Why you are like this

15 June 2011 by David

Q. 24. What is sin?

A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
“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,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.
THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,
THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS;
WHOSE 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.”
—Romans 3:9–18

In the beginning of the chapter, Paul responds to the slanderous charge of licentiousness, concluding that his accusers are justly condemned. Then he turns back on himself and his fellow Christians, asking, As bad as they are, are we any better? (v. 8). No, we “are all under sin,” Jews and Greeks, Pagans and Christians alike.

Then he presents the evidence, a litany of Old Testament declarations that his Jewish audience could not challenge: “as it is written …”

All mankind is characterized by unrighteousness, ignorance, indifference toward God, rebelliousness. Consequently, they are spiritually useless and universally unprofitable (v. 10–11).

This character is evident in their speech (Luke 6:45), which is marked by deceit, cursing, and bitterness (v. 13–14). That may sound a bit extreme — surely not everyone has such corrupt speech — but everyone, in his natural state, is indeed “a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6: 5). It’s only a matter of degree, really, and God isn’t interested in comparing malicious lies with “little white lies” and half-truths, or vitriolic, hate-filled invectives with condemnation muttered sotto voce. Sinful speech is sinful, whether or not it’s turned up to eleven.

The corrupt character of sinners is also evident in their actions (v. 15–17). Again, the charge may sound extreme — Their feet are swift to shed blood — but again, it is only a matter of degree. Jesus taught us that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” The natural man, whether or not he actually extinguishes a life, has a murderous heart, and is swift to respond with hostility when crossed. He does not naturally seek peace, except though conquest, and so he leaves a trail of destruction and misery in his own life, and the lives of others.

Why is he like this? Because he has no fear of God (v. 18). Because he has no fear of God, he makes a god of himself, living as though his purpose is to glorify himself and enjoy himself forever. Consequently, when he is offended, or deprived of his desire, he reacts as though divine justice has been violated, and visits judgment, inasmuch as he is able, on the offenders.

This describes every human being, to one degree or another. This is the estate of sin and misery into which mankind fell.