ROMANS 3:9-10 Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
IN THE COURTROOM (A)
Introduction: In verses 9-18 Paul summons all mankind to appear before the tribunal of God. The whole human race is arraigned on four major charges: something is wrong with our character (vv. 9-12), conversation (13-14), conduct (15-17), and convictions (18). These four major charges can be broken down into fifteen separate counts of depravity. Based on the notorious evidence available, the defendants will be proved guilty beyond any reasonable doubt on each indictment. The picture will be dark, but true to life. Let us accept the summons, enter the courtroom, and hear Paul’s 15 indictments against us all:
I. ALL ARE UNDER SIN
Romans 3:9 “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise:
for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles,
that they are all under sin;”
In this verse Paul draws to a conclusion what he has been said before. Gentiles and Jews are both in need of the grace of God. Neither group is any better or worse than any other when it comes to needing grace.
With regard to earning salvation, no one is any worse or any better than anyone else. We are all equally bogged down in the quagmire of failure. In and of ourselves, even believers are no better than lost people. We all belong to a sin-laden, guilt-burdened race. Apart from grace, the godliest man will miss Heaven by as wide a margin as the ungodliest man.
We are tempted occasionally to lift up ourselves by belittling others. Ego delights to inflate itself at the expense of others. Christians should be able to rise above this. We should readily confess we are all at the bottom. There is no merit in any of us. It is grace, grace, every step of the way.
“Under sin” means being under its power, authority, and influence. Men are naturally under the sway of sin, helpless in themselves to escape it. We come “under sin” first by nature, but abide there by choice, and become imbedded there by habit. Since we voluntarily remain under the bondage of sin, we are justly in danger of condemnation.
The word “sin” is used in Romans about 49 times, and for the first time here. Paul introduced sin as the nemesis, dictator, tyrant, and oppressor of all men. Sin enslaves as a cruel taskmaster.
To the lost man, sin is a galling yoke by which one is led to ruin and damnation. It is a burden which sinks a man into the very depths of Hell. To the saved man, sin is overthrown. Its damning guilt is removed, but it ever remains an aggravation to us. We are never in this lifetime freed from the assaults of sin. Every victory we ever win over it is due solely to the power and grace of God.
All are “under sin.” We are sinners by nature, by choice, and by habit. We were each born a sinner, are living a sinner, and will die a sinner. This means at any given moment, under the right circumstances, we are all susceptible to committing any sin.
All men are in evil, and all evil is potentially in every man. No man can commit every sin, but the roots of every sin are in every man. Man’s nature is a dunghill containing the seed of all abominable devices.
In the lost man, the old nature is the devil’s throne room. In the saved man, Satan has been dethroned, but still uses the old nature as a storehouse for all kinds of evil deeds.
Never become proud, dear friends. Many dormant seeds abide in us. When bombs fell on London during World War II, dirt was plowed up in many places. Often from these newly formed earth mounds, flowers grew up. They sprang from seeds that had been lying dormant within the earth, awaiting light and heat. Some of the varieties had not been grown in London for over a century, but the seeds had been there all along.
Spurgeon tells of a house being built in London. Dirt was dug out for the foundation and spread over the rest of the property. The next spring the yard was overcome by caper plants, a Mediterranean shrub. It created quite a stir, for capers are virtually unknown in England. Investigation revealed that the house had been built on a site once used as a public garden to display various plants of the world. The seeds had been there all along, just waiting for the right occasion.
Believers, every ounce of our godliness is due solely to the grace of God. He has caused the seeds of morality to flourish, and has stifled seeds of evil, but those evil seeds are still there:
• Abraham, the father of faith, lied about Sarah being his wife;
• Noah became drunk after the flood;
• Judah defiled himself with a prostitute;
• Moses, later in life, publicly exploded in anger;
• David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder;
• Peter denied Jesus;
• Paul, late in life, still counted himself a chief of sinners and worried about making a shipwreck of his faith.
All are under sin. God grant us the grace to confess, “Guilty as charged.”
II. THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS
Rom. 3:10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;”
Paul now calls to the witness stand the Word of God. To this point Paul has used arguments and logical reasoning to convince men of their sins. Now he moves from debate to authority. “As it is written” refers to Scripture, which will be the ultimate authority.
Paul is going to use the Word of God as a sharp sword against us. He knew the Bible was the surest testimony on any subject. The Scriptures are irrefutable. The Psalmist (119:89) declared, “Forever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in Heaven.” Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (JN 10:35). It is okay to appeal to history, experience, and conscience, but the clincher is an appeal to Scripture. Realizing this, Paul will use an uninterrupted string of Bible verses against us through verse 18.
He begins by quoting from Psalm 14 to charge, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” “Righteous” here means conforming to the standard required by God. A righteous man is one who is all he ought to be.
No man has in himself anything to make him what he is supposed to be. You can never be good enough in yourself to be righteous, all you ought to be. If salvation is by works, Heaven will be filled with strutting roosters crowing of their accomplishments. Few things in life are more irritating than a crowing rooster, and God will not allow such pride in His Heaven.
Do not misunderstand. I am not saying men are totally devoid of goodness, as we define the term. Men are capable of displaying fine characteristics, but to think anyone has enough goodness to attain Heaven is like thinking the world’s greatest pole vaulter can jump over the St. Louis Arch. Depravity does not mean there is absolutely no goodness in man. It means there is nothing in man to satisfy God with regard to salvation.
Fortunately, God Himself has made provision for us. The declaration of human depravity is not a call to despair, but a call to seek salvation only in the provision of God.
The blood of Christ has been shed to make payment for your guilt. Your situation is not hopeless. There is an escape. Never underestimate the sin of man, and never underestimate the redeeming power of Christ. Our failure and death and condemnation can be reversed by Jesus, but this happens only when trust is placed solely in Him.
Rather than inflate our egos through delusions of personal merit, we should root out every vestige of self-righteousness. Self-sufficiency must be destroyed. We must stand empty handed and bankrupt before God. As we do this, He receives us as a Son and begins to remake us in Jesus’ image. Stubborn self-pride keeps men from the confession that brings life everlasting. Most people live in a world of spiritual make-believe. They have camouflaged their actual conditions from their own selves.
Do not depend on yourself. Perish such thoughts! To do so means condemnation to Hell. Flee to God, who can create a new heart within you. Plead guilty before the bar of God, and receive the pardon of God.
Men without Christ are bad, but never too bad to be saved. Christ saved Saul of Tarsus; He can save you. All are under sin; there is none righteous–this means all are eligible to benefit from Christ’s work. “Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 TM 1:15). Dear friend, mark yourself a sinner and be saved right now.
It would be barbarous to preach on depravity if we had no remedy to offer. Life has enough burdens as it is. However, we do have a cure–Jesus Christ! In his older years, William Jay once said, “My memory is failing, but two things I never forget–that I am a great sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a great Savior.” Amen! Those two truths always belong together.