No One Is Justified
Evidence from the Law (Romans 3:9-18)
The Jews, and Paul includes himself as a Jew, are no better than the Greeks because both groups sin. The advantages that the Jews had were ultimately of no consequence to the final outcome. To emphasize his point, Paul quotes numerous Old Testament statements indicating that everyone sins.
Romans 3:10-12 come from Psalms 14:1-3 and Psalms 53:1-3. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Though the Hebrew says “does good,” Paul translates it as “just” which is in the range of mean for the Hebrew term and better fits Paul’s overall argument. “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” is based on Psalms 14:2. It is not a direct quote, but rather the conclusion drawn from God’s search of mankind. “They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” The word for “unprofitable” literally refers to spoiled food.
Romans 3:13 comes from Psalms 5:9 and Psalms 140:3. In Psalms 5, David is speaking about the lies and slander people speak which results in destruction (Psalms 5:6). “The asp, or adder, is a species of serpent whose poison is of such active operation that it kills almost the instant that it penetrates, and that without remedy. It is small, and commonly lies concealed, often in the sand in a road, and strikes the traveler before he sees it” [Barnes’ Notes]. Poisonous
snakes store their venom in sacks under their teeth. David is comparing an asp’s bite to what happens with people tell lies. It acts quickly and there is no remedy that will stop its destruction (Jeremiah 9:3-5)
Romans 3:14 comes from Psalms 10:7. An example can be found in Shimei taunt of David (II Samuel 16:5, 7-8). Blessings and cursing are opposites, they should not come from the same person, yet too often they do (James 3:10).
Romans 3:15-17 is a condensation of Isaiah 50:7-8. The charge is that beyond causing harm, they are eager to do so. They leave behind them destruction and misery. They are not familiar with peace.
Romans 3:18 is from Psalms 36:1. There is no restraint on their actions because they have no fear of God.
By using a variety of Old Testament sources from different time periods, Paul shows that even while the Jews lived under the Law, their own Law condemned them for failing to be obedient. This is not to say every single Jew was guilty of all these crimes, but it does prove that being a Jew did not prevent these problems. Moreover, it demonstrates that sin is a widespread, universal problem.
1. How can no one be righteous when the we are told some were? (Genesis 7:1; 15:6; II Samuel 22:21; I Kings 3:6)
2. How can no one understand when understanding was commanded? (Psalms 119:27, 100; Proverbs 2:5)
3. How can no one seek God when it was commanded (Deuteronomy 4:9; 12:5; Psalms 27:4; 105:3)
The Law cannot justify (Romans 3:19-20)
The problem of sin is universal. The Law itself charges everyone with sin (Psalms 14:3). Therefore, even those under the Law are condemned. God did so to remove any excuse that might be offered (Psalms 107:42; Acts 13:39). Both the Jews and Greeks are guilty of sin before God.
The conclusion is that mere obedience to the Law is insufficient to justify men (Psalms 143:2; Galatians 2:16; 3:11). This does not say, as too many conclude, that no obedience is necessary. Paul has only proved that obedience alone is not enough because everyone eventually fails to obey in some aspect. But implied is that there ought to be some attempt at obedience. It is why men are being held accountable.
One area of difficulty produced by the law is that the more we understand the law and what we ought to do, the more we realize that come up woefully short of the ideals the law calls us to reach. Paul talks of this at greater length in Romans 7.
1. Is Paul talking about law in general or the Law of Moses in particular? How do you know?
2. Review: How is it that the Gentiles could be held accountable to the Law without having it?
3. Does this mean that God just needs to provide a better law? (Hebrews 8:3)
4. With this understanding, explain Ephesians 2:8-10.
Literary Styles: Pre-introduction
By introducing a point in advance that will be discussed at length later, a writer gives the reader a chance to think about the subject while seeing the points that lead up to the actual topic. This is particularly effective when dealing with subject that require deep thought or is not obvious in nature. Mentioning the topic gives the reader a chance to wonder about it and think about its ramifications. When it finally is addressed, the reader is not left feeling they have been blind-sided by a large truck.