We are all guilty! That’s the message of Romans 3:9-20. None of us – Jew or Gentile – is exempt from judgment under the law. We have all broken the law of God – in whatever form He has given it – and are therefore sinners. First John 3:4 says, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” If you insist on dealing with God according to the law, you will stand condemned by that very law.
We are all under law. Every human being who has ever lived – and will ever live – is under law. In Romans 1, Paul has pointed out that rejecting and living as though there is no law and therefore no Lawgiver, only results in more condemnation. On the other hand, living as though having the law is enough will lead to equally eternal punishment. Under law there is no other option.
When people live life under the pretense that their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds in the final tally, they are choosing to deal with God in terms of the law. Under law, God has no alternative but to bring judgment and condemnation. Why? Because all us are guilty of breaking it in one form or another. Keep the law perfectly, and therefore escape the penalty. Break the law – even just once – and therefore pay the penalty. Under law, there is simply no other way.
These first three and half chapters of Romans can be pretty painful to read. Especially when you realize they are describing you and me! But this is exactly Paul’s point. The whole purpose in writing this is to understand that we are all going to be condemned if we remain under law. Or if we insist on thinking our good will ultimately outweigh the bad, we’re going to be gravely disappointed.
But all of this is simply the diagnosis. “Dr. Paul” has to tell us the bad news before he gives us the good news. In order to resolve your problem you first have to accept and admit that you have a problem. You didn’t think Alcoholics Anonymous came up with Step 1 all on their own, did you? But there is Good News – gospel – and Paul will deliver that beginning in Romans 3:21. But now, apart from law…