Seriously, NONE are Righteous (Romans 3:1-20)

Main Idea: Even when we’re unfaithful, God’s promise stands.

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I want to begin by telling a story about promises. All names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual events, to persons living or dead, is entirely not coincidental, but completely arbitrary.

Imagine with me that there’s a man named Donald and a woman named Nancy who, when they first got married, made certain strange promises to one another. Nancy asked her new husband, “Will you promise to never lie to me about liking my cooking?” Donald thought about it for a second, and said, “Yes. I promise, but only if you’ll promise me to never look in this box that I’m putting under our bed. It’s important to me that you never look inside it.” Nancy thought it was kind of a strange promise, but since it was important to him, and since he already promised not to lie about whether he liked her cooking, she promised.

Fast forward 20 years, and in all their 20 years of marriage, Donald always told Nancy how much he loved her cooking, and Nancy was so happy about it, that she never once looked into the box under the bed. However, on the afternoon of their 20th anniversary, curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box and peeked inside, and she saw that in the box there were 3 empty soda cans and $1,874.25 in cash.

After dinner, Nancy could no longer contain her guilt and she confessed, saying, “I’m so sorry. For all these years I kept my promise and never looked in the box under our bed. However, today the temptation was too much and I gave in. But now I just need to know: why do you keep the empty cans in the box?”

Donald thought for a while and said, “I guess that after all these years you deserve to know the truth. Whenever I lied to you about your cooking, I put an empty soda can in the box under the bed to remind myself not to do it again.”

Nancy was shocked and disappointed, and said, “I’m very sad that you lied to me, but I guess after all these years, three times is not that bad to not enjoy my cooking.” So they hugged and made their peace.

A little while later, Nancy asked Donald, “So why do you have all that money in the box?” Donald answered, “Well, whenever the box filled up with empty cans, I took them to the recycling center and redeemed them for cash!”

Well, I’ve made a lot of promises in my life, and I’ve broken a lot of promises. I don’t know how old I was, but at one point, I remember that I promised my mom that when I grew up, I’d give her a huge trash bag stuffed full of money. Several times a year, I promise myself that I’m going to eat healthier and exercise more. And I don’t even know how many times I’ve promised God that I would be faithful.

And I’ve proven over and over again that I’m not very good at keeping my promises. Even though I always had good intentions in promising all these things, I’ve shown myself over and over again to be a liar.

Well we’ve seen so far in the book of Romans how everyone without exception is deserving of God’s wrath. God doesn’t show favoritism to anyone for any reason, so therefore all are condemned, because all have sinned.

You see, God doesn’t lie, and in addition to all the promises that we like in the Bible, God has promised many times throughout Scripture that the soul that sins shall surely die.

But this should cause us to pause and ask: what about the Jews? On the one hand, we know that they’re sinners just like us, because all have sinned. But on the other hand, God gave them some very specific promises.

In the Old Testament, God chose the Jews as His people. He declared that He would bless them and show His favor to them and through them to all the world. So how can we say that God’s wrath is even upon the Jews? I mean, if anyone deserves God’s favor, it would be them, because God literally promised it to them.

Our passage addresses this question in two parts, so let’s read the first part first and the second part second. Romans 3:1-8.

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 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.” But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:1-8)

Father, help us to be in awe of Your righteousness and glory. And help us to get on board with it, not seeking to justify ourselves or others based on what we’ve done, but instead, help us to simply rest in You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

I don’t make things with my hands very often, but here’s something I made last year.

[Picture of picture ledge]

I made this picture ledge. It’s not super complicated, and if you look really close, you’ll see some imperfections, but I made this. I’m pretty stinking proud of that!

Part of the process of making something out of wood is to go to the hardware store and pick out some wood. And when you do that, you take a good look at each piece, examining it closely to make sure it’s not warped or bowed or otherwise imperfect, because you don’t want to start with imperfect materials, because then the end result will be even more imperfect.

I share this story because a lot of people seem to think that’s how God chooses us. We think He examines our lives to make sure we’re pure and worthy of Him choosing us. But we actually find in Scripture that God does the complete opposite of that. That’s what we find in 1 Corinthians 1. It says:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

You see, God doesn’t choose perfect people to share His message, but imperfect people, like you and me. And He does this for two reasons. One, there are no perfect people, and two, so that He gets all the glory.

And that’s important to remember when we talk about God calling Abraham and his descendants, the Jews. Because otherwise we might be confused why God’s wrath is even upon the Jews, when the entire Old Testament follows the Jews as God’s chosen people.

But then knowing that this is the case, that even Jews are under God’s wrath, we might ask if there’s any advantage to being a Jew. Paul answers that question in verse 2:

Much in every way! To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:2)

So, the first step to answering this question about why the Jews also deserved to be shown God’s wrath is to acknowledge that the Jews were certainly chosen for a purpose! The Jews had and have a huge role in God’s plan. The Jews were entrusted with the oracles, the secret things, of God.

But they weren’t to keep these secrets a secret. Now, when your best friend tells you a secret, it’s often really really hard to keep it a secret. Especially if it’s a really big secret, you know? But the oracles of God that were entrusted to the Jews were the kinds of secrets they were supposed to share with all the world!

