Humanity Is Under Sin
Re-Translated In November 1999
1. From chapter one and verse eighteen on Paul begins to speak on the sin of humanity, and from chapter two in particular he begins discussing the sin of the Jews who are self-acknowledged as the people of God. We have been reading these messages from Paul for seven Sundays. In the passage given for today, a summary statement of the things he has said so far is recorded. Please look at verse nine.
"Well then, what of it? Is there an advantage point for us? Not at all. As I already pointed out, everyone, both Jew and Greek, is under sin," (verse nine).
3. Both those who would not recognize God and those who seem to live by obeying the law of God are equally sinners under the law. Both the immoral person and the moral person are equally under sin. Those who do what is unclean according to the desires of their hearts and live according to their shameful passions and those who brag that they "are leaders of the blind, light to those in darkness, guides of the ignorant, and instructors of the inexperienced" are equally under sin. Humanity is equal before God who judges the hidden conditions of men and women. There is neither Jew nor Gentile. Everyone is under sin. That is what Paul has been discussing so far.
There Are No Righteous Persons. There Is Not Even One.
4. By the way, I repeated it casually here, but doesn't this phrase "they are under sin" seem to be a strange expression? Our way of talking is normally not like that. We might say, "Everyone sins, but we don't say "Everyone is under sin." Because we consider "sin" to be defined as different evil acts that people commit. But here Paul is writing of sin as if it were the master over a slave. Everyone, he says, is under its control. Everyone, he says, is a slave under the master called Sin.
5. Perhaps there may be some who feel resistance to this expression. "I'm a free individual. I am not anyone's slave. I live as I please." There might be some who say that. Once there were some Jews who said something similar to the Lord Jesus. "We are Abraham's descendants. We have never been anyone's slaves yet." But, in response to that the Lord said,. "I say clearly to you. Whoever commits a sin is a slave of sin," (John 8:34). An important truth is being said by this. A person is not a sinner because he or she does something evil. A person does not first become a sinner after sinning. No, that's not how it is, rather a person sins because he or she is a slave of sin. Because people are under the master called Sin and under its control, even if they are able to make as many adjustments externally as they could, there is a serious gap between the exterior and the interior and evil overflows from the interior.
6. Up to now Paul has discussed in detail the truth of humanity being under sin, but over all [I'd like to] make clear that this is something the Bible says. Please look at verse ten and following.
"It is written as follows:
'There are no righteous persons. There is not even one.
No one understands.
There is no one who seeks after God.
Everyone is lost and everyone and anyone has become useless.
There is no one who does good.
There is not even one person.
Their throats are like opened graves,
They deceive others with their tongues,
Their lips have the poison of snakes on them.
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are fast to shed blood,
On their path are destruction and misery.
They do not know the way of peace.
There is no fear of God in their eyes,'" (verses ten through eighteen).
8. These words are not recorded exactly like that in the Old Testament. As the rabbis did back then, Paul spoke and quoted from various biblical passages. Here the book of Psalms and the book of Isaiah are mainly quoted. We could probably divide these words into three parts.
9. The first section is from verses ten to twelve. This is mainly a quote from Psalm fourteen. The first line of words "There are no righteous persons, there is not even one person" is not from this psalm, but perhaps it comes from the Book Of Ecclesiastes chapter seven and verse twenty. Paul probably placed these words at the top of it with an idea for a title from this sequence of words. What is being expressed here is the figure of humanity who refuses to seek after God. Originally in Psalm fourteen it was written as follows:
"The Lord looked out from heaven over the children of man, he searched; he said, 'Is there no one awake and seeking God? Each and every one has turned their backs and left. They are all together soiled. The one who practices good deeds does not exist. There is not even one,'" (Psalm 14:2-3).
11. God is seeking for man or woman. But, they are not seeking for God. Some might say, "That's not so. Aren't there plenty of people seeking God?" Although a person seeks requests for "one thing or other" from God, yet he or she is not seeking for God in the way God is seeking for him or her. As far as a relationship with God goes, surely "There are are no righteous persons. There is not even one person."
12. Next, it is from verses thirteen and fourteen. Here we have quotes from the likes of Psalm 5:10, 140:4, and 10:7. It is human speech that is made an issue here. Because the mouth is first and foremost the place that is overflowing with evil. The mouth of a human, which was built to praise God, has now turned into an open grave full of filth, and a human being's lips have become full of the poison of snakes. The Bible in so many passages speaks on the evil dwelling in the speech of humankind! And who in the world could deny that? By one's words it is evident, "There are no righteous persons; there is not even one person."
13. Thirdly, [there is a section] from verses fifteen to eighteen. Isaiah 59:7 and on is mainly being quoted. If we read [what comes] before that, the design and intention of Paul's quote becomes much more clear. This is how it reads there:
"They hatch the eggs of snakes and spin the thread of spiders. The ones who eat their eggs will die and if you smash [one of their] eggs, a poisonous snake will jump out. The spider's thread will not turn into clothing and cannot cover itself with its own fabric. Their fabric is a fabric of catastrophe and there is the work of lawlessness in their hands. Their feet run to evil and they rush to shed the blood of innocent persons. Their plans are plans of catastrophe. Destruction and breakdown are on their path. Without knowing the path of peace, there are no trials of justice on the trails on which they are walking. They twist their own paths and no one who walks in those paths knows peace," (Isaiah 59:5-8).
