The “Nones” of Romans 3
The apostle Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because he knew it was the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, both Jew and Gentile (Rom 1:16; Gal 3:28). Why do people need salvation? Or how can a person be justified (declared not guilty) before God? The Gospel of God is the solution, but what is the problem?
The problem faced by every person is the wrath of God directed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man (Rom 1:18). Paul expounded on this wrath against the Gentiles in Romans 1:18–32. He further expounded the wrath of God against the Jews in Romans 2. In Romans 3:1–20, the apostle is bringing his charge of universal sin and guilt to a close. His objective is to prove that the whole world is accountable before God (Rom 3:19).
Paul’s charge is that all people are under sin (Rom 3:23; Rom 5:12). All are conceived in sin (Ps 51:5), inherit original sin, are born in sin, and live in sin all of their days. The practice of sin comes easy because of the sin nature of every person (Eph 2:3), and because of the agreeable environment to sin (Jn 3:19).
Quoting Psalms, Paul draws four conclusions about the natural state of man in sin. These are the “nones” of Romans 3.
First, there is none righteous, not even one (Rom 3:10). The emphasis here is the universality of man’s wrong standing before God. God is righteous, and to be right with God, one must have right standing. People should know their state of enmity with God, but they are blind to their own rebellion against the Almighty (2 Cor 4:4). They are ignorant to the standard of righteousness required by God. Why are they ignorant?
Second, there is none who understands (Rom 3:11). There is no one who is wise in the light of nature, to recognize his unrighteousness before God. The knowledge of God, that is, Adam’s knowing God, was lost in the fall of man (Gen 3).
Adam’s posterity only has the light of nature that ensures each person is moral, rational, and responsible. Sinners have enough knowledge of God from the creation that all are deemed guilty before God.
One might imagine that a person confronted with his unrighteous disposition in sin would respond to this bad news in a proper way, to reform himself and look for a way of reconciliation with God. Why does this not happen?
Third, there is none who seeks after God. When there is no conviction of sin in the natural man, he proceeds on his journey through life seeking the pleasures of this world for his flesh to enjoy. He lusts with his eyes for things in this world, which never seem to satisfy him. He needs more and different experiences. His flesh craves, but not for God. He glories in the pride of his accomplishment, which shows he is not seeking God.
The man who sets God before him is the one whom God has sought (1 Jn 4:19). Once this relationship begins, we learn that it is the Spirit in the regenerate man who seeks after spiritual things (1 Cor 2:15–16). Apart from Christ, this seeking is entirely impossible (Jn 15:5). Natural man is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). He does not seek God. “What about his good works?” one may inquire.
Fourth, and finally, there is none who does good. There is not even one (Rom 3:12). The Bible insists that wayward humanity is useless (Rom 3:12). Man’s labors have the benefits of sour milk in a cup of tea. Man cannot do good in God’s assessment because sin spoils absolutely everything. Every inclination of the human heart, regardless, of the external appearance of a good work, is filthy and evil (Gen 6:5; Is 64:6; Jer 17:9).
When sinful man is confronted with the truth of his unrighteousness, his ignorance, his disinterest, and his meaningless work, there is a rejection and a scoffing at his vain existence. What can possibly save one from futility and an eternity of punishment (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15)? Only the grace of God can transfer and transform the wicked sinner into one who fears God (Rom 12:1–3; Eph 2:8–9; Col 1:13), with his whole being: body, soul, mind, and strength. This hope is only in Jesus Christ (Col 1:27).
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 17, 2022