On the day that I write this, I heard on the news about a trial in our region of a person accused of murder. The accused has professed innocence and absence from the scene of the crime. However, witnesses place the person there and DNA from the victim’s blood was found on the clothing of the accused. That is pretty damning.
I have often pondered what it must feel like to be facing a trial in a courtroom, seeing an aggressive prosecuting attorney bring forward evidence after evidence to accuse you, all the while with a judge and jury looking on. There must be a terrible sense of pending doom.
But that is our condition, the condition of all mankind, before a perfect and omniscient God and judge. We stand there fully guilty in our unrighteousness.
In this final passage we look at this week, Paul wraps up his prosecutorial case against mankind, and all are obviously guilty …
3:1 – What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:
“So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”
5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!
No One Is Righteous
9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [most of these quotes are from passages in the Psalms]
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. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Boom! The gavel drops. All are guilty! Everyone fails to live up to God’s law. And we see in the final verse the purpose of the law: it was not to provide a pathway for people to become just in God’s sight, but rather it was to make a person aware of their sinful condition.
Theologically speaking, we are talking about the doctrine of original sin. The problem started with the original sin of the original parents. The curse and debt has been passed down, we were born bad. We weren’t born good, sinned one day and then became bad. We were never good, or righteous. We didn’t become sinners when we first sinned. We proved we were sinners when we first sinned.
Last Sunday I shared a story with a visual … of a dirty shirt. While biking this past summer, I chose to not sufficiently heed or believe a sign that warned of the danger of a wooden-plank bridge, the warning saying that it was dangerously slippery when wet. Pfff! How slippery could it be? Well … sorta like ice, and out went the wheels one day and I looked like a baserunner sliding into second base on a bicycle. The shirt picked up the dirt and greasy filth from the bridge surface, and NOTHING can clean it — no washing or scrubbing — it is filthy!
Think of the shirt as representative of the human condition. The first father ignored God’s warning and got the stain, and that stain and curse has passed down to be inherited by everyone from that point forward. There is no new shirt, everyone inherits a stained shirt.
But, one human — due to the virgin birth — did not inherit the dirty shirt stain, and after a perfect life took voluntarily upon himself the stain of everyone else’s shirts. He washes out the stain, and then he gives you back something even better — his perfectly clean shirt for you to wear before God. If you receive that shirt, that righteousness, you stand not in your own goodness (whatever that is worth, which is nothing), but you stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This first of the four weeks of this series has been heavy on describing the problem that creates the need for the gospel, whereas following sermons and writings will be heavy on the solutions. But getting a jump on that, let me ask, “What shirt are you wearing? Have you denied your shirt is dirty? Have you futilely tried to clean your own? … Or have you come to God and asked him to give you the clean shirt of the righteousness of Jesus Christ?”