Text: Romans 3.9-18
Introduction: We’re in Romans 3 this morning; Ephesians 2; Psalm 14; Isaiah 59; Psalm 5
I have a friend. Some of you know her and might even call her your friend. In the past year she went to the doctor for a routine visit. As many of you know, when we get older, we’re scheduled for routine, timely exams. It was time for her. She wasn’t having any problems per se, except that which are common to women who are getting older. In the course of her examination, the doctor asked her how her treatments were going.
Treatments? She asked. What treatments?
The treatments for your stomach cancer… how are they going? Are you feeling well?
She thought for a moment he must have her mistaken for some other patient. She doesn’t have cancer. She could tell, though, by his response to her confusion that this wasn’t good. It had been 14 months since her last check up. It had been 14 months since she last any medical personnel had paid attention to her.
You guessed it: she has had stomach cancer for more than a year and no one told her. Somehow, someway, everyone thought it was someone else’s job to tell her. And someone else’s job becomes no one’s job. She went 14 months with this cancer growing in her body. Now, it is in the later stages. They’ve asked her family to begin working with Hospice and to help her bring her life to a close.
When I heard this, I was upset. She’s taking it so well. She isn’t bitter or angry toward those in charge of her care one bit. At least she hasn’t displayed that to me.
What if you had a cancer (that was treatable) growing in you and no one even told you about it? Would you be upset? Would you be bitter? Would you call your lawyer and get the paper work rolling. Maybe this won’t save your life, but at least your children or grandchildren will be set financially?
Today’s message is a little like this story. I have a great responsibility to tell you something. It is my job. I can’t rely on anyone else. It isn’t easy to tell you this, but it is very necessary. And, this thing I need to tell you – it’s harsh, but there is more hope in this dilemma than if I were to tell you that you have cancer!
Transition: Think about this: some doctor can tell you that you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease or some other illness – and, even with the best of hope, there will still be doubt… concerns, fear. The message I have for you today has even scarier news and yet the hope I have to offer is far greater and even guaranteed.
This morning in our text, Paul is preaching an old fashioned sermon. He’s making a statement and now backing it up with Scripture.
Would you stand with me this morning as we read the text? Our text this morning reads: 9 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, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Transition: The first thing Paul does is re-present or restate this ‘charge’ against, not only the Jews, but against the whole world.
The Charge: (9-10)
Rd v 9a again; He’s rebuilding his argument from v1; it makes it pretty obvious that he is bringing this 1st section to a close. Rd v 9b; All are under sin. There is a power, as it were, called sin of which we are under its persuasion. But even that doesn’t sound strong enough: persuasion. For it is so much more powerful that just persuasion. It commands us. It is a weighty bond that enslaves us. It envelops us. It consumes us. So much so, that sin is a part of our very nature, leading us, commanding us to do its bidding. We are corrupted by sin. This is the charge he has presented since 1.18.
Listen to what Paul says about this lost, sinful state of each human in Eph 2.1-3: 2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked (a dead man walking), following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (a classification of every person: sons, daughters of disobedience) 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
… were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind – There is a natural enmity that we have with God. That means we are against him: enemies in this state of sinfulness.
So Paul says, here is the charge… let me illustrate this as we see it in Scripture, and then he quotes from multiple OT texts. If you have a reference column in your bible, you can see these citations from the OT in that reference column. At first, this seems really cool…until it isn’t.
If you take the time to read these verses and gain the context, you’ll find that it looks like Paul is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He says there is none righteous, but the OT text he quotes says God’s people, the people of Israel are righteous. The Gentiles are not. That doesn’t fit his charge!
Let me show you what I mean. Turn to Psalm 14; the citation by Paul is v1-3; v 5 tells us there are a righteous people. Well, who are the unrighteous then, if it isn’t everyone. V 7 tells us that the righteous people are the people of Israel. So, the unrighteous people are the Gentiles. Ok – that sounds like it doesn’t support his charge – that all are unrighteous and none is righteous, no not one.
To be sure, though, let’s keep going and see some more context. The next passage I want to look at is a quote from Isaiah 59. Turn there with me. Now, I know Isaiah 59. I love Isaiah 59. Rd v 1-2; Sin separates! Our quote is from v 7-8; He’s talking about the Jews. So, maybe he’s adding them in here.
Let’s test this theory. Let’s keep going: The next Scripture Paul uses is from Psalm 5.9. Turn to Psalm 5. This is a Psalm that David composes as he flees from Saul. Read Psalm 5.1-3: David’s Cry; 4-6: unrighteousness can’t abide in God’s presence; 7-8: because of God’s mercy (hesed), David can dwell in God’s presence through God’s righteousness; 9-10: here is our quote. So, in this text, it is the Jews who pursue evil and wickedness, who speak lies and are blood thirsty, deceitful men. Even David himself would be considered like them, but because of God’s (hesed) steadfast love – making him righteous – he can dwell in God’s presence.
When studying my commentaries this week for some help, I came across a scholar named Davies of which, other commentaries referred. Davies suggested that these verses do not condemn all people as sinners, but rather that some are sinners. That doesn’t sound Biblical to me…
Here’s my presumption: Paul isn’t using these verses in an individual sense, but rather as a collective group to make the charge that all are sinners. Taken, then, as a whole, these references make the statement that none is righteous, not even one. What these passages do say is that apart from the saving grace of God on his people, everyone is considered unrighteous.