15. In other words, [the scriptures] speaking here are speaking of the behaviors of humans who do this with malice. [The scriptures] are saying that our actions filled with malice do not give life to others but kill them instead. It is what we do when we don't know the way to peace. "Those who make peace real (those who produce peace) are blessed," said the Lord (Matthew 5:9). But, though we love peace and we seek peace yet the reality is we are not persons who produce peace. Instead, we only break peace down. That is because we have malice within us and because the malice we have is under the control of sin. Who in the world could say, "I am the exception"? By one's actions truly, "There are no righteous persons; there is not even one person."
Every Mouth Is Silenced.
16. Next I will read to you from verse nineteen to verse twenty.
"Then, as we know, everything the law is saying is directed to the people who are under the law. That is so that the mouth of everyone might be shut and the whole world might submit to the judgment of God. Because by practicing the law, not even one person will be made righteous before God. Based on the law, only an awareness of sin is produced," (verses nineteen and twenty).
17. It is not the five books of Moses (from Genesis to Deuteronomy) that Paul is calling "the law" here, but we should see that he is pointing to the entire corpus of scriptures (that is, what we call the Old Testament). [The passage from] verses ten and on which we have already seen was a quotation from those scriptures. Paul confirms through it that what the scripture is saying is being spoken first above all else to "those who are under the law," that is to the Jews. In other words, he says the Jews cannot think these sins are someone else's. It means they should not think as if the Gentiles are to be condemned as sinners but not the Jews. They should not think this because these words from the scriptures are directed to them first of all.
18. When you think about it, the entire Old Testament speaks openly on the sins of the people of Israel and not just the few sections quoted by Paul. The word of God never speaks of the Jews and their forebears, who were the pillars [of the Word], as having a sinless and innocent existence. Instead, it has judged them in their sin. Paul makes the Jews recognize this fact of reality from the start.
19. But, the situation written in the Bible does not involve only Jews. Paul says the reason the Bible speaks without covering up the sins of the Jews is ultimately so "that the mouth of every person be silenced and the whole world submit to God's judgment process." In other words, this deals with persons besides the Jews, too. It deals with all the people who live in this country, too. Because of the fact the scripture deals plainly concerning the Jew, all of our mouths are truly silenced by that.
20. That our mouths must be silenced is because we always make all kinds of explanations and are in the habit of coming up with excuses. We are in the habit of comparing ourselves to someone else and thinking that we are better, and we always justify our actions and we claim if only a person tries hard he will become a good person recognizable by God as well. We don't want to recognize the message of God's conviction of us, that "You are under sin." Therefore, the scriptures have made clear the sins of the people who have been given the law of God. He reveals the reality that despite the fact they were given the word of God, they were not able to stand before God by their keeping it. He points out that they were controlled by sin as described above and that because of their actions they were unable to live in a righteous relationship with God. Furthermore, the Bible says to us as well that "You are the same, too." In this way then, our mouths are silenced and the world is condemned in its sin by God.
21. "It's because by practicing the law not one person will be made righteous in the sight of God. By the law only an awareness of sin is produced." This is what Paul was ultimately wanting to say. It is how that the foundation of being justified and being saved is not with us. We can't build up a righteous relationship with God on our own no matter how much we strive to. We cannot fulfill the requirements of God by our own actions and by that means obtain righteousness. It is because from the law our awareness of sin is only activated. The law does not yield righteousness, but only makes evident how far the self is from righteousness. It is only made plain by the law that it is not salvation that we are worthy of but only judgment and hell. Because we are all under sin.
22. However, this is not the last word from Paul. Paul says:
"But now the righteousness of God has been revealed without a connection to the law, but more so it has been substantiated by the law and the prophets. That is, by believing in Jesus Christ there is a righteousness of God given to everyone who believes," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two).
24. The many small candle flames of "our righteousness" in which we trusted and leaned on, are all blown out by the word of God. We have no choice but to admit before the word of God that we are in utter darkness. We have no choice but to admit we ourselves are sinners without any hope of salvation at all. The mouth of the entire world has been silenced. We are only people who continually stand hopelessly and powerlessly in the darkness of sin's rule over us.
25. But, the Bible speaks to us. It says we are not abandoned in that darkness. The gospel message is given especially to the person who discovers himself or herself in darkness. The light has shined into this darkness. By the coming of Jesus Christ, his life, his passion and death by the cross, and by the resurrection of Christ and the advent of the Holy Spirit, the light has shined into this sinful darkness. It is the sun light of righteousness which has begun to rise up. We did not make it rise up. God let it rise up. The sun light of righteousness is the gift of God's grace given to us by his doing alone. That's right, we cannot get to a righteous relationship with God by our own actions. Such a righteous relationship is only given from one direction by God [Himself]. And give it he did. This is the righteousness based on grace, and by believing in Jesus Christ it is the righteousness of God given to everyone who believes. Therefore, Paul will go on further in this epistle to clarify how that it is not a matter of what we ought to do first but what God has done for us.