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(Romans 3:9) The Guilt of Mankind vs. The Glory of God

(Romans 3:9) The Guilt of Mankind vs. The Glory of God

Ref: Romans 3:10–12

We would all concede that murderers and rapists don't deserve to go to heaven. But the apostle Paul in Romans 3 says that even religious people don't stand a chance. Considering the depravity of man, it will ultimately take the deliverance of God to rescue a lost and hopeless world unto Himself.


“The Guilt of Mankind vs. The Glory of God”

Romans 3:9

In 1984, the professional basketball team known as the Dallas Mavericks were in a critically important playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Dallas was the underdog in this game and expected to lose, but they had fought hard the entire game.  It came come down to the last 6 seconds and Dallas had possession.  Derek Harper was the point guard and for some strange reason, he thought his team was ahead by one point.  So when he got the inbound pass he ran around and dribbled the ball – when the buzzer sounded he  began to jump up and down as he celebrated their playoff victory. 

He celebrated, that is, until his teammates rushed up to him screaming that the game was tied and he had wasted their chance to win the game with one final shot.  They were forced into overtime and lost the game by 7 points.

A few minutes earlier, this basketball player had been celebrating and would have continued celebrating with incredible happiness until someone came up to him and told him the truth.

For centuries, the Jewish nation had been celebrating their victorious position as sons of Abraham.  They believed they had the edge over the rest of the world – the Gentiles, and they believed they were winning the game.

In Romans chapter 3 the Apostle Paul has just announced to them the shocking truth.

Let’s rejoin Paul’s announcement in Romans chapter 3 verse 9, where Paul delivers the astonishing news, “What then?  Are we better than they?  Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.”

If you take a closer look at this verse, you discover that Paul is making two sweeping declarations.

First of all, Paul is declaring the verdict of universal depravity.

Look again – “. . .for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all (there’s the key word) – all under sin.” (verse 9b)

No one is exempt from the verdict.  Nobody has an edge in the game.

In other words, no Jew or Gentile has any reason to celebrate.  The truth is, everybody has been charged with breaking the law – and everyone is therefore in deep trouble with a holy and righteous God.

The world doesn’t appreciate this message, of course.

A number of years ago a book was written entitled, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.”  It basically taught the typical humanism of the day – that mankind might have a few problems to work through, but in the end, everybody is turning out alright because everybody is okay.

What most unbelievers would really appreciate is for believers to stop telling them, “Everything is not okay.  You have nothing to celebrate about . . . you’re in trouble with God, the holy Judge.

That’s exactly what Paul does here.  He declares, “The whole of mankind is guilty of universal depravity.  Nobody is ‘okay.’” 

Eventually he’ll add to this by saying, “For all have sinned – everybody – all – and all fall short of God’s glory – God’s perfect standard – God’s holiness.”

And Paul will bring to bear over these next verses 14 indictments on the human race.  14 evidences or expressions of mankind’s depravity.

Verses 10-12 describe the evil condition of mankind

10. as it is written, “There is none righteous . . .11.  There is none who

understands, There is none who seeks for God;  12b. . . There is none who

does good. . .

Verses 13-14 describe the evil communication of mankind

13.  “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep

deceiving,”  “The poison of asps is under their lips”;  14.  “Whose

mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;  

Verses 15-17 describe the evil chaos of mankind: 

15. “Their feet are swift to shed blood,  16.  Destruction and misery are

in their paths,  17.  And the path 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 speaks to those who are under the Law, so that

every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to


No wonder the human race wants to get rid of the law of God – it condemns them as an objective standard of holiness that they cannot keep.

Kent Hughes recorded in his book entitled, The Disciplines of a Godly Man, that only 13% of Americans see all Ten Commandments today as binding. 

So God is dishonored; parents are dishonored, relationships are dishonored. 

The character of humanity is up for sale.

Dr. Hughes went on to reveal that this same survey posed the question to people at random, “What are you willing to do for $10 million dollars?”  The found that:

            25% would abandon their families

            23% would become a prostitute for at least one week

            7% would kill a stranger

Imagine that – in a crowded section of a mall containing 100 people, 7 of them would kill you if they got enough money. 

One out of 4 would be willing leave their families for money; others would abandon their morals for money; and some would even kill.

This survey also found that 91% of the respondents lied regularly – at home and at work.  Lying has become so much the American way, that even in the highest places of leadership, honesty is becoming more and more the exception.

