Series on Romans, III The Gospel and Jewish Need, B Full Concession, Text: 3:9-20, Title: Disabled and Disqualified


Paul has been hard on both Jews and Gentiles. It appears that if we want to play by our rules we might as well concede the game. All effort will be wasted. Paul says in verse 9 it does not matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile you are a loser, What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. Mankind was not created to lose, but our fall into sin and our rebellion against God has made us failures in  the game of life. Every year at the Super Bowl the winning football team is awarded the Lombardi Trophy which is named after the courageous coach of the Green Bay Packers who died of cancer at the age of 57. He had winning teams because he knew how to motivate men. Now I went to a small liberal arts college where I was told that it did not matter when you won or lost-only how you played the game. Our team played for the thrill of the game and that was about the only thrill they normally provided. Many years ago when my children were young I took them to a game at my college. At that time they had the longest losing streak in the nation and a team that never got mentioned in the news was finally newsworthy for being losers. They should have listened to Vince Lombardi who said, “If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?” If you don’t play to win there’s not  much of a game. That’s what Paul is telling us here, and later in Romans 8 he says we are more than conquerors through Christ. But in order to get the point of winning we have to understand why we are losing and that is what the Apostle tells us here as he teaches that we are corrupted, charged, and condemned.

I Corrupted

In a series of quotations from the Old Testament Paul describes our corruption vividly. We read in verses 10-18, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Our minds are alienated from God, our lips curse, and our physical bodies are used to inflict misery on others. That about sums it up. It is the worst description of mankind found anywhere, and my friends, it is true of me, it is true of you, and it is true of your neighbor. It is almost impossible to believe in a culture where the incessant message is man is essentially good. Bad theologians tell us this as well as governors, psychologists, authors, the press and the film industry, and even the priest, Father Flanagan, who founded Boystown, Nebraska who said,“There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking,” and, “I have yet to find a single boy who wants to be bad.” Now I think Boystown is a great effort at helping misguided youths, but the founder, like most people, simply underestimated the potential for evil in men and did not believe the Biblical doctrine of total depravity that is set forth here. And the fact is that bad environments, bad training and bad thinking are all things which are produced by sinful men. This is why we seem so powerless to solve our moral quandary in the twenty-first century. With all of our vast knowledge we have not the wisdom of God to help. And, of course, again, the Apostle’s reason for forcibly reminding us of our depravity is to drive us to Jesus as the only Savior from sin and the only solution for a lost and dying world.

II Charged

The second thing that Paul tells us about this broken world is that we are charged with what are, indeed, high crimes in verse 19, Now we know that whatever the law 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. Note that the charge is universal. All are under some law and all have failed to keep it, and so, every mouth is silenced. Nobody can object. We are all accountable and we are all undone. The point is to back us into a corner. Now when you are charged with a crime in civil court you must make a plea of either innocent or guilty. Paul leaves no question as to which plea we must make: guilty as charged. Yet much of modern social and psychological theory is built on the premise that guilt is a bad thing. While it is true that people sometimes feel guilty when they should not and have remorse over things for which they are not responsible, we ought to distinguish between false guilt and true guilt. In this case we all have true guilt and guilt is a very good thing. If we do not recognize our guilty condition then we have no need for Jesus Christ. One of the names he is called in the New Testament is advocate. He is our defense attorney as in I John 2:1 and 2, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense (an advocate)—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. If we are not lost, that is ,guilty and speechless in our own defense, then we cannot be found and forgiven, and saved. Believe no doctor of the soul whether preacher or psychologist who tells you that you ought to think of your guilt as merely self-inflicted. God is charging us with sin and it is with God that we need a defense attorney. Anything else will leave us hopeless.

III Condemned

Finally in verse 20 Paul speaks about our condemnation, Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. If you are going to shut people up to a Savior you must make it clear that there is no other way. Paul here eliminates all human effort. The Jews may honor the law, but they do not keep it. Gentiles disobey the laws that they have and it is well known that they judge themselves by the law. If one asks a non-believing Gentile about his expectations for salvation and life eternal, he will always say, I have tried to do the best I can.  But, of course, it is not good enough. Charles Hodge reminds us, “Protestants with one heart and one voice teach that observing the law means not only ceremonial works, not merely the works of the unregenerate done without grace; not only the perfect obedience required by the law originally given to Adam, but works of all kinds, everything either done by us or in us.” In other words there is no way out except the mercy of God. When Paul writes to Titus about our common salvation he says in 3:4-7,  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Note that the Apostle emphasizes that we are not saved by righteous things which we have done. The conclusion of the matter, therefore, is that we must become beggars for divine mercy because there is nothing in us that will enable us to satisfy the demands of God’s righteous law. In fact as Paul says in our text, through the law we become conscious of sin. The law condemns us, but Christ justifies those who believe in Him and that is what Paul is about to teach us.