All in need of God’s righteousness have condemnation awaiting them

by Mike Ratliff

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.” Romans 3:9-18 (NASB) 

In this post we will look at Romans 1:18-3:20. That may sound like a lot of verses, but remember my brethren, Paul didn’t write Romans with chapters and verses. In any case, that section of Romans is what Paul uses to build his case against all mankind in that they are born dead in trespasses and sin without exception. God is Holy, Righteous, and Just and there is not anything any person can do to become justified or declared righteous on their own merit. No, there must be another solution that does not compromise God’s perfect Righteousness. In any case, in this post we will look at the airtight case Paul builds against all mankind that shows the utter wretchedness of the natural man.

Let’s start with Romans 1:18-32:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:18-32 (NASB) 

The words “For the wrath of God is revealed” are translated from “Αποκαλύπτεται γὰρ ὀργὴ Θεοῦ” which, word-for-word, would read, “Is revealed for wrath of God.” We should pause here and focus on these words for they tell us much. The word αποκαλυπτεται is the present indicative middle form of ἀποκαλύπτω or apokaluptō, which means “to take off the cover or reveal.” This is action that is occurring constantly. I could take the rest of this post to describe this and not do it justice. This is anger or wrath from God against sin that is continually being revealed indirectly through the natural consequences of violating His universal moral law and directly through His personal intervention. Perhaps the best and most graphic example of that would be His pouring out divine judgment on Jesus Christ on the Cross. Carefully read the rest of this passage. It is clear that no one has an excuse for even though they act like they don’t know the truth of God, they really do, but suppress it. Notice what God’s response was to all of this. He gave them up… This is a judicial term in Greek, used for handing over a prisoner to his sentence. When people consistently abandon God, He will abandon them. In v28 we read that God “gave them over to” This translates παρέδωκεν the aorist indicative active form of παραδίδωμι or paradidōmi, which describes the same process of handing a prisoner over to a sentence, but in this case, the sentence is a “depraved mind” or ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, which could be translated as “unproved mind.” The word ἀδόκιμον actually means “not passing the test.” It was used to describe useless, worthless metals, discarded because they contained too much impurity. These God has “sentenced” or given over to this “depraved mind” have been tested by God and He has found them worthless and useless.

Here is Romans 2:1-3:8:

1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
The Jew Is Condemned by the Law
17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
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. Romans 2:1 – 3:8 (NASB) 

In the first passage Paul nailed the natural man. In this passage he covers those religious Jews and moral Gentiles who think they are exempt from God’s judgment because they have not indulged in the immoral excesses we looked at above. Think of the church in which you grew up. If it was anything like mine, this was a big deal. If it was anything like mine, moralism was the key to making God happy. I have heard some say this was the product of Protestant Revivalism, but look, here is Paul writing about the very same thing to the 1st Century Church. This is a tough one my brethren and I have been fighting this one for quite some time. Carefully read this passage. Being moral and religious is not what God is after. This very thing is what many in the emergent movement confess they were rebelling against. I can see that. I have also seen so many take that rebellion too far into license. Now, with that in mind, let us look at Romans 3:9-20, in which Paul concludes his indictment of mankind. Here we see that Jew and Gentile alike stand guilty before God:

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. Romans 3:9-20 (NASB) 

Let us focus on the fourteen indictments.

  1. There is none righteous, no not one
  2. There is none who understands
  3. There is none who seeks after God
  4. They have all turned aside
  5. They have together become worthless
  6. There is none who does good, no, not one
  7. Their throat is an open grave
  8. They use their tongues to deceive
  9. The venom of asps is under their lips
  10. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness
  11. Their feet are swift to shed blood
  12. In their paths are ruin and misery
  13. The way of peace they have not known
  14. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Now, as we think about these things, it should be clear that these are the attributes of the unregenerate. Yes, religious people can and do act this way. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. This is why the Righteousness of God is in dire need. This is why Paul made such a strong case that religion is not enough. Good works are not enough. Being in the right family or race or whatever is not enough. Anyone not possessing God’s righteousness is hopelessly lost. Of course, we must also ask, does being a Christian really change a person so that they are “different?” If so, or if we teach that that is so, are we then preaching Law or Gospel?

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “All in need of God’s righteousness have condemnation awaiting them

  1. Seems you’ve been reading the same Book I have! I concluded, while teaching this passage recently, that all those things are true for all who are apart from Christ because they know not the way of peace because they have no fear of God. Verses 17 & 18 reveal the reasons people are characterized by verses 9 – 16. Our union with Christ is vital!

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