Fred Holloman, chaplain of the Kansas Senate, crafted a very interesting prayer, which he prayed as the Senate opened session:

Omniscient Father; help us to know who is telling the truth; one side tells us one things, and the other side just the opposite.  And if neither side is telling the truth, we would like to know that, too.  And if each side is telling only half the truth, give us the wisdom to put the right halves together.  In Jesus name, Amen.

                    R. Kent Hughes, The Disciplines of a Godly Man (Crossway Books; Wheaton, IL) 1991, p. 119.

Back in verse 9 – Paul has declared the verdict of universal guilt.      ALL are under sin.  You could call this the declaration of universal depravity.

Depravity is a word that simply means, wretched, ruined, sinful, depraved, degenerate.  Webster defines it as “wicked perversion.”

Webster’s New Compact Dictionary (Book Essentials Publications; Larchmont, NY) 1987 Edition, p. 116

No one is exempt . . . not one has reason to celebrate . . . everyone is in deep trouble with God.

I’ve met a lot of people in my life who’ve admitted that they are not perfect.  “Well, I’m not perfect…”  But rare is the person who will say, “I’m depraved . . . I’ll admit it, I am wicked and perverse.”

Yet, that’s the verdict that Paul has just delivered.

The declaration from Paul in verse 9 is not only the verdict of universal guilt, but secondly, the evidence of universal domination.

Paul wrote, “For all . . . are under sin.”

Now there’s a word that’s disappearing from the English vocabulary; that little three letter word, “sin.”  To merely say it imitates the sound of a serpent. 

And the reason we don’t like to say that word is because it doesn’t leave us with any loophole.  It relates us to the activity of the serpent.  We’ll do anything but admit, “I have sinned!”

Donald Barnhouse wrote in 1953 his commentary on this text and described man as one who, “. . .stands before God like a little boy who swears with crying and tears that he has not been anywhere near the jam jar, and who with an air of outraged innocence, pleads the justice of his position, in total ignorance of the fact that a good spoonful of the jam has fallen on his shirt [just] under his chin and is plainly visible to [everybody] but himself.”

Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans, Volume 1 (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI) 1953, p. 191.

By the way, I want you to know that this is the first time in the book of Romans the word “sin” appears.

Paul has certainly talked about sin in the first two chapters – he has graphically described a sinful behavior and sinful thinking.  But now, however, for the first time, the word itself appears in his letter.

It’s the Greek word, “hamartion” – which literally translates, “to miss the mark.”

The mark, the target of God is holiness.  And Paul declares that everybody has missed the mark. 

But the world insists that it hasn’t sinned.  I mean, it’s made some mistakes, committed some errors in judgment, had some slip ups, some miscalculations, boo-boos and blunders . . . but not sin!

And so, guilty mankind simply replaces that little three letter word with a variety of more comfortable words. 

John MacArthur published a book entitled, "The Vanishing Conscience"  in which he explains that sin and guilt have become public enemy #1.  He writes, "These days everything wrong with humanity is likely to be explained as an illness, an addiction, a result of some pre-existing disability.  What we used to call sin is more easily diagnosed as a whole array of disabilities.  All kinds of immorality and evil conduct are now identified as symptoms of [some] disorder.  Modern culture has created a new gospel - man is not a sinner, but a victim.” 

Here’s a couple of illustrations that evidence this shift in cultural thinking. 

A man who was shot and paralyzed while committing a burglary in New York sued the store owner who shot him.  His attorney told a jury that the man was first of all a victim of society, driven to crime by economic disadvantages.  Then, the lawyer said, his client was a victim of the insensitivity of the store-owner who shot him. Because of the store owner's callous disregard of the thief's plight as a victim, the criminal will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  He deserves some redress.  The jury agreed.  The store owner had to pay the thief a large settlement. 

An FBI agent was fired after he embezzled two thousand dollars from the bureau, then gambled it away in a single afternoon at a casino.  Later he sued, arguing that his gambling addiction was a disability, so being fired was an act of discrimination.  He won the case! 

Another author added that this “victim‘ism’ has so infected our culture than one might even say the victim has become the very mascot of modern society.

Paul does not refer to mankind as victims, but sinners.

He actually says more than simply that.  Notice the word translated “under” in verse 9.  All are under sin.

He isn’t even really saying that all Jews and Gentiles are sinners, but that they are all under sin. . .which of course makes them, sinners.

What does he mean, “all are under sin.”

The word translated “under” is from the original word “hupo.”  It is a very interesting word that means, “under the power of . . . under the authority of. . .”

