I have always felt a bit sorry for defense lawyers. Some folks actually despise these characters as those who attempt to get criminals off the hook. Rightly understood of course, the role of the lawyer is not to get an unjustly generous outcome, but rather within our legal system’s presumption of innocence point of beginning to provide the best defense possible to appropriately put the weight of proof upon the prosecution to prove the charges.
Some criminals are difficult to defend and put into any positive light whatsoever. It is a sort of pig and lipstick kind of situation. And actually, that would be the case of trying to defend the innocence and goodness of the human race against God’s perfect standard of righteousness. It is entirely impossible, or as Paul says it at the beginning of today’s section that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.
Even if a defense lawyer is able to present a client in the best light possible, if the prosecuting attorney concludes with a laundry list of undeniable charges backed by evidence, the client is in trouble. And that is what we have in our reading today. Paul quotes from a variety of Old Testament passages (mostly from Psalms) that prove beyond any doubt that mankind is 100% guilty before God as a condemned sinner.
3:9 – What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [most of these quotes are from passages in the Psalms]
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Boom! The gavel drops. All are guilty! Everyone fails to live up to God’s law. And we see in the final verse the purpose of the law: it was not to provide a pathway for people to become just in God’s sight, but rather it was to make a person aware of their sinful condition. And then, feeling the weight of their impossible situation, they would turn to trusting, following and obeying God’s provision
Theologically speaking, we are talking about the doctrine of original sin. The problem started with the original sin of the original parents. The curse and debt have been passed down; we were born bad. We weren’t born good, sinned one day and then became bad. We were never good, or righteous. We didn’t become sinners when we first sinned. We proved we were sinners when we first sinned.
All of this would be terribly depressing if the story ended right here. And if God had chosen to allow that to happen, He would not have been unjust.
So ends Part #1 of the five parts of Romans we spoke about last week (Sin / Salvation / Sanctification / Sovereignty / Service). We’re lost. We’re dead. But good news – the best GOOD NEWS – is just over the horizon.