God’s Courtroom Scene
God’s courtroom. vv.9-20 are much like a courtroom scene. We have heard all the evidence in Rom. 1:19 – 3:8. The charge is given in v.9; “all under sin”. The indictment is read in vv.10-18 (14 counts, “it is written”). The opportunity for defense, and the “guilty” verdict in v.19. We find that there is no possibility of appeal in v.20.
The Charge: All are Under Sin (3:9)
¶ 9 What then? are we [Jews] better [than the Gentiles]? No, in no wise: for we have before charged both Jews and Greeks with being all under sin: v.9 Paul begins with “what then?” or, “as a result of all this”, referring to Rom. 1:19 – 3:8; he is poised to summarize. Can the Jew lift his head above the Gentile? No… not in any aspect. All men have one thing in common; they are all under sin. From this point forward Paul no longer views the race in three parts, but the race as a whole, and addresses them as such in vv.9-20.
vv.10-18 This indictment is a compilation of quotations from seven Old Testament scriptures. The indictment is of the Jew, but as a representative sample of the human race; it is a description of the first man.
10 according as it is written, (1) “There is not a righteous man, not even one; 11 (2) there is not the man that understands, (3) there is not one that seeks after God. 12 (4) All have gone out of the way, (5) they have together become unprofitable; (6) there is not one that practises goodness, there is not so much as one:” 13 (7) “their throat is an open sepulchre;” (8) “with their tongues they have used deceit;” (9) “asps’ poison is under their lips:” 14 (10) “whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;” 15 (11) “swift their feet to shed blood; 16 (12) ruin and misery are in their ways, 17 and (13) way of peace they have not known:” 18 (14) “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” v.11 You might ask, “but aren’t the eastern religions seeking after God?” Actually, they are seeking enlightenment, not God. In many cases they believe they are divine. It is beautiful to contrast the description of our Lord in the Song of Solomon (read Song. 5:10-16) with this description of the first man (vv.13-15). Compare a “mouth full of cursing and bitterness” with a mouth that is “most sweet: Yea, he is altogether lovely.”
|—— man’s character ——|
|1||none righteous||no righteousness||Psa. 14:1-3|
|2||none that understand||a twisted mind|
|3||none that seek after God||at enmity with God|
|4||all gone out of the way||distanced from God|
|5||all become unprofitable||useless to God|
|6||none that do good||generally selfish|
|—— man’s conversation ——|
|7||throat: an open sepulcher||vulgar talk||Psa. 5:9|
|8||tongues: used deceit||dishonest talk||Psa. 50:19|
|9||Lips: covering snake poison||vindictive talk||Psa. 140:3|
|10||mouth: full of cursing, etc.||bitter, hateful talk||Psa. 10:7|
|—— man’s conduct ——|
|11||feet: swift to shed blood||violent tendency||Isa. 59:7-8|
|12||ways: destruction & misery||trouble & sorrow|
|13||ways: peace never known||constant unrest|
|14||eyes: no fear of God||disrespect to God||Psa. 36:1|
The Indictment. How is an indictment different from a charge? The charge is that “all are under sin”… that man is a sinner and he can’t stop sinning. An indictment is a formal, detailed description of the crime the defendant is accused of committing. An indictment is always written down and then read aloud in a courtroom. Hence the expression “it is written” (v.10). In vv.10-18 we have a graphic description of man’s lost condition; fourteen counts of man’s sin that prove his condition in God’s sight. It gives us God’s view of man, except where He has intervened grace.
19 Now we know that whatever the things the law says, it speaks to those under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God. v.19 The “things which the Law said” to Israel about their failure, implicated the whole world as guilty, because Israel was really just a specimen of the human race; a test-case given the optimal conditions. Any other specimen would have produced the same results! This is the point of v.19. “Every mouth” is stopped with regard to excuses and self-justification, but “every mouth” will be opened one day to confess Christ’s authority (Phil. 2:11). The final verdict is “guilty”.
20 Wherefore by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him; for by law is knowledge of sin. v.20 Immediately, the Jew has the thought of appeal on the basis of the Law. Here, God says “no possibility of appeal”. The law will only condemn you more (see Job 9:20)! The main reason for giving the law was to show man his true condition, to bring to light the knowledge that man has sinned. Since the law is a tool whose sole purpose is to expose sin (like a mirror, or builder’s level), it can never be used to save men from the judgment of their sins!