But why would he pick and choose like this? What would be his motive or goal?
First of all, it appears Paul refers to the Gentiles in the text he uses and the Jews next. This follows his presentation in Chapters 1 and 2. But there is something else he does here.
With these Scriptural references, Paul says this charge against all of humanity is demonstrated in the following ways. Sin manifests itself in the life of an individual through:
- What one thinks
- What one does
- What one says
- The way one lives out his/her life.
Transition: Let’s take a moment to look at each of these within the context of their OT meanings.
- What One Thinks (10-11)
exp.: Paul says no one understands; in Ps 14.1a, 2, 4; thinks, understands, knowledge; David says the fool thinks in his heart that there is no God. The reality of sinful behavior is that it is conceived in the mind, it is planned out or fantasized about in the mind and then, when opportunity presents itself, sin is birthed into action. It all starts on the inside. James 1 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
app.: that’s the reason we need someone to intercede for us, to interrupt this corruption in our minds.
t.s.: And this is Paul’s next focus as he quotes in Psalm 14 about what the corrupt person does.
2. What One Does (11-12)
exp.: In Romans 3, we pick up in 11b: no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. From Ps 14.1 & 3;
…They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
exp.: Where no one knows the thoughts of man except God, our thoughts are soon made known through our actions. Consider this: when you’re younger and you do something stupid… you dad says to you, what were you thinking. Even those actions done in secret, the one’s we think no one knows.
ill.: We’ve seen different news stories over recent years of crimes committed 40 years ago where the culprit thought he got away with the crime. And yet, DNA evidence identified the criminal.
app.: our sinfulness makes its way out of our heads and hearts into the world through our behavior…what we do.
t.s.: But both David and Paul identify another way our sin manifests itself… and that is through our speech
3. What One Says (13-14)
exp.: you see this in v 13-14 of our text this morning in Romans 3: throat, tongue, lips, mouth. And note the imagery; grave, deception, venom, cursing and bitterness. Jesus said in Mt 12.34: For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. And in Mk 7: 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Maybe that is why David prayed: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh, Lord.
ill.: It is amazing how the heart and the mouth go together. Sometime in the last few years someone made a comment in a Bible study time. I think it was in Paul’s class and I think I remember who said it, but I’m not sure. The comment was that this man writes in his bible the letters H&M everytime he comes across a verse that has a reference to both the heart and the mouth in it. ex.: Proverbs 4, 15, 16. I’ve marked in other places too and the man was right. There is an uncanny, mysterious, really incredible supernatural connection between the heart and the mouth – just as Jesus said.
app.: What you do is connected to what you think, say and do. There is this inter-connection to it all. The spirit thinks and the body does… or says… or acts.
t.s.: which is the connection here with this last section…
4. The Way One Lives (15-17)
exp.: rd 15-17; there is one word for way, path, road in the Gk; it is used twice here in this text. Note the presentation by Paul demonstrating one’s activities: feet, path, way; feet shedding blood is a way to describe a person’s life of bloodshed. Listen to Isaiah, whom Paul is quoting: 7 Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. 8 The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.
app.: this really is a beautiful way to bring about his charge – and I mean beautiful in how much thought and preparation Paul puts into bringing this all together.
t.s.: You can see his brilliance and intellect pouring through his preaching and teaching and illustrating here.
Conclusion: The conclusion of this matter is that we’re all sinners. There is no fear of God before their eyes. I know that isn’t Good News: we’re all sinners. I know that is offensive, but for me to remain silent and not tell you is no better than a Dr. who won’t tell you that your sick and your sickness will lead to death.
You and I are corrupt in our nature and it comes out in all we do. We need someone to intercede for us. We need God’s grace to be poured out on us that we might be able to have a relationship with him. You see, in this story, that is the Good News. That’s why Jesus came. He came to earth as a little baby, born of a virgin. This season is why we celebrate as we do, because of what God has done through Christ. And this hope is so much greater than any doctor can give you as a remedy for whatever sickness may ail you.
So, what will you take home with you today?
- We are all under sin.
- There is no one righteous: not even one!
- Sin corrupts us.
- It damages us as individuals. It leads to depression and an unhealthy psyche.
- It hurts our relationships.
- 1st, with God. We cannot have a relationship with God in our sinful state. We need Christ to remove the barrier of sin and guilt.
- 2nd, with others. At the heart of every damaged relationship is sin. Divorce, separation, estrangement – you name it, sin is the culprit.
- Sin separates us from God.
- V 18 says that there is no fear of God before their eyes.
- You don’t have to stay separated… that is why Christ came. That is why we celebrate this time of year.
- And that’s the Good News! Your sickness of sin has a cure!
If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, I offer you him today. In a moment, we’ll be dismissed and I’d like to invite you to the Cornerstone Area to meet with me or maybe one of the elders or staff. We’ll have some coffee and cookies and can visit for a little while.
5. If you have, then don’t let someone who doesn’t know die without hearing the Good News… tell them.
Whatever is on your heart, let’s sit quietly before the Lord and reflect upon what God is doing: drawing you closer to him, calling you to repent and come to him for forgiveness, sending you to tell someone about him, maybe he’s calling you to join the church… whatever, let God have his way in your life today. I’m going to ask… ______ to pray for us after our moment of silence and then we’ll all move toward the Cornerstone area for some coffee, cookies and fellowship.