Romans 3:20 None Justified by Good Works


From Romans 1:18, where the argument began, and up to this point, Paul has been proving that the entire race lies under the just condemnation of God for its wickedness. His argument is an all-embracing negative, which precedes the even greater positive statements of Romans 3:21 and what’s to follow. How is this great argument summarized? Quite simply; Paul says that no one will be saved by good works: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin.” Why is it that no one will be saved by good works? If not the utterly immoral person, why not at least the virtuous pagan or the righteous Jew? Why not you? Why not me? Paul’s answer takes us back over the chief points of the preceding chapters.

The first reason in Paul’s argument is one we have already looked at several times in various forms. It is that, far from pursuing God and trying to please Him (which is what most of us mistakenly think we are doing), the entire race is actually trying to get away from God and is resisting Him as intensely and thoroughly as possible. You remember from our previous studies how Paul says that we “suppress” the truth about God, much of which is revealed even in nature, not to mention the written revelation of God, which is the Bible. But because we don’t want to serve a deity who is like the One we know is there – the God who is sovereign over His creation, altogether holy, omniscient and immutable – we suppress the truth about this true God and try to construct substitute gods to take His place. And, says Paul, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all [this] godlessness and wickedness” of mankind (Rom. 1:18).

The second reason why no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law is that no one actually does observe it. This is the explanation of the apparent contradiction between Romans 2:13, which says that “it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous,” and Romans 3:20, which says that “no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law.” Both are true because, although anyone who perfectly obeys the law would be declared righteous – the righteousness of God requires it – in point of fact no one actually does this; rather, all disobey God’s law. At this point Paul speaks in almost identical terms to both the Jew, who actually possessed the revealed law of God, and to the Gentile, who did not possess it. So the second reason why no one will be declared righteous by observing the law is that no one actually does observe it. We fail to observe even the tiniest part, and we certainly do not observe the whole!

The third reason why no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law is that, far from observing the law (or even trying to observe the law), we are all actually violating the law in every conceivable way and on every possible occasion and are therefore actively, consistently, thoroughly, and intentionally wicked. This is the meaning of the two long lists of descriptive vices found in Romans 1:29-31 and Romans 3:10-18. These verses don’t mean that every human being has done every bad thing possible, but they do mean that the human race is like this. We are members of that human race, and, if the truth be told, the potential for every possible human vice is in everyone. It is because of this inward potential that Scripture says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6”5).

The fourth reason why no one will be declared righteous before God by observing the law is that God is concerned with true or actual observance – that is, with the attitudes and actions of the heart – and not with any outward acts that appear pious but actually mean nothing. The chief example of this wrongheaded attempt at justification is the faith that certain people have placed in circumcision. Circumcision is neither extra-biblical nor unimportant. It was an important rite, just as baptism, the observance of the Lord’s Supper, church membership, and similar religious practices are important today. But the error of the Jew (and the error of many contemporary Christians) is in thinking that a person can be declared righteous before God by these things. That is not possible. Sacraments do have value once one is justified; that is, they are valuable signs of something that has occurred internally (if it has occurred internally), and they are meant to remind us of that experience and strengthen it. But no one can be saved by circumcision or by any other external religious act. God is not taken in by mere externals. There are no substitutes for faith.

We have been looking at the first part of our text which is a definite negative statement, declaring that no one will be declared righteous by observing God’s law. It tells us what the law cannot do. By contrast, the second half of the sentence contains a great positive statement, telling us that, although the law is unable to justify anybody, all of us being sinners, it is nevertheless able to show where we fall short of God’s standards and thus point us to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom alone God provides salvation.

Apart from God’s law we may consider ourselves to be quite upright, model citizens who are fit candidates for heaven. But when we look into the law closely we soon see that we are not fit candidates at all. We are not upright. We are morally crooked. And we discover that if we are to become acceptable to the only upright, holy God, we must be changed by Him. If you are placing your hope in your supposed ability to keep God’s law or even just in your ability to do certain good things, your case is hopeless. Your heart needs cleansing, and no effort of your own can ever cleanse it.

Where will you find cleansing? You will find it only in Christ, to whom the law drives you. I trust you have found cleansing where so many others have found it. The apostle Peter declared “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Romans 3:20 Reflection Questions:

What is your faith in; good works, church membership, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, or in Jesus Christ?

Have you found your cleansing? Do you see how the law points you to Christ?

How often you find yourself running from God? What are you substituting God with?

When was the last time you read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7?

Weekly Seed of Faith 10-25-19

Seed of Faith – I Believe — Everlasting Life   By Pastor Dave  

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Dear  Faith-Filled Friends and Saintly Seed-Sowers:
Are you being blessed by the Lord and walking in His grip of grace today? If not, why not? Grace is free! Costs you nothing because the cost has already been paid by Christ.

We are coming to end of our study of the Apostle’s Creed.  If you have not had a chance to get all the Seed’s of  Faith or would like the full manuscripts of the messages, please send me an email at and I will get them to you.

“I Believe — Everlasting life!”

