Title: The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind
Text: Romans 3.19-20
Introduction: This morning we’re in Romans 3. The only other text I’m planning to go to is Romans 7.
I watched the movie: The Case for Christ. It was a good movie, I recommend it. Highly. There is a lot of information given in the movie about Jesus. Historical, scientific, archeological, and the list goes on. Lee Strobel is an Award winning American Journalist whose wife comes to Christ. Both he and his wife were atheists before her life shattering decision to follow Christ. And so to bring her back to her senses, he decides to appeal to her intellect. After all of his research, he is drawn to this conclusion that everything he has studied about Christ points to the fact that he was a real man who died on the cross, was buried and resurrected on the third day.
At the absolute climax of the movie, the musical orchestration is at it height and Strobel has been working through all of the answers he’s found, he asks the big question: why? Why did he die? Why did he endure all that he did – all of the suffering, the cat of 9 tails, the beating with the rod, the dying on the cross – why did he endure it all if he was God? Why didn’t he use his power and stop it all – save himself?
I know you know the answer and so I don’t feel like this is a movie spoiler alert at all – but, at the moment this movie, this really good movie presents the answer, I felt like it just flopped. For me, anyway, it just flopped because the movie missed something vital to the gospel message.
The answer the movie gave – one word: love. And Lee was overcome. That is probably why it played out that way, because it was his experience. But what the movie failed to present was the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was and is our payment for our sin. Why did Jesus die? Yes, God did it all because he loves us. But, his demonstration of that love was to pay the penalty that our sin has demanded of us: death.
For the wages of sin is death. That’s a sad story. That’s an offensive story. No one wants to hear that they’re sinners. Everyone wants to talk about love.
We come to the conclusion of this section 1.18-3.20 where Paul will make a final summary statement before presenting the hope of this desperate situation we all find ourselves in.
Here is his summary statement and I’m reading Romans 3.19-20:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
An outline can be broken down as follows:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,
so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight,
since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Transition: What we’ll do this morning is walk through each of these steps as they build on each other. This is what we know: the law speaks; in order that; because; because. Let’s look at Paul’s first statement – what we know.
I. The Conclusion of the Matter: The Law speaks to those under the law (19a)
exp.: 19a Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law… How are we to understand this? Well, if we break it down, we understand it to be saying that after three chapters so far in Romans, we’re coming to a conclusion. And, that conclusion is that we now know something for sure. We know that the law speaks to those under the law. So, this is important, the first and primary people to hear from God were the Jews. They were given this great advantage of hearing and being given responsibility for the Oracles of God (3.1). The Gentiles follow in that there is an innate understanding of God’s law. But for the Jews, they were special people with a very special experience. And that experience with the law communicates to the rest of the world that no one, not even those who are special because they were chosen by God to be his people, no one is righteous of their own accord. Even if you have the very law of God communicated to you personally and being presented with the advantage over all the rest of the world to follow God according to his requirements, you still will fall short of that perfection. You can’t.
app.: And if the Jews, who have every advantage over the Gentiles can’t, then the summary is this: No is righteous. No one does right when left to his own ability. Not one! And the law speaks that to us very clearly.
t.s.: And just why does the law speak to us all?
II. It does so to shut people up as they stand before god: there is no excuse before God (19b)
exp.: 19b so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. “So that” shows purpose; Gk is ἵνα; This is called a ἵνα clause; Which is totally different than a Santa Claus! A ἵνα clause show the reason for the statement. This sounds very mean to say it this way, but the reason is to shut the mouths of everyone who would stand and give a defense. There is nothing to say. You stand there with the knowledge that you’re guilty.
Not only will everyone close their mouths, but then there will be accountability. The purpose of giving the law to one people (the Jews) was to silence everyone and hold everyone accountable to God. 1.20: So they are without excuse. 2.1: Therefore you have no excuse. And then there is this key word: and. Not only will every mouth be silenced before God, but then there is this issue of accountability. You will be held accountable because you have the knowledge of your sin.
Ill.: You might be thinking to yourself that everyone being held accountable to God is unfair. Some people have never heard the Gospel. Some have never heard of the Law. Paul has told them already in the previous couple of chapters that they are without excuse because God has made himself known to them in three ways: these three texts declare man’s guilt before God and that we are inexcusable before him. God has shown us three areas where he has communicated this to us:
- Romans 1: in nature;
- Romans 2: in conscience;
- Romans 3: in the Law.