Here are just a few of the promises that God gave the Jews. In Genesis 17:4, God told Abraham:

Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (Genesis 17:4)

So Abraham wouldn’t just be the father of the Jews, but the father of a multitude of nations. God didn’t just want to be the God of Israel, but of all the world. Here’s another one. Even though we often claim it as a promise for ourselves as well, God made this promise in Jeremiah 29:11 specifically to the Jews:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And what’s interesting about that is that God gave this promise to the Jews even when they were about to be exiled from the Promised land by the Babylonians. In other words, even when life was about to get much, much harder, they were given the promise that God’s plan was for their good.

And check out this promise, which was given to the Jews but is certainly a promise to all of us. Zechariah 14:9.

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. (Zechariah 14:9a)

You see, through the Jews, God’s greatest secret in the Old Testament, but fully revealed in the New Testament is that Jesus came to be the Savior of the world!

And God will be faithful to His promises. So God made two promises that seem to conflict with each other. He promised to punish sinners, and He promised to forgive sinners. We see both of these promises clearly in Exodus 34:6-7.

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)

That might seem a little unfair to us, but it’s true. We like the idea that God is compassionate and gracious, forgiving us, but we don’t like the idea that God punishes sin, especially our sins. We like that God punishes other peoples’ sins because we think they deserve it, but we don’t like that God promises to punish our sins, and especially not our children because of our sins.

But it’s only because we all fail to be faithful to God, and our kids see our example and follow in our footsteps. The whole point of the Old Testament is to show that mankind cannot measure up to God’s perfect standard, and this further shows how perfect and holy God is, as Paul wrote in verse 4.

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 3:4)

In other words, if we were to seek to judge God, all our attempts to do so would simply highlight even more how perfect He is. Our lies show that God is true. Our sins show that God is sinless.

But you can see how we might try to take advantage of this idea. We might think, “This is awesome! The more I sin, the more God is shown to be sinless and perfect and true, so I should just keep on sinning, right?” Paul answers that in verse 8.

And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8)

So Paul answered that line of thought by not answering it. He’s like, “That’s just ridiculous!” Put it this way, if you really want to glorify God, why would you want to continue to sin? God’s given us some amazing promises! And God will be faithful to His promises. And that ought to instill in us the to desire to be faithful to Him as His chosen people.

That leads us to the second part of answering our question this morning. Verse 9.

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.” (Romans 3:9-18)

In writing these things, Paul was quoting several passages in the Old Testament. Together, they simply reinforce what we’ve been talking about for several weeks now: all have sinned.

So, even when we’re talking about God’s chosen people, the Old Testament law teaches that all people have sinned. It’s like Paul was saying, “Seriously, NONE are righteous. All people of all nations are guilty of sin, and all people of all nations are in need of God’s forgiveness.” Verse 19.

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 3:19-20)

So although the Jews certainly had and still have a major role to fill in biblical history, the Bible is clear that they don’t get a free pass just because of their family lineage. All are under sin. The whole world is accountable to God, because we’ve all been unfaithful.

But even when we’re unfaithful, God’s promise stands.

And it was the job of the Jews, and it’s our job now, to share not just the bad news of our sin, but also the promise of the good news of Jesus with all the world. The Old Testament describes the nation of Israel as a light to the nations, and Jesus calls us the light of the world. So I want to spend my last few minutes this morning talking about the purpose of light.

Do you remember as a kid your parents telling you to stop leaving the light on when you left the room because you were wasting electricity? Why did they do that? It’s because the point of light is to help people SEE. God didn’t command Israel to be a light just for the sake of being a light. No, they were to be a light to the nations so that the nations could see God. In the same way, God calls us to shine our light to the people who still walk in darkness. We’re chosen for that purpose.

You can be chosen for lots of different things. Now, I’m sure none of you play the lottery because it’s a waste of money, but if your lottery number gets chosen, then you win a LOT of money, and it is all yours. I mean you can give it away, but there’s no requirement to do that.

You can also get chosen for a promotion at work. You get the raise, and no one else does. A promotion at work is mainly to benefit you. And yet, you’re also suddenly considered to have a more powerful voice in the company than those below you.

But God choosing Israel and us is so much more special than these kinds of things. When God chose Israel and you, it wasn’t random like a lottery. It was specific. God knew what He was doing, and He chose YOU to be a light to the world.

And when God chose Israel, or you if you’re a follower of Jesus, it wasn’t because you proved yourself worthy of a promotion. God didn’t look at you and think, I NEED that guy to step into leadership. You weren’t chosen because of your skills. You weren’t chosen to get a raise no one else gets. You weren’t chosen because you were a better person for the job than everyone else. So why does God choose us?

He chooses us to be His AMBASSADORS. An ambassador is someone who represents someone else. When we’re talking about foreign ambassadors, we’re talking about how someone will go to work in another country to represent the country they’re from. They speak for their country and do all sorts of things in the name of their country. And God calls us to be His ambassadors to tell the world about the grace that we have in Jesus.

But there’s another kind of ambassador that you might be familiar with, and those are called brand ambassadors. With the rise of social media, companies will sometimes give customers a big box of goodies from their company because they knew those people to spread the word and represent their company to other customers.

God wants us to be not just His foreign ambassadors, but His brand ambassadors. We ought to be so excited about what Jesus has done for us that we go and tell all our friends, and all their friends, because we want all the world to get what Jesus is giving away for free!

We didn’t earn it. And because of God’s promise to punish sinners, we definitely don’t deserve it. But Jesus took our penalty upon Himself, so that we can receive salvation through Him.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Romans 3:1-20
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