No One Is Good, We All Need Jesus (Romans 3:9-20)

No One Is Good, We All Need Jesus (Romans 3:9-20)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 21, 2021

Mercedes is just over 9 years old now, and so over the last 9 years God has drastically changed how I view things. Having two young children means that when I hear about crimes involving children, I want to go ballistic. I cannot tolerate the thought of how someone would harm a child.

What makes someone bad? What makes someone wrong? What disqualifies someone from good? Romans 3:9-20 discusses this.

Romans 3:9-20:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

My theme and application is:

We must recognize that no one measures up to God’s standard. We all need Jesus.

Our sin nature causes wrong desires, wrong speech, wrong paths, and wrong vision.

This is the end of the first section of Romans and Paul ends with Scripture. This is all a quote from the Old Testament. Paul was writing to a primarily Gentile congregation, so he concluded (rather than began) his argument with an appeal to Scripture. Contrast the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who took the opposite approach when he addressed a primarily Jewish readership. The collection of passages Paul used, both affirmed the universality of sin (vv. 10-12), and showed its pervasive inroads into all areas of individual and corporate life (vv. 13-18).

  • My first point is that we as humans have wrong desires.
    • The text says that none of us will seek after good. We just won’t do that. Now we know that as Christians we can seek good because of the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. That is the only way.
    • It is true that people can be good and not be Christian. But there is a difference between doing good and being righteous. One sin separates us from God. This is like one drop of cyanide killing someone.
    • John 3:12 talks about Nicodemus not understanding how you can be born again. Think about a time when you couldn’t understand something. Jesus says you can’t understand the spiritual things without the Holy Spirit.
    • Notice verse 9: Paul says that the Jews are not better off. He is saying that they are not better off than the gentiles.
    • Then verses 10: “no one is righteous…” This is from Ps 14:1–3; 53:1–3.
    • What do we seek after? What are we raised with as people in western culture? We are raised with the goal of a job, a spouse, kids, etc. None of these are bad, but we must think about God’s will.

Pastor Timothy Keller paraphrases an analogy originally used by C.S. Lewis (in his book Mere Christianity) to demonstrate the nature of sin in our hearts.

Now if you want to know if there are rats in your basement, you don’t walk to your basement door, clear your throat, and say, “I think I’ll go down and see if there are rats in my basement,” then jiggle the knob, open the door and in a very leisurely way turn on the light, clear your throat, and walk down the steps loudly and slowly. When you get to the bottom you look around and say, “Well, what do you know: I have no rats in my basement.”

If you want to know if you have rats in your basement, you sneak up to the door, silently open the door, flick on the switch, jump to the bottom of the steps, and look around and they’ll all be scurrying away. And then you’ll know if you have rats.

Based on this analogy, Lewis wrote:

The excuse [for most of my sinful moments] that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard [like a rat who didn’t get enough warning] … Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth?[1]

Application: Recognize your wrong desires.

We must as Christians help people to understand. We must pray for God’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

  • We as humans have wrong speech. Our throats are open graves.  This is verses 13-14.
    • Just think how many of us have been hurt by words?
    • At this point Paul is quoting from Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 10:7.

The next section shows that humans have wrong paths.

