Read Romans 3:9-26
It is shockingly unpopular to talk about the sinful human condition. The majority position in our society on this issue says that everyone is inherently good and has good intentions. The television series Star Trek was based on this concept. The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, believed that given enough time, humanity would solve all of their internal quarrels and finally grow past their “adolescence” as a species. In spite of this beautiful sentiment, the Bible presents a very different perspective on the human condition.
In Romans 3, Paul’s point is that our fallen nature is completely sinful—even evil—and the Law cannot do anything to help us other than point out our sin. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if we’re Jewish by heritage or not. Both Jews and Gentiles are saved the same way because we’re all in the same desperate situation. We need a savior who must come to us when we least deserved it—not even when we were somewhat good, but while we were completely ungodly. Martin Luther writes,
“…[the human condition] is a total lack of uprightness and of the power of all the faculties both of body and soul and of the whole inner and outer man. On top of all this, it is a propensity toward evil. It is a nausea toward the good, a loathing of light and wisdom, and a delight in error and darkness, a flight from and an abomination of all good works, a pursuit of evil, as it is writing in Psalm 14:3: ‘They are all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt.’ ”
The gospel is the antidote to our corruption. Christ’s sacrifice saves the Jew and the Gentile. It saves those who died before Christ’s birth and those who live after Christ’s resurrection. As Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus Christ is at the very center of redemptive history. Jesus truly paid it all!
Questions for study and discussion:
1. Why do you think the concept that humanity is inherently sinful is so unpopular today? How does this challenge your ideas and beliefs about yourself, your kids, or humankind?
2. Re-read Romans 3:21-26. What is the “righteousness of God?” (v.21, 22, 25, 26) How does this contrast what Paul says about the wrath of God in Romans 1:18-23?
3. Often, we are tempted to think of ourselves as better than others because of our morality, our good works, or even our faith. If we all deserve God’s wrath, and receive grace as a gift (v.24), how might this “level the playing field” and change our thinking?
4. Have you looked down upon others because of their behaviors? Have you thought higher of yourself than you should? Spend some time reflecting on these questions. Pray to allow the gospel to be the motivation for repentance and a changed posture toward others.