The Letter to the Romans



10. No One Is Righteous


Romans 3:9-20

9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;

11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

13 "There throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips."

14 "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."

15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 ruin and misery mark their ways,

17 and the way of peace they do not know."

18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)


Key Words

Under sin

Under the law

Fear of God

Accountable to God


In this passage Paul summarizes the past two chapters. He uses Scripture to emphasize that no one, regardless of his race or determination, is or can be righteous on his own.

1. Paul emphasizes that not even the chosen, religious Jews are better than the Gentiles. Count how many times in verses 9-12 Paul declares that sin is universal. (Look for pronouns such as "all", no one", etc. )


2. Verses 9-12 declare the hopeless condition of humanity; verses 13-19 metaphorically describe humanity's degraded lives. Verses 9-12 Paul derives from Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20. These two Psalms establish the sinfulness Paul describes in hearts that say, "There is no God." What attitudes and behaviors accompany such a declaration? (see Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; 10:4, 6, 11, 13; 36:1)


3. What do natural men not understand? (see Psalm 92:6-8; 82:4-5; Jeremiah 4:22; 8:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:20-21)


4. What does Paul mean when he says people have become worthless (v. 12)? (see Psalm 53:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20)


5. What is the significance of the metaphor comparing the mouths of the wicked with unmarked graves? (see Numbers 19:16; Psalm 5:9; Matthew 23:27-28)


6. Four of the eight descriptions of the lives of natural humanity (v. 13-18) are metaphors involving people's mouths and words. Why do you think Paul spent half his list on the mouth? (see Job 15:5-6; Psalm 5:9; 10: 3, 7; 140:1-3; Proverbs 10:14; 18:21; Matthew 12:36-37; James 3:1-2; 7-12)


7. Describe the life and relationships of a person separated from God who, Paul says, is quick to shed blood, full of ruin and misery, and has no knowledge of peace. (see Isaiah 59:1-15)


8. How will the law silence every mouth and hold people accountable to God? (see Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Psalm 63:11; 107:42; Ezekiel 16:59-63; v. 9; John 5:45-47)


9. If no one is made righteous by observing the law, why does the law exist, and how does one become righteous? (see v. 28; 4:21; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:19-25; Acts 13:38-39; John 3:14-15)


Application and Commitment

10. In what ways have the metaphors in verses 13-18 described your life?


11. Paul says even those who are under the law are worthless and have turned away from God. How has your life reflected disbelief, despair, entitlement/superiority, or a casual attitude about Jesus while consciously upholding the law?


12. Ask Jesus to reveal to you the ways you are trying to be righteous through "good" decisions/behaviors. Ask him to take the spirit of good works from your heart and to replace it with his Holy Spirit. Ask him to reveal himself as your Redeemer, the fulfillment of the law for you. Praise him for becoming sin for you and for making you the righteousness of God!

Copyright (c) 2003 Graphics Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted August 15, 2003.
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