  • In verses 15-17: Humans are on the wrong path.
    • Verses 15-17 come from Isaiah 59:7-8.
    • Our feet are swift to shed blood, is that true?
    • Ruin and misery are in our paths.
  • In 2009, I was serving as an associate pastor. The main part of my job was youth and children’s ministry. On one particular evening we were going to have a children’s lock-in at the church. I arrived at the church early to do some setup. Our church had an office building next door. I looked up at the office and saw an upstairs door opened. I entered the building and heard people in the basement. I walked down there and saw two kids, around 13 and 14 years old, playing with a fire extinguisher. These young teenagers broke into the church office building at about 5:00 pm on a Friday in the summer. Interestingly enough, when I spoke with them, they said the door was opened. I said that the police may want to talk with them. I called the police and a trustee from the church. They did not run, they waited for the police. The police spoke with them and had me go down to the office and write-up a statement. The police asked me, “How did you get them to stay?” I said that I told them the police may want to talk to them and they stayed.
    • What makes young teenagers do such a thing?
    • Sin, sin causes us to do these things.
    • We need redeemed.
    • As a follow-up to the story, the following Monday the father of one of the kids called me and left me a message. I thought, “Great, he is going to say my kid would not do that!” I was so wrong. He owned up to it and wanted his son to serve volunteer hours. Over the next few weeks, he and his son came to the church to volunteer. He told me that he had adopted the child and they had some disciplinary issues. I went to court for both boys and the judge ordered the other young man to serve volunteer hours, but since the one already had served, he was cleared at that point.
  • MacArthur shares: The expression rendered “devastation and destruction” or “ruin and misery” literally means “shattering calamity.” The idea is more than mere wretchedness (though it certainly includes that.) It signifies actual, painful, physical suffering. And there’s no denying that man-made calamity and self-inflicted misery have always been at the center of human experience. In his classic commentary on Romans, early nineteenth-century Scottish commentator Robert Haldane wrote, “The most savage animals do not destroy so many of their own species to appease their hunger, as man destroys of his fellows, to satiate his ambition, his revenge, or cupidity [inordinate greed].” [1] As Paul summarizes, “The path of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:17).[2]
    • We do not know the path of peace.
    • I was in a cornfield maze once and got lost. For a few hours the group I was with thought we would never get out of that maze. If you are not seeking and following after God you are on the wrong path, just like I was. You may search for hours and get nowhere.

We as Christian must guide the world to the right path.

  • Humans have the wrong vision: look at verse 18:
    • This comes from Psalm 36:1.
    • There is no fear of God before their eyes. This means they do not have a fear or a reverence of God.
    • Do we fear God?
    • Do we desire to follow God?
    • In this case to fear means to revere which has the idea of extreme respect.
    • If we revere God, we honor Him. Do we honor Him?

But what about the law? Doesn’t that make humans righteous?

  • Romans 3:19-20 answers the question about the law. Does the law make us righteous?
    • Verse 20 answers the question. Through the law no human being will be justified. To be justified means made righteous. The law gives us knowledge of sin.
    • We needed someone to fulfill the law and redeem us and that was Jesus.


Can we fix ourselves?

In 2006, Yoko Ono placed a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for December 8—the anniversary of John Lennon’s death—to be made a global day of healing.

“One day we will be able to say that we healed ourselves,” Ono promised, “and by healing ourselves, we healed the world.”[3]

As I look at the world, it is just getting worse.

We need Jesus.     

Around 17 years ago there was a woman that I worked with at McDonalds. She was another manager just like me. One day she didn’t show up to work. We all thought she probably found another job and that was her way of quitting. We didn’t think much of it because another manager had done that in the past. Then just a couple days after that had happened the police found the body of a woman in a dumpster. The police called on McDonalds because her tie was on the blanket she was wrapped in. The person who killed her had thrown her in the dumpster and tried to burn the dumpster.

The day this came out on the news it was very difficult for many of us at McDonalds. Many were crying at work. I was thinking about my last conversation with her. We were friends and got along good. However, the last day I worked with her was a busy spring Saturday. She came in at 3:00 PM and I had been there since 4:30 AM. I was ready to go; however, she forgot her glasses and  had to go home to get them. I tried not to let her until one of the other managers got in. When someone dies close to you it makes you think about things.

We all thought many different things during that situation. We all agreed on one thing: The person who did this was evil, bad, wrong, sinful! How could he???????? She was such a nice person. She was innocent, sweet, loving, kind! He was bad!!!!

This passage teaches us that we all need a Savior. We may not all be killers, but we all need a Savior, and His name is Jesus.


[1] Timothy Keller, Sermon, “The Two Great Tests” (1-23-2005); Submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky


[3] “Good Week for…All Humanity,” The Week (12-8-06), p. 4

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