Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
1901 ASV Translation:
10 as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God;
Textual Issues: There are no textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
May 10, 2005
- I. Paul Begins to Develop His Meaning of "Under Sin".
- A. It is a "biblical" argument: "It stands written..."
- B. The first "biblical quote" is from Psalm 14:1-3 and is repeated in Psalm 53:1-3.
- 1. Jesus appealed to this truth in Mark 10:18.
- 2. The statement(s) appear to be without exception because of the emphatic "not one".
- 3. However, it must be accepted that David did have some "exceptions" in mind if we accept other of his statements at face value regarding "righteousness", "understanding", and "seeking" -- as he attributes these qualities to himself in other psalms.
- 4. Thus, the question is this: in what sense can there be "no exceptions" while there clearly "are exceptions"?
- a. First, the biblical teaching regarding the issues of man's character is a teaching that disallows any good to any man until/unless that "good" is traceable back to an activity of God upon man's behalf by which man gains a "quality" which is not his by either his essential makeup or his diligence in effort, but by the action of God. Thus, if the issue is "essence", there is only one exception to the blanket statement regarding the children of Adam: Jesus Christ; and He was deliberately presented as the "Seed of the Woman, but not of the Man" by the virgin birth teaching. Even this is a bit "dicey" in that every woman is a daughter of Adam and that would make every offspring of a woman also an offspring of Adam. In this sense, Jesus Christ was the "seed" of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David...all males. But, in the technical sense of Jesus actually having the contribution of a male sperm in His conception in the womb of Mary, there was no such "contribution" permitted by the virgin birth. This makes it at least "possible" (if not "most probable") that the "human condition" is passed on by the male and not the female and that it is passed on by "genetics" so that "this body of sin" really is the root of the problem which, then, really can be eliminated by death/resurrection of the body. This "possibility" provides another "possibility": that God's warning about the impact of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree was a real warning even at the physical level-- that the fruit actually had something in it to insert "death" into man as a physical being that could then be passed on to every generation that came from that man.
- b. Second, if David and Paul both had the regenerated children of God in mind as an "exception" regarding their "none"/"not one" words, then what they are addressing is the "normal" state of man apart from the divine operation of regeneration upon his soul/spirit.
- c. This "context" reveals how the statement can be of "no exceptions" while accepting a whole host of "exceptions" that exist by the operations of God upon men for their sake.
- 5. Conclusion(s):
- a. In man's "natural state", he is "under sin" in the sense that he fails to have any real interest in "righteousness, understanding, or seeking after God".
- b. His problem is two-fold:
- 1) He is not "righteous".
- a) This is a "judicial" term that hearkens back to 2:6 and 2:16 by way of 2:13.
- b) This compels us to relate the "condition of man" to the "Justice" of God.
- c) This text forces us to understand that Paul saw man and God in a complete antagonism because of the fundamental distinctions between them. God is Righteous and man is not.
- 2) He has no motivation to seek out a way to become so.
- a) His ignorance is not a "problem" to him. He not only does not understand; he cares not that he does not.
- i. Man's lack of "understanding" is tied by Matthew 13:13-15 to his lack of a clear "hearing". The implication of Jesus' rationale for speaking in parables was to undercut the "clear hearing". There is no reason to do that if "hearing" does not lead to "understanding". Matthew 13:15 & 19 both indicate that the "understanding" occurs in the "heart" and is the root of conversion. That a "clear hearing" will lead to "understanding", which, in turn, will lead to conversion/forgiveness of sins, is the chief reason that the Jew's possession of the "oracles of God" was such a huge benefit.
- ii. This same Matthean context insists that the problem is a "heart" issue and Mark 8:17 directly declares that non-understanding arises from a "hardened heart". Thus, the "problem" is not as much a matter of not "hearing", nor of not "understanding" as it is a lack of true interest in the issues.
- b) His only hope (seeking after God) for obtaining such a standing before God as could be called "righteous" is dismissed by him as an insignificant endeavor unworthy of his effort.
- i. This word "seek" is used in 7 contexts of the New Testament. It is used in places where the author wished to emphasize a "diligence in searching out the facts of a matter". In one of those contexts (Hebrews 11:6), it is pointedly said that no man can "please" God if he is unwilling to embrace the claim that God is a "Rewarder" (literally, a "wage-payer"). In that text, the focus is upon God's willingness to "pay wages" to those who "seek" Him, but the larger fact is that men must, by reason of Romans 2:6, 13, and 16, understand that God is a Wage-Payer...for man's good or ill. Paul is saying in this Romans 3 context that man's bondage to Sin precludes any interest by him in "seeking out a way to be reconciled to God".
- ii. Paul calls the "object" of the "seeking" The God. There is an implication that polytheism is on the horizon of Paul's thought and that implies he anticipates a major interest by his readers in the "problem" of the multiplication of "gods", or, to say it another way, a multiplication of "religious dogmas" that create a fog for any who live on this planet. The presence of multiplied dogmas is not the problem: the problem is man's lack of interest in seeking out The God, for The God has already declared "I will be found of you" (Jeremiah 29:14) if /when the "seeking" occurs.
- c. The problem(s) are humanly insurmountable.
- 1) Paul's thesis is that man is "under sin". This is what he is "explaining" and "continuing to prove" in Romans 3:10-18. It is not his intent to set forth a "way" for man to escape this condition; it is his intention to set forth the fact that man has no escape that arises from himself.
- 2) Every man comes into the world as the offspring of a fallen man whose impact upon his offspring was "preemptive" and "inescapable" in so far as his "identity" as a "complete human being" is concerned.
- 3) Every man's participation in his "preemptive, inescapable, heritage" renders him both ignorant and uncaring. He not only does not understand, he can not; and he not only does not seek God, he will not. He enters his existence already over-committed to the impulses of sin within, and there is nothing in his existence that can effectively challenge that over-commitment except the Presence and Truth of God, from which he instinctively flees.
- d. Over against this is Paul's commitment to "preach the Gospel" because It is the powerful instrument of divine action that "breaks the power of canceled sin" and "sets the prisoner free".