The Final Arguments.

The inventor of the weather vane said its purpose is to remind us that human nature is fickle. Similarly, this first section of Romans is a reminder of our character. It is uncomfortable truth to be reminded of, but it is for our help, encouragement, and learning.

Human nature is at best broken, and in reality, spiritually dead. God reaches out to sinners through creation, conscience, and Scripture, but we lack the ability to understand let alone respond on our own. Believers can rejoice while we rehearse where we once were, because we know where God has brought us now.

Three Views of Human Nature
  1. Mankind is generally or innately good.
  2. Mankind is spiritually sick. Nobody can claim perfection, but this is a temporary state of affliction. We can heal ourselves. Most people think we can fix this imbalance by doing good works.
  3. Mankind is spiritually dead (Genesis 2:17). No one can accept this truth without God's help. This is humanly irreversible. We cannot hear or act on spiritual truth.

Alva J. McClain divides Romans 3:9-20 into three sections: God's final charge against humanity, the divine indictment, and the divine verdict.

Final Charge (Romans 3:9)

Jews in this verse represent all religious people, and Gentiles represent all who are not religious. But no one is better than any other person. Two questions draw attention to God's final charge:

Divine Indictment (Romans 3:10-18)

This section repeats 3 Old Testament texts, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, and Ecclesiastes 7:20. Fourteen counts of guilt can be summarized in three categories:

  • Mankind is sinful in nature (Romans 3:10-12). It's not that people can't do good things from time to time, but no one is perfect. Even being 90% good does not count. Just a few degrees difference in direction yields a very different destination over time. Human nature will eventually reveal its bad core, and we cannot do anything about it. The natural person has an inability to comprehend spiritual issues. Any interest in spiritual things, misguided or otherwise, may be God's Spirit drawing people to Himself.
  • Mankind is sinful in communication (Romans 3:13-14). The words of sinful people never have a neutral influence on society. Words can unleash death. Mankind is incapable of being completely honest. Even those who don't talk are sinful in their thoughts.
  • Mankind is sinful in action (Romans 3:15-18). Violence and destruction are the outgrowth of our nature. There is no way we can obtain peace with God on our own. All 14 counts against humanity are summed up in verse 18: "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Divine Verdict (Romans 3:19-20)

There is no law capable of saving a person. Even human laws are impossible to attain. The purpose of any law is to show that we cannot keep it.

Application Points

  • Whether you are religious or not doesn't matter; all people are still guilty of sin before God. Believer, let this be a reminder: even after salvation, our old nature never departs. There is still nothing innately good about us apart from the Spirit.
  • Those who have been born again are the mouthpiece of the Gospel to those who are dead in their sins. Any interest in spiritual things, misguided or otherwise, could be God's Spirit drawing people to Himself. Instead of being frustrated with silly questions or outraged at inaccurate statements, be excited to take opportunities to tell these people about Jesus.

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: "Not What My Hands Have Done"

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Thy grace alone, O God, to me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone, O Son of God, can this sore bondage break.
No other work save Thine, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

Quotes to Ponder

"Man is condemned in what he is, his nature; he is condemned in what he says, his words; and he is condemned in what he does, his actions."

— James Montgomery Boice