What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is as an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; 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 says to those that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and that all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law will no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Father, as we take time this morning to look into Your word, we pray, as we always do, that You would give us wisdom and understanding. Jesus, You promised that You would give us the Spirit of truth who would guide us in all truth, and teach us all things; and so we ask that You would do just that today. Continue to transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we would be a representation of what is Your good and perfect will in this world, Lord. Help us to shine brightly against the dark backdrop of the lostness of this world, that Your glory would be seen Lord. Not that we would be esteemed, or puffed up, but that You would be seen for who You are, how great You are. Lord, that You would be worshipped and adored by the world. We ask this is Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
It is an unfortunate reality, in a fallen world, that evil runs rampant. The reminders of that rampant run of evil are continuously evident. Sadly, there have been many mornings in my life, and perhaps you can relate to this, many mornings since Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, where I’ve woken up almost expecting to turn on the news to find out that something terrible has happened in the world. Now there are always terrible things happening, because of the run of evil in this world, but there are times when things are apparent to all, where it is so very clear that evil runs continuously rampant. And so this last Friday morning was just one of those mornings, unfortunately. We are beginning to learn more about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there in Connecticut, in Newtown, Connecticut. And, I don’t know about you, but I feel that I already know more than I want to know about what happened there. Terrible, terrible event that took place on Friday morning. Wicked tragedies such as this one are all the more difficult when the crime is against children. And this was almost completely against children. And then it is even more difficult when you actually have children or grandchildren that are somewhere in that same age range; it affects you at a deep level when you see the things that happen. It boggles my mind that anyone would argue against the existence of evil. There are people in our society today who question whether or not there is such a thing as evil that exists. They’ll say that, “Well people, some people do bad things, but it’s because of they’re upbringing, or it’s because of, you know, something has happened.” The reality is is that this reveals that there is evil; it brings evil to the forefront. Such circumstances reveal even, that, not only is there evil, but it reveals that we are hardwired towards justice. Because when see something like this, that has taken place, we call for, we desire that there would be justice. We were created in the image of God, and we have been imprinted with a desire for justice, when we see things like what took place. We are filled with a righteous anger, when these sort of things happen, when we see devastating evil in our world. We find ourselves agreeing with the apostle Paul, in the last words of verse 8 of Romans, chapter 3, a verse that we finished with last week. Just look at the last few words of that verse; it says there, “Their condemnation is just.” Another way of reading that is, “Their damnation is just, it’s right.” And so those that commit such abominable acts deserve damnation, I mean, there is a part in our hearts that recognizes that. Because, as I said, we’ve been imprinted with a desire for justice; justice is justly deserved when we see something like this.
Now my first thought Friday, as I began to read some of the reports that were coming out, I started thinking to myself, “Anyone who commits such an act like this, especially upon a child, is a coward,” someone that would do something like this. And I uttered those words to Pastor Josh; I was working on something in one of the offices here, and he came in, and “Hey, what’s going on?” And I told him that, and he said, “It reminds me of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 8; would you turn there just briefly: Revelation 21, last book of the Bible, you can turn there as if you’re an authority on scripture. Revelation 21; Revelation is just that, it is the revelation of Jesus Christ, it’s the revealing of Christ at His second coming. This is yet future; this has not come to pass; at least that’s what we believe here. Revelation, chapter 21, verse 8; it says there, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” That is the justly deserved destiny, the justly deserved destiny of the wicked. This is what John, as he reveals, the revelation of what is to come, and he sees what is described by the scriptures as the second death; where death and hell are cast into this lake that burns with fire. It’s some amazing word pictures there. He’s just trying to describe what it is that he sees, as that which he is instructed to do: write what you see and what you hear. And so he sees this, and he says, “This is what I saw. It was a lake that burns with fire.” And he says that “those cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars, they shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire.” That’s the justly deserved destiny of the wicked. Now, for certain, that which took place on Friday morning, at the hand of a cowardly murderer, is utterly demonic. Recognize this: it is demonic. In the gospel of John, John, chapter 8, Jesus reveals this in verse 44, where He says that the devil, he was a murderer from the beginning, and those who follow in such acts, they are of their father the devil. And so, any sort of wickedness like what we saw this last Friday morning, or what has taken place at other schools – Virginia Tech and Columbine, or what took place there on 9/11, as people flew airplanes into buildings – that’s demonic; it’s just absolute wickedness from the devil. And when we see these things , when you see murder like that, we need to recognize that it is an assault upon God Himself. Because we’re created in the image and likeness of God, and so when the enemy brings about murderous action to kill human beings, it is him assaulting God; seeking to come against God’s creation, that created in His image and likeness. This is exactly what is revealed in Genesis, chapter 9, verse 6, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” So, we are created in the image of God, and murder is an assault on God Himself. And so we see, murder runs rampant in our fallen world because the enemy, our adversary, the devil, is seeking to steal and kill and to destroy anything that images God. He’s trying to destroy God’s glory. So, when you see these things take place, recognize that it is just the manifestation of a spiritual battle. Wars and rumors of wars, and people doing things like this, it is a manifestation of a spiritual battle; that the enemy, our adversary, the devil, is seeking to destroy and assault God. And he does so by seeking to destroy the pinnacle of God’s creation – man created in God’s image.
