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VALIANT FOR THE TRUTH

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[Home] [Palace Beautiful] [Fighting Apollyon] [Gaius' House] [Introduction]

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THE UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MAN
and
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD

Romans 3:9-20

What then? are we better? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; 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 ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law the knowledge of sin. The King James Version

These are the words of the apostle Paul taken directly taken from the Old Testament. These words, which we just read are the words of God. Recently there was a poll conducted at a Christian bookseller’s convention, where Christian booksellers and Christian authors alike where surveyed. One question included a portion of this morning’s text. It was a true or false question asking, Are these the words of the Apostle Paul ‘There is no one righteous no not one’, true or false. 35% of those surveyed said that it could not possibly have been the words of Paul. This percentage is admittedly low. Yet, nearly 1/3 of those who write Christian books, and provide Christian books are unaware of this Scriptural truth, which relates directly to our definition of the Christian gospel. Another Poll taken by Barna reported that 76% of evangelical laymen surveyed thought that man, by nature, was basically good. This is the sad but true reality of the biblically illiterate Christendom that we dwell in. (Statistics come from White Horse Inn radio program)

As believers who confess the name of Christ we must be diligent students, and careful interpreters of Holy Scripture. "It is impossible for any man to acquire even the slightest portion of right and sound doctrine without first being a disciple of Sacred Scripture" (Paraphrase from Calvin’s Institutes). We must not twist and distort scripture to suit our selfish agendas, but we must listen carefully to the plain teaching of scripture. Scripture is the very word of God under which we come to know the revelation of Christ. Holy Scripture shows us the great theme of redemption. From Genesis to Revelation it unfolds not cookbook steps for a better life this side of Eden, but it is a revelation of the fact that man is utterly wicked and God is gracious through His son Jesus Christ.

Listen to Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, who is said to be the greatest preacher who ever lived. He says in 1928 concerning this subject, "The more I think about it, the less surprised I am at the apparent and increasing failure of organised Christianity to appeal to the masses in these days; for the plain and obvious fact is that we, who still continue to attend our places of worship, have more or less "sold the pass" and have neglected or given away that vital principle which ever was and always will be the true heritage of the church of Christ on earth. For it appears, on looking into it, that the church has always triumphed and had her greatest successes when she has preached the two-fold message of the depravity human nature and the absolute necessity of the direct intervention of God for its final salvation . . ."

The understanding of this passage is crucial to our understanding of grace. Without a biblical understanding of man’s natural estate apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, we will logically conclude that man, by nature, is basically good. But being basically good is not good enough, for a righteous, just, and holy God demands absolute obedience to His law. Besides, the theory of man’s innate goodness, finds its roots in the humanism of the enlightenment and Greek philosophy and not from the pages of Scripture.

As we shall see, man is not basically good. The truths of the passage I am about to expound may be very hard to accept. You must ask yourself this question, "Do I truly want see myself in the mirror of Scripture?" "Because when the spirit of God holds up the mirror and shows us ourselves, we see, we feel, we deplore, our apostasy from, and our inability to recover the image of God’s moral virtue. Experience proves the horrid likeness true; and we need no arguments to convince us that in and of ourselves we are spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked" (Paraphrased from Augustus Toplady on Original Sin).

It does not matter what the man of science says, for he says man is progressing, rather we must trust the testimony of Scripture. If man is basically good and the words of Paul false, what then is the necessity of the cross and the resurrection? Paul speaks of being in sin or in Adam. He says in Ephesians 2:1, "And you he hath quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." David confesses that he was born in sin when he says in Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." In Genesis 8:21 Moses records the words of the LORD, "that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth." And the prophet Jeremiah echoes this when he says that the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

You may accuse me of being negative, however these are positive statements, simply because they come from the word of God, and Thy word is truth. It is positive because the knowledge of our sin leads us to the grace of Christ. Ralph Venning, a puritan, in his treatise on sin says, "Sin is the dare of God’s justice, saying I dare you, show justice to me . . .sin is the rape of God’s mercy, the jeer of God’s patience, the slight of His power, the contempt of His love, sin is the upbraiding of His providence, the scoff of His promise, the reproach of His wisdom." Sin is the greatest evil.

