No one is righteous

Romans 3:9-31

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:9-31

Inclusive and Exclusive

Discipline is a very difficult subject. There are different approaches and some are effective and some are not so effective. In this section of scripture Paul uses both inclusive and exclusive references when describing the people. He uses inclusive statements when he references “all”, “every”, “whole”.  Then on the other extreme he uses exclusive references when he uses “no one” and “none”. Let’s look at how Paul uses the terms and how we may summarize what they tell us about people.


What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; – Romans 3:9 NASB

Everybody is under the power and control of sin. This verse uses the reference of “we” to identify Christians, believers, followers. As we went through the end of chapter one, we learned about the Gentiles not doing well. Then there was the Jews in chapter two. Paul does not stop there. In this chapter, Paul calls everybody out.

All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one. – Romans 3:12 NLT

Paul gets right to the point and calls us all out. Every single one of us. When you read this verse, it is really hard to say he is talking about someone else. We need to also realize that this is not just a rant that Paul went on. Paul was actually quoting Old Testament truths, and the Jews listening to him would have known that this is in reference to the law they declared to follow.

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! – Psalms 14:1-3

If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near – 1 Kings 8:46 ESV

We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! – Isaiah 53:6

We see that this concept that all have fallen short of God’s expectations and that no one is righteous is not a new idea.  In reality the Jews had the message right there in the law, but became hypocritical. Thinking that they were more privileged than others because they had the law and knew better.

Do you ever find yourself reading scripture and quickly thinking of other people that it refers to? This is a great example of where we really need to use better discernment and do better self-examinations.

Reading and seeing how Paul was just reiterating the facts laid out, do you find it convicting at all when we overlook our shortcomings? When we read this or someone points out that no one is perfect, does it inspire you or allow you to justify your desires?

We can read Isaiah 29:13-16 to catch some more reality.
And so the Lord says,These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.” What sorrow awaits those who try to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their evil deeds in the dark!
“The Lord can’t see us,” they say. “He doesn’t know what’s going on!” How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”?
Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”?
– Isaiah 29:13-16

Do you ever catch yourself giving God/Jesus lip-service or worshiping service or churches, rather than God himself?

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that [the murmurs and excuses of] every mouth may be hushed and all the world may be held accountable to God. – Romans 3:19 AMP

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. – Galatians 5:1-6 NLT

It is very common for people to realize that they are not doing what is expected of them by God, but they rationalize their behavior, comparing themselves to others. Many believe that God loves everybody and that he forgives, which is true. But the interesting statement in this verse is that “the whole world may be held accountable”.  Does that verse lead you to believe there will be no consequences?


Describe what you believe “being held accountable” means.  We are instructed and encouraged to be “held accountable”, or a fellow brother in Christ comes to us and says, “will you hold me accountable”.  What does that look and feel like?

Accountability: accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies.

Many individuals act and believe that accountability is a safety net that will prevent them from doing wrong.  This is not the truth. That belief is actually a lie from the world and satan himself.  The reason I say that is that even people that are accountable for a particular area, still are vulnerable to falling.

Accountability is the bridge, not the destination.
We must realize that accountability is a tool, not a goal. Accountability is like a bridge over a body of water. The objective is to get over the water, not marvel about the bridge. When your traveling you don’t go and marvel at the bridge and study the pillar structure, you use the bridge to get to the other side. You have a destination, a goal.  Same in our Christian walk, we should have an objective. Don’t make the challenge you have become your objective.

An example that is illustrated well is the issue where Pastors in Christian churches are committing adultery, having affairs and believe it or not, they have regular accountability sessions with other pastors and leaders.  Do you know why this style of accountability does not work? Because the one needing the accountability does not want to change or be healed.  In these cases, the pastors lied to their accountability partners. They put on the mask and said all the right answers, and played the game.  What is the real issue in these cases?  The pastors had their temptations and their personal desires and they wanted to justify their actions by saying it was not their fault. They had accountability and the sin was just too overwhelming. I challenge that approach. I would tend to believe that the pastor did not really want to prevent the affair or experience.  Was the pastor just using situation to say he was doing the right thing?  Let us remember, we can be healed, we can be changed by the Holy Spirit, but we have to want to change.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Many of us really love that verse because it gives hope. That we can be transformed and that we can be acceptable.  The challenge though in that verse is the idea that we have to allow our minds to be renewed. A person has to let their mind be changed.

Have you ever had someone that wanted to change your mind and you did not want to change? How did it work out?  Our flesh, and sinful desires will build walls, cause us to shutdown and we can rationalize anything.

A very real thing that happened in history that many don’t want to acknowledge, or maybe just never realized. The most powerful person in all history, Jesus, the son of God, God himself incarnate, came down and lived among broken and sick people. He performed miracles and wonders. The scary truth is though, he did not heal everybody. There were many people that were sick, lost and in need, but he did not heal them.  Why?

It is a heart issue.  Did they want to be healed? Let’s recall the moment in John chapter 5, where Jesus himself arrives at the healing pool in Jerusalem. This is where many disabled people came to get healing.  When Jesus met a man that had been sick for a very long time, what did he do? He did not just simply lay hands on him and heal him. No. He asked the most piercing and direct question. “Do you want to be healed?”

That is a challenging question. Not just for the disabled man at the well, but for all of us. In whatever we struggle with, whether it is candy bars, donuts, pornography, lust, or anger. Do we really want to change?  Do we like doing what we do so much that we want to just put a band-aid on the gaping wound?  Do we want to have our own way, but we will engage in accountability to just show others that we are “working on” our issue? But in reality, we have no intention of changing?