Now please understand, what I am about to say is not intended in any way to make light of the wickedness that took place this last Friday, or the just damnation that shall befall all such sin. But damnation upon such wickedness, it is just, but notice what Paul proceeds to say in verse 9, the text that we have before us today, Romans, chapter 3, verse 9: “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.” What happened last Friday, it is an example of what happens when a fallen, evil world is allowed to move forward unrestrained. It reveals evil, we see evil very clearly manifested there in what took place in Connecticut. But what we’re seeing there is just the fallen heart of humanity, the fallen heart of man, allowed to move forward unrestrained. And so, the murderous deed that has brought grief upon our entire nation, in what is to be a joyful season, this is to be a time of great joy and rejoicing, as we’re celebrating the Advent, the first coming of Christ the King; and now, as a nation, there’s a wound upon our nation as a whole, most specifically in that state and in that county where it took place, in Connecticut, that has brought just terrible grief. But it is the result of the sinful heart. What took place is the unrestrained manifestation of the fallen, sinful heart. And when an individual is unrestrained, they are capable of unbelievable, unimaginable evil. And we have history to bare this out; we can look back and see what man can formulate when he’s unrestrained. Probably the most clear picture of unrestrained evil is what took place in the Second World War. And when we look at what happened in Western Europe, predominately there in Germany, and in Poland at the hands of a man who was, he had the same evil, wicked heart that all humanity does, but in some way, he was unrestrained by conscience, or by law. And because of the position that he held, he had the ability to dictate what law should be, and so there was a rewriting of law, and so as a result, there was no restraining influence. And you see what takes place when an individual is unrestrained. When an individual is unrestrained, when their conscience has been seared, as with a hot iron, when they’ve been unhinged from moral responsibility, they no longer have the law of God upon them, they are lawless; this is the result. This is what happens in a fallen world, when you have fallen individuals because of a sinful, wicked heart, and they’re unrestrained. The conscience is gone, it doesn’t tell them, “No, don’t do that,” any longer, because they have warred against their conscience continually. It’s become seared, as with a hot iron. And then we, in our own nation, and these are contributing factors, I’m not going to blame this entirely on this, but just contributing factors, is that we live in a nation where we have instructed people to believe that there is no God, that there is no moral Lawgiver, that they just evolved from nothing and will go to nothing. And so there’s no moral influence upon them, to say, “Thou shall not.” And so we see the result. We’ve sown to the wind, and we’re reaping it, as a people.