Therefore, everyone is without excuse. You’ve known about me through nature, through your conscience and through the law. And because of that, all excuses are taken away and everyone is left standing before God with nothing to say. And then we will all be held accountable.
t.s.: But Paul doesn’t end here, he offers more… if 19b offers the purpose – so that every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable, then v 20 offers the reason…
III. Because no human being will be justified by works of the law (20a)
exp.: I love that Paul includes this last phrase… in his sight. Maybe in their own eyes they might consider themselves justified. Maybe in our own eyes we feel justified by our works! 20a For (because) by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight… “every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable because no human being will be justified by works of the law.” What is Paul saying exactly? He is saying the Jews are the example for the rest of the world that no human being can be justified through the works of the law. They failed miserably. Therefore, everyone who tries will also fail miserably. They may have been justified in their own eyes, but not in God’s eyes.
ill.: I’m always amazed at how people offer excuses and try to justify their actions. Tyler H. posted a Yelp review of the restaurant Sweet Dixie Chicken on October 9th. Located in Long Beach, California, Tyler said he saw an employee entering the back of the restaurant with a big bag of chicken from Popeye’s Chicken and he wondered if they actually served it. So he ordered the chicken for $13.95 and asked the waiter how they cooked their chicken. After checking in the back, he told them they order their chicken from Popeye’s. The owner of the restaurant said she was proud to serve Popeye’s chicken that she bought her gumbo from the local farmer’s market and doesn’t mill her own flour.
app.: You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: yes, we never imagined you’d mill your own flour or make your own sugar, but we sure thought you mixed all of those things up to create your own meals! She actually feels justified in her answers.
app.: But it won’t be that way on that final day when we all stand before the Lord. Not one word will be spoken. No excuses given. No one can say that they are justified in their actions. You might be thinking to yourself: And, why not? I mean, why would God give the Law if no one could actually be justified by keeping? Isn’t it possible to say that if anyone actually kept the law perfectly, wouldn’t he or she be justified before God? Was God lying when he gave the law?
t.s.: No! Paul explains this in his last phrase…
IV. The only thing the law does is teach us what sin is because no one can actually keep it (20b)
exp.: But this is an important juncture. You see, it isn’t simply about information of sin, but it is an awareness that one cannot avoid sinning. That’s a deep cut! We know this because of the word in 19a: οἶδα; it is a more intimate knowledge from experience than the other common word for know: γνῶσις. 20b since through the law comes knowledge of sin. This is the heart of the matter: the law brings a knowledge of sin, but it is more than just information. This information is meant to lead us to repentance. God shows the law and we become knowledgeable about sin.
ill.: This past week my students in Venture had to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. In the story a lawyer named Utterson is responsible for a letter given to him by a doctor who is a common friend between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson. It is sealed and the instructions are to not open the letter until this Dr. friend has passed away. At first Utterson didn’t know the letter existed. So, no temptation. Knowing its existence was one thing, but once he found out that he couldn’t open it until… Oh, man. I was screaming at the book: just open the letter! Information about something piques one’s curiosity.
Listen to Romans 7: 7-12: 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
app.: When we become aware of something, that’s when we’re tempted to fall into it.
t.s.: And that’s just what Paul has been saying: No human being will be justified by works of the law because the Jews have demonstrated for us that it is impossible to perfectly keep the law. And because of this, every human being will be silenced before God and held accountable.
Conclusion: That is scary in itself. Standing before God to be held accountable for every careless word, every thoughtless deed. And, if that were the end of the story, you and I would have no hope. But it isn’t. You see v 21 is coming and with it, hope: But now…a righteousness of God has been revealed. What? You can be righteous without the law?
That’s why I was so disappointed with Stobel’s film. It’s a good movie and you should definitely pop some popcorn and watch it. But, if you invite a lost friend over to watch it with you, which you should definitely do, you should add this part, because its not in the movie: Jesus demonstrated his love for us by dying on the cross, but the reason he did it was to pay the penalty for our sins. He did what we could never do. He was the only one who fit the requirement as established by the law.
- Everyone is guilty before God.
- No one will be able to say a word before him.
- Everyone will be held accountable for what has been revealed to the world.
- Whether in nature
- Or through conscience
- Or through the law
- Remember, there is hope – and his name is Jesus. He’s the reason for this season of celebration. We give gifts because he is the greatest gift giver. We sing songs because he has put a song in our hearts. We celebrate because he has given us hope.
In a moment we’ll break for fellowship and have some cookies and coffee. I want to invite you back to the cornerstone area to visit with either me or a staff member or an elder. If you’ve never invited Christ into your life and found the forgiveness of sins, let us share with you how you can do that. Maybe you’re looking for a church home or you just have some questions: come visit with us.