What is everlasting life? Who wants everlasting life?  Why was this line added to the end of the Apostles’ Creed?  These are a few of the questions that come to my mind as think about the closing lines of Apostles’ Creed. Last week we talked about our hope being anchored in the fact, the reality and the truth, of the resurrection. Have you ever thought about how different our lives would be if there had been no resurrection? Inconceivable really.

Today we turn our thoughts to the last line … “and the life everlasting.”

There is so much written on “everlasting life or eternal life.” Right now, I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read John 3:1-22. What is Jesus’ response to Nicodemus visit in the middle of the night? Next, reflect on Jesus’ response to the woman at the well found in John 4:1-26  A few of the verses are recorded above. In John chapter 6 the words “eternal life- everlasting life” are recorded three times.

So what is eternal life?

Realizing that he would soon be gone from this world, Moody said to a friend, “Someday you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all—out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”[i]

Nic at night (both a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin) figured this out: Rank doesn’t matter, hand-tailored clothes don’t matter, Gucci sandals don’t matter.  It doesn’t matter that I eat at the five-star place in town or have the biggest house filled with the finest things. Why? BECAUSE OF THAT WILL PERISH. What Jesus is after here is my spirit. Jesus is after my heart, mind, body and soul. My flesh will die but my spirit will live forever!

After THE LAST SUPPER—which wasn’t really known by that, by the way—Jesus prayed. He prayed for the believers, He prayed for future believers, and He prayed for Himself. (Yes, it’s okay to pray for yourself!)  His prayer is found in John 17. The whole chapter is one long prayer.  This is how John (his bff) records the opening of Jesus’ prayer,  “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3)

Did you hear the powerful message of eternal life in verses 2 and 3? God has granted all authority to Jesus in order for Jesus to be the giver of eternal life.  What does Jesus say eternal life is? “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent…”

I know this message has a lot of Scriptures, but the theme of “eternal life” is imprinted in all of them. God is eternal.  In Isaiah God is called the “The Lord is Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4) and in Jeremiah God is called the “King Eternal.” (Jeremiah 10:10) Since God is eternal so are all God’s attributes, blessings and love. The Psalms tells us repeatedly that the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

The words “eternal life” are used 42 times in the New Testament. Eternal Life is the major theme of the Bible.  For the writers of the Bible, “eternal life” meant more than just life everlasting. Eternal Life was a quality of existence that held no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears, and no more death.  Eternal life meant a life that continues forever in the presence of God whose love is unfailing and unending. Not just here.  Not just now. Not just tomorrow—but forever and ever and ever.

During World War II, a prisoner wrote: Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer held a little service which reached the hearts of all. He had hardly finished his prayer, when the door opened. Two evil-looking soldiers came in and barked: “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us!” The words meant only one thing, the scaffold. As he bid his fellow prisoners good-bye, he said, “For me this is the beginning of a new life, eternal life.”[i]

So What?
What is eternal Life? Why would the early disciples put this in the Apostles’ Creed?  Better yet, why would it be the closing line?

The late and marvelous preacher, Ralph W. Sockman, was writing an Easter sermon one year when he received word that a friend had died. His friend was a scholar, a Doctor of Philosophy from Columbia University, a distinguished missionary to China for forty years. A daily prayer of this remarkable servant included, “Oh, God our Father, I accept Thy gift of love; help me to pass it on for Jesus’ sake.” On the morning of the missionary’s death, at age ninety-two, Lacey Sites said to those near his bedside: “If we live the eternal life now, we will always.”[ii]

What a profound statement…. “If we live the eternal life now, we will always.” Yes! Here it is! Here is why the apostles closed the entire creed with this line:

Can you hear your own version of this line? I can. “Dave, don’t just live for heaven…live for heaven on earth. Each and every person I put you in contact with needs a drink of this living water. Pour.  Pour out. Don’t count the cost.  The cost we are talking about are souls—and souls who need eternal life. People need living water.”

Friends, don’t wait to live eternally.  Let us start today and live every day in the presence of the living God. Friends, we have this living water to share, we have the bread of life to share. We need to share everlasting life with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers.

How do we live eternally now?

Focus on Jesus the waver-walker and not the waves of live.
Focus on your Savior and not the storms.
Focus on the Cross and not the crime nor the criminal.
Focus on Heaven and not the hurt.
Focus on God’s hope, not the hopeless situations you face.
Focus on God’s mercy and not on the mockery.
Focus on God’s grace and not the gossip.
Focus on God’s love and share this love with the lost.
Focus on the power of the resurrection and let this power resurrect, revive, restore, renew, reconcile and redeem your life—today, every day and forever.

Both Nic at Night and WOMAN at the well figured out the secret to life: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ today and begin living eternally every single day.  Live in God’s never-failing love, unending grace and ever-flowing mercy. Live in the forgiveness of your past, present and future!   Come to the water of life and drink from the springs of eternal life. If you meet a guy named Nic or a woman who’s had five husbands–you’ve come to the right spring of LIVING WATER. Jesus is no respecter of clout or sin. He died and rose for ALL…and that means YOU.

