Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
Book of Romans: Chapter 3 Part 1 - First the bad news: No one is righteous!
by Fraser Gordon
We are going to look at a really interesting passage of scripture though not the most popular and if you are ever asked to go and speak somewhere you wouldn’t choose a passage like this. I want to read from verses 9-18. These verses are God's resume of humanity born in the first Adam.
The other day we had to get a resume ready for our son Jack who was applying for a job. You write down that he is good at this and that and then you try and hunt down someone who can give a really good reference... and that can take a while to think about who would say something really nice about him. Whenever we think about how we like to be viewed, it is always the really nice stuff about ourselves that we want written down. Well Romans 3 presents God's resume of what mankind is really like under sin, born in the first Adam. Thankfully that is not all that God records or says about us. God's resume for people in Christ is something very different to those who are under or born in the first Adam. For those who are Christians it is always those things that are done in faith which are recorded and highlighted, not the rubbish.
When you get to a passage like this remember that Paul is taking all of his hearers right through to the point that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. So this is where we begin this message by looking at this final verdict that the whole world is guilty before God and that this needs to be said even though it is not popular. God is faithful enough to actually reveal what the problem is with each one of us. Suppose you had something wrong and you went to your doctor but he was too afraid to be honest with you, that wouldn’t be much help would it? If you had a terminal disease you would want to know. It is exactly the same in scripture.
Under the thumb... humanity is under sin.
Romans 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
It does not mean sinning now and again, but Paul gives it a title which relates to everyone that we are all “under sin”. It is almost like saying “under the thumb”. It often refers to a man or a woman in a marriage who are said to be “under the thumb”. In other words someone is dominated by the other partner. They are not allowed to do what they want to do because there is pressure from one side or the other. This term “under the thumb” is a military term which means that you are “under command”. You do as you are told. You are under orders. It has however a wider term meaning you are a prisoner to something or someone. You are a slave, under a tyrant ruler. So what we can conclude Paul is saying here is that Jews and Greeks are under sin which means a slave to the sin nature. You are under a tyrant ruler who has no time for God and wants to usurp His authority over your mind, will and emotions, to do his bidding and his will. This is what it means to be under sin.
All people born into this world have been born under sin. They are actually controlled and enslaved by this tyrant who has no time for God and is going his own way. Sometimes we wonder “why did that person do that, he didn't have to react that way?” or “why did it happen to me?” Sometimes we expect better from those around us, but really they don't have the ability to be anything else. In the West we think “how can we fix the problems in our society,” and the biggest move now is “We have to educate people”. If there is more knowledge and there is more education that will improve people’s conditions and our societies will be better, we think. This is always an absolute failure because you cannot educate a pig nature. Major Ian Thomas says that pigs are intelligent animals which can be trained like a dog not to go to the toilet inside and to behave in a certain way. You can teach and develop him to act in the way you wish, but the moment you leave a crack in the front door open he will bolt out of that door like a bullet out of a gun, and he will run straight for the muck and roll over and over and over in it. For the pig it is home sweet home for the nature of the pig is to do this. Humanity is like that as well, we have a pig nature. We have a nature which is a slave to sin. At some point, it doesn't matter how much you educate it, it will behave in a certain way and will eventually roll in the muck and enjoy it because that is its nature.
The good news is that even though the whole world is under sin, God didn't send a teacher to try and educate, or improve that nature, He actually sent a liberator. He sent someone to free people from under this rule and reign over their lives, even though they were slaves. When Jesus first stood up in the synagogue He quoted the passage that had been given to Him that day, it was from Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me and He has anointed Me to preach the good news, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to open the prison to those that are bound.” For all those that were held in bondage, for those that were slaves to this nature of being under sin, He is a liberator. He is not just a teacher. He didn't come just to say “follow My ways,” or “try and imitate Me”. He actually came to free mankind from being under sin. So He was a liberator. This is why it is so important that a man be born again because educating people will not do anything for the fallen nature. We are born in sin and we are controlled by sin and we must be born again by the Spirit of God. You need to receive a new nature that loves to serve God; that has His will and His desires in mind. That pig nature will always be a pig nature and that is why it is so important that Christ comes by His Spirit into your humanity and starts to rule in your life. He starts to control your mind, your will and your emotions so that your life leads purposefully toward His will. So to be born again is essential. Christ came to give His life to humanity. It is an exchanged life, which means that we exchange our life from the first man Adam to the second man, Christ.
So Paul starts off by saying “That everybody is under sin” Now all the rest of these passages from Ch 3 verses 10-18 are taken from psalms. The psalms quoted are Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Psalm 140, Psalms 10, 36 and Isaiah 59. In all of these passages that he Paul is quoting from he is trying to show his hearers that this is the condition of mankind under sin, and how sin affects our relationship with God.