Now, when we consider that, in the context of what is asked here, “What then? Are we better than they?” by Paul, we need to recognize that you and I, if unrestrained, this is exactly what we might do. Because every one of us are capable of this kind of wickedness, when there’s no conscience holding it back, restraining it; when we allow ourselves to walk in lawlessness, we are all capable of this. Now, we have a hard time believing that; because when you see something like this, you just can’t imagine ever that even crossing your mind. But, again, you have a conscience that God has given to you, that hasn’t been seared with a hot iron. You have the law of God given to you upon your heart, because you’re born again, God’s placed His law on your heart, so you have this influence of God’s law, and a recognition, “Thou shall not!” But if those weren’t there, we are capable of unimaginable evil. Why is that? Well Paul says, there at the end of verse 9, “We have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.” All of humanity, whether descendents of Abraham or not, are under the power and influence of sin. And sin is powerful. And sin destroys. All humanity is under the power and influence of sin, whether you possess the law of God, and are therefore restrained by it or not. We are all under the power of sin. The wicked actions of the hedonist, that we read back in Romans, chapter 1, specifically verses 18 through 32, those wicked actions are resident in the heart of the person who has a moral code; they’re resident in the heart of a person who has religion, a codified set of ethics handed down to them, it’s in all of our hearts. They’re just restrained in the hearts of the moralist or the religionist; they’re just held down or held back, because of the conscience, or because of a religious code, a set of ethics given – the letter of the law. But if the restraint of the letter, if the code is removed, then we would sin just the same. There’d be nothing keeping us back from absolute evil. Because all wickedness, as Jesus describes, and remember, this is God’s indictment, this is God’s revelation, when Jesus is speaking, it is God incarnate who’s speaking, He says, “Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts and murders and adultery,” all this stuff comes out of the heart. “It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him.” Now, I will say, what a person puts into their life, through what they take in by their eyes and their ears, those things can diminish their capacity or their conscience to restrain them. When we examine some of the worst serial killers of this world and some of the things they’ve put into their minds and into their hearts, most specifically pornography. And how the repeated warring against the conscience through what they’ve put in has diminished it to a point that they are unrestrained, and you see the results of unrestrained evil; it begins to be manifested. But that evil is resident in every fallen heart.
We have a hard time with this though; especially in the face of such overwhelmingly evident evil that we see around us. And we live in a day and age where, I was just thinking about this the other day, if we lived 100 years ago, what took place in Connecticut, we probably wouldn’t have heard about it for weeks. But now it’s in an instant; and we’re getting all kinds of misinformation because so much information is coming at once. They’re trying to decipher; there’s just this dissonance of information that comes flooding in constantly; people sending tweets, people sending e-mails, people putting stuff on Facebook, all kinds of calls going back and forth, and there’s just tons of information, and things tripped over one another, I mean on Friday there was just all kinds of crazy things that were coming out. You’re going, “What is true, what is not true?” But it causes this just total overbearing feeling of, “Oh my goodness. I have to just completely check out for a minute. I just don’t even want to look at it.” And so when we’re confronted with it, we just go, “I just don’t know that it’s really true, that we’re all capable of such things.” But we are. The scriptures reveal this. This is what God is saying about us. This is who we really are, at our core.
Now, I realize we’re a week and a half from Christmas, and you’re saying, “What’s this for a Christmas message?” I’m getting there, trust me. You see, the Advent, the Advent of Christ the Messiah rights these wrongs. That is our hope, church. More legislation against guns, not going to do it. Although there’s many people beginning to call for that. I mean, all kinds of things; you know, “Let’s put more metal detectors on every elementary school; let’s put armed guards at elementary schools. What are…all that stuff’s not…let’s put bulletproof glass; and you know what, let’s put panic rooms at school, so that if there’s an event, all the students can go into a panic room and close it…” These are the things we’re going to see that are going to be the answers for this kind of stuff that we see. That will not restrain evil. It might in some way keep it from your door, but it does not restrain evil. Christ Jesus is the only One who rights such wrongs by the gospel. A nation such as ours, that sees the devastating affects of evil, must recognize that the only thing that can bring it about is the influence of the gospel, the transformation. I read an article the other day, it said that crime such as this has increased by 460% since 1960. Interesting. 1960. There’s some interesting things that happened, began to happen in 1960 – the removal of prayer, the removal of the scriptures from schools, a lack of instruction that “Thou shalt not!!” The gospel has power; even upon those who do not fully accept it, the gospel still has power and influence where it goes. So we see the affects of lawlessness. It’s very, very clear. You don’t have to look very far. And we’re confronted with it continually. And sometimes more so than others; more so, because the size of it, the scale of it is so big that it impacts us in a great way. And that’s what happened this last Friday.
