None Righteous Before God, Only One

The Verdict

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:9–20 ESV)

The Jews trusted in the Law to save them. Instead, it serves to condemn them, and us too. If even the chosen people of God are under his condemnation, then the whole world is. The Law shows the moral line God requires and how far short of it we all fall. He will summarize this in a few verses, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Think of how a laser level works. Construction guys use this when they want to know where plumb is. Where straight is. Where flush is. That’s what the line is. It’s a decisive line. If you’re building something and you put the laser level up and you realize that the wall you’re building is off, you can say that the problem is the laser level. I’m gonna play with my laser level so my wall looks better. And then you’re promptly fired.

Construction guys who stay in the trade are the ones who see the line and they see what they’re doing according to the line. Human being, listen. If you’re going to somehow be righteous before God, the entire Law of God, all 613 commands must be fulfilled perfectly your entire life in action and in attitude; that’s the line. You must morally be at the line. But there’s none who make it to the line. Not even one.

And the result is that when the Law is laid out before us, it shuts us up.

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Mr. Synagogue Confronts Mr. Apostle

Is Israel’s Unfaithfulness an Indication of God’s Unfaithfulness?

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” (Romans 3:3-4 ESV)

 What does human failure say about God’s supposed faithfulness? Or what does it say about God when the Jews, in particular, ended up deported to Babylon and their temple was destroyed? Was God unfaithful? Was the Jewish experiment an epic divine failure? God’s Waterloo?

Paul’s response is strong, “By no means!” We may say, “No way!” To prove God can and should judge, he quotes from Psalm 51 and King David’s acknowledgment of his sin and that God’s words and judgments are true.

The Impartial God and Our Coming Evaluation

“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.(Romans 2:12-16 ESV)

 We Will be Judged by the Light We Have Received

“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” (Romans 2:12)

“Without the law” and “under the law” are broad descriptions of Gentiles and Jews. The people of Israel received God’s law in the Ten Commandments and others at Mt. Sinai. The Jews had the Torah, the Old Testament teachings of the law and the prophets. They were “under the law.” The Gentiles had none of this. What did they have? Back in chapter 1 we saw that all humans have God’s revelation through creation which tells us what God is like and is a sufficient testimony of truth about God that all men are without excuse.

The Gentiles are without the Old Testament law, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t sin. They still sinned but they sinned without as much knowledge of God’s will as the Jews. The Jews sinned “under the law” and therefore will be judged by the law. Both “perish.”

In Chapter 2, Paul is addressing Jews who hear about the judgment of God and think, we are ok. We have the Torah. We are God’s chosen people. I fear no judgment for I am a son of Abraham. Yet a quick look at the story of Israel described in the Old Testament is that they were moral scoundrels just like the pagan people around them. There’s plenty of sin to go around.

Paul wants all of us to realize that God is impartial toward Gentiles and Jews. He is no accepter of the face, even a Jewish face. For the Jews, who trusted in their status as having the law and being God’s people, will be judged by that very law. How? “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans 2:13)

Who are the hearers? Not Gentiles. They never heard the law. But Jews heard it from childhood. Jews heard it every day. Paul says that having the Torah and hearing the Torah doesn’t justify you before God. Doing it does. Is Paul creating an alternative way to God without Jesus and by obeying the law? Let me make it clear, that is exactly what he is saying. Did you know you can be saved by obeying the law? You can go to heaven by obeying the law. Obey the law and you will be justified forever. What is the problem? We cannot obey the law sufficiently to be justified before a holy God.

We Cannot Obey the Law’s External Requirements

These are the ones we typically focus on. You ask someone, how do you know I’m going to heaven? They will often say, I’ve never murdered anyone. I’ve never robbed a bank. I’ve never done ____________. These are external moral actions which have NOT been done. We like to focus on the capital offenses because these are easier to avoid. But even the Ten Commandments include honoring your father and mother. How did that go when you were two years old, much less 20? Or, you shall not covet your neighbor’s anything. Even the big 10 create problems for us as they include external and internal requirements.

We Cannot Obey the Law’s Internal Requirements

Never having an idol. Never coveting. Never being irreverent with God’s name. The Jews missed what Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount. That obedience to the law is not merely external but also internal. If you are angry with your brother, you murdered him in your heart. If you lust after a woman, you are having mental adultery with her. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was so revolutionary because he internalized the requirements of the law. If anyone was listening they would have thought, Uh-oh. I’m in trouble.

