“Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one.”
Romans 3:9-10 NLT
Paul is finally reaching a conclusion to his rant about his fellow Jews. We don’t know how it was received in the Roman church, but hopefully there were positive outcomes. He asked the question if Jews were better than Gentiles, and then quite emphatically stated that they weren’t, because all people “are under the power of sin”, regardless of their heritage. And, to support his conclusion, he quotes verses from Psalms 14 and 53.
Psalm 14, a Davidic psalm, starts with a rather depressing theme about those who turn their backs on God, as being foolish. Verses 2 and 3 read, “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”! If David had just stopped there then there would have been no hope for anyone, let alone God’s people. The only logical outcome would have been another flood to enable God to start again, in the hope that the next race of people would behave better. Thankfully, of course, God made a covenant that He would never wipe out sinful humanity again. And David went on in Psalm 14 to record three things about God’s people. David wrote, “… for God is with those who obey him … the Lord will protect his people … the Lord restores his people” (Psalm 14:5-7).
But Paul, in his letter to the Romans, was laying the foundations for what he was about to say in the chapters and verses to come. It all started with sin, he said. The powerful hold that sin has over mankind. If it was just left there then there would be no hope, regardless of who their ancestors were, whether Jew or Gentile. But we pilgrims today have the benefit of a handbook of examples and instructions, to enable us to live a life free of the power of sin. Over it all, and through the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, we can respond to Paul and say that we stand righteous before God, because Jesus took on board mankind’s sin and unrighteousness. He knew that when he wrote this letter, and in the days and weeks to come we too will follow his very clear and detailed thinking.
Dear God. We thank You for Your servant Paul, and his willingness to record what You were saying to the early church. Please help us too to listen to Paul’s words and act upon them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.