And so, in thinking about these things, I find myself actually thanking God for the law; “Thank You God for the law.” Why? Because the law has a restraining influence. Praise God for that restraining influence of the conscience. Now, in Romans, chapter 1, we saw that the hedonist, as he walks down the path of sin, as he continues to move away from God, he comes to a point where he says, “I don’t even want to retain God in my knowledge. I want to get rid of my conscience.” There’s a point, as we walk down the path of sin, where people don’t like their conscience, because they don’t want to feel bad for what their doing. And that’s a scary place to be in. But that’s what we see; that’s what we see; that is the affect of sin. That’s what happens as we continually walk in sin, in the lusts of our flesh. Humanity would have destroyed itself long ago if it hadn’t been for the restraining influence of God’s conscience that He’s imprinted upon us. We’d be gone; we’d be toast, long ago – extinct, if it weren’t for the restraining influence of the conscience. And God’s law spoke it in.
Now, although we may have a hard time admitting the depths of the wickedness resident in our own hearts, the scriptures reveal it as reality, and that’s what Paul focuses on here in verses 10 through 18 of Romans, chapter 3. He takes us back to the Old Testament, the revelation of God, for supporting proof. And he references a number of different passages, mostly from the Psalms; one or two from the prophets, from Jeremiah. And so he says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’” Now again, does our culture believe this? No. Our culture kicks against this, says, “That’s just not truth.” But this is God’s indictment. This is God’s revelation. He’s saying, “This is My evaluation of humanity; as I look at humanity, in their fallen state, because they’re so fallen they can’t even recognize the depths of the depravity of their own heart.” Jeremiah, says, in Jeremiah, chapter 17, verse 9, “The heart of man is desperately wicked; who can know it?” God is the One who knows it, because verse 10 says, “He searches the heart.” So God knows the depths of the wickedness of our hearts, in a way that even we don’t understand. Now, one of the amazing things that God does, because He’s transforming us, by the renewing of our minds, those who have come to Christ, as we’re going to see in this very book, the book of Romans. Those who have come to Christ, they’re not instantly made perfect. I mean how many would like that, if that were true? I mean, that’d be great. But it’s just not true. And we know that weren’t not instantly made perfect; but God is transforming us by the renewing of our minds. And one of the ways that God does this, is by continually revealing to us the depths of the wickedness of our own hearts. So, He puts us in trying circumstances. See if you can relate to this, if you’ve ever experienced this. He places us in trying circumstances, the testing of your faith, James talks about it; Paul talks about it in Romans, chapter 5, as well; we’ll get there shortly. He puts us in trying circumstances; He brings difficult people into our lives, anybody ever had one of those? We all do; maybe two or three, right? You might be married to that person, who God placed in your life to reveal it. I don’t know. And this person, just their personality, the way they see the world, the way react to different things; it causes anger to come up…from the heart, it’s already there! You can’t say, “They’re making me angry!” No. They’re just exposing what’s in your heart. They’re not doing anything. They’re just living; and by their living, they’re exposing anger; it’s coming up. And you’re going, “A-a-h-h! There it is.” Anger, in the heart, it’s there! Or maybe not anger; maybe lust. Maybe something is allowed to pass before your eyes, a test; causes covetousness and lust to come up. And you may say, “Well, they shouldn’t dress that way!! They’re making me…!!” No, it’s there. It’s in the heart. It’s revealing what’s in the heart that needs to be put to death. So God’s just using these things, allowing these things to bring it to the surface so that He, who already knows it’s there, can reveal it to us, because we don’t think it’s there. So that we can confess it to Him, and ask Him to remove it from us; and this is a process. Once He begins to remove it, it’s not something that’s gone immediately. But, as we dedicate ourselves unto Him, “Lord, we want to sanctify ourselves unto You.” That means we’re going to consecrate, we’re going to make ourselves “unto You only.” And as we do that, using the spiritual disciplines that God has given to us in His word, then we see the transformation in our lives. But God allows those things to come to the surface, and sometimes it amazes even us, how those things come to the surface. Sometimes we’re shocked by the depths of our own hearts. But God’s not shocked; and He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us, as we confess our sins unto Him, as we come to Him, agreeing with Him, that what is there, in hearts, is in our hearts and it is wicked before Him.
So, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.” Now this doesn’t leave room for a few righteous. We’d like to think it so, don’t we? “There is NONE righteous, except for those at 1675 Seven Oakes Road, 92026.” That’s this place, by the way. None righteous, no, not one. “There’s none who understands.” This understanding that we’re talking about here has to do with the understanding of righteousness. “None who seeks after God. All have turned aside; all are therefore become unprofitable; none who does good.” Paul is quoting here from the Psalms, Psalm 14 or Psalm 53, they say the same things. Psalm 14, verse 2 says this, “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men;” so God is looking upon humanity; “to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.” So this is God’s evaluation of humanity. And the context of this passage in the Psalms, the psalm written by King David, is God is even looking upon His own people, the nation of Israel; those who He gave His law, who descended from Abraham. And He says, “There’s none righteous, no, not one. They’ve all turned aside. They’ve together become unprofitable.” That means they have nothing, in and of themselves, valuable; because they are wholly and completely given over to sin. No one is innocent. All humanity is without rightness; no one is holy; no one is just. He goes one, verse 13, “Their throat is as an open tomb; their tongues,” this is Romans, chapter 3, verse 13, “their tongues, with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of venomous snakes, asps, is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Jesus said, in Luke, chapter 6, verse 45, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Have you ever said something that, as it’s coming out of your mouth, you wish you could like…grab it? “Where did that come from?!” …the heart. It was there, it was resident there, but… Conceived and birthed in the heart of humanity, ushering forth through the lips. Collectively, humanity spews forth poisonous lies and cursing bitterness. Our throats are filled with deceit, and death, and dying. And we’re not just talking about bad breath here. Deceit, and death, and dying come forth from our lips. Why? Because it’s already resident in our hearts. These things are just coming forth from the wicked, fallen heart of man. Deceit, poisonous cursing and bitterness. It’s all there.
Verse 15, Romans, chapter 3, “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; the way of peace they have not known.” Now, there’s a progression here, from verses 10 through 17; perhaps you see that progression. The sick wickedness of man’s heart; it’s already resident in his fallen heart. And then we are all unrighteous to the core; and our unrighteousness, it proceeds out of our mouths. We conceive these things in our hearts and our thoughts, and they come forth from our mouths, and then we begin to act according to these things. We begin to walk in this, “their feet are swift to shed blood.” We are quick to run after evil, to pursue it. And if unrestrained, that’s exactly what we’ll do. I mean, every one of us, hopefully I’m not the only one, but every one of us have had this thought, where someone is saying or doing or whatever, in our presence, and in our minds we have this thought, “I’d love to just cold cock you right now.” Has it ever crossed your mind? Come on, please tell I’m not, your pastor, the only one. Okay. Someone just saying something, just like, “Your mouth needs to be stopped, and I’m gonna stop it!” And if it wasn’t for the restraining influence of the conscience or the law, like, “No, that’s gonna get me into some trouble, I won’t do that. I’ll just… Okay! 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. W-w-w-o-o-o. Count to 10. Incorporate the theology of Thumper; ‘if you don’t have nothin’ nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’” Come on…Bambi? So, we have these certain stop signs, if you will. Sometimes we treat them like yield signs; kind of do the rolling California stop. But, if unrestrained, this would be our response. I mean, could you imagine if you had no restraint? I don’t know if you’ve ever met that kind of person, who just says what comes to their mind. It’s amazing; they’re normally from back east, like New York, but they… That’s for Pastor Eric; there’s an amazing divide between the left coast and the right coast. But “their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways.” What that means is: they leave a trail of destruction and misery behind them; those that are not restrained.
