I. The Sinfulness of All People
A. Having established the sinfulness of Jews and Gentiles, Paul now uses Old Testament scripture to prove his conclusions.
1. The Gentiles were considered “uncircumcised dogs” by the Jews.
2. Many Jews thought they were privileged because of advantages they had. Both, however, were guilty before God.
3. Until we realize how deep our sin takes us and how far away from God it removes us, we cannot appreciate what Christ has done or our need for him. We must understand the bad news before we can adequately appreciate the good news.
4. Verses 10 through 12 are taken from Psalm 14 and 53.
5. The first reminds us that no one is good. A better translation might be “no one is innocent.”
6. Saying humans are not good is not the same as saying we have no value. Value is inherent in our nature because God created us and entered into a relationship with us. If we were of no value, it would have been no point in God creating us in the first place.
7. While there is goodness in us because we are created in the image of God, this goodness does not make us acceptable to God. We may have goodness, but we are guilty because of our sin.
8. These verses are simply reminders of what Paul has already taught-all are guilty before God and have gone down the wrong road-the broad path Jesus referred to. (Matthew 7:13)
9. People have the tendency to think more of themselves than they should. Admitting our sinfulness assaults our pride, and causes us to admit things about ourselves we do not like to confess.
10. Verse 11 states no one is seeking God. Once again, we have the tendency to think we can come to God on our own terms and at our own initiative. We will deal with this matter later, but suffice it to say that unless God works in our life by his Spirit, we will not come to him. Jesus says no one can come to him unless he is drawn by the Father. (John 6:44) Our sinful bent leads us away from God, not toward him. When we witness someone coming to Christ in faith it is because God has visited them, and they are simply responding.
11. The kind of God we would normally seek after would be a grandfatherly type who would let us do what we want while looking the other way. He would not temporally punish our mistakes nor keep us out of heaven for them eternally.
12. Nor does anyone have understanding apart from a relationship with Christ. We cannot put it all together, nor can we understand where we came from, why we are here or where we are going.
13. When considering our sinfulness, we tend to think of the “big” sins that we have not committed but fail to consider the “small” things that are equally sinful: lying, ill chosen words, bitterness, anger, and gossip.
14. Verses 13 through 18 continue the same line of thought. Verse 13 reminds us sin not only corrupts our relationship with God but with others also. Our tongues contain deadly poison like of an asp or cobra.
15. Verse 14 attests to the fact that what comes out a person reveals what is on the inside. Our actions manifest the state of our heart.
16. Verse 17 speaks of an absence of peace in the lives of those who do not know Christ. This reminds us of the familiar sign or saying; “Know Christ, know peace. No Christ, no peace.” The peace that passes understanding is only given to believers. (Philippians 4:7) The unbeliever experiences civil war in his soul. He in turn takes this civil war to those he has relationships with.
17. Verse 18 shows the ultimate foolishness of rejecting God-they do not even fear him. Believers fear the Lord in the sense that we reverence him while also realizing he has life and death power over us. Unbelievers recognize neither. They may acknowledge the existence of God, but it makes no difference in their lives.
18. While believers are classified as friends of Christ and have been accepted into the family of God, we cannot let this close association lead us to lose our reverence for him.
19. God has a case against all people regardless of whether they are Jew, Gentile, a moralist or a religionist.
B. God’s purpose in the Law. (Verses 19 and 20)
1. Paul has already discussed how God and his attributes can be known through nature, so what was the further need of something else to turn individual’s attention to him?
2. While the natural revelation makes people responsible-as well as the fact that God created us, it was not driving most people to God.
3. God would give the Law to further demonstrate to the Jews-and those they would influence, that it is completely impossible to live up to God’s standards. It would be an even more convicting force in their lives.
4. The law would keep people from having excuses for their immoral and criminal behavior. No one could say “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to murder” because the law stated this act was forbidden.
5. The Law would bring the entire world into judgment before God.
6. We often use what psychologists refer to as “defense mechanisms” to excuse our bad behavior or maintain our self image.
7. Some of the more typical ones are: denial, suppression, reaction formation (turning the feeling into its opposite), projection, displacement (you are angry at the boss, so you kick the cat), rationalization, regression (reverting to old forms of behavior) and sublimation (channeling your behavior into a socially acceptable activity).
8. What has been named by those who study human behavior is simply a restatement of what the Bible has already said.
9. The Law stated God’s expectations and humans use mechanisms to try and excuse their guilt, but they still stand guilty before God.
10. Humanity’s responsibility is to hang up our defenses and admit the truth-we are sinners in need of a Savior.
11. The law is designed to prevent the excuses we offer for not obeying.
12. The purpose of God’s Law is not to justify us before him but rather to show our guilt.
13. So God’s law was designed to show us where we go wrong as well as to hold God’s moral standard up before us.
II. God’s Way of Righteousness (Verse 21-22)
A. The law was never designed to change our nature or make us right with God.
1. Paul now moves from the bad news concerning humans to the good news concerning what God has done in our behalf.
2. There is actually a way we can be declared “not guilty.”
3. Every person who stands before a judge-guilty or not, wants to hear the jury read a verdict of “not guilty.”
4. The thought of going to prison for a number of years is not a pleasant thought. The thought of spending eternity in hell should be an even more unpleasant thought and a course of action to be avoided at all costs.
B. Again in verse 21 Paul emphasizes the law was never given to make us right with God.
1. It was not obedience to the Law that resulted in acceptance by God but rather by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.
2. That way was faith as evidenced in the life of Abraham and others who lived long before the Law was ever given.
C. These verses also make several references to “righteousness,” which carries several meanings.
1. It refers to God’s character.
2. It refers to man’s character (our lack of righteousness).
3. It refers to what we can and do become in Christ.
D. The way of salvation is identical for all classes, cultures and races of people.
1. The Gentile must come the same way as the Jew and vice versa.
2. The reason is because all are sinners, and God does not deal with one set of people differently than another. All are guilty.
3. The way is by trusting and asking God to forgive our sins based on what Jesus did on Calvary.
4. Jesus paid for our sin, so therefore God can forgive us based on that payment and his substitution.
5. When we ask God to do this, we are made righteous, but the righteousness is based on Christ’s work and not our own. There is still no room for boasting. The righteousness we are given is actually his.
6. This wonderful message of grace and forgiveness is available no matter who we are or what we have done.
7. The murderer and child molester can receive it just as easily as the one who has been morally good all their life.
8. Additionally, they will receive the same results: forgiveness, abundant life and eternity in heaven.
9. Jesus’ experience with the thief on the cross is proof of this conclusion.
A. We all stand guilty before God.
B. The forgiveness of Christ is available to all who ask.
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