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All Under Sin

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” (Romans 3:9)

If you ask most people whether or not they believe that they are going to Heaven, you will get an answer that somehow relates to them being good. “I am a good person”, they will often respond. A common misconception of how “Judgment Day” will be involves God standing before a giant set of balanced scales, placing the “good deeds” of an individual on one side and the “bad deeds” on the other. As long as the scale tips toward the good, then the person will enter into Heaven.

More than anything else, I think this line of thought stems from the idea that man is inherently good and, though we will sometimes make mistakes and hurt others, if we do more good in this world than bad, God will smile on us and let us into Heaven. I enjoy a lot of the Gospel music by the “Oak Ridge Boys”, but I heard one of their Country songs years ago that seemed to be a perfect reflection of this philosophy. “Come On In (You Did The Best That You Could Do)” has a verse that tells of a man who dreams that he is dying and is afraid because he knows that his life has not measured up very well:

“I dreamed I was dying in Texas
I closed my eyes and I sighed
Like a black and white movie I saw my days
Playing out before my eyes
I was crippled by a life of injustice
I was bent from walking into the wind
I plead guilty on the day of judgment
God just shook my hand and grinned

And He said, come on in,
You did the best that you could do
There’s a little bit of right in every wrong
There’s a little bit of me in you”*

Right up to the part about God “shaking his hand and grinning”, I think this might be a pretty good picture of how a lost sinner will actually feel on the Day of Judgment. But God is certainly never going to tell anyone: “Come on in, you did the best that you could do!” OK, I know this is just a song, but it reflects a very real way that many people think of God. They like to think of God as a kind “Grandfather” type Who loves everyone so much that He will never hold any sin against anyone. They are hoping that He will look the other way whenever they sin and that He will pat them on the head and give them an “E” for “effort” when they meet Him on the Day of Judgment. In short, most people feel that God sees them exactly as they see themselves: Not too bad; worse than some, but better than most people. They are hoping that God will “grade on the curve” and that they will find themselves on the upside of that curve.

A lot of other philosophies and religions go even further and teach that, not only is man “OK” with God, man is god! Or at least he has the potential for divinity. They see themselves as capable of becoming gods and that it is only ignorance and lack of knowledge which prohibits them. The Supreme Being (if there really even is One) sees man as a very beautiful and lovely creature which He has endowed with the capacity to become like Himself and that, if the individual so chooses, may join Him and become divine, as well. Many Eastern Philosophies and Western cults teach exactly this.

But what does the Bible teach about how God views man? We know that “God so loved the world…”, but does that mean that we are lovely? Does God love us because of what’s in our hearts, or because of what’s in His? As we come toward the end of Romans Chapter 3, we are given a completely blunt and honest assessment of how God views the heart of man. Nothing is sugar-coated or glossed over: we have the totally candid verdict of what God really thinks of the works and deeds of mankind. And it isn’t very encouraging! There is no talk of us “doing the best we can”, our “good deeds outweighing the bad”, or “the potential for us to reach enlightenment and divinity.” Instead, we are given a report that should come as a shock to all of us. The veil of self-righteousness is ripped away and the condition of our heart is laid bare for us to see. The depravity of man which has been alluded to heretofore and hinted at is clearly spelled out in no uncertain terms. We are left with absolutely no opportunity to misunderstand or misinterpret what God has said about us. These are the Apostle Paul’s closing statements about the human condition and, if any has missed his point thus far, it is impossible now. Most of the remainder of the Epistle to the Romans concerns itself exclusively with what God has done for man and what is available to everyone through Christ Jesus. But before this offer of Salvation is formally made and described, any possible hope of exclusion on which any may be resting will now be summarily destroyed. If any reader has missed the point that he, too, is a sinner, there can remain no controversy hereafter.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

As it is written…” Everything in the verdict about to be read is recorded already in the Old Testament. These aren’t Paul’s words, these are the words of the Psalmists and prophets. We can find these first statements in Psalm 14:1-3 and the nearly identical Psalm 53:1-3. These words speak of man’s motivations and inclinations. From God’s perfect and holy perspective, no one is good, only God is truly good (i.e., Matt. 19:16-17). No one is seeking God and no one, apart from God’s empowering, is doing good. People might show occasional kindness and do the sporadic “good deed”, but no one can truly be considered good. Unless God has regenerated the heart of a man, his heart is unclean and his motives are selfish and impure. Of all the things that differentiate Christianity from other beliefs and religions, this is one of the primary distinctions. Most religions suppose that man is ultimately trying to connect with his Creator and is seeking to know God. The Word of God, however, teaches quite the opposite. It is not the good and noble creature who is desperately trying to find God, it is the merciful and gracious Creator Who is drawing the imperfect creature to Himself.

“Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:” (Romans 3:13-14)

We can find these references in Psalms 5:9, 10:7, and 140:3. This refers to the words and speech of man. Not only is man’s mind depraved, so are his lips. We are all people of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5); we may not all curse and use profanity, but apart from God we all are inclined to speak lies, deceptions, and hurtful words against others. As the Lord Jesus said, How can an evil person speak good things? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matt. 12:34). The heart separated from God is depraved and an evil heart can only result in an evil tongue.

“Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known:” (Romans 3:15-17)

This reference can be found in Isaiah 59:7-8 and speaks about the actions of man. Evil originates in the heart, proceeds to the lips, and is finally carried out in action.

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18)

This reference is found in Psalm 36:1. This is a reflection of the lost man’s view of God. This speaks of the attitude of man toward God. It is this attitude that paves the way for man’s motivation, words, and actions. Because he does not reverence and fear God, he feels completely free to behave as he pleases without consequence.

The words in this passage are very blunt and accusatory, but they are also quite accurate. Many people will never seek Salvation in Christ because they do not realize that there is any need for it. They do not believe that God will find any fault in them whatsoever (or at least not enough to condemn them). The Book of Romans is about to reveal the solution to man’s sin problem and show the Way that God has provided whereby man can be saved. But before the provision can be revealed, the need must be fully understood. The wrath of God remains on the unrepentant sinner (John 3:36), and Romans 3:10-18 demonstrates exactly why. Lest any should hope to justify themselves before God, the Bible makes it clear that this is simply not possible. We need a Savior.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

* Taken from the song “Come On In (You Did The Best That You Could Do)”,  Lyrics are property of owners and under applicable copyright

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11 responses

  1. Hi Loren,

    Thank you for putting this together so well…. People need to be aware that the LORD God Almighty certainly is not going to give them an “A” for effort, because there is no one who really tries hard enough….. Whether we’re dealing with man or God, everyone wants to think whatever efforts they put forth are all that the situation is worth…. We always want to look at ourselves as being good enough or better than others.

    We seem to get very self-defensive when someone points out our faults…. We can justify our every action and condemn everyone else’s sin….. It is good for us to face the truth about ourselves in God’s word…. It might not “feel good”, but at least it should lead us to repentance and a leaning on God’s grace….. If we would all get an “A” for the kind of effort we put forth, there wouldn’t be a need for Jesus.

    I hope many will check out your references, because they are so important to salvation.

    Margaret

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  2. Thank you, Loren

    This is a most timely post for me. May God continue to pour into you as you spend time sharing His truth with us.

    “If you ask most people whether or not they believe that they are going to Heaven, you will get an answer that somehow relates to them being good. “I am a good person”, they will often respond.”
    A dear family member started out as a lay preacher and evangelist. About 30 years ago He decided to become an Atheist. We lost contact over the years and when we spoke recently, he agreed that there is a God but that he needs no priest, Jesus, Mohamed or otherwise to get to Him… I continue to pray. All have sinned and salvation flows for him as well. Right now He’s still a cripple but there’s still hope. He thinks He’s a good person. He thinks he’s right where he needs to be. He asked me why would God let Him live this long and then let Him perish in Hell (“if there’s one”, he says.) He now believes in God but He wants the relationship on His own terms. The thing is, he still needs Jesus :-( .

    The Bible is a ‘literary piece’ for him. He cannot accept the written word of God the way we do so it’s hard for him to buy into the theories we present. I get that. I just wish it were otherwise. Your comment is quite relevant to this situation “Many people will never seek Salvation in Christ because they do not realize that there is any need for it.”

    “…no one can truly be considered good. Unless God has regenerated the heart of a man, his heart is unclean and his motives are selfish and impure…. It is not the good and noble creature who is desperately trying to find God, it is the merciful and gracious Creator Who is drawing the imperfect creature to Himself.”
    This is my hope … that the ‘merciful and gracious Creator’ will draw him to Himself, even as He has drawn so many of us from under the rocks that we had chosen to dwell. So thankful that we can’t go where His love can’t reach us. Thankful too that it is not yet the day of judgment and that there is still time for His compassion to affect others.

    My heart bleeds when I see the ‘good’ people trying to rationalize where the are and where they’re supposedly going by the ‘good’ lives they live. He loved us in our sinful state but He will never love nor embrace our sins. Praying those yet to know Him will tap into His truth while there’s still time.

    “The wrath of God remains on the unrepentant sinner (John 3:36), and Romans 3:10-18 demonstrates exactly why. Lest any should hope to justify themselves before God, the Bible makes it clear that this is simply not possible. We need a Savior.”
    amen. We who have chosen to follow Him have much to be thankful for. Praying He’ll give us wisdom and boldness to keep sharing the Truth.

