Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
IN THE COURTROOM (B)
Introduction: These verses continue Paul’s arraignment of the human race before the tribunal of God. The prosecution has already shown that all are under sin (v. 9), and there is none righteous (v. 10). Paul now presses on with more counts of depravity against us.
III. NONE UNDERSTAND GOD
Romans 3:11a “There is none that understandeth,. . .”
This free quote of Psalm 14:2 refers to spiritual understanding. Men think themselves wise with regard to God, and offer vast opinions of Him, but God looks down on our human philosophies and says, “There is none that understandeth.”
Man’s imaginative speculations about God are a waste of time. Divine revelation is our only hope of knowing about God. We can know of Him only what He tells us.
Men cannot learn about God by using their ingenious minds. This is why all philosophical debate about God apart from His self-revelation is a worthless heap. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). A man may be an accomplished scientist, a profound scholar, widely read, and yet not understand his guilt, his duty, his danger, his Savior, his everlasting destiny, etc.
Improper thinking about God also incapacitates man’s natural ability to make moral distinctions. What God said of the Ninevites can also be said of men in general: They “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand” (Jonah 4:11). The discerning ability of mankind was crippled by the Fall. Failure to recognize this fact has caused many to err.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was possibly the most influential theologian of the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, he did not believe in the total depravity of man. He believed the fall deeply affected man, but not to the same degree in every part of one’s makeup. Aquinas believed man’s intellect was flawed only slightly and barely corrupted.
Such thinking began to erode the principle, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (PR 3:5). As men accepted the reasoning of Aquinas, they leaned on the Lord less and less, but more and more on their own understanding.
This meant they depended less and less on Biblical revelation. Man-made traditions of the church continued to increase in prominence.
The Reformers fought against Aquinas’ concept of the Fall. They emphasized the total corruption of man’s intellect. Calvin forcefully argued that no matter how great is the ability of human intellect, the mind is still easily deluded regarding the things of God.
Since the Bible is the only book that can be trusted, it alone is authoritative. No idea or philosophy of man is to be compared to the Word of God. It alone tells us rightly of God and spiritual matters.
IV. NONE SEEK AFTER GOD
Romans 3:11b “. . .there is none that seeketh after God.”
The condition of man is so desperate that he cannot turn and follow the Lord on his own ability. Even if man could, he would not. Men do not want to understand God. They count ignorance as bliss. People are not even trying to find the true and living God.
Religion has been a part of every culture of man, but do not assume pagan religions were efforts to seek out the Holy, Righteous, and Only God. These man-made religions made allowance for sexual license or carnal gratification of some kind. Paul assessed these pagan idolatries, “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20).
No group has ever on their own sought the true and living God. They have instead sought after a God of their own liking and choice.
Even Christianity itself, the only true faith, is not man’s search for God. The Bible teaches that it is God’s search for rebellious sinners. We did not find God. He found us.
With regard to salvation, God is more than just convicter, persuader, bestower, keeper, justifier, sanctifier, and glorifier. He is also seeker and caller. God must come looking for us. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (JN 6:44).
In the salvation of man, God is all in all. David’s sin brought this fact home to him in a significant way. He pleaded, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation” (PS 51:12). Jonah stayed in the whale’s belly until he confessed, “Salvation is of the Lord” (2:9). You can “find” God only when He finds and convicts you. Respond when He calls.
V. ALL ARE GONE OUT OF THE WAY
Romans 3:12a “They are all gone out of the way,. . .”
This means all men have willfully departed from God. Blinded by their own self-righteousness, men have turned from God’s prescribed way of repentance. This is the only road that leads to God, but all men have chosen other paths.
Adam’s first reaction to his own sin was flight from God. He should have run to God, but instead turned away and hid among the trees. All his descendants have followed his example. In Isaiah’s day, this was the verdict: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (53:6). In Malachi’s day, “Ye are departed out of the way” (ML 2:8). In Paul’s day, “They are all gone out of the way.”
The same is true today. Men are lost, wandering down self-created paths of self-delusion. Rather than coming closer to God, their trek is leading them even further from God. The longer a man dwells in sin, the worse his plight becomes. As one wrote,
Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.
Or again, As Schiller more philosophically put it,
This is the very curse of evil deed,
That of new evil it becomes the seed.
Every sin one commits is like taking a step farther back from God. And returning over lost ground is impossible without God’s help. As men hurl themselves headlong downward on the road of sin, Satan burns the bridges behind them, and only God can reconstruct them.
This is one reason conversion is difficult for many. They have to swallow pride, say for a lifetime they have been headed the wrong way, and then admit they cannot save themselves.
VI. ALL ARE BECOME UNPROFITABLE
Romans 3:12b “. . .they are together become unprofitable;. . .”
The human race, apart from redemption, is useless to God. The word translated as “unprofitable” was used to describe rotten fruit, putrid meat, and milk which had gone sour. Any homemaker knows how useless such things are. The word later came to be used of anything utterly and irrevocably bad.
Unredeemed human nature is a sour and clabbered mass, no longer fit for what it was originally designed. We were meant for uninterrupted communion with God, but have failed.
Our old nature is rotten, nasty, stinking. Apart from conversion it is good for nothing, a useless burden on the earth. Willful, adamant, unregenerate sinners are the most unprofitable creatures on earth.
The old world grew so foul that God had to wash it with a flood. Later the world grew even fouler and had to be washed with blood. The blood of Jesus is the only cleanser strong enough to expel the heart’s corruption.
VII. NONE DOETH GOOD
Romans 3:12c “. . .there is none that doeth good, no,
This is not a reference to man’s standard of goodness, but God’s. When compared to the goodness of God, man’s goodness is nothing. Man’s “goodness” is often characterized by fundamental errors in motivation.
By and large, the story of man is one of corruption rather than integrity, selfishness rather than generosity, cruelty rather than kindness, apostasy rather than devotion. Whatever goodness natural man does exhibit is due solely to moral restraints laid on us by the unseen influence of God, peer pressure, or laws of men.
The very best of men can at best only brag their nature is controlled by a chained leash. Our natures are like a leashed dog forced into submission. But let the chain break, and the ferocity lying dormant within is suddenly unleashed.
Only Christ can take a man’s nature and begin to change it. But even then we still need the “chain” to restrain ourselves.
We have never advanced beyond the verdict that none doeth good. Man is such a paradox! Our intellectual achievements are often offset by moral setbacks. Our whole mindset is topsy turvy. Everything is haywire:
• Man has learned how to split the atom, and how to split up marriages;
• We have learned the cure for syphilis, and yet encourage the act that spreads it;
• Researchers have made great strides in pre-natal care, yet we now abort 1.5 million babies a year.
• We know tobacco causes cancer, and yet our government subsidizes
the tobacco industry.
• Man has documented the destructive influences of alcohol, yet its consumption is socially acceptable and seemingly viewed as a good thing. Our own Senator Eagleton recently commented that a tax on alcohol would adversely affect St. Louis: “We once had the title `First in booze, first in shoes and last in the American League.’ We lost our team, our shoes went to Taiwan and Korea. God, do not take from us our beer.”
Our condition is hopeless apart from Christ.