Will God judge us for our sins? Not one idle word or thought will go unaccounted for. "He hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness . . ."God is infinitely holy and knows not sin. He is a consuming fire, and His wrath abides upon the man of sin apart from Christ. Man is born a sinner and saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone and we know this by Scripture alone.

Up to this point in chapters 1 and 2 of Paul’s epistle to the Romans he has verified his apostleship, called the Gospel the power of God unto salvation, and declared that the knowledge of God is possessed by all men through the knowledge of creation, but man suppresses this knowledge. Men had exchanged the truth of God for a lie and rather than worship the creator they worshiped the creature. He then went on to show that all men, both Jews and Greeks are all under condemnation. Scripture teaches us that Adam was created in fellowship with God, but Adam disobeyed God and brought to ruin the whole of His offspring. Genesis tells us the story of the fall, and Paul offers theological exposition when he declares that, "in Adam all die". We believe in spiritual death, because of the reality of physical death.

We come now to chapter 3 in which Paul demonstrates the universal sinfulness of man. All men are under condemnation and deserving of the wrath of God. In the beginning of chapter 3 Paul addresses those Jews who were trusting their salvation in the fact that they were Jews by birth. They assumed this because they were God’s chosen people, because unto them was given the law and the prophets, and the sign of circumcision. They found their righteousness in the fact that they had been recipients of these gifts. However, Paul uses their very own scriptures to show that all men even Jews are under condemnation. Paul says that even he is no exception to the rule. He then declares that there is no one righteous, no, not one.

This is intensely doctrinal and intensely practical. It speaks to every one of us. It addresses every man who ever lived. We must remember that doctrine and practice can never be separated. The book of Romans is a theological masterpiece and the study of it results in assurance of redemption therefore proving to be inarguably practical. Verses 10 through 18 can be divided into three general headings. They are as follows: vs. 10-12 Sin’s effect on man’s overall being, vs. 13-14 Sin’s effect on man’s speech, and in vs. 15-18 Sin’s effect on man’s lifestyle. In vs. 10 and 11 of which we will be dealing, it can be divided into man’s moral nature, the sinful mind, and the captive will.

But before we begin we must go back to the Garden of Eden to address the entrance of sin at the fall of man. We must first remember that man was created in the image and likeness of God. Because before we can understand our slavery to sin apart from Christ, we must first understand what man once was. In Genesis 1 and 2 Moses writes, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them . . .And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed in his nostrils the breathe of life; and man became a living soul." God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, in righteousness, and in holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

According to the scriptures, the essence of man consists in that he is distinguished from all other creatures and stands supreme as the head and crown of the entire creation. This is because the image of God belongs to the very essence of man. Adam was given original righteousness, or true knowledge, righteousness and holiness. In addition to this he was given elements which belong to man as man, like intellectual power, natural affections, and moral freedom. "He was created body and soul, and the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and heart; there was not any part of the body in which rays of the divine glory did not shine" (paraphrase from Calvin’s Institutes). Although man was created in the image of God, he was created mutable, whereas God is immutable or eternally unchanging.

At the dawn of creation, the covenant of works was instituted when God stated that Adam was free to eat of any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and man became accountable for his violation of it. Yet Adam exercised his free will, giving up his free will, and ate the forbidden fruit and became a slave of sin. "For in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die". The serpent of old that is the devil tempted Eve saying, "Hath God said you shall surely die?"

Spiritual death was the consequence, and as a result Adam plummeted into death, ruin and separation from his glorious Creator, and brought sin to all of his offspring. We read in Romans 5, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned." Adam was the representative head for humanity. He was our representative in that what he did affected all of us. In Adam all men became fallen. Adam was separated from God, as was the rest of his offspring, and along with Eve were cast out of the garden where communion with God was to be found. Scholars are divided as to how this sin can be passed on, but Scripture explicitly states that we are guilty for Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin has been imputed to each and every one of us by virtue of being born into this world. Adam’s sin is manifested in us by our own sinfulness.

Our text this morning can best be described as a comprehensive description of the Total Depravity or the Radical Corruption of man, when it states in verse 10, there is no one righteous no not one. This is not to say that we are as bad as we can get, but it is to say that sin has pervasively affected every part of our being. It has left no part of our being untouched. There is not one that possesses a righteousness that can meet the demands of God’s holy law except Christ who is fully God and fully man. James Montgomery Boice, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia states, "Most people are willing to admit that they are not perfect. It takes an extraordinary supply of arrogance for any mere human being to pretend that he or she has no flaws. But this is far different from admitting that we are utterly depraved so far as our not having any natural ability to please God is concerned. We are willing to admit that we are not perfect, but not that we are not righteous."

