The Shameful Sinful State of Humankind

 

ROMANS 3:1-18

 

Paul has just explained in Romans 2 that trust in religious ritualism and national Jewish identity to make one a child of God is an ill-placed trust. True Jews are those whose hearts have been circumcised from dependence on their flesh. Some might then ask, “What benefit or advantage is to be a Jew then?” Paul begins this last part of the shameful sinful state of humanity by addressing this anticipated question.

 

What Advantage Has The Jew?

 

Romans 3:1 – “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?”  [1]

Paul has argued that Jews are no better than Gentiles in terms of their sinfulness, and indeed are worse because when they sin they do so even though they have the benefits of the law of God. If this is so, what good is it being Jew?  What’s the difference whether or not I am a Jew?

Jews felt that their salvation was automatic simply because they were a Jew. Paul has shown this view to be a fallacy.

Romans 3:2 – “Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”  [2]

There is a great advantage to being a Jew. God gave to them the true revelation of Himself (i.e. “the oracles of God” - Strong’s # 3051 - lovgion loágioán, log´-ee-on; "an utterance (of God); oracle."[3]). The revelation of God to mankind was entrusted to the Jews. The Jewish people are to be commended for the meticulous manner in which they maintained and passed on the word of God from generation to generation for posterity.

Amongst all the people of the earth God chose the Jews to be stewards of His word. That is a tremendous blessing, but also a great responsibility. God entrusted His word to the Jews to receive, inscribe and transmit. The Jews served as the custodians of God’s revelation to humanity. And they did a meticulous job caring for God’s word. In his book Answers To Tough Questions Josh McDowell writes the following about the stewardship of the Jews over the word of God:

 

“The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated unequivocally the fact that the Jews were faithful in their transcription of biblical manuscripts. This reverence for the Scriptures was summed up long ago by the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus:

“We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew from the day of his birth to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully die for them.

“Time and again ere now, the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theaters, rather than utter a single word against the Laws and the allied documents” (“Flavius Josephus Against Apion,” in Josephus, Complete Works, translated by William Whiston, Grand Rapids, Kregel Pub., 1960, p. 179, 180).[4]

Now while the Jews were faithful to preserve the scriptures, they were less receptive to its inspired content. God’s word speaks about Jesus and is God’s message pointing the way of salvation through faith in Jesus. Paul is inspired to point this out when he wrote to Timothy saying:

  • 2 Timothy 3:15-17 – “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [5]

Israel was not open to receive God’s word and the reason for this will be seen later. But for now it is sufficient to comment that salvation does not come from a mere understanding or accumulation of knowledge, it comes when a person opens their heart and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The Unbelief of Humanity and the Faithfulness of God

Romans 3:3-4 – “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: 1 “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.” [Psalm 51:4]  [6]

If a person says they don’t believe God or His word, it has no affect on God or His word. “No way!”  If a person says, “I don’t believe in gravity,” and then goes up on a roof and jumps off. There disbelief is not going to affect the law of gravity. What matters is that God is true.

 

 

 

Whether or not the majority of people agree with God and His message does not matter as much as that God is true and real.  

Is God Unjust to Inflict Wrath on Those Whose Sin Serves God’s Purposes?

Romans 3:5-8 – “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.”  [7]

Paul anticipates those who will say that their sinfulness serves the purpose of proving that God is true and that since their sin is serving a purpose of God, they should be excused. This is a fallacious way of thinking. Paul only mentions it because it is the way some men speak (“I speak as a man.”) Such thinking would excuse all people because all have sinned. You can’t justify your sinfulness by saying it serves a godly purpose.

Those who sin sometimes excuse their sin by saying it gives God an opportunity to show His grace in forgiveness. They say this to dismiss and rationalize their sinfulness. Such thinking is foolish and disregards the holiness of God. Sin should never be condoned, casually dismissed, or rationalized. Sin is serious and deserving of God’s wrath.

There are some who hold to the view of once saved always saved, in a way that condones sin or overlooks sin. They say it doesn’t matter if a person sins once they have been saved because they are permanently saved. The Spirit does give an assurance of salvation. But the person who tries to use such an argument to indulge in sin and condone it has a fallacious and even blasphemous belief.  God does not condone sin. Sin causes pain and rather than try to rationalize sin, we should seek the Spirit’s help to live a holy life.

For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?

There are others who use lies to bring people to salvation. People concoct false testimonies and then say the end justifies the means when God works in spite of their sinful lies. They say, “My lie has brought glory to God.”  The ends do not justify the means in God’s method of ministry. The way on e ministers is just as important to God as the result of the ministry. GOD DOESN’T NEED PEOPLE TO TELL LIES TO FORWARD HIS TRUTH – THAT IS INCONSISTENT IN LOGIC AND THE NATURE OF GOD.

