“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. “Every mouth may be stopped.” (Romans 3:19) The scene is like a courtroom where such overwhelming evidence is presented so that the accused has nothing to say. Or like a mother who finds her child with a face full of chocolate yet denying any culpability for the cake or cookies being gone. Did you do this?
In my time as a pastor I have had a few instances where I am in the room as overwhelming evidence of adultery or theft is presented. I’ve seen the head drop as the person realizes their gig is up; there are no more excuses or lies that can be said. They have nothing to say. We all stand before God as guilty. The law shuts our mouths.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) There’s much more on this in Romans, but suffice it to say that the reason no human being will be justified by the Law is that no human being can do it. The Law condemns us, but it can’t save us. There is none righteous, no not one.
But Pastor Steve, you entitled your post, “None Righteous Before God, Only One.” Why? If we stopped at 3:20 we’re all under condemnation. We are all under God’s wrath. We are all rightly judged as sinners, and we are all going to hell.
Here we are going to just glimpse to the next verse as verse 21 is one of the great moments in the New Testament. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21–22)
This the best news we could ever hear. A righteousness is available apart from the Law which is great because our depravity makes the Law a no-go. We desperately need an alternative route. An alternative righteousness. God provides it through his Son Jesus Christ.
What is the laser line? It’s the Law on my heart. And what does it do? It condemns. It doesn’t save me. It condemns me as being guilty. But what did Jesus do? Jesus perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the Law—He was the only one—and then he died under the Law for my guilt. He took the punishment we deserved. He met the plumb line on my behalf and then says all who trust in me, I will forgive your sins. And I’ll do so forever. It’s so simple. This is why the gospel is called good news. Great news!
Salvation doesn’t come by doing, but rather comes by trusting. It comes by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, God’s son. God’s saving message is to stop all our efforts to earn a salvation by a Law we can’t fulfill and trust in Jesus who did what we never could. By trusting in Jesus, God declares us righteous despite our sins. He gives us what all our moral efforts never could. Righteous standing before a holy God forever. And with it, eternal life.
This Mother’s Day, like so many other days, has Christian mothers praying for their young children and adult children, hoping that they will embrace the Christian gospel, trust in Jesus, and be granted eternal life. How about you? Will you trust in Jesus today?
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