None that are righteous... in themselves
Romans 3:10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
As far as God's standard is concerned there is none who reach that perfect, righteous, holy standard. When the Bible says “that there is none righteous, no not one” that is what it means. You do not come anywhere near the standard of perfection which is God's holy nature. It is a little bit like, let's say the standard is Hawaii, and you have to swim there, you all line up on the beach, and however far you get, it doesn't matter whether you just get out beyond the breakers or just out a couple of hundred meters, or even get a few kilometers, the standard is actually Hawaii. It doesn't matter where you get to if you fall short of Hawaii. You fall short of that standard. So there is none righteous, no not one.
Most people think they are okay, that their standards are not too bad. Quite often, when giving this example to people, think they are okay. If you can imagine that you could have a device that could actually read and portray in a picture, like in a movie, everybody's thoughts and words. Just take a normal day. You get up in the morning and how do you relate to your kids when they are driving you up the wall? How you relate to those around you in your home? Or you get in your car but what is it that you think about as someone cuts you off or you are stuck behind traffic? You get to work and you work with your co-workers and one of them is rubbing you up the wrong way. What is going through your brain? Just imagine if everything that you thought on just one day was shown live on TV, how would you feel about that? Would you feel comfortable in that situation, because there is none righteous, not one? None of us would be uncomfortable with that because our heart has got a pig nature in it which is rotten.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Every single person that is born into this world is born under sin inherited from the first Adam and has no ability whatsoever to understand spiritual things. Mankind is dead to spiritual truth. This is what it states in Corinthians “that it is impossible for him to understand.” He needs the life of the living Lord Jesus Christ to actually understand the things of God. Under sin there is no one who understands.
Romans 3:11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
Paul goes on to say “There is none that seeks after God” What was man's first response when sin entered into the world? He hid. He was afraid, he was guilty and he hid from the presence of God. All of a sudden he became self centered, he looked inward and saw that he was naked. John 6 says “All that the Father has given Me, I will not lose any of them”. It is showing that the Father is the one who is drawing mankind. It is the Father who is the one that is convicting him. It is the Father who is the one that is giving grace unto those that receive Him. God is the one who is active. When you get into John 17 It is Jesus who is the one thanking the Father that “All those that you gave Me, I give them back to you. “You gave them to Me and I give them back.” It is God who is active. He is the one who becomes the seeker.
Acts 17:30-31 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, (31) because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
So in other words He is not hiding, He is declaring what is wrong with mankind and saying “It is time for you to acknowledge your sin and receive the good news that I have given you through Jesus Christ.”
Romans 3:12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
They have all turned aside. This is universal. It is like a universal detour. Interestingly when you read books like “Eternity in their hearts” by Don Richardson, he brings out the fact that written in the hearts of the tribal groups throughout the world there are these tales that somewhere the tribes have detoured, that they have gone astray, and need to come back. So here Paul is saying that “They have all turned aside and together have become unprofitable.” (The word for unprofitable means something like fruit that is rotten). Now there is nothing quite as nice as biting into a fresh apple or pear, but in saying that there is nothing quite as bad as biting into fruit that is rotten. Hopefully there is nobody standing in front of you because as fast as it goes into the mouth, out it comes. This is the word here, not only have all turned aside, but together they have become unprofitable. ‘There is none that does well, no not one’
When you are talking to most people, they will say “Well, I am not that bad, I am not a murderer, I am not a pedophile”, they see themselves as having an amount of goodness. Interestingly, in the gospels when a man came to Jesus and called Him “Good Teacher,” He responded by saying “Why do you call Me good, there is none good except the Father” Even Jesus in His humanity wouldn't claim that title of goodness. Remember He laid aside His right to be God and act as God. In His humanity, even though He was sinless, and unlike the first Adam, born without sin; He still wouldn’t say “I am good”. There is only one that is good, and that is the Father, was what He said. Most people think that they have an amount of goodness, but by what standard? You don't know what a straight line is unless you have a plumb line which is in this case God’s perfect righteousness. Everything falls short of that plumb line, and there is none good, no not one.
Mankind's throat - an open tomb!