Some cults (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses) have witnessing strategies that condone lying and falsehoods to accomplish their aims.

 

 

 

Let us do evil that good may come”?

Such reasoning was used to justify indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. They said, “So what if people are indulging in sin; look what great churches we are able to fund with the money raised through indulgences.” God never uses sinful means to accomplish His purposes.

As we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.” 

Paul says he has been slandered by those who claim he teaches this fallacious view. He says their condemnation is just. Those who want to justify their sin often misuse the name of good ministers to justify their sin.

The word “condemnation” (Strong’s # 2917 - krivma krima, kree´-mah) means “avenge, condemned, condemnation, damnation.”[8] And those who purport that evil should be justified on the convoluted basis that it can bring good are justly condemned by God.

“Are we better than they?”

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.”  [9]

Are we better,” Paul says meaning, “Are we Jews better than gentiles?” No, because all humankind is under sin and by refuting the fallacious view that sin serves a useful purpose to God does not make Paul or those teaching such any better than those who are sinning. We “are all under sin.”

It seems to be a trait of our sinful nature to always assume that we are better than other people. The tendency is to think, “I’m bad, but not that bad,” and so we seek to justify ourselves as better than others. Paul here lays to rest any such thought. You may have come through this section thinking, “Well, I may be bad, but not that bad.” If that is your response you have not come to see the full extent of the poison of sin, put you are definitely in the death holds of it.

“There is none righteous, no not one”

Romans 3:10-18 – “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”[ Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20] 13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit” ” [Psalm 5:9]; “The poison of asps is under their lips [ Psalm 140:3];14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”[Psalm 10:7] 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.”[Isaiah 59:7,8] 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[Psalm 36:1]”  [10]

Here is the climax of Paul’s teaching on the sinfulness of humankind. He gives a machine gun burst of OT quotations on the sinfulness of humankind and shuts the mouth of anyone else who might try to claim that what he has taught doesn’t apply to them.

Paul’s treatise is only as valid as Scripture can substantiate it. Paul had a command of the Scriptures and was able to quote God’s word. This is true of any ministry. If we rely on our opinions our message is weak, but when we use Scripture, what we say becomes not our opinion, but WHAT GOD SAYS. WHAT GOD SAYS SCRIPUTRE SAYS; WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS GOD SAYS. GOD IS THE HIGHESET AUTHORITY.

Paul uses quotes from the law to shut the mouths of those who had been entrusted with the law, Jews. The advantage of the Jew who has been entrusted the word of God (3:2) is that they have an explicit explanation of their sinfulness before God and therefore a clear reason to repent and turn to God. It’s as though he is saying, “See, the word of God entrusted to you itself proves you as well as Gentiles are under sin.”

Do you want to know what God thinks of those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior? These verses describe the vile condition of those who reject Jesus.

People don’t “understand” (3:11) God. To understand God you need the Spirit of God. Some say, I will believe God when my questions about God are answered. God says, “Believe Me and I will give you the capacity to understand Me.” (See 1 Corinthians 2:14).

No one “seeks after God” (3:11b; Psalm 14:2). In our own strength we do not seek God. No one comes to God unless God draws them to Himself (John 6:44). God seeks man; man does not seek God. People seek after the “god” that is comfortable for them. They are not interested in a God who convicts them of their sin or disrupts their comfort. People are only seeking a relief of their own conscience, or help.

“They have all turned aside” (3:12a; Psalm 14:3; 53:1-3). People will turn every way except toward God.

The symptom of their sinfulness is a throat that is a passage to a tomb of a dead heart (3:13; Psalm 5:9). Their tongues use deceit (Psalm 50:19; 36:3) like the poison of asps (Psalm 140:3). Their mouth is full of curses and bitter talk (3:13; Psalm 10:7). Notice the frequent references to speech – GOD LISTENS TO THE WORDS OF PEOPLE.

 

 

 

 

They are swift to kill the innocent (3:15). They love to destroy and cause misery (3:16). They don’t know peace (3:17; Isaiah 59:7-8). Notice the reference to actions – GOD SEES OUR ACTIONS.

They have no fear or reverence for God (3:18; Psalm 36:1). THIS IS THE CAUSE OF SINFULNESS. People are taught today to tolerate evil and sin. If you hate sin, you are made out to be an idiot.

The Fear of God

Why is the “fear of God” important? What purpose does it serve? First, the word “fear” here comes from the Greek term PHOBOS (Strong’s # 5401 - fovbo" phoáboás,) which means, “alarm, or fright; be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror.”[11] Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear makes us alert to danger and enables us to escape it.

