Be Right: A Study in Romans

Day 7 of 7 • This day’s reading


"The Whole World Is Guilty"

This third declaration was obvious, for Paul had already proved (charged) both Jews and Gentiles to be guilty before God.


Next he declared that all people were sinners, and proved it with several quotations from the Old Testament. Note the repetition of the words none and all, which in themselves assert the universality of human guilt.

His first quotation was from Psalm 14:1–3. This psalm begins with “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” This parallels the description of man’s devolution given in Romans 1:18–32.

These verses indicate that the whole of man’s inner being is controlled by sin: his mind (“none that understandeth”), his heart (“none that seeketh after God”), and his will (“none that doeth good”). Measured by God’s perfect righteousness, no human being is sinless. No sinner seeks after God. Therefore, God must seek the sinner (Gen. 3:8–10; Luke 19:10).

In Romans 3:13–18, Paul gave us an X-ray study of the lost sinner, from head to foot. His quotations are as follows: verse 13a—Psalm 5:9; verse 13b—Psalm 140:3; verse 14—Psalm 10:7; verses 15–17—Isaiah 59:7–8; verse 18—Psalm 36:1. These verses need to be read in their contexts for the full impact.

Romans 3:13–14 emphasize human speech—the throat, tongue, lips, and mouth. The connection between words and character is seen in Matthew 12:34.

In Romans 3:15–16, Paul pictured the sinner’s feet. Just as his words are deceitful, so his ways are destructive. The Christians’ feet are shod with the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15), but the lost sinner brings death, destruction, and misery wherever he goes.

Romans 3:17 deals with the sinner’s mind: He does not know the way of God’s peace. The sinner does not want to know God’s truth (Rom. 1:21, 25, 28); he prefers to believe Satan’s lie. God’s way of peace is through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

In Romans 3:18, which cites Psalm 36:1, the sinner’s arrogant pride is prescribed: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The entire psalm should be read to get the full picture. The ignorance mentioned in Romans 3:17 is caused by the pride of verse 18, for it is “the fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7).

These quotations from God’s law, the Old Testament Scriptures, lead to one conclusion: The whole world is guilty before God. The Jews stand condemned by the law of which they boast, and the Gentiles stand condemned on the basis of creation and conscience.

The word therefore in Romans 3:20 carries the meaning of “because,” and gives the reason why the whole world is guilty. No flesh can obey God’s law and be justified (declared righteous) in His sight. This inability is one way that people know they are sinners. When they try to obey the law, they fail miserably and need to cry out for God’s mercy. Neither Jew nor Gentile can obey God’s law; therefore God must save sinners by some other means. The explanation of that means by which people can be saved occupied Paul for the rest of his letter.

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