There Is None Righteous:
Depravity Confirmed By The Law
In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 14a of 83


9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known:  18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).

We have been considering how the apostle Paul is building up a case for the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. The doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone teaches that all men are sinners. As sinners, we cannot save ourselves by ourselves. If anyone is saved, it must be by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ alone.

In the first 8 verses of chapter 3, the apostle Paul addresses some objections to this doctrine. These are raised or would be raised by nominal Jews when they hear Paul’s doctrine. Their objections, simply stated, is that Paul’s doctrine, militates against the goodness, faithfulness and justice of God towards Israel. Paul shows their objections are baseless. He did not deal with them thoroughly as yet. But he shows that these objections are blasphemous and must be eradicated from our minds.

Having made that clear, Paul now returns to his main arguments.

“What then?” he asks (v. 9):

“Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.”

Paul has been addressing the Jews. The objections in the first eight verses, were Jewish objections. He is now wrapping up the discussion:

“What then? Are we [who are Jews] better than they [who are gentiles]? No, in no wise: for we have [already] proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.”

Both Jews and Gentiles are guilty sinners. Both Jews and Gentiles are under the power and burden of sin.

Like Pilgrim in Bunyan’s Allegory, all men by nature are weighed down by a burden of sin. We carry it around daily and cannot shake it off. But worst than Pilgrim, we had no desire to get rid of it. We are addicted to it. We are under its power and influence. And we love it. This is so for the gentiles. This is so for the Jews. We saw that in the first 2 chapters.

We are going to see that again in our text. Paul is wrapping up his case that all men as sinners. He will use at least ten verses from the Old Testament to nail shut the coffin of mankind. He wants us to be absolutely sure that mankind is dead in sin!

In this present study, we want to consider the passage in three instalment: (1) Depravity Confirmed by the Law; (2) Denial of Depravity Challenged by the law; (3) Depravity Confronted by the law.

1. Depravity Confirmed 
by the Law

a. The word ‘law’ is used in the book of Romans in a number of ways. But it is, no doubt, used as a synecdoche, in verse 19 to refer to the Old Testament.

What does the law, or the Old Testament say concerning the state of man? Paul wants us to be absolutely sure that we know, there is no ambiguity at all. The law leaves no room for doubt at all that all men are guilty:

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Paul is paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Psalm 14:1-3 or Psalm 53:1-3. For some reason, the apostles seldom quote verbatim. But it is clear that he citing the Old Testament.

The law, then, is clear and consistent that all men descending naturally from Adam are sinners.

Notice that in these 3 verses alone, the universality of sinfulness is stressed 8 times.

·   

Notice the words, ‘none’ and ‘not one’: “There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.… there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

·     Notice the words ‘all’ and ‘together’ in verse 12: “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable.”

There is no exception. The Jews are not excluded; the gentiles are not excluded; Christians are not excluded; you are not excluded; I am not excluded! As long as we are the natural descendants of Adam, we are not excluded. By nature everyone of us are unholy, unrighteous and unprofitable. Nothing that anyone of us do is truly good in God’s eyes. What may be good in the sight of man, is really evil in the sight of God because God sees not as man sees. He sees the heart. He sees the unrighteous intention. He sees the selfishness. Man is made to glorify God, but by nature man seeks to glorify himself.

By nature, none of us are righteous; none understand spiritual things; none does good; none seek God!  Many of us sometime speak of unbelievers seeking God. But the Word of God tells us that this is not true. No unconverted person ever seek God. They may seek the benefits that come with salvation, but never truly seek God. Only those whose heart has been changed by God will seek God.

All men, without exception has a sinful nature, a sinful heart, a sinful mind, a sinful inclination, sinful will. Every part of every man is sinful. We have lost our original righteousness, holiness and knowledge.

b.  But how is man’s sinful manifested? Paul again quotes from the Old Testament:

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known:

These statements come from Psalm 5:9; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 10:7 and Isaiah 59:7-8. They may be divided into two groups. Verses 13-14 refer to sin arising from the tongue or sin of words. On the other hand, verse 15-17, speaks of sin arising from the act or of sin of deeds.

Consider what the Scripture is saying about how we use our tongue by nature. Words from our mouths are foul and offensive like the stench from an open grave with rotting body inside. How else can it be when by nature we are dead in our inner man? Our throat is like a vent leading to the rotting corpse within. Our tongue is also full of deceit and poison. It is quick to hurt. It is full of cursing and bitterness.

Is it not true? Have you ever met a man or woman who has never grumbled, complained, or spoken falsehood or angry words? If you have met such a man, he must either be dumb, or he is an angel rather than man.

But sin is not only manifested in the tongue. It is manifested in the deeds too. The Scripture asserts that, in terms of deeds, we are by nature full of violence and destruction (v. 15-17). If we are honest with ourselves, we will know that everyone of us has the capacity to commit murder. By nature, we care only for ourselves, and so we get upset and angry when anyone steps on our toes. We even get angry with young children and babies we profess to love.

Yes; if we are honest with ourselves, we will know that the Word of God is true. Let God be true, but every man a liar.

c.   But why? Why do men sin in their words and deeds? The Lord Jesus gives us the answer when he says: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45b). And: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16). The fact is: The heart of all man is corrupt by nature. By nature man is selfish, and has no regard for God. Paul refers to this fact by quote Psalm 36:1 in verse 18—“There is no fear of God before their eyes.

To fear God is to respect God. To respect God is to be afraid of displeasing Him. But the fact is: fallen man has no regard for God. He does not feel responsible to God for his conduct. He even tries hard to suppress the knowledge that God exists.

These are hard facts to swallow. Many of us will feel uncomfortable and even offended hearing these things. Most of us think more highly of ourselves than we really are. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that the Scripture is absolutely right.

There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 [We] are all gone out of the way, [we] are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Thank God that our salvation does not depend on our works, for otherwise, we will perish.

But not everyone agrees with us. So,.…

… to be continued next issue

JJ Lim