It’s used in Matthew 8:9 where the Roman centurion tells the Lord, “I have soldiers under me.”  In other words, “I have soldiers under my command.”

It’s was also used in Greek writings of a student under his teacher – that is, under the direction and authority of his professor.”

So here, Paul says, in effect, “All of mankind is under the authority, the command, the domination of sin.” 

John wrote in I John 5:19, that the whole of humanity lies in the power of the evil one.  In other words, the whole unredeemed world is dominated by, under the command of, under the authority of evil . . . and sin.

Jesus had earlier announced the same truth in his message to the Jewish leaders.  Turn for a moment and look at John’s Gospel, chapter 8.

Jesus Christ said in John 8:34.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”

Jesus says, “Here's the absolute truth - truly, truly I say to you - because you've committed sin you now prove that you belong to sin.  You are not free - you are a slave to your sinful nature.”

Then he illustrates the condition of mankind in verse 35.  And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.

What does he mean?  Well, remember the Lord is speaking, verse 31 informs us, to a Jewish audience.  They believed that they owned the father’s house.  Abraham’s house.  But Christ informs them that they are mere servants of the household, not its owners.

Let me illustrate it this way.

When I was in my last year of seminary training in Dallas, Texas, Marsha delivered our twin boys into the world.  As a result of that, in fact, several months earlier because of the difficulty in her pregnancy, she had left her job, which basically put me through school.  So I got a part time job after classes, to make do, until graduation.  I was able to land a job as a courier for a very prosperous commercial real estate firm in North Dallas. These men were making 2,3,400,000 dollars per commission on their complex sales of commercial real-estate in the Dallas area.   I simply ran errands for them.   One afternoon, after classes, I arrived at the office complex and the president of the company pulled me aside, handed me the keys to his car and said, “Stephen, I want you to take my car over to the dealership and wait on it while they rotate the tires.”  His car happened to be a limited edition Mercedes Sports Coupe – a hard top convertible – white with a deep blue roof . . . I had seen a description of the car in the office and knew that it cost nearly $150,000 – and that was 16 years ago.   I remember being scared to death.  As I carefully slid into the drivers seat, I prayed, “Lord, I’m in seminary – I can hardly afford diapers – let alone pay for one small scratch in this car – please, pull a Red Sea moment for me and part the traffic and get me back without any problems.”

I slowly pulled out of the parking lot, eased onto the parkway and began the 5 mile trip to the dealership.  It wasn’t long before I noticed something - as people drove by they stared at me – with envy.  This had never happened to me before.  Whenever I drove on that same parkway in my green Volare (remember those?!) the only look I got was sympathy. 

I pulled up to a red light and people on both sides of me looked longingly at the car - then at me – I could tell they were thinking – that guy has made it to the top.  You know what I did?   I nodded back at them – fixed the rear view mirror and kind of settled back in my seat.  I got this smirk on my face that, I guess, comes with hundred thousand dollar automobiles.  Now, my boss had also asked me to fill the car up with gas – that had worried me before, but now I was looking for the busiest gas station I could find – with a lot of people.  I found one - pulled in, got out - this guy next to me did a double take and said, “Wow, that is some car!”  I said, “Thanks.”  But then he asked, “How long have you had it?”  Oh what temptation.  “I finally admitted . . . I’ve only had it about 10 minutes. . .see, it's not mine, it's my bosses car.”  He said, “Oh reaaaaaly! 

The truth was, I have to admit, it was a lot of fun for a moment acting as if that car belonged to me – the truth was far different than the appearance.  The truth was, I was just a hired servant; an errand boy, and I didn’t own one shiny inch of that car.

Here in this text, as in Romans chapter 3, the Jewish leaders were walking around with a spiritual smirk on their faces – acting as if they owned the house of God.  And Jesus told them that they weren’t “spiritual sons, but slaves . . . slaves to sin.” 

In other words, just as a hired servant might live in the master’s house, he's not part of the family. He’s not a son –  he will never own one inch of the Father’s house.

Paul, in effect, tells all of humanity, Jew and Gentile alike, “Wipe the smirk off your face . . . you have nothing to be arrogant  and proud about – you have no reason to celebrate – you haven’t won anything . . . you forgot to look at the scoreboard.”

The truth is, you’re going to lose.  Why?  Because all of humanity is sinful and guilty and under the irresistible pull and domination of sin.

What’s the evidence Paul – how do you know that?  Paul will begin in the very next verse to deliver his 14 indictments on the human race as he describes the depravity of man, and ultimately, the deliverance of God.

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