Romans 3:13 "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips";
Paul begins with “Their throat is an open tomb”. Now when you go to a doctor with a sore throat, what is the first thing he does? He looks in your mouth and puts in a long oversized ice cream stick and he says “say R” If you don't knock him down with your breath he takes a look and says “that's not good”. Now scripture says that the throat of a man under sin is an open tomb. Think about the imagery of that. All our tombs here are closed aren't they? But you think about an open tomb. I have never come across a human in an open tomb, but I have come across many sheep and animals like that who have just rotted away where they died and the smell is horrendous. For people who have been brought up on farms, it is a natural thing at some point to find an animal that has died or been caught in an area that they didn't know of. So what Paul is saying here is that the throat of mankind has a stench to it. There is decay there and there is death there. As far as God is concerned, it is open. He can see the stench; He can see the decay and the death that comes out of the throat. Most people say “I am not that bad” but picture your life as a vessel with muddy water in it. Have you ever put muddy water into something like a bucket and let it sit long enough so it actually looks alright, and quite clear when you let it settle. If you give it a stirring then that bucket of water looks completely different when the sediment rises. And what once looked pure and clean then becomes very murky and distorted. Humanity is like that. You can think “he is not too bad” but you give that life a little bit of stirring and the right set of circumstances, you will be amazed at what can come out. And it comes out of the throat which the scripture says “it is like an open tomb”. What comes out smells, it is death, it is decay; all of these types of things. Not a nice picture.
“With the tongue they practice deceit”. The Bible has a lot to say about the “tongue”. If you read the book of James it says “that no man can tame the tongue, it is a small unruly member in our bodies, it is a fire, a world of iniquity and unruly evil. It is full of deadly poison. Not a good description, but with man under sin the tongue has the ability to be all of this.
I read a little poem this morning and it goes like this:
I lost a very little word
Only the other day
It was a very nasty word
I really was not meant to say
But then it was not really lost
As from my lips it flew,
My little brother picked it up
And now he says it too.
Romans 3 tells us that “the poison of asps is under their lips”. The asp was a snake and what Paul is saying here is that the snake had this venomous sac behind its fangs and as it strikes the venom would connect with the fangs and it would spread poison. Man under sin has got this poison sac with his tongue. He loves to hurt, he loves to ridicule, he loves to gossip, he loves to back stab with malice. How many times do you hear people pulling others down just so that they can elevate themselves? This is what the tongue in man under sin is like. Lots of hurt and ridicule can be attached to the tongue. I was reading about Winston Churchill recently, apparently he used to have a lot of verbal debates with Lady Astor. I read one of them where Lady Astor said to Winston “Winston you are drunk” and he responded “My lady you are ugly but tomorrow I will be sober”! Although it is funny there is venom attached to it. Another remark from the same Lady Astor; she said to Winston “if I was your wife I would put arsenic in your tea” and he responded “if I was your husband I would drink it”!
Romans 3:14-17 "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 they have not known."
All you have to do is work among the unsaved and you will hear lots of hurts from circumstances in people’s lives regarding things that have happened to them. “There is cursing and bitterness.”
Life is very cheap. The feet are swift and it takes them no time at all to get even and get pay back. “Their feet are swift”. This is an interesting contrast with the feet when you think about Ephesians 6 with the amour; how feet are are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. For the Christian your feet are used completely differently, bringing the good news as opposed to shedding blood or getting even.
Where is the fear? Mankind will stand before a holy God
Romans 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
This is one of the hardest verses really; “Before their eyes there is no fear of God”. The natural man can only see in the natural way of thinking. No one understands. They cannot understand spiritual things unless God by His Spirit opens their eyes. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Quite often you hear “I would hate to meet him in a dark alley” or “I would never get into the ring with him”. They are afraid of what they can see with their eyes man to man. There is no accounting of the fact that one day they are going to have to stand before a holy and righteous God and give an account for their life, that there is a judgment day coming when all men will have to give an account. They don't think about eternity or all. This whole passage deals with man being under sin, and Paul, pretty much, talks about the throat, the tongue, the mouth, the lips, the feet and the eyes. He declares that everything is all under sin, and it is all in rebellion against God. The whole world, both Jew and Gentile are descended from the first Adam and God’s résumé is that they are all sinful.
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
The law was given to the Jews but it was their responsibility to declare it to all mankind. The purpose of the law was to bring out into the open the sinfulness of man so that every mouth would be stopped. There would be no pride. You would know that you were fallen and you would know that the Lord Jesus Christ is who you need to make atonement for your sins. The natural man has no hope whatsoever apart from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting Him and His sacrifice for them. It is His Spirit that can free them from this ruler - this tyrant that has no time for God who loves to dominate the mind will and emotions of mankind. But when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives He starts to redirect and to control us so that we produce fruits of righteousness instead of this list that we have looked at.
So I know it is not a popular passage but this is the word of God. It lets you know what the problem is and we need to know the problem before we can actually find the solution.
Of all the books in the Bible, Romans is the greatest one for this aspect because it declares that you need freeing from this slave master and you need freeing from being under the first Adam. Paul says in Romans that Christians still struggle with this slave master who still tries to dominate them but the book of Romans brings out that there is actually freedom for the Christian from that as well.