Today, we are not only memorizing Romans 3:10-12, but we are also studying it. Our text for this morning is Romans 3:9-20. Let us now stand for the reading of God's Word in its entirety.
Romans 3:9-20 – “9What 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, 10as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
Let us begin by way of review. As we have said repeatedly, the letter to the Romans is a treatise on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Specifically that in the coming of Jesus, the righteousness of God was revealed, or given to humanity as a wonderful gift from God.
This leads to the question, why would we need the righteousness of God? The answer to that question is because we lack righteousness. Humanity is void of righteousness. But why do we care that you and are not righteous before God? Because the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness, or unrighteousness of man. This wrath of God involves the present and the future. God's wrath comes in the form of guilt, shame, separation, depression, death, and of course Hell.
And once again, who does this apply to? Everyone. The Apostle Paul condemns the pagan, the self-righteous, and the Jew. Everyone is ungodly. Which leads us to our text today. Verse 9, ”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” This statement is a universal indictment of the entire human race. No one is left out. You are either a Jew or a Greek. And if you are a Jew or Greek, then you are under sin. Which is just another way to say that you are under the power of sin and under the consequences of sin.
As it is Written
Now, it is one thing to write a letter making a whole bunch of accusations, condemning the entire human race to damnation, it is another thing to back it up. So how does Paul substantiate his enormous claim? The Bible.
Verse 10 begins with the phrase, “As it is written.” What is Paul talking about? He is talking about the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God. The evidence that Paul presents to prove his case against humanity is the Bible. Why?
As we saw last week, Paul had a very high view of God's word. Paul stated in Romans 3:2, the greatest advantage of being Jewish is possessing the oracles of God, which is just another way to say the Bible. Why is this an advantage? Because God is all knowing, and cannot lie, therefore His inspired Word is absolute truth. Psalm 19:9 says, “The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” Jesus says this himself in John 17:17 during his high priestly prayer, “Sanctify them in your truth, your Word is truth.”
This is why we see Jesus, in the Gospels, so frequently says the phrase, “Have you not read.” When Jesus says this he is referring to the Scriptures. Just in the Gospel of Matthew alone Jesus says these words in Matthew 12:3, 12:5, 19:4, 21:16, 21:42, 22:31, and these are just the documented times in Matthew that we know about. This was a regular practice for Jesus during his earthly ministries when people presented him with questions or complaints, to point them to the inspired Word of his father. And not only to point them to the Bible, but there was an expectation that God's people, would have read, and that they would understand.
The number one problem within the Church today, ours included, is that the followers of Christ have not read, and they do not understand what God has spoken in His inspired Word. We as people are full of questions: who should we marry, how do we make this marriage work, how do we raise kids, what should we spend our money on, why is the world so messed up, why am I depressed, what is my purpose in life. To each of those questions, we should hear the voice of Jesus Christ, like a loud speaker in our life shouting, “Have you not read!”
As it relates to the issue in Romans 3, the universal indictment of man, Paul goes off the hook in quoting from the Word of the God. Verse 10-18 is not from one singular place, it is from at least six different sections in the Old testament, Psalm 14, Psalm 5, Psalm 140, Psalm 10, Isaiah 59, and Psalm 36. This is what rabbis would call “pearl stringing.” Verse after verse after verse after verse pulled from different locations in God's word to formulate an understanding of systematic truth. So let us look at this jewelry of God's Word in more detail.
None is Righteous, No Not One
As I said, one of the old testament text Paul is quoting from is Psalm 14. Hopefully, some of you remember that we studied Psalm 14 this summer in our continuation of our series on the book of Psalms. If you recall, Psalm 14 is very interesting, in that it is also found again in Psalm 53. They are nearly identical. So when we talk about “As it is written”, this particular text is written three times in God's Word. It is almost as if God is treating us like the children we are, repeating himself over and over again, so as to make sure we do not miss this fundamental and basic truth.
So what is the truth that God desires us to understand? The second part of verse 10 is “none is righteous, no not one.” Talk about redundant, we see three negatives in this short section of Scripture. None, no, and not. This is a complete universal declaration against humanity. There is not one single person who is righteous. Everyone on the planet is not righteous. I am not righteous. You are not righteous. Your children are not righteous. The pope is not righteous. Mary is not righteous. No one. The only person who walked the planet that was righteous was Jesus. Him and him alone.
