The Lowdown, Dirty Truth: We're All Sinners (Romans 2:11–3:20)
No one likes to be thought of as a sinner, as someone who has nothing to offer God. We all like to think of ourselves as fundamentally good people who have a good grasp on right and wrong and whose lives are by and large pleasing to God. While most of us know we';re not perfect, at least we aren';t out doing the really bad stuff.
But Paul is very clear in his letter to the Romans that each and every one of us — Jew and Gentile alike — are all sinners who deserve eternal separation from God. Quoting from the Old Testament, he states, “No one is righteous — not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one” (Romans 3:10–12).
When Paul wrote of the universal sinfulness of humankind in Romans 3:10–18, he quoted from several Old Testament sources: Psalms 14:1–3, 53:1–3, 5:9, 140:3, 10:7; Isaiah 53:7–8; Psalm 36:1. Having been a former Pharisee, Paul knew the Old Testament Scriptures very well.
Paul, a Jewish religious leader prior to his conversion and therefore one who knew well the Law of Moses, pointed out in Romans 2:11–16 that all people would be judged the same. Those who sinned without the law would be judged the same as those who sinned under it, he said.
Paul pointed out in Romans 3:19 that the purpose of the law was to show all of humankind that it was sinful, that it had missed the mark when it came to the righteousness of God. He wrote, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20).
In citing the writings of Moses (found in the first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch) and the prophets, Paul is pointing out that God';s ultimate plan of redemption for humankind through Jesus Christ ran throughout the Bible, starting with the book of Genesis and running through the final book of prophecy.
This is bottom-line preaching, and it tells us that no matter how good we are, no matter how well we keep the letter of the law, no matter how many acts of kindness we take part in, we are still sinners in the eyes and by the standards of a holy God.
So what is the good news in all this? Paul goes on to tell us that it is the fact that God justifies us or makes us righteous through our faith in Christ, not in following the letter of the law.
Read Romans 3:10–18. What does this tell us we as humans lack when it comes to being righteous?
What is the true purpose of the law of God, according to Paul?