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The Universal Need for Salvation (Romans 3:1-20)

Romans 3:1–20 - 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. What does today’s passage say? In today's passage, Paul affirms the advantages of being entrusted with God's very words as His chosen people (vv. 1-2). Yet even when some Jews were unfaithful, this cannot invalidate God's complete faithfulness to His promises (vv. 3-4). Paul confronts dangerous reasoning that excuses human unrighteousness by claiming it highlights God's righteousness, as if God would be unfair to judge us for sins that serve His purposes (vv. 5-8). Such arguments deserve condemnation. The truth is all people, both Jew and Gentile, are held captive under the power and penalty of sin with no defense or exemption (v. 9). Paul validates this using Old Testament references that detail the universal corruption of all human faculties in their speaking, conduct, and discernment (vv. 10-18). Finally, he explains that the purpose of God's law is not to justify, but to remove all excuses by demonstrating our sin and holding us accountable before Him (vv. 19-20). Through the law comes knowledge of our desperate need for God's gift of righteousness by grace through faith. How can I apply Romans 3:1-20 to my life? This passage exposes the myth of human righteousness or goodness apart from Christ. Addressing the false pride and religious hypocrisy that leads us to justify ourselves while condemning others, Paul shreds all self-deception with the sword of God’s truth. His relentless presentation of biblical evidence allows no evasions; all are shut up under sin’s domination and condemnation with no hope apart from divine redemption. Standing exposed by the mirror of God’s perfect law leaves us with no option but to plead guilty as charged and cast ourselves on heavenly mercy alone. Such accurate self-awareness of our chronic spiritual bankruptcy and captivity to sin provides the necessary foundation to fully appreciate and appropriate by faith the glorious gospel of Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf. Only when we recognize the truth about humanity’s universal, wretched condition can we passionately pursue and delight in the truths of God’s loving remedy through His Son, Jesus. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Hold Fast To God's Faithfulness Despite Our Failures (vv. 1-4): Even when believers stumble, God remains perfectly faithful to His word and promises. Though some Jews failed to trust or follow God wholeheartedly, their unfaithfulness cannot undermine God's total faithfulness. He will honor His assurances and covenants regardless of our fickleness. So when we falter and fall short spiritually, we can still completely rely on God's steadfast loyalty and dependability. Our hope is anchored not in our fluctuating performance but in His unwavering fidelity. We can cling confidently to His pledges of grace and forgiveness, knowing He will never fail those who trust in Him. In times of disobedience or weakness, remember that the unchanging God who called and redeemed you is absolutely trustworthy. Do not permit shame or discouragement over sins to make you doubt His commitment to you. Do not let Satan’s lies drive you further down the path of unrighteousness. Turn back to Him, assured of His enduring covenant devotion to all in Christ. Find refreshment in the knowledge that your standing does not depend on your own record but on His immutable character. Let this truth steady and reassure you when doubts creep in. Never stop magnifying His name, for He will always prove Himself faithful even when we are unfaithful (2 Timothy 2:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Lamentations 3:22-23).

Food for thought: When have you doubted God's faithfulness because of your own spiritual failures? What truths stabilize and reassure you? How can resting in God's faithfulness free you from both pride and discouragement?

  1. We Must Not Distort The Truth Of God's Righteousness Through Our Unrighteousness (vv. 5-8): Paul confronted dangerous ideas that excused sin and impugned God's judgment. Some falsely claimed Paul taught that human evil highlights divine righteousness, implying God would be unfair to punish our sins since they serve His glory. Though the Lord can powerfully redeem even the worst wickedness, we must never imply He condones or causes the sins He hates. Our depravity deserves His wrath. If we suggest Almighty God deliberately overlooks atrocities because they further His purposes, we slander His holy name and justify what He detests. Christ's sacrifice was not Plan B after human sin thwarted Plan A; Calvary was central to God's eternal plan to showcase both His justice and grace. So rather than question the justice of His judgment, we should marvel at His mercy in redeeming defiant rebels through faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus. As we declare this old, old story, we must neither downplay sins' gravity nor humanity's guilt before our Creator. For we glorify God's justice and grace as we announce the true heinousness of sin contrasted with the wonders of Calvary's love in living color. Never justify evils by acting as though they highlight divine attributes. Always proclaim Scripture's revelation of God's unflinching holiness, the ugliness of total depravity apart from new birth redemption, and the beauty of gospel truths (Psalm 89:14, Romans 6:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Food for thought: Why is it important for evangelism and discipleship that we maintain a biblical view of both God's righteousness and human unrighteousness?  What dangers come from wrongly excusing, overlooking or downplaying sins?

