The foundation of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome is Romans 3. The text above is crucial in understanding the entire book. It is also crucial in understanding our desperate need, and God’s gracious solution. Unfortunately, this doctrine is under taught, or not taught at all.
The first thing that I find interesting about the text is that it is relentless to prove its point of our complete inability. It as if it is kicking the theological dead horse. In only one sentence it says “none” and “not one” and “no one” and “not even one”…ok, ok, we get the point. But do we?
Unfortunately, many denominations wrongly teach that man is generally good, and teach their people that if they work hard and obey the rules and jump through religious hoops they can earn God’s Grace (ss if Grace could be earned). They argue that we have something of value to offer God, but this is just not the case. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous. The Bible tells us that no one is good. The Bible tells us that we are worthless (i.e. zero value to offer). This is a hard teaching, but it is a true teaching, and there is no doubt that it doesn't fit with the American self-esteem propaganda of today.
So why are we so pathetic? And why does it matter?
Why are we so pathetic? Because we are spiritually dead. We have no pulse when it comes to loving God. Our spiritual heart monitor is flat-lined. No matter how hard we try, we just cannot be good. The reality is that spiritually dead people cannot fake being spiritually alive (for those who love the 80s, think “Weekend at Bernie’s”). Even the things that we think are good are not good. Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” After sin entered the world after the fall, all of humanity was born spiritually dead.
Why does it matter? It matters because the starting point of following Christ is complete and utter humility. We must accept the truth that we are completely unable to please God, that we are totally unrighteous, that we are not good, that we are worthless and that we need the righteousness of someone else to be accepted by God, namely Jesus.
If our gospel involves adding anything to the sacrifice of Christ for our salvation, then our gospel is wrong. Paul says in Galatians 1:9, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” The false teaching that Paul was arguing against is one that said that Jesus is necessary, but He is not sufficient to save us. That when Jesus said, “It is finished” while dyeing on the cross He really meant, it is half done. These false teachers were called Judiazers. These people claimed to follow Jesus but said you weren't really saved unless you also jumped through some religious hoops.
If your gospel includes your participation to merit God’s favor, then your self-proclaimed gospel is not good news, it is terrible news. It is hopeless news. Your theology does not free you, but enslaves you to good works that are equivalent to polluted garments and is completely worthless. Therefore it matters because a right thinking of the cross and what Christ purchased for us is essential to salvation.