This verse is comprised of quotations from Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, and Ecclesiastes 7:20. These portions from the Old Testament state, that men are corrupt, and that they have done abominable works, there is none that does good. There is not even one upon the earth that does not sin. The great Baptist minister Charles Hadden Spurgeon says, "What picture of our race is this! Save only where grace reigns, there is none that doeth good; humanity, fallen, and debased, is as a desert without an oasis."

This statement of the Paul that there is no one righteous, may seem contradictory when Scripture speaks of some men being righteous, for example Moses, Abraham, and Noah. This does not mean they were righteous, in and of themselves, because of their observance of the law. Paul goes on to state in Romans 3 that there is a righteousness of God that has been revealed apart from the law, and that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight . . ." These men were righteous in that in the law, the prophets, and the sacrifices they saw and trusted the promised Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent and bring redemption for His people. The apostle Paul has developed up to this point in the book of Romans, that all men are unable to fulfill all righteousness.

Not only is man not righteous but he lacks understanding. The first part of verse 11 states there is none who understands. We need to view this as a lack of spiritual perception and not merely a lack of human knowledge. We are very knowledgeable about a great many things. Man has made many advances in medicine and technology, however, no one understands God or His ways, and most importantly apart from His grace we would never understand the gospel. In fact the carnal mind does not accept these thing for they are foolishness to him. The carnal mind does not understand these things for they are spiritually discerned. Among both the unlearned and the learned, the human mind fails in inquiring after God and is dull and blind concerning heavenly mysteries. Ephesians 4:18 states, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." In the parable of the sower in chapter 8 of Luke, the radical distinction between those who finally reject, and those who receive the word and bring forth fruit, is, that they who were fruitful ‘understood’ the word, while they who were unfruitful did not understand.

The righteousness needed to stand on judgement day is the one thing needful for our awful condition, yet we neglect this, and as a result show ourselves to possess no understanding. God is gracious and grants us understanding and breathes life into our dead carcass that we would no longer be blind, but see and no longer be darkened in our minds, but truly understand.

We come now to our final point in our exposition, that there is none that seeketh after God. Because man’s nature has been corrupted by sin, his mind has been given over to sin and as a result is enslaved to sin. This has effected his will and his mind. Martin Luther, the great reformer of the 16th century, saw that man’s will was enslaved to sin and could do nothing but sin apart from Christ. Jonathan Edwards, puritan preacher of New England, went further and said it was not just that the will that was enslaved to sin, but that the mind and heart which is the seat of the will, was sinful and depraved. Edwards stated, "that what we choose is not determined by the will itself but by the mind . . .the will does what the mind thinks best, but the mind does not regard submission to God and serving God as being desirable, it turns from God." Later in Romans 8, Paul tells us that the carnal mind is at enmity with God, and again in Colossians 1:21 it says, "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works . . ." That is, the unregenerate mind enslaved to sin and apart from the grace of Christ sees God as his one archenemy. It is not we who seek, but God who pursues us. If we are in Christ it is because God has sought us. We have run from Him, for all have turned aside.

We say man is spiritual and he is seeking God. I tell you that man is seeking a god. He is not seeking the God of scripture, because in His natural state he cannot accept what is written of him in Holy Scripture. Man seeks a god of His own invention. He says, I think God would . . . or My God is . . . or The God I am looking for is . . . The one true God is seen in Christ, the suffering servant hanging on a tree for our sins, and resurrected unto new life for our justification. Those who have seen Him have seen the Father. Our hearts are idol factories. Acts 17:29 says, "For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device."

Listen to this definition of what it is to seek God, "it is to answer to all His perfections; that is to say, to respect and adore His sovereign majesty, to instruct ourselves in His word as the primary truth, to obey His commandments as the commandments of the sovereign Legislator of men, to have recourse to him by prayer as the origin of all things. In particular it is to have recourse to His mercy by repentance; it is to place our confidence in Him; it is to ask for his Holy Spirit to support us, and to plead His protection and blessing; and all this through Christ who is the way to the Father, and who declares that no man cometh unto the Father, but by him" I ask you this, can you seek God on your own while you are dead in your sins? Impossible . . .for apart from Christ you can do nothing . . .No man can come to Christ, except the Father which hath sent Christ draw him; and Christ will raise him up at the last day."