  1. Humbly Acknowledge Our Universal Sinfulness Before God (vv. 9-18): Scripture leaves no wiggle room; all humanity stands guilty and helpless before God. Paul indicts all people as captive and condemned under sin's power and penalty. Through multiple Old Testament references, he powerfully drives home the point that no human perfectly pursues God or righteousness apart from the work of Christ and the Spirit. Whether speaking with deceit, murder in the heart, or blinded eyes that cannot discern truth, all our faculties are damaged by sin. No one measures up to divine standards or earns acceptance by good works. Even God's chosen Old Testament people continually came up short, proving that religiosity cannot constrain the flesh's rebellion against its Maker. We sabotage all relationships, especially with the Lord. If we claim exemption from this bleak picture, we call God a liar and prove our pride blinds us to the ugliness within that required nothing less than Calvary's bloodshed to redeem. Honesty compels acknowledging that apart from grace, human distortion and deceit describes our natural state as well. May seeing the disease lead us to urgently point all people to the Great Physician for healing of sin's sickness (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-5)!

Food for thought: Why is an accurate view of our condition apart from Christ essential for growing in grace and humility? How would you gently and lovingly speak truth to someone who denies mankind's fallenness and need for redemption?

  1. Recognize That The Purpose of God's Law Is To Reveal Our Sin And Need For Christ (vv. 19-20): God's law serves a vital purpose - to extinguish all human pride and pretense of righteousness apart from Christ. It silences any defense that we can earn enough virtue to merit salvation. Meeting perfect standards is impossible without the life of Jesus credited to those who trust solely in Him. The law acts as a tutor or strict schoolmaster demonstrating we all fail and fall short without grace's intervention to redeem and transform us. Through God's unwavering standards, we gain full knowledge of the ugliness of sin lodged in the human heart like a creeping cancer sending out deadly tentacles to infect all we do (Romans 3:20). This accurate diagnosis leaves no loopholes; a powerful x-ray reveals the true extent of the disease. But exposing the illness offers hope only as it drives us to the Great Physician. Only after the law's work humbles us will we desperately plead for a Savior. Thus Scripture's piercing revelations act as grace when they demolish strongholds of self-effort and point us to freedom found only in God's mercy (Galatians 3:24, Romans 7:7-12, Hebrews 4:12).

Food for thought:  Why do many resist acknowledging mankind's fallen condition? What makes this truth difficult yet essential? How should gaining increased awareness of sin's depths drive us to deeper dependence on and gratitude for God's grace? The hard truth leaves no escape; all people fall desperately short of divine righteousness. As Scripture thoroughly demonstrates, no one measures up to God's holy and immutable moral standards. Even God's special chosen nation Israel regularly failed and fell into unfaithfulness despite unique spiritual privileges, proving that law-keeping cannot constrain the fleshly compulsions lurking within all descendants of Adam. Left to ourselves, deceit characterizes human speech while feet swift pursue wickedness. No divine fear resides in sin-clouded eyes. Religiosity gives no exemption; all are indicted and imprisoned under sin's domination without the redemption Christ offers. Every mouth is justly silenced without defense. But while God's law condemns, the gospel saves those who believe. The accurate diagnosis of terminal sin sickness drives desperate faith in the Great Physician Jesus. By God's grace, we who trust in Christ's righteousness alone receive His life-giving Spirit empowering us to walk after the Spirit, no longer captive to sin's death grip. For the righteous requirement of the law is fully met in those not walking by law but by the Spirit. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would give me an increasing understanding of my constant need for Christ's righteousness purchased at Calvary on my behalf. Increase my awareness of my personal daily sins in thought, word, action, and attitude that continue to grieve Your Holy Spirit. May I never excuse or justify my sins, but freely confess them, remembering the awful price Jesus paid to redeem me from their penalty and power. I pray Your Spirit would produce increasing spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life as I surrender daily to You. Thank You for continually forgiving and transforming this cracked clay vessel through Christ my Redeemer so I may walk by Your Spirit in newness of life. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Romans 3:20 – “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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