Now the challenging question is, do you have any accountability? Do you think this group holds you accountable? Do you have anyone you are accountable to? Before you answer, glance through the next list:

Five Basics for Accountability

  1. Focus on the Gospel and your responding to the grace of God
  2. Find men that have regular contact with you and can observe your life closely. (not once a week or friends on Facebook)
  3. Find men that are not under your authority. There response may be tainted because if they say something you don’t like there may be consequences. Your accountability team should be diligent in asking the hard questions, challenging your honesty and relentless about getting an answer.
  4. Tell them you are going to lie to them occasionally to see if they are holding up their part of the deal. How do you know if an accountability group or person is working for you? Try lying to them. See if you can get away with it. If you can, then they are not a benefit, but a facade. If you can lie to your accountability team and they don’t point it out immediately and engage with tough questions, you may need to check your heart and motivation in defining that team.
  5. Don’t just meet and socialize. Accountability is an engagement for an objective. Each meeting come together to discuss progress, growth and set backs, but most of all, come together to discuss what is going on in your head, not just what the results are. Just because you have not acted out wrong, or failed, does not mean you are being transformed. It might be that you are about to explode, or you have not been caught yet. The intention of accountability is growth, not social engagement.

“ponder the path of your feet [and allow others to carefully observe your thoughts and your heart’s passions]; then all your ways will be sure.” – Proverbs 4:26

Many might think after reading through this section about accountability and figure, heck I don’t need that. Life is not that bad. I am doing alright. I used to be so much worse, or I don’t need that, I am not as bad as “him”, or “him”. But then we end up being no better than the Jews in this section. Remember your goal in life is not to be better than someone else here. Your goal should be to have that great relationship with Jesus and he can’t stand sin and that should cause effect in your life.

Another way of putting it is that you most likely came to church or even this group to have a better life. To learn and grow closer to Christ. That is a great objective. But if you don’t allow it to change you has it really served it’s purpose. It would be like going to the automotive repair shop to get your car fixed and leaving in just as bad shape as when you pulled in.

If you struggle with accountability and with that in depth relationships, I would challenge you to look at how you deal with authority. How we were raised, how we were treated and the damage along the way may have tainted our respect and understanding of authority. The easiest thing to do with authority is flee from it. But just remember you will not be able to flee the one with all authority. You can be on the run and ducking and weaving, but in the end you will be held accountable. Many of us know that feeling of avoiding areas in our lives, working and spending lots of time and money to avoid that facts. But once we have come clean and gotten back on track (repentance) life is so much simpler and joyful.


Now back to chapter 3, what does this passage say that the law does for us?  What does it unable to do?

Let’s see what the passage pulls out for us…Paul does point out through numerous verses exclusive truths.

There is no one righteous, not even one; – Romans 3:10 NIV

no one understands; no one seeks for God. – Romans 3:11 ESV

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. – Romans 3:12 ESV

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. – Romans 3:20 ESV

Paul lays out how the laws defines what is right and who is perfect but a key thing that we need to grasp is…

The law was given, not make men righteous, but to expose their sin and eliminate any excuse of ignorance. As a result, it is impossible to achieve a right standing with God by keeping the Law.

How does the law correct someone?

Let’s see what our passage points out to us:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that [the murmurs and excuses of] every mouth may be hushed and all the world may be held accountable to God. – Romans 3:19 AMP

We do a lot of studying and fellowshipping, and talk about the “shoulda’s” and “coulda’s” but the matter comes to the heart and how we walk with Jesus. Check out verses 27-28.

Then what becomes of [our] pride and [our] boasting? It is excluded (banished, ruled out entirely). On what principle? [On the principle] of doing good deeds? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified and made upright by faith independent of and distinctly apart from good deeds (works of the Law). [The observance of the Law has nothing to do with justification.] – Romans 3:27-28 AMP

What is the hope we can pull out of this? It is the righteousness and justification that is laid out.  Let’s re-read verses 21-31.

There is a lot of hope and glory in that passage, an interesting couple words at the end of verse 22 can be riveting… “For there is no distinction” or “there is no difference”. Hmm….

What do those words say to us about the gospel?

We read a significant section in the middle of this passage about the death of Jesus. How does his death demonstrate God’s justice?

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Romans 3:25-26 ESV

Big confusing word, “propitiation”. We need to know it, because we need to fully understand what it is that we get from such a statement.

The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to them. It is done by God, not us.

Then we must not overlook that closing verse,

Well then, if we are saved by faith, does this mean that we no longer need obey God’s laws? Just the opposite! In fact, only when we trust Jesus can we truly obey him. – Romans 3:31 TLB

Many individuals outside of the Christian circle get really upset with followers of Jesus because the view our trust in God’s work on the cross as disobedience to the laws. That we walk around as if we did not do anything wrong. In truthfulness, this is a common behavior, but that does not make it a right behavior. Yes we are forgiven of our past sins, but that does not erase the consequences of our past. Many individuals right in our group are in a situation now that was a result of some past decisions.

The law is intended to protect us, keep us safe and to point us back to a greater relationship with Jesus, our Lord. Not to beat us up and point out all we do wrong.  Let’s read the Ten Commandments and put this into our mind.

10 Commandments

2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. – Exodus 20:2-17 ESV

As we close this week together, let us realize that yes we all are messed up, that none of us is perfect, that Jesus died to make things right and working together we can have a better life. None of us is better than all of us.

This material covered in this posting was composed with reference to Acts 29 Network, ESV Study Bible, Journey Church online, and No intention is made to declare this is new or original material. It is solely intended to share information.