“The way of peace they have not known.” We don’t know the way of peace. Why? Well peace, this kind of peace that is spoken of here, of course this is written originally in the Greek, but if we take the concept of it, and we go back to Old Testament, we think of concept of what’s called shalom; the Hebrew concept of peace. The Hebrew concept of peace is not just the cessation of violence. You see, you can have the cessation of violence and still not have peace. Meaning, you can have, like a ceasefire, which is what we’re constantly looking for in Jerusalem, and Israel, and Palenstine, there. We say, “We want a cessation of violence, let’s have some sort of peace talks.” Jimmy Carter did it, Bill Clinton did it, and we still have problems. Right? There’s still no peace; because we’re not experiencing what is called shalom there. Now, for periods of time, you may have a ceasefire. Right now we’re having something of a ceasefire over there; a temporary ceasefire. Let’s just stop hostilities for a while. But is there anybody in this room, or in the world that thinks that that’s going to continue, for good? You’re fooling yourself if you think it is. But shalom runs down, not just to cessation of violence, but it runs down to every aspect of society; transforming society, at the core. And we don’t know the way of peace because it’s completely foreign to us. It only comes from God. Now the awesome thing is, is that in salvation, one of the things that we can experience is peace. And I say that we can experience, is because it’s not the default reality of the Christian experience. How so? Well, in the gospel of John, John, chapter 16, Jesus says, “In the world you will have much trouble.” In the same passage, He says, “In Me you might have peace.” He is the source of peace, and we can experience this peace only in Him. And so what our world is longing for, and looking for, this shalom, which we’ll talk about more when we get into the new year, because we’re going to describe some of it in other passages of scripture. But this peace that our world is longing for, and looking for, the only source of it is Jesus Christ; the only place where it’s found is in Him. So whether they want to verbalize it or not, or whether they agree with it or not, the reality is the only place where it’s found is in Jesus. And the church is to be the visible representation of this peace; it’s to be seen in us. So we’re going to be looking at this when we get into some of the other passages of Romans, say, “Is it evident in us, and how can it be evident in us, if it’s not evident in us?” Because we want this peace of God to be evident in us, because what an awesome witness to a world that’s longing for it; revealing that it’s only found in Him.
Now, “the way of peace they have not known.” Why is that? Verse 18, I think, is an answer: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The way of peace is not known because there is no reverence, there’s no fear of God before their eyes. Now, one of the ways that we like to diminish the severity of the power of God is by changing the definition of “the fear of God,” to just be like, “we revere Him, we honor Him.” That is true, we should honor Him. But at the same time, we should flat fear Him; we should flat fear Him. Why? He has the power, not only to destroy our body, but our soul in hell eternally. Now, He is merciful, and He is gracious, but He has power that is awesome. So we should rightly fear Him, for who He is. Now a great illustration of this kind of fear, this reverential fear for His power is one that Pastor Richard used many years ago, and I just think it’s a great, great illustration that reveals this. Imagine you have a young high school couple, and mom and dad are gone from the girlfriend’s house, and they’re over there, and they begin to do some things they shouldn’t be doing. It’s dark; and then the lights of dad’s car brush across the window. That feeling, in the guy’s heart, THAT’S FEAR!! That’s reverence and fear all packaged up tightly in a nice little emotion. That’s good. So it’s us, in the place of walking in unrighteousness, and we have a revelation of the righteousness of God. We see the lights of who He is, and it should cause in us an awesome fear, for who He is.
Now verse 19, Paul changes gears, no longer quoting from the old covenant, he says this, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law;” verse 9, we saw 10 verses earlier, we are under sin, all humanity is under sin, now he says, “we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law.” Who is under the law? All of humanity is under the law, whether or not they possess Deuteronomy or the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible), whether or not they possess it, they are under the covering of God’s law. They’re under it. So His law has power over them – jurisdiction, jurisdictional power. So, whatever the law says, it’s speaking to them, because they’re under it. Now this begins to bring us, and Paul describes here, what is the purpose of the law. He’s just revealed the description of man’s utter lostness, in verses 10 through 18; this is the evaluation of God, who is the Lawgiver, looking upon humanity; His indictment; He says, “This is how you are; here’s My law. You’re all under this law; none of you are righteous; none of you are outside of that, that none is righteous.” And so now he speaks of the purpose of it. The law speaks to those who are under the law, all humanity is under the law, therefore the law has a word for us. It has a word for humanity, and the word is this: “There is none righteous.” Now the law is good; Romans, chapter 7, verse 12 says, “The law is holy, just, and good.” So it exposes it, reveals righteousness, and when you see righteousness on display, then in contrast