verse 11, “…there is no one who seeks God,” – no one is searching for God. God always takes the initiative (John 6:44 and 65). Verses 12 through 18 describe man’s depravity in his rebellion against God. Man has become worthless like milk that has turned sour; “their throats have become open graves”, as if their breath smells like dead corpses. Their tongues love treachery. Their lips , their mouths, their feet, their minds, their eyes are all totally corrupt.

Verse 19, “Now we know that whatever the law (Mosaic Law because of the definite article) says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.” – verses 19-20 brings us to a close of the first three chapters of Romans, where chapter 1:18 through 3:20 is really the theme of the Gospel, which is all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; all men in need of right standing with God. And then chapter 4 describes to us what that ‘right standing’ is all about. It’s going to be ‘Justification by faith’ going back to Abraham. Now notice in verse 20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight…” – you might want to see Galatians 2:16 and Galatians 3:11. “…by the works of the law;… – there’s the key; Paul is saying, ‘look, even when we have the standard, we can’t keep it”. The standard was given for a purpose. What purpose? To show us our sinfulness. Notice the last phrase, “…through the law we become conscious of our sin.” – you ought to read Galatians 3:22 through 25. You see, the law was meant to be the boundary line that man could not keep. But man didn’t know he couldn’t keep until he kept transgressing the boundaries. Even from the best motive, he kept transgressing the boundaries. We have died to sin in Romans 6, but we keep living in it in Romans 7. And so the law was meant to be a ‘tutor’; to bring us to the place where recognize our great need. And that’s where the Gospel comes in – you cannot preach the Gospel without Romans chapters 1 through 3. We don’t need to preah Jesus as Savior until men know they’re in need of a savior. We must show them the blackness of the human heart before the beauty of the undeserved and unmerited grace of God captures their hearts. Friends, the beauty of Calvary is only seen against the blackness of human sin and rebellion against the Creator. That’s exactly what we’re talking about here, and it’s not that there are some good people somewhere that don’t need to be saved. Paul is saying, everybody needs to be saved; the disgusting immoral pagans, the very moral pagans, the self-righteous Jews, everyone needs to be saved. Friend, i don’t know who you are, idon’t know how good you are, or how many rules you keep, but i want to tell you this: YOU NEED TO BE SAVED! And you would be saved not by your own effort, but by the undeserved, unmerited grace of God that sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, and three days later came out of the tomb, and whosoever will trust Him by faith will by accepted by God as His child. The book of Romans holds together as a detailed argument, precept upon precept, but the first one that must established is the fact that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The second one that must be established is that, man cannot be right with God through the law. There’s only one way to God. Jesus said it in this manner, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Paul puts it this way, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). The hardest people to talk to about this is good peole, moral people, religious people. The Jews were so religious but they needed to be saved just like Nicodemus. I don’t know who you are, but you need to be saved. And you can be saved right now through Christ our Lord. Amen!