This is why Jesus in Luke 18:19 when Jesus was called good teacher responds by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Only God is good, and who is Jesus? He is the Son of God, therefore, he is God. Jesus was not denying his goodness, he was pointing to the reality that he is the righteousness of God revealed. That no one is good except him alone.
The truth that no one is good is a truth that few people hold. Most of the world sees themselves as good. If you want to test this theory, just go out and ask people if they are going to go to heaven. A vast majority of the people you talk with will say yes. When you ask them why do they think so, they will say something about their goodness. They believe that God will reward them for being good. And they are right, if they were good, if they were righteous, God would reward them by allowing them into his presence. But the problem is that no one is righteous, no not one. They fail to see their wickedness, and therefore fail to see their need for Jesus.
My guess is that some of you have heard the question about whether the good person who lives in the middle of no where, who never has the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus will still go to Hell. The answer to that question is no, he will not go to hell. If someone is righteous before God he will go to heaven. However, the problem is that person does not exist, nor ever will exist. There is no one who is good. This is why Jesus is the only way, for he is the only one who is good, and we need God's righteousness to enter into God's presence.
No One Understands
The next truth that I want us to examine is the phrase, “no one understands” in verse 11. This is also found in Psalm 14. What does God mean when he says, “no one understands.” Understands what?
The Greek word for understand is syniēmi which means to “bring or set together.” A modern way that we might say this is “connecting the dots”. No one connects the dots. What dots? I believe the dots that Paul spoke of in Chapter 1 regarding the truth about God being the creator and therefore deserving of honor and gratitude towards him. The failure to connect the dots that they are created for God's glory but they have exchanged glorifying God and are instead glorify created things, such as themselves, there kids, false Gods, idols, money, stuff, power, fame. As Paul has already said in chapter 1, “their foolish hearts are darkened.”
This inability to understand is not something that only a few people have. It is not something that we learn. It is something that we are born with. We are born into ignorance. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. “ This is what happened at the fall, all humanity that was in the loins of Adam was plunged into blindness. The natural man is not able to understand.
Listen to what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The natural person is every person. And the natural person is not able to understand. Their is no ability within himself to connect the dots. Zero chance to get it.
Once again this is a universal indictment of all humanity. When you are sharing the gospel to a person at work, or in your family, or your neighbors and you are beating your head against the wall because you can tell they just are not getting it, even though you have spoken it to them 1,000 times, this is why. Apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, they will never get it. Why? No one understands, until God opens their eyes and ears so that they can understand.
Listen to Jesus' words to Israel in Matthew 13:14-16, “You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
The person who connects the dots regarding their need for the righteousness of Jesus Christ is a person who has been blessed by God in the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
No One Seeks God
And this leads us to the third indictment we will examine this morning, no one seeks God. Ever since the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, man has been hiding from God and God has been seeking out man. We see the first picture of this in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 3:8-10, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”d 10And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
And this has been the pattern of man ever since. Man hides from God and God seeks man. God sought Abraham. God sought Isaac. God sought Jacob. God sought Moses. God sought David. God sought the prophets. God sought the 12 disciples. God sought Paul. And God sought each one of you. No man seeks after God. God seeks after man.
Now some of you may say, “Wait a minute. That is not my story. I specifically remember seeking God. I was the one who pursued God.” Is that so? Is that what you think? Have you not read John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Have you not read 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” Have you not read Luke 15:4, that says “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” The reason that came out of hiding from your sin is that God came to you and called you. We do not seek God, he seeks us. Therefore, praise be to God!
The indictment is of humanity is universal, we are not righteous, we do not understands, we do not seek God. As it says in the rest of or text, we are worthless, our mouths are open graves, we are dead men walking, there is no fear of God in our wretched depraved hearts.
And as Paul says in verse 19, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be accountable to God.” Every mouth will be stopped. No arguments can be made against the Word of God.
Imagine being in a courtroom, naked before the living God of the universe, the books of your depraved life are opened and set up against the law of God. And God looks at you with eyes of fire and says, “What do you have to say for yourself?” Are you going to say, “I'm a good person. I went to Church. I was confirmed.” I doubt it. The evidence will be overwhelming against you.
The only word that a man can utter with any hope of salvation is the name “Jesus”. For there is no other name given to man, under heaven by which we must be saved. And this is why Paul spends three chapters focusing on the depravity of man, for it is far better to come to this realization now, before it is too late.