Based on this verdict, given by the apostle Paul that all men are under condemnation and that there is no one righteous, no one who understands, no one who seeks God, and apart from Christ we are dead in our transgressions and sins. We see that natural man being dead in sin is not able, by his own strength, to convert our make himself alive unto Christ. How are we made righteous before God? Is it by keeping the law of God? Paul said by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight. Justification is to be declared righteous in the sight of God.

Adam and Eve when they sinned sowed fig leaves to cover their shame, but God gave them the skins of an animal showing that God would atone for their sins and that it would come by the shedding of blood. For without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin. Isaiah 59 warns those who attempt to spin a web of their own righteousness when he says, "they hatch viper’s eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out the viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands."

With man salvation is impossible, but with God all things are possible. For salvation is of the Lord with faith and repentance as gifts from him. "If there be one thread in the heavenly garment of our righteousness which we are to add ourselves then we are lost . . . Christ has done it all, must do it all and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely on what the Lord Jesus Christ has done" (paraphrase from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening). It is God who quickens us unto life. "We are saved by a true faith in Jesus Christ; even though our consciences accuse us that we have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God and kept none of them, and that we are still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any of our merit, by His grace grants and imputes to us the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if we had never committed any sin, and we ourselves had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for us . . ." (paraphrase from Heidelberg Catechism)

Even when we were dead in sins, he hath quickened us together with Christ. It is nothing more and nothing less that the power of God that raised Christ from the dead, that resurrects us from our spiritual deadness. Ephesians 1:19, 20 states that the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set Him as his own right hand in the heavenly places. The power of the resurrection is made manifest in that God brings us to life we who were once dead. This is the first resurrection. We are rescued from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His glorious light. This is because He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We are saved by works, not by our works, but Christ’s works. Christ was obedient to the law of God and fulfilled each and every point of it on our behalf. He glorified the Father. In Him the Father was well pleased, and Christ said, "for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." He entered the Holy of Holies as a Great High Priest and sacrificed Himself upon the altar as a Lamb, and now reigns as king seated as the right hand of the Father.

Christ agonized over bearing our sin on the cross. "It was not the mockery and loathing of men, nor the law and judgement of Rome, that Jesus feared. We recall the psalm concerning Judas’s treason: ‘I can endure the treason my friends, for at least you are with me, My God.’ But on this night, the son is alone suffering damnation. Not even the Father is his friend. His heart, which was a reservoir of boundless joy and friendship, is broken. He is the enemy both of his wicked creation and of His righteous Father. The reason Jesus shuddered at the thought of the crucifixion had less to do with the physical torture involved than with the far greater fear of becoming everything he hated most in His deepest being. He who was the truth would become the world’s most firmly established liar. He who was too pure to look upon a woman to lust would become history’s most promiscuous adulterer. The only man who ever loved with pure selflessness would become the most despised villain in God’s universe. He would become a racist, a murderer, a gossip, slanderer, thief, and tyrant. He would become what we were apart from Him. He would become all of this not in himself, but as the sin-bearing substitute for us.

When the moment came: God turned his face of wrath toward his bleeding, dying Son, and made him drink that cup of rejection to the last drop. See here the price of our redemption: God must despise his own righteous Son, the joy of his eternal heart, so that he may love us justly. With the sin of the world crushing his soul, Jesus looked to the Father, with whom he had enjoyed eternal intimacy and indescribable love, and found no one there to comfort Him. He was forsaken by the world because of its sin, and forsaken by his father because he had become sin for us. Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" This is so that we would never have to speak those dreadful words. We have seen Christ himself, impaled on a tree as the curse-bearing substitute for sinners, enthroned in shame and suffering. Instead of being consumed by God’s wrath we now look to Christ and live-forever." (paraphrase from Michael Horton’s book "We Believe")

Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our salvation from death, sin and hell is based on a historical fact. It is based on the historical fact of Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection. It is never to be based on anything we have done. We don’t do our part and he does his, for we were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but by the will of God. This is the joy of our salvation. Amen.

THE END

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