The Bible refers to the “fear of God” eight times (Genesis 20:11; 2 Samuel 23:3; 2 Chronicles 20:29; Nehemiah 5:15; Psalm 36:1; Romans 3:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21). The phrase “fear of the Lord” occurs 27 times with 14 of those occurrences in the wisdom book of Proverbs.

When we look at “fear” in the Bible we find it used in the following ways:

·         The fear of God was part of the Jewish heritage and relationship with God (Deuteronomy 10:12; 13:4, 11; Joshua 24:14).

·         The fear of the Lord keeps one honest (2 Chronicles 19:7).

·         The fear of the Lord leads to conversion (Esther 8:17).

·         The fear of the Lord leads to confidence (Job 4:6).

·         The fear of the Lord humbles the sinful (Psalm 9:20).

·         The fear of the Lord leads to our blessing the Lord (Psalm 135:20)

·         The fear of the Lord motivates us to depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7; 14:16)

·         The fear of the Lord is our responsibility and call (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

·         The absence of the fear of the Lord leads to sin (Jeremiah 2:19).

·         The fear of God puts life into perspective (Matthew 10:28).

·         The fear of God directs us how to live life (1 Peter 1:16-17).

 

 

 

·         Christians are to fear or reverence God too (1 Peter 2:17).

But does the “fear of God” or “the fear of the Lord” mean that God scares us into submission? No, I don’t believe that is an accurate understanding of God’s revelation of fear. I believe there is a better understanding.

The Need for “the Fear of the Lord”

Now you would think that the sinner would be filled with a terrifying fear of God. The Bible says:

  • Hebrews 10:30-31 – “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  [12]

The sinner who has rejected God should fear the judgment of God that is upon them. But Romans 3:18 tells us just the opposite, it tells us there is no fear of God in them. Therefore, the lack or absence of this fear is seen as a sinful characteristic of the sinner. Which also implies that those who are righteous before God do have a fear of the Lord.

What Is The Fear of The Lord?

First let me tell you what I think is not the intent of the fear of the Lord. I do not believe God wants us to flinch in His presence like one who fears abuse or punishment. This kind of fear is not characteristic of the child of God. John writes in his first epistle about this saying:

  • 1 John 4:17-19 – “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.19 We love Him because He first loved us.”  [13]

As a child of God we need not fear God’s judgment. Later in Romans Paul will tell us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Thus, if we aren’t to fear God’s judgment, what is the “fear of the Lord” for the believer, what role does it play?

John says in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love casts out fear” (i.e. fear of judgment), but perfect, mature, and whole love for God also produces a healthy fear. When a person loves someone, they do not want to harm them or cause them grief or pain or sorrow and so they act accordingly. They take precautions and don’t give in to temptations that would harm the one they love. The spouse on a business trip may face temptation to be unfaithful or commit adultery, but they stop

 

 

 

and don’t indulge their flesh because they love their spouse so much they fear hurting them by sinning. That is also true with our relationship with God. The fear of the Lord is based on His love for us and our love for Him; THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS LOVING GOD SO MUCH YOU WOLDN’T WANT TO DO ANYTHING THAT WOULD OFFEND, CAUSE HIM PAIN, SORROW, GRIEF OR HURT BECAUSE OF SINFUL ACTIONS.  And therefore, the fear of the Lord is an incredibly important aspect of one’s relationship with God. In Paul’s letter to the Carnal Corinthian church he wrote:

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” [14]

The fear of the Lord is lacking in unbelievers because they have no saving relationship with Him. The absence of the fear of the Lord is a sure sign that they are unsaved and don’t belong to God. The absence of the fear of the Lord is the crowning conviction of shameful sinful humanity.

Conclusion

We have now gotten an up close view of the poison of shameful sin in humanity. Hopefully no one has adopted the view that they are free from indictment concerning sin. As Paul will say in the beginning of the next section, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).[15] No one has an excuse before God. No one will be able to open their mouths with a defense. Those who would try to stand on their own laurels before God will find that God’s case against them is open and shut, a slam dunk of sin.

But if we are all sinners, what can be done about our sin? If we’ve all been bitten by the snake of sin and injected with this poisonous venom, is there an antidote? What must the sinner do to be saved? That may be the question you arrive at in conclusion of this indictment of humanities’ shameful sin, but that in reality is the wrong question. The better question, the question that will open the floodgates of God grace is, what has God done to save us, to save me? That is what we will consider now. Prepare to be blessed whether or not you’ve already been saved. Whenever you consider God’s grace as revealed by the Spirit, you can’t help but be blessed. May God bring it to pass.

 

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[4]Josh McDowell, Answers to tough questions: Skeptics ask about the Christian faith [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1993 by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.