People from all over the world boarded the huge, beautiful ocean liner on April 10, 1912. The world had never seen such a ship. So much thought had been put into its design and construction. Every detail was given to making sure that the safety and comfort provided for the passengers would be unparalleled. The Titanic was commanded by Commodore Edward John Smith, the White Star Line’s most senior captain. Captain Smith was so impressed by the Titanic that he said, “Not even God Himself could sink this ship!”
When the construction was completed and the day came for its maiden voyage, everyone who had been involved in bringing a dream into reality were breathless at the accomplishment. The R.M.S. Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship that the world had ever seen.
2,235 passengers and crew boarded the Titanic on April 10th and many others looked on at the massive ship and anticipated the moment that it would disembark from Southampton and begin to make its way to New York. Some of the most wealthy and powerful people in the world boarded the Titanic on that day. There was the millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his pregnant wife, Madeleine. Macy’s department store owner, Isidor Straus and his wife Ida. Pennsylvania Railroad executive John Borland Thayer and his 17 year old son, Jack. Dorothy Gibson, the American silent film star was aboard the Titanic. And the list went on and one. Together, their personal fortunes were worth $600 million in 1912! In addition to the prominent and powerful passengers, there were also poor immigrants from Europe and the Middle East, who were picked-up along the way, seeking economic and social freedom in the New World.
For four days things went so smoothly for the passengers aboard the Titanic. Parties took place around the clock. Everyone was reveling in being the first aboard the beautiful ship. Then, on the night of April 14, while the band played just before midnight, something happened. The Titanic struck an iceberg. Within three hours the unsinkable Titanic had plunged to the bottom of the sea taking more than 1500 people to their deaths. The rich perished. The poor died. The educated met their demise. The uneducated faced the same fate.
The Titanic had lifeboats aboard that would hold 1,178 people, but only about 700 people survived. Only those in the lifeboats would survive the tragic ending of the Titanic. In a very real way the Titanic is a picture of the human condition that the Apostle Paul paints for us in Romans. Of the 300 or so people aboard the “BCC Titanic” this morning there are those who are wealthy and powerful, there are those who are poor and struggling just to make ends meet, there are those who are highly educated and those who don’t have much education at all, there are various ages and races on board this morning, but we are all in the same boat at this very moment–and it is sinking. I’ve come here today to urge you, to plead with you, “Get in! Get in now! Don’t wait another minute to get in the lifeboat of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is our only hope of survival!” Yet there are those, like those aboard the Titanic, who do not recognize the urgency of the moment. You are living it up, listening to the band play on while the ship of your life is sinking fast.
As we have been studying Romans we have seen, in the first three chapters, how Paul has shown us that we are all in the same boat together. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul demonstrated that the pagan Gentiles have been given more than enough evidence of God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature,” and yet we Gentiles have suppressed the truth about God. In Romans 2:1-16, Paul showed us how the self-righteous moralist live a hypocritical life, and shun God, just like everyone else. In Romans 2:18-3:8, we’ve seen Paul show that the Jew, given the advantage of the Law, had yet broken God’s Law. We are all in the same sinking ship together aren’t we? Let’s take a look at our Scripture and see what we can learn.
9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:9-20 NIV)
In verse 9, Paul says “Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.” Just last week we studied Romans 3:1-8 and we read where Paul asked,
1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:1-2 NIV)
Paul says that the Jews have a great advantage in Romans 3:2. In Romans 3:9 he says that the Jews are no better than the Gentiles. Is Paul contradicting himself? Not at all. Paul has shown that the Jews were given the great privilege of receiving the Law, the very Word of God, but he says that they are no better than the Gentiles because they dismissed God’s Law, they broke God’s Law. We are all under sin. The word, “under,” doesn’t seem to be a significant word when we read this verse, but behind that little Greek preposition is a world of significance that we need to understand. The Greek word, “hupo” means, “under.” Let me give you a couple of examples of how the word is used so that we can gain a better understanding of the power of this little word.
In Luke 7, Jesus was approached by the friends of a centurion at Capernaum. The centurion’s servant was deathly ill and his boss had great compassion on him. The centurion had heard about Jesus and thought that He might help restore his servant’s health. The only problem was that the centurion didn’t feel worthy to have Jesus come to his house so he had some of the Jewish elders go to Jesus. When Jesus was not too far from the centurion’s house, he sent some of his friends to tell Jesus that he didn’t deserve to have Him come to his house, but he knew that if Jesus would just speak the word that this servant would be healed. We read the little word, “hupo,” in Luke 7:8. Read along with me.
8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” (Luke 7:8-9)
Are you starting to get a clearer picture of the power of that little word? The man under authority is under the control of his commanding officer. If he says, “Jump,” then the next question is “How high?” If he says, “Go!” then the next question is “Where?”
