In this third chapter of Romans, beginning with verse 9, the apostle summarizes the condition of every Human Being apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and it’s not a pretty picture. All (Jews and Gentiles) are alike under sin, and all are thus subject to the wrath and final judgment of Almighty God. Quoting from Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, and Ecclesiastes 7:20, Paul declares: “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.’” This is a serious charge and a devastating picture of the race, because it portrays human beings as unable to do even a single thing either to please, understand, or seek after God. It’s an expression of what theologians rightly call man’s “total depravity.”
It’s vitally important that we come to terms with the bad tendency to run from the truth about ourselves. Without an accurate knowledge of our sin, we will never come to know the meaning of God’s grace. Without an awareness of our pride, we will never appreciate God’s greatness, nor will we come to God for the healing we so desperately need. The situation is a bit like being sick and needing a doctor. As long as we are convinced we are well (or at least almost well), we will not seek medical care. But if we know we are spiritually sick, we will turn to the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, who alone is able to heal us.
So the first thing Paul says about the human race in his summary of its lost condition is that it has no righteousness. Verse 12 adds, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” The second pronouncement Paul makes about human beings in their sinful condition is that no one understands spiritual things. We need to view this as a lack of spiritual perception and not merely a lack of human knowledge. If we think on the human level, comparing the “understanding” of one person with that of another, we will observe rightly that some people obviously understand a great deal about our world. And since we are impressed by that, we will be misled. We need to see that in spiritual matters the important thing is that no one truly understands God or seeks to know Him.
To summarize this study: According to the Bible no one unaided by the Spirit of God (1) has any righteousness by which to lay a claim upon God; (2) has any true understanding of God; or (3) seeks God. But what we don’t have and cannot do and have not done, God has done for those who are being saved.
So, what exactly has God done? First, God has sought us. We had run from Him, but like “The Hound of Heaven” God pursued us relentlessly. Some of us ran from God for a long time and can recall the days of our waywardness well. If God had not pursued us, we would have been lost eternally. We would never have come to God by ourselves. Now we know that no one is ever saved who has first been pursued by God and been found by Him. Second, God has given us understanding. He has done this by making us alive in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a result of which our eyes have been opened to see things spiritually. This does not mean that we perfectly comprehend all things about God and His ways, but we now truly “understand” in the sense that we believe these things and respond accordingly. Last of all, God has given us a righteousness that we did not have in ourselves and, in fact, could never have had – His righteousness, which is the righteousness of Jesus Christ and is the ground of our salvation.
If we are truly dead in sin, as Paul says we are, and if that involves our will as well as all other parts of our psychological and spiritual makeup, we will find ourselves in near despair. We will see our state is hopeless apart from the supernatural and totally unmerited workings of the grace of God. And that is what God wants! He will not have us boasting of even the smallest human contribution to salvation. It is only as we renounce all such vain possibilities that He will show us the way of salvation through Jesus Christ and lead us to Him.
Romans 3:9-11 Reflection Questions:
Are you still trying to earn your salvation?
Do you believe you are seeking God or are you praising and worshiping Him for pursuing you?
Did you know that if you are a “church hopper” you are running from God?