All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one.Romans 3:12(HCSB)
Paul's letter to the Romans is the most comprehensive treaties on the state of fallen humanity. It brings us to the shocking realisation that our unrighteousness is exposed by His righteousness and our depravity is magnified by God's perfect goodness. It teaches the stark truth that all sinners, whether Jew or Gentile, are under the wrath of God and that we need a Saviour to save us from our sin.
Paul makes it very clear that no sinner is exempt from God's righteous condemnation. He reminds us that there is not one person who is righteous. There is neither one good man nor one virtuous woman who can lay claim to being good and guiltless, blameless and praiseworthy, in the sight of God.
Irrespective of nationality or colour, whether male or female, old or young, bond or free, Paul reminds us that "all have turned away; together they have become useless. No one does good - not even one."
The stark reality of this biblical truth is one of the major blocks in man's mind, for we have been conditioned to consider that we are quite good, in comparison with other people. But God is not into comparing the transgression of one sinner with the sin of another person - for there are none who do good, not even one.
All have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God and as a result, all are under God's eternal condemnation and sentenced to the fires of hell. Paul brings us, step by logical step, to the point where both Jew and Gentile are equally condemned by Almighty God, and he anticipates the barrage of objections and questions that God's covenant people, Israel, are likely to raise.
Paul anticipates all the counter-arguments of his fellow Jews and starts to address, and answer, every one of the rhetorical challenges that Jewish people are likely to make such as... 'Is there not any advantage in being a Jew?' - 'Is there any profit in the covenant of circumcision?' - 'Does unbelief make God's promises ineffective?' and 'If our unrighteousness magnifies the righteousness of God, should we not try to sin more, to make God appear more righteous?'
One by one, Paul answers every question through the supernatural inspiration of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, and puts every opposing line of reasoning to flight. In this verse, Paul answers another line of questioning from his Jewish brethren - 'What then,' they ask, 'are we better than they? Aren't we Jews better than those Gentiles? Aren't we Israelites less sinful than those pagans? As God's chosen and covenanted people, won't God favour us more than them?'
However, Paul structures his argument to show that even though Israel was given incredible privileges, including circumcision as a special sign between them, and even though they were given the Scriptures, the promise of the Messiah, and the promise of an earthly kingdom which is filled with peace and prosperity, they had all turned away from the Lord and together they had become useless.
Although Israel was the only nation with whom the Lord made a covenant and even though they were honoured to be God's chosen people and His firstborn, adoptive son - they still had to come to terms with the truth that no one does good, not even one - not even them! There are none that are good enough, for all are sinners and all need a Saviour - and the Jews are no exception.
Paul structured the first few chapters of the book of Romans to bring every member of the human race, whether Jew or Gentile, to the stark realisation that we are ALL under sin and we ALL need salvation by grace through faith - and he used a string of Old Testament verses to verify the truth and to seal his argument:
"There is none righteous, not even one... There is none who understands... There is none who seeks for God... All have turned aside... Together they have become useless... There is none who does good - not even one." Indeed, Paul continues to quote Old Testament Scripture to authenticate his argument: "For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
He continues, "Their throat is an open grave, and with their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes."
This catalogue of man's depravity is sufficient to bring the most positive of people to the pit of despair - if it were not for the glorious gospel of grace that followed. The damning truth of man's sinful nature is the foundation upon which the rest of Romans is laid - and from this point on, Paul lays out the most comprehensive treatise of God's amazing plan of redemption - through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In laying out man's desperate need of salvation, Paul is able to start the next section which gives hope to all... for though the wages of sin is death, nevertheless, the gift of God is eternal life THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.
Let us celebrate the wonderful truth of God's amazing gift of salvation which is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ - not of works, lest any man should boast.
Heavenly Father, when I start to understand that as a sinner, I have nothing to commend me to You, how I praise and thank You for Your wonderful plan of redemption. Thank You that You sent Jesus to pay the price for the sins of the world and that by faith in Him my sins are forgiven, through time and into eternity. Thank You that I am declared righteous by my association with Christ and am identified with His righteousness. Thank You that in Your grace, every sinner has the right to be forgiven of their sins, by faith in Christ, and have a free will to accept or reject the gift of salvation. I pray that many would reach out to You today, and be saved by grace through faith in Him. In Jesus' name, AMEN.