Let me show you one more example of the use of this word. In Galatians 3:22, Paul writes about those who are under the power of sin. Read along with me.
22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:22 NIV)
Scripture says that we are prisoners, we are held captive, we are shut up in solitary confinement and the prison cell that has us is none other than sin itself. This description is right on target and it is the very thing that Paul is restating in Romans 3:9.
You all know that my favorite preachers are the old dead guys like Spurgeon, Calvin, and Arthur Pink. Those guys described what Paul is talking about as “total depravity.” That’s probably a new phrase for some of you who have not been coming to BCC very long because it isn’t talked about much in our day. It’s an unsettling phrase for most of us because we certainly wouldn’t describe ourselves as totally depraved. That phrase should be used to describe people like Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden. We probably wouldn’t have any problem describing those guys as depraved, but we shudder to think that someone would label us as depraved. J.I. Packer, one of the great Bible teachers, has written,
The phrase total depravity is commonly used to make explicit the implications of original sin. It signifies a corruption of our moral and spiritual nature that is total not in degree (for no one is as bad as he or she might be) but in extent. It declares that no part of us is untouched by sin, and therefore no action of ours is as good as it should be, and consequently nothing in us or about us ever appears meritorious in God’s eyes. We cannot earn God’s favor, no matter what we do; unless grace saves us, we are lost. (J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs. Tyndale House Publishers. 1993.)
Every part of our being has been affected by sin. We are not as bad as we could be, but neither are we as good as God calls us to be. For the rest of our study this morning, in Romans 3:10-20, Paul demonstrates this truth. Beginning in verse 10, Paul gives us seven quotations from the Old Testament, found in nine different places. I want you to do something for me. I will read each of the quotations from the Old Testament while you read along from Romans 3:10-18 so that you can see where Paul is getting the material for his sermon. Here we go. The first quotation comes from Ecclesiastes 7:20.
20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV)
This verse is quoted in Romans 3:11. Our next passage comes from the Psalms. Look at Romans 3:12 as I read to you from Psalms 14:1-3.
1 For the director of music. Of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3 NIV)
Paul actually gets his material for Romans 3:12 from two Old Testament passages. We just read Psalm 14:1-3. Now, listen as I read to you from Psalm 53:1-3.
1 For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:1-3 NIV)
Romans 3:13 is made up of two Old Testament passages found in Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 140:3.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. (Psalm 5:9 NIV)
3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips. Selah (Psalm 140:3 NIV)
Romans 3:14 is taken from Psalm 10:7. Listen as I read the words of this Psalm to you.
7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. (Psalm 10:7 NIV)
Phrases from Romans 3:15-17 are taken from two more Old Testament passages: Isaiah 59:7-10 and Proverbs 1:16.
7 Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. 8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. 9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:7-10 NIV)
16 for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood. (Proverbs 1:16 NIV)
The last quotation that Paul uses from the Old Testament is found in Romans 3:18 and is taken from Psalm 36:1.
1 For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. (Psalm 36:1 NIV)
I mentioned to you earlier that every part of our being has been affected by sin. As we were reading these verses I hope you got a better understanding of just what I was referring to. John R.W. Stott has written,
For sin affects every part of our human constitution, every faculty and function, including our mind, emotions, sexuality, conscience and will. In verses 13-17 there is a deliberate listing of different parts of the body. Thus, their throats are open graves, full of corruption and infection; their tongues practice deceit, instead of being dedicated to the truth; their lips spread poison like snakes; their mouths are filled with bitter curses; their feet are swift in the pursuit of violence, and scatter ruin and misery in their path, instead of walking in the way of peace; and their eyes are looking in the wrong direction; they do not reverence God. These bodily limbs and organs were created and given us so that through them we might serve people and glorify God. Instead, they are used to harm people and in rebellion against God. (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Romans, Intervarsity Press: Leicester, England, 1994. pg. 100-101)
At the close of our study today we will have come to the end of Paul’s argument against humanity. He has taken three chapters to methodically include every single one of us on the docket before the verdict is read. The verdict is-“Guilty as charged!” We are all guilty. There is no escaping our guilt. Some of us may think that we can escape because we are use to dealing with human courts. In human courts you see the guilty get off sometimes. Good lawyers are hired, seeds of doubt are planted, juries are swayed, and sometimes the guilty get off Scott-free. Here in this life, we appear before human juries and those juries are made up of people just like us. Fallible people. People who do not possess infinite knowledge or wisdom. People who are more easily persuaded by their emotions than by the truth.