to that, it shows us unrighteousness. Makes sense? So, here’s the law, it’s holy, just, and good, and when the law is put forth – here’s the law, and here’s us – we see that we are not holy, just, and good…at all. “None righteous, no, not one.” So the law is holy, just, and good; it reveals what is right, before God, and the purpose of the law is exposing error. Look at the end of verse 19, “that every mouth may be stopped, and that all the world may become guilty before God.” So, the word stopped here means cornered, or fenced in. So, it says, if you’re giving forth your excuses, “The devil made me do it. It was my upbringing, my parents, society, it was evil, it was bad.” And God says, “Here’s my law,” and all of a sudden…silence; “every mouth may be stopped, and everyone will become guilty before the law, before God.” So, the law was given to stop our excuses, and reveal our guilt before a holy God. “Therefore,” he says in verse 20, “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” So the law was given to expose sin; it cannot make you righteous. See the law did not fail in Israel, Israel failed to understand what the law was intended for, and they started to take the law and say, “Well if we just follow this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, then we’re going to be okay. But those ones that we have a hard time following, we just don’t talk about those so much. We do these ones, and this one, and this one, and this one, we’re okay.” And so they tried to justify themselves by the law; tried to make themselves righteous by the law. But that was never the intended purpose of God’s law. God’s law was not given to make us righteous. It was given to expose righteousness, and by exposing righteousness, reveal error. And so, we cannot make ourselves righteous by the keeping of the law, because you cannot keep the law perfectly. The law is so weighty, the law is so awesome; the realities of God’s law, it just makes it impossible for anyone to keep it. And that’s actually the purpose of the law, to show us that it’s impossible for us to keep it. We cannot do the law. And so it’s to make us guilty before God. So then, if you or I seek to be made righteous by the law, it’s just not possible. For by the law, is the knowledge of sin. It reveals that we are in error, so that we can see the Righteous One. Because Jesus, as the gospels say, He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. So He comes to be the One that all the Law and the Prophets point to, and say, “There He is! There you’re not; there He is.” And so the law is our schoolmaster, leading us to Christ, Paul says in the book of Galatians. It shows us how lost we are.
Now, we don’t have to look very far to see the lostness of our society. I mean just read the news, watch the news on TV; look at all around us, and we see the lostness of our society. The problem is that we often judge ourselves by the lostness of our society. And so we look how lost our society is, and then we look at ourselves and say, “Well I’m not doing those things, and so I’m okay, because I’m not doing those things. And as long as I don’t do those things, I’m going to be okay before God.” And God says, “No, no, no, no, let Me show you my Law; this is My standard. The standard’s not those bad people out there, because that’s a really pitiful standard.” I mean; you can always find someone worse off than you. Always; even in the church. Right? I mean your own pastor just confessed that sometimes I feel like hitting someone. That’ll be cut out of my message, I’m sure. So…cut out and used against me, I mean…edited out. So, we recognize that “we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” This is what we see in verse 23, where we’re going to be next week in our study, because next week, what we begin to see, as we have the backdrop of our lostness here, we the Advent of the One who brings righteousness, not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight. And that is the glorious story of Christmas. You see, Christmas is about the coming of Christ; the One who brings about righteousness, apart from the law. Look at verse 21, this is like a movie trailer for next week, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets;” the Law and the Prophets point to it. There it is, there’s the righteousness, it’s revealing righteousness, “even the righteousness of God, through faith in,” WHO? It’s Christmas. The coming of the One that make righteous; the coming of the One who brings shalom; that is, the righting of all that is wrong. It is only found in Him. That’s why we adore Him. He’s the only One to be adored. He makes things new. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; because this is a fallen world. And oh how we need His righteousness. Amen?
Let’s stand together.
Father, thank You for Your word, which is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. Lord, we thank You that, in the midst of terrible, terrible tragedy, You remain on the throne, and what we see in our world heightens the expectation of Your second coming; what we see happening in our world, it lifts up the reality that what is needed is Your good news, the gospel. So God, give us a passion for the gospel; give us a passion, especially this week and next, as we are preparing to celebrate Your first coming, Your Advent; give us a passion to share the realities of the gospel; that Your coming, as the King of kings, the Prince of peace, the Prince of shalom, Your coming ushers in what the law could never do. Because the law was only intended to reveal sin. So God, give us a passion for the gospel; give us a desire to share it with others. Because Lord, You have given to us the only thing that is a cure for sin. Work in us that which is good to Your glory, we pray in Jesus’ name.