    Blessings and thanks again,
    ann

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  3. Loren, Thank you for this very well-written post. You are exactly right that many people think they are going to be good enough because they’ve tried to be good, even though they will admit they are not perfect. They refuse to see that they are “a wretch” in need of God’s amazing grace. I suspect for many, even with the Bible’s clear statements to the contrary, will never accept that they aren’t really good people. Most people will never truly examine, or allow God to examine, their own heart. I’m so glad He showed me the state of my own heart and my need for Him. Peace, Linda

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  4. I see this so much. I comment at a blog and struggle there. Need His help to encourage where I can, but I think the understanding is more in lines with everyone gets an ” atta boy”. I wish it were true too, but that’s not what the bible I read says. Thank you so much for the way you make everything perfectly clear, with scripture and sound teaching, so there can be no mistake! God bless you and give you rest this week!

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  5. Hi Ann,

    Thank you so much for sharing this; what a heartbreaking story. We’ll be sure to keep your loved one in our prayers.

    “He loved us in our sinful state but He will never love nor embrace our sins. ”

    That seems to be an area of confusion for so many folks: How can God love us but not love what we do? Human love from one person to another is so interconnected with what we do that it is difficult to separate love from approval. When we think of “unconditional love”, we tend to think of a love that completely overlooks fault in the object of that love. It is complete acceptance without any sort of judgment or diapproval. Yet God loves unconditionally without overlooking our faults. He cannot overlook them. He is Love but He is also righteous and cannot accept us as depraved sinners. But He has made it so easy for us to receive His forgiveness, to accept His pardon from our sins and be accepted through Christ.

    We do have much to be thankful for, indeed. Thank you so much Ann, God bless you :)

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  6. Margaret,

    What wonderful thoughts on this, thank you :)

    “Whether we’re dealing with man or God, everyone wants to think whatever efforts they put forth are all that the situation is worth”

    So very true. We like to think that we have given it all it was worth and more than should be required. We want God and man to tell us “you did the best that you could do” even when we know deep down that we did not. We try hard to convince ourselves and others that we always give 100% effort when, in truth, we seldom really do. Our tendency is to do just enough to get by.

    It’s so strange how we really do get defensive when someone points out our faults, as if our denial can somehow keep them concealed! I had a boss one time who had just been promoted to the position and, honestly, she made a lot of really bad decisions and made a lot of mistakes. When some of those bad decisions affected me, I confronted her about it. Oh, I was angry and I really wanted to give her a piece of my mind! You know what she told me after I finished?

    “You are absolutely right, I know I messed up but I am going to do better. I will make this right.”

    She was genuinely sincere when she said this. How do you stay mad at someone who reacts this way? There was no denial, no self-justification…I was ready for that kind of response and already had my argument in place. But to admit and apologize for it? To own up to her mistakes and promise to fix them? I had no response for that! But I sure had a newfound respect for my new boss — a respect that I maintained as long as I worked there.

    Thanks again, Margaret, for the excellent observations about this subject. May the Lord bless you greatly!

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  7. Thank you Linda, I appreciate these wonderful comments :)

    We all have the tendency in the flesh to practice “comparative morality.” Man looks at other man as the standard, not God. So long as we feel we are ahead of most of the pack, we feel we are doing all right (even if we admit we’re not perfect). The liar feels he is better than the thief; the thief feels he is better than the murderer; while the murderer feels he is morally superior to the mass murderer or the evil dictator. If we all compare ourselves to someone like Hitler or Charles Manson then, sure, most of us are pretty good people. But God only compares us to Himself, not others. And we have all fallen short of His glory (Rom. 3:23).

    Sadly, I believe you’re right that there are a great many people who will never accept that they are sinners — even though the Bible makes it clear that we all are. Even though the Bible uses terms like “all” and “whoseover”, they will still feel that they are an exception. I am so grateful, too, that God has made me understand what is in my own heart apart from Him. Praise Him for His amazing grace!

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  8. Deb,

    God has given you such a wonderful gift of comforting and encouraging His people, but I know He also uses you in times where a direct and corrective word is needed. I believe that He gives you the wisdom to know the right thing to say in season that you need not struggle over it. Sometimes the right thing to say is nothing at all. I have visited some blogs and websites where I really wanted to “set them straight” but strongly felt I was supposed to just walk away. The Holy Spirit will make it clear to you which way to go :)

    I am so thankful that He has sent you to visit my blog often because I benefit greatly from your encouragement! I am so thankful for what you do on your own blog, too! I dealt with a very rude store clerk tonight and found myself praying to remain “unoffendable”…I gotta admit, I never would have used that word before I read it on your website :)

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  9. Hi Loren, I just gave you a Versatile Blogger Award. Stop by to pick up your award. Peace, Linda

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  10. Thanks, Linda, I just stopped by and am honored by your gift :) Like some of the other recipients mentioned, I don’t know that I could really be considered “versatile” in what I write, I am kind of stuck on one subject…but it sure is a great subject to be stuck on, isn’t it?

    God bless you, Linda, and thanks for taking the time to brighten the day of your fellow-bloggers with your wonderful encouragement!

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  11. […] 1All Under Sin | Answers From The Book SUBMIT […]

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