The day will come when we will no longer stand before a jury of our peers, but we will take our place at the bench of the Judge of all the earth. He is not to be persuaded by friends. He is no respecter of persons. He shows no partiality. He can’t be bought, compromised, or manipulated. There will be no evidence that is not brought forth. He is righteous in all His ways. His justice has never been compromised by power, prestige, or privilege. His verdicts are always true.
When we take our place before His throne we won’t argue our case, we will simply close our mouths in utter silence. Take a look at our final two verses for this morning found in Romans 3:19-20 with me.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:19-20 NIV)
Those of you who are students of God’s Word will read “Law” in these verses and automatically respond to me by saying, “Oh, but Mike we are not under the Law.” You are some astute scholars, yes you are! I want to broaden your understanding of that word used by Paul. Paul has just referenced seven quotations from nine passages of Scripture from the Old Testament. He is, in verses 19-20, no doubt referring to what he has just quoted. How many of those quotations are from the Law, the Torah, or the Ten Commandments? Not a single verse. Paul quoted passages from Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Ecclesiastes didn’t he? In verses 19-20 he describes these quotations as “the Law.” Paul believes that the entire Hebrew Bible is the authoritative source of the divine “Law.” We would add that the New and Old Testament are our authoritative source for God’s divine “Law.” We live our lives “under” the Word of God my friends.
The Law reveals how desperately far we are from what God has intended for us to be. It reveals to us our sin. This is a good thing if we will allow our desperation to lead us into the arms of our glorious Savior, but so many people refuse to do so. We would rather try to explain away our sin, compare ourselves to others who we think are worse than us, or dismiss our actions all together. John MacArthur has written in his commentary.
The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca wrote that every guilty person is his own hangman. No matter how often a man tells himself he is good, he inevitably sees that he cannot help thinking, saying, and doing wrong things and feeling guilty about it. Guilt drives people to alcohol, drugs, despair, insanity, and more and more frequently to suicide. After playing psychological games about blaming his environment or other people or society in general, man still cannot escape the feeling of his own guilt. In fact, societies with sophisticated psychological services seem even more guilt ridden. People want to get rid of their guilty feelings but they do not know how. And the more they probe for solutions, the more guilty they feel. (John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. Moody Press: Chicago, IL. 1991)
What a powerful testimony to the truth of your life and mine. We can continue to play games and blame others for the troubles of our lives, but we will never escape the guilt that lies deep, deep in our hearts. A guilt that we know we must own, even if we don’t want to admit it. We have been given this precious life by God to serve Him, love Him, enjoy Him, and to bless and serve people, but we have made a mess of it. Oh, it may not look like a mess on the outside. Some of us have come from really nice homes this morning and parked really nice cars in the parking lot, but the truth is, our hearts and minds do not reflect the holiness of our God. It is not until we face the truth and confess our desperate, hopeless situation to the Lord that He can change our hearts and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The great evangelist Dwight L. Moody told of being asked by the warden of a large prison in New York City to speak to the inmates. Because there was no chapel or other safe place to speak to the group, he preached from a gangway at one end of a large tier of cells, unable to see the face of a single prisoner. After the message he asked permission to talk face-to-face with some of the men through the bars of their cells. He soon discovered that most of the men had not even been listening to his message. When Moody would ask an inmate why he was in prison, the man almost invariably declared his innocence. He would insist that a false witness testified against him, or that he was mistaken for the person who really committed the crime, or that the judge or jury was prejudiced against him, or he would give some other reason he was unjustly incarcerated. “I began to get discouraged,” Moody said, “but when I had gotten almost through I found one man with his elbows on his knees and tears running down his cheeks. I looked in through the little window and said, ‘My friend, what is your trouble?’ He looked up with despair and remorse on his face and said, ‘My sins are more than I can bear.’ I said, ‘Thank God for that.'” The evangelist was thankful because he knew that no man is open to God’s way until he forsakes his own way, that he will not seek salvation until he admits he is lost. (John MacArthur)
Who had the advantage in that New York City prison? Those who weren’t troubled by what they had done? Those who had figured out a way to try and absolve their guilt by blaming someone else? Or the man who sat broken to the core of his being because, as he said, “My sins are more than I can bear?” You know the answer to that question. The man who appeared to be most hopeless was truly the only man who had any hope at all. God deals with broken people. God heals broken people. God alone can take the pieces of a broken life and recreate it into the image of His Son. I want to urge you this morning to face the music. Apart from Jesus we are desperately hopeless. It doesn’t matter if society recognizes you as somebody important. It doesn’t matter if you have made a “success” of your life materially, financially, professionally.
Apart from Jesus Christ you and I have no hope for truly experiencing this life as God intends and we have no hope of enjoying His glorious presence in the life to come. Won’t you talk to Jesus this morning and confess to him your guilt, your sin, and ask Him to forgive you, cleanse you, and restore you to the person He desires you to be?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 23, 2013