All People Will be Judged by God for Their Response to Light/Truth

“…and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.(Romans 2:15-16)

There is a day of reckoning coming for every one of us. We all will stand before God and be judged for our lives. Notice what is judged, “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

We like to think this will be like a pie or chili judging where the best pie makers of the county submit their finest pie. We are not judged by our finest moments. These are not things we have as secrets. Our secrets are our worst things. Our secrets are the things we hope nobody finds out about. Our secrets are the things we are most ashamed of. We all have them. The secret failures. The secret sins. Even as I say this, many of our minds go to that struggle in the past which we naturally hope never gets out.

Someday, it will get out. On Judgment Day it is brought out into the ultimate light of moral purity and is judged by God’s holy standard.

Where is this heading? “None is righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10). Here Paul deconstructs the argument of the religious person who rests assuredly in their possession of truth or ethnic relationship to the truth. Ethnicity doesn’t save even for Jews. Having revelation doesn’t save. What matters? Living perfectly according to the light of truth is what will save you. Here’s the problem. Nobody does. Nobody can. Nobody will.

When we began Romans, I noted that Paul doesn’t start with God’s love or God’s grace. He starts with God’s wrath. Why? Only by realizing how bad the bad news is can we revel in how good the good news is. What makes it wonderful is a full realization of what awaits us as all our sins, even the secret sins, are brought into the light of God’s holy gaze and judgment. What is the result?

“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law.” (Romans 2:12, emphasis added)

The word “perish” is very descriptive. It is not physical death, but eternal destruction. The result of final judgment is not merely the horror of having my secrets revealed and being judged by them; the ultimate horror is the eternal verdict and punishment forever apart from God in a place created by God as the just and right destiny for sins and sinners. It is called hell.

All this prepares the heart for chapter 3 where Paul will say, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22) Why is that wonderful? Because whether you are Gentile with a heart law or a Jew with the written law, all of us are condemned as sinners before God. By the time I get to 3:21 I think, there’s no hope. I’m bound for hell. What can I do?

The gospel of Jesus dying for me and providing a righteous standing for me on Judgment Day is the most wonderful thing I could even imagine. How do I sign up? Where do I go? What do I do? Just tell me because my sins are great. My secrets are the worst. There is a Savior for your secret sins. Jesus who died for your secret sins and all the rest of them. Believe in him. Believe now.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Sex: It’s About More Than You Think

What Sex is About

Every generation thinks they discovered sex or somehow improved it. Ironically, it is the oldest thing about us. Despite all these centuries, if you were to ask the average person on the street, what is sex about? I doubt they would have much more than a, “Dude, come on. It’s sex. Soooo, you know. Wild thing. Come on, bro.” “Sir, you haven’t really answered the question.” We are not the most sex-crazed society ever, but we’re close. In spite of the billions of sexual encounters happening every week, most are done ignorant of what it’s actually about. Do you know?

Protection

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:2–5 ESV)

This alone could be a whole message and I would explain these “rights” in the context of love, not demand. But see that God’s design for sex is hetero-sex and only-within-marriage sex. Paul emphasizes that sexual intimacy within marriage helps fight against sex outside of marriage. One critical reason married couples should take their sexual relationship very seriously is because it protects the fidelity of their marriage.

Your God Won’t Save You, But Jesus…

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:24–25 ESV)

Embrace the Lie: Something Other Than God Will Satisfy/Bring Meaning to Life

“Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” (Romans 1:25)

 When God created us, he wired our souls to live for something greater than ourselves. We all do. We are all living for something or someone. The Bible calls this worship. Whoever or whatever we look to for ultimate significance, comfort, and hope is our god. What is that for you?

The Greatest Explanation of our World…Ever

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21 ESV)

Last week Stephen Hawking died. Incredible mind. Incredible determination to do life from a wheelchair. Brilliant. Genius. Off the charts. But he denied the existence of God and sought to explain the universe without him. They named the movie about his life, The Theory of Everything. Hawking looked and looked, but ultimately didn’t find it.

When the truth is suppressed and the truth is denied, man has to live according to something. We were made to worship and if God isn’t our focus of worship, someone or something must take his place.

The Majesty of God and the Misery of Man

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18–20 ESV)

How Does God Speak to us Through Creation?

God is spirit. He is not physical. God is not part of his creation. That is known as pantheism and is practiced by Buddhists and Hindus. No. As amazing as creation is, it is not God. God created the universe as a separate reality from him.

Creation is the visible reflection of God’s invisible nature

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1–3)
  • “And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

How? How do the heavens “speak”? How is the earth full of his glory?

Here is where we must see creation like a mirror. If you’re standing in front of me and I pull out a mirror, I can look in the mirror and I can see you if I angle it right. You can see me. What am I actually seeing? I am seeing your reflection. That’s the word we use. Is what I am seeing you? No. What I am seeing is what you are like without it being you. The mirror communicates a sufficient amount of what you are like for me to say, I see you.

