Chapter 3: 1-20
You’re Not Okay and Neither Am I
“What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged.’ 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
“7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just. 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.
“10 As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’13 ‘Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit’; ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’;14 ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.’15 ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known.’ 18 ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’
“19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.“
We have this system here in Canada called the Amber Alert. I am sure this exists in other areas as well. Two nights ago, the alert went off multiple times, and my wife and I were awakened by our phones alarming with a very distinct sound. The cause of the alert was that a young lad, just 14 years old, had been abducted. He had not been seen since he left for school in the morning; and through a series of improper recording and alerting, his parents did not find out until later in the day that he, in fact, had not turned up to school. By the grace of God, this young man was found safely, even though he was a bit shaken.
Why was he abducted? The head of the Major Crimes Division in a press conference told the public that this young man was taken as a revenge for his step-brother stealing in the range of $4,000,000 in cocaine from a rival gang. This young man, just 14, had nothing to do with it, but he was abducted by the rival gang in a van on his way to school.
Over the past year, our Provincial government, State government, for those in the US, have been looking at the scourge of human trafficking here in Ontario. Sadly, we are one of the major areas for human trafficking in North America. Recently, we learned that some of the people actually setting up the abductions were High School kids who were befriending and selling their classmates. This is big business with each abducted person going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most of us are familiar with the movie Taken, where the abducted daughter was sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars because she was a virgin. Why, Sean, are you writing about this? Why bring up these heinous incidents? Because we need to get it into our thick skulls that mankind is intrinsically evil. There is nothing good about us. Were it not for the grace of God, it could be you and I out doing these crimes and seeing nothing wrong with them; just doing business would be our mentality.
- Total Depravity, verse 10
You and I are not okay. You and I are evil to the core, and you and I are incapable of any goodness in and of ourselves. We are rotten to the core. The Bible calls us sinners; people who consistently miss the mark of God’s holiness.
I watched a critique of a sermon by a prominent preacher here a few weeks ago. The preacher was saying that we should not be defined by our mistakes. He used the analogy of a famous baseball player who had a great batting average, good fielding percentage and was an all-round star; but in a playoff game, he misfielded a ground ball that allowed the opposing team to get their momentum back and eventually win the series. He was known for this misfield even up the time that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was sad that for all his accomplishments, he came to be known for this one mistake.
The implication is that we are all superstars on God’s team – we are good; good minds, good hearts and in general good people; but every now and then, we make mistakes; and this one thing or these few things should not define us. This is basically heresy; we are evil, sinners, rotten to the core.
The list of evils that proceed verse 10 is lengthy and horrible, and we can all find ourselves in the verses somewhere. Maybe we are not seeking after God; we just have a general indifference to Him and His ways. Maybe like verse 13, our very words are death, our mouth is a tomb, maybe our words are poison to those we say we love. At the very least, we are liars (verse 13). Maybe we curse God and man (verse 14), we are murderers (verse 15), and on and on we can go with the depth of our evil.
Murder has become normal here in the Toronto area. When I was a young man just moved here, gun violence was almost unheard of. But just a few evenings ago, a man was shot in a public bus in the sight of many witnesses; the shooter had no fear of being seen and arrested.
We are evil to the core.
I am a fan of police and FBI shows like Criminal Minds and the CSI shows. It was not until a few years ago that I came to understand that most, if not all of the shows, were based on actual events. The murders, the killings and the seemingly inhuman things that other humans do to others are jaw-dropping at times.
Paul, a former Pharisee, would have thought himself righteous before God. He kept the Law. He followed every little instruction; yet, now he understood that it all meant nothing. He lays this out in Philippians 3: 1-7:
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
Paul had a lot to boast about as a Pharisee concerning his own self-righteousness and keeping the Law. But once he came face to face with Jesus, he saw that all of his righteousness was nothing. In another place, he calls it dung (Phil. 3: 8), poop in our modern terms. So great was his transformation that Paul claims that he was the ‘chief of sinners,’ the head sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). If there was a chapter for sinners, I, Paul says, would be head sinner. Paul saw himself as totally depraved, incapable of goodness at any level and in need of a Savior; Jesus is that Savior.
This seems to be a missing doctrine in many churches today. We are sinners. We are not doing okay and have just a few mess-ups along the way. Rather, we are evil to the core and, on occasion, we do some good. Many have never had to come face to face with the depth of their own sins; many never understand that they are the enemy of God because God cannot stand sin nor be in its presence. Many, myself included, do not appreciate the wonderful gift of salvation because we do not understand the depth of our depravity. We take for granted the grace of God. We take for granted the Mercy of God. We take for granted the kindness of God, and we take for granted the gift of eternal life. A gift that is offered freely to us, but a gift that cost God the precious life of His Son.
- You cannot Save Yourself, verse 20
No one will be saved by keeping the Law. No one. In fact, if you were to be able to keep the entire law, you can’t, and neither can I; we would still die in our sinfulness. Why? Because we are born sinners by nature. We need to be born-again. All of our righteousness is not enough to erase our nature, that being evil. You will not win God’s favor or earn eternal life with good deeds. You must simply be born again; be born from Heaven with a new spirit in us, the Holy Spirit of God in us.
If we consider the verses from Philippians 3, Paul was telling us that he’d had something to boast about. He was zealous, as were many of the Pharisees. They were devoted, committed, and all in as far they knew; and yet, all of his righteousness that he thought he had from the Law was not, and could never be enough.
Jesus’ righteousness is all that God the Father accepts when we are born-again; we become clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, and that covering is all we need. The prophet Isaiah says it this way, “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
God hath clothed me with the clothes, the garments of salvation. I cannot save myself. You cannot save yourself. You and I need to be saved from our complete sinfulness, not just our actions but our very nature. This is the problem for a lot of people; we have lied to ourselves and, in many cases, to our church people that they are good people. They are not, neither are you, and I am not. God is good. Any goodness I have must come from Him. He is the one who can wash us clean and make us good.
The Psalmist in 51:2 and verse 7 says this: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.”
“Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
In the last days, many, the Bible says, will claim ‘righteous deeds’ as their ticket to salvation. Jesus will tell them that He never knew them. Oh my, what a sad day that will be!
I leave you with these words of hope from the Apostle Paul in Acts 16:31:
“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”
God bless you,
Pastor Sean Gooding
Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church