The Apostles’ Creed

  1.  I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
  2.  and in Jesus Christ, His only (begotten) Son, our Lord;
  3.  who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
  4. suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell;the
  5. third day he rose again from the dead;
  6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
  7. from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
  8. I believe in the Holy Ghost,
  9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
  10. the forgiveness of sins,
  11. the resurrection of the body,
  12. and the life everlasting. Amen.[i]

[i] Historic Creeds and Confessions. (1997). (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Lexham Press.

As I close, I was born on 6/18/54 and I received Christ as my Lord and Savior in January of 1981. If you ever hear that I’m dead–don’t you believe it because on that very day, I will be more alive than I’ve ever been!

See you Sunday!

God Loves You and So Do I
Pastor Dave

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Romans 3:19 Silence at Last


Now the apostle Paul comes to the end of the first main section of his letter, concluding that every human being is (1) accountable to God for what he or she has done; (2) guilty of having done countless wrong things; and (3) will never be justified by God on the basis of any supposed good works. His exact words in Romans 3:19-20 are: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” These two verses are very important, because to understand them is to understand the great foundational truths of Christianity. We will study these verses separately, mainly because verse 19 has played such an important part in the conversion of many, many people.

Follow me here; let’s say that you and I had lunch together and when we leave and start walking down the sidewalk together a swerving automobile comes up on the sidewalk and kills the two of us. In the next moment we would be what men call “dead.” We brush aside that absurd folly that we are going to meet St. Peter at the gate of heaven. (That exists only in jokes about two Irishmen.) We are going to meet God. Now suppose that in that moment of ultimate reckoning God should say to you, “What right do you have to come into My heaven?” What would be your answer? There are only three possible answers to be given. That is, all the many varieties of answers ultimately boil down to just three. One of which involves the text I am considering, which is why I tell this story.

The first answer people give to the question is a common one. It is that they have done certain things and therefore want to be accepted by God on the basis of these achievements. Some people have a very high opinion of themselves, of course. They think they have been models of righteous conduct – that they have never done anything bad, only what is good. In fact, they believe they have done a great deal good! Others know that they have not been consistently good, but they still want God to take note of what good works they have done and accept them into heaven on that basis.

You must clearly understand that no one is going to be justified before the bar of God’s justice on the basis of his or her good works, however great they may be. Your record will not save you. It is your record that has gotten you into trouble in the first place. Your record will condemn you. The only way anyone will ever be saved is by faith in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty of our misdeeds for us and, in place of our misdeeds, offers us the gift of His great righteousness.

What would you say to the question, “What right do you have to come into My heaven?” The answer is that you wouldn’t say a thing. This brings us to the second answer which is our verse in Romans 3:19 where God had said, “Every mouth [will] be silenced.” At God’s judgment no one will be able to offer any good works as grounds for his or her justification or offer any valid excuses for bad conduct. All mouths will be made mute, and everyone will know that he or she is guilty and deserves God’s just condemnation. The reason of course, is that this is God’s judgment. The person we must appear before is God. We do not have the same experiences when we appear before mere men or answer before a mere earthly tribunal. If there were to be any spoken words spoken before the bar of God by those who have rejected the grace of God in this life and are being sent to outer darkness forever, it will be – not excuses – but a resentful acknowledgement of the truth of God and the justice of their own condemnation.

It’s clear that what we have been seeing is that the only saving answer to the question being posed – “What right do you have to come into God’s heaven?” – focuses not on the works of the sinner, but on the achievements of Jesus Christ. If we are to be saved, it will not be on the basis of anything we have ever done or can do, but solely on the basis of what He has done for us. Christ died for us. He suffered in our place. He bore the punishment of our sins. All who come to God on that basis and with that answer will be saved. No others will be. Only those who come to God trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I end this study by asking that same question to you. Someday you will die. You will face God, and He will say to you, “What right do you have to come into My heaven?” What will your response be? Perhaps you will say, “Well, here is my record. I know that I have done some bad things, but I have done a lot of good things, too. I want you to look at these and see if they are enough for me to have deserved heaven. All I want from you is justice.” If you say that, justice is exactly what you will get. You will be judged for your sin and be condemned. Your good works, however fine they may seem in your sight or even in the sight of other people, will not save you. No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the law of good works, for it is by the law that “we become conscious of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

Perhaps you will not plead your good works, but instead will stand before God silenced. This is better. At least you will have recognized that your goodness is not adequate before God. You will know you are a sinner. But it’s still a most pitiful position to be in: silent before the one great Judge of the universe, with no possibility of making a defense, no possibility of urging extenuating circumstances, no hope of escaping condemnation.

So what will you say? I trust you will be able to answer – I hope this study had helped you to the point of being able to answer, if you have not come to it already – “My right to heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ, He died for me. He took the punishment for my sin. He is my right to heaven, because He has become my righteousness.”

Romans 3:19 Reflection Questions:

So what is your answer to the question above?

Who do you know needs to know the points of this study?