Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;Romans 3:19(NASB)
Romans is the book that systematically exposes the sinfulness of fallen man, in order to reveal the perfect righteousness of our eternal God. From the middle of chapter 3, we are led through a treasure trove of God's infinite righteousness which is revealed through a single man – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The earlier chapters lay a trail of man's sinfulness, and establish many reasons for the eternal condemnation of all men – for all have sinned and all fall short of God's glory and perfect righteousness.
All men are condemned according to divine standards which are laid out in the Law. And although man attempts to keep the Law in order to meet the righteous standard of the Lord, Paul reminds us that perfection is impossible for imperfect man. No one can keep the Law. Imperfection can never attain to perfection.
Whether Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, Paul makes it abundantly clear that achieving the perfect requirements of the Law is impossible. And although being born into the nation of Israel afforded the Jews many benefits, Paul left us in no doubt that they too need to be saved by God's grace through faith – and not by keeping the Law.
Paul quotes many verses from the Hebrew Scriptures to verify the condemnation of everyone, including the people of Israel, for this verse is particularly aimed at them because they were the chosen, covenanted people of God. They were given the Law, they knew the Law, and they were under the Law of Moses. As Paul points out, "We know that whatever the Law says, speaks to those who are under the Law."
So why did God give the Law to Israel if no-one could keep it? What was the purpose of setting standards that could never be reached?
The Law was given to Israel not as a means to salvation, but to identify their sin and to establish their need for salvation, by faith. Israel were to share this knowledge with the Gentiles so that the nations would come to know that God is the Lord. Israel were given the Law. They knew the Law and so the Law was addressed to them. The Law spoke to them about their need to be saved and forgiven, because the Law is addressed to those who are living under the Law. The Law spoke to them and they were to tell other nations that they needed salvation – by faith in God.
It is by breaking a law that one is condemned by that law – and even if someone starts to keep that law perfectly, from one particular point in time, it cannot remove condemnation from past guilt, for we were born sinners.
If the Law proves one thing, it demonstrates that keeping God's Law is not God's way of salvation.
Keeping God's Law does not result in blessings or justification – it identifies sin. The Law accuses man of being a sinner. It speaks words of condemnation to those who are under the Law so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God. And Israel, who were given the Law, were to tell the Gentile nations this information so that they may recognise their own sinfulness and be saved, by faith.
The Law EXPOSES sin but does not JUSTIFY the sinner. The Law IDENTIFIES sin but it cannot bring salvation. The Law CONTRASTS man's sinfulness with God's perfect righteousness, which silences any foolish protests of innocence and makes every sinner fully accountable before God – and we are all sinners!
A sinner's inability to keep God's perfect Law reveals man's sinfulness and makes him accountable before the Lord. Breaking the Law exposes man's inability to keep the Law – so that no one has any excuse. Man is born a sinner and his guilt is identified when man breaks God's Law – which shuts the mouth of everyone, and makes all the world accountable to God.
Heavenly Father, we have all broken Your perfect standard of righteousness, and we all stand guilty before You. Whether Jew or Gentile, we are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under Your table, for we have all sinned in Your sight and stand guilty before Your perfect, righteous standard. And yet, in Your goodness and grace, You sent the Lord Jesus to be the propitiation for the sins of all who would trust in His sacrifice. Thank You that by faith in Christ, I have been justified in Your sight and declared righteous, and I have become part of the One New Man in Christ and am complete in Him. Thank You, in Jesus' name, AMEN.