The mirror has tremendous limitations. It is only two-dimensional. You are three-dimensional. The image is much smaller than you are. It has no capacity for volume or weight. It can’t tell me anything about your internal organs, overall health, background, knowledge, loves, family history, and on and on. There is so much it doesn’t say, but it says a lot.

This universe is filled with billions of mirrors. They aren’t God, but they do reflect God. They are not all that he is. He is so much more than we could ever get from creation. But we get a lot from Creation about what God is like.

Here is where it gets a little sticky because it isn’t clear how we exactly “perceive” these things. That’s the world Paul uses. How do we discern God’s nature? Paul highlights two aspects. His power and divine nature. At least these two. Perhaps these are the easy ones. How do we discern God’s power by looking at creation? Have you ever watched a thunderstorm? Sat by a waterfall? Seen volcanoes erupt? Have you seen earthquakes or floods?

The scale of the universe is beyond even our modern technology knowing. The power within the creation still scares us. What happened when one atom was split over Hiroshima in 1945? The power in one atom is astounding. How many atoms are in the universe?

As many of you know, the beauty of creation and what it says to us is a favorite topic of mine. I have written one book in my life and it was on that subject. The title was, Eyes Wide Open. What do we see when we look into the world? Not just stuff, but astounding beauty.

If our eyes are wide open, what do we “perceive” from creation? There is a Creator. There is a God. He is powerful. He is beautiful to create such awesome beauty. God shouts through creation every day, I’m here and this is what I am like!

Still, how are we without excuse? We are going to hit this later in Romans, but part of creation is that God has given us a moral awareness. We call it a conscience. We are instinctively aware that we live in a moral universe. This is a mystery, but God has so wired us as image bearers that we are instinctively aware of a moral code to which we feel shame. That shame is universal among humans across all cultures and time. It creates that inward feeling that we are all aware of called “nakedness.” Adam and Eve connected that feeling of bodily shame to their first experience of sin. You are here with clothes on today because you are moral and whether you realize it or not, are living with a perception of moral accountability to your Creator. God is there. God is creative. God is powerful. God is moral. Yet, natural revelation has profound limitations.

Creation says enough to condemn us but not enough to save us

Like a mirror has limitations to communicate, creation does to. We become aware of God’s existence, his power, and our moral accountability. But I can stare at the stars all I want and I am not, on my own, going to conclude that God has a Son named Jesus who died on the cross and rose again on the third day. For me to get that, I need God’s Word about God’s Son and this will form the basis for Paul’s urgency about preaching the gospel. How else can we be saved? “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)

So, what about people who only see creation and never hear the gospel? I’d like to address this more later on in our series, but hopefully this will suffice for now. God holds us accountable to the light we receive. Creation gives some light as we have seen. Nobody can say, you didn’t tell me anything! God says, I was speaking every day.

Apparently, God punishes in degrees based on the truth we have access to and our level of response to it. Jesus said it would be better if Judas had never been born than to spend eternity as the one who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:24). Jesus said in Matthew 10:15 that it would be better to have been a citizen of wicked Sodom than a citizen of a town that rejected one of his disciples’ ministry. These and other places indicate levels of punishment even in hell.

Here is the sobering news. What you have heard by reading this today places you in the highest level of accountability forever. You have just today received far greater privilege and spiritual light than any remote tribesman. All he has is creation. Today, you have heard the gospel. You can follow this spiritual GPS right to the cross and be under God’s grace forever.

It is better to be an aborigine who never heard the gospel than to be you forever if you reject the gospel. It is better to be a remote tribesman in Ecuador than to be you forever IF you suppress the truth.

So what should you do if right now you can’t say, I repent and I believe? Yet there’s something in you that tells you, you are accountable for your life; you feel the weight of your responsibility to God and you suspect that heaven and hell are real.

Friend, ask this question, why did God make the whole universe reflect what he is like? Why did he give you a conscience? Why make the world astonishingly beautiful? There is only one conclusion—He wants you to know him! And…

God Wants to Save Us

In a few verses Paul writes, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) He doesn’t fill the world with mirrors to condemn us but to save us.

It’s like my girls when we play hide and seek. They are getting craftier now, but for a long time I would get done counting and say, “Ready or not, here I come!” And about two seconds later I’d hear, “Daddy, I’m over here!” They want to be found and they make noise so I can find them.

God is making massive noise so that you can find him. Do you dare pray, God, I may have missed you up to this point in my life, but I don’t want to miss out on you or your salvation. Help me. How many have found God by just that simple initial humble prayer…God, if you are there, won’t you save me? God is a saving God. He wants us to know him. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins to save us. Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

We move from magnificent mirrors to genuine faith and trust in Jesus dying for the sins of my life. Would you like to be included in that? God is speaking. Are you listening?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here