No One Is Righteous
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, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
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 held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. – Romans 3:9-20 ESV
The book of Romans is considered correctly as “the most comprehensive and systematic summary of Christian doctrine anywhere in Scripture” the “Bible within the Bible” sharing and exhorting the reader the beauty and the majesty of God and His work of salvation toward the world. Chapter 3 can be divided into two distinct parts. First is the question “Who is this message for?” and the second “What is the remedy?”
In actuality, the first question really started in chapter 1. Paul relates to the reader concisely who his message is for: guilty sinners. Who are the guilty? The answer: everybody who walks this planet, past-present-future. Chapter 1 begins with the state of immoral humanity, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness before men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” ( 1:18 ). The majority of us don’t have a problem with God getting even with those who by their evil, unrighteous deeds deserve His wrath. But Paul does not stop there. He includes the “moral” – those who assume to judge immoral evil people by the fact that they do not do immoral really “evil” acts: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in placing judgment on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same thing” (2:1). If that was not enough, Paul singles out the religious person, who in his day were the Jewish people. People, who by their outward show or spectacle of “religious acts,” who performed rituals and kept laws in the attempt to mollify God, believing by their performance that God would be pleased and therefore call them “righteous.” Paul destroys the concept that any man or woman, Jew or Gentile, no matter how “religious” they are can come to God by attempting to appease Him with religious deeds or works in the hope to be name “righteous” – for “…both Jews and Greeks are under sin, as it is written NONE ARE RIGHTEOUS, NO NOT ONE” (3:9-10). Read carefully the indictment on humanity found in 3:9-18 (which Paul primarily quotes from the Psalms and Proverbs). Not a pretty picture is it? Scripture condemns ALL of humanity as helplessly embroiled in sin and death. An analogy can be made of a drowning man far out to sea. He has no hope of being delivered to safety. There is no one around to throw the man a preserver and rescue him to safety. The man is ever growing weaker and weaker, as the water becomes heavier and heavier. He may believe he is getting closer to shore and rescue with each stroke, but he is deceived. Eventually the man will drown and die. Sin is the ocean in this picture. We cannot manage it, hold it up, or even wade through it. Without deliverance it will destroy us all – the immoral person, the moral person, and even the religious person, “..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Absolutely no one will escape the fate we so rightly deserve.
There is hope, however, in the darkness. The rhetoric of Romans is majestic – it describes a place to avoid, and then gives directives on how to avoid it. Listen to these words:
The Righteousness of God Through Faith
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:21-31 ESV