Romans 3:9-17 – [nature] 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, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; [mind] no one understands; [motive] no one seeks for God. [will] All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; [deed] no one does good, not even one. [word] “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” [body] “Their feet are swift to shed blood; [emotion] in their paths are ruin and misery, [soul] and the way of peace they have not known.”
Country star Luke Bryan has a chorus to one of his chart-topping songs that says, “I believe most people are good.” The Apostle Paul’s version of the song would be, “I know all people are bad”. Theologians like to speak of this section of Romans with the theological term “total depravity”.
First, depravity is total in that it refers to all people. Paul here speaks of “all”, “none is righteous”, “no, not one”, “no one”, “all have turned aside”, and “no one does good, not even one”.
Second, depravity is total in that it infects and effects the totality of our being. Think of it like a cup of clean water that then has polluted water added to it. The polluted water dirties the entire glass in the same way that sin dirties the entire person.
For clarification, total depravity does not mean utter depravity. Utter depravity means a person is as completely sinful and evil as possible. Although people are totally depraved, Romans teaches that they are not utterly depraved for three reasons:
- God has given us a conscience that knows something of right and wrong even if we do not know God (Romans 2).
- God has allowed death to occur so that sinners are brought to an end, and to deter people from reckless behaviors that cause death (Romans 5).
- God has provided governments and laws to punish some wrongdoing which helps restrain much evil (Romans 13).
Most people rather easily believe that some people are totally depraved sinners. Most people also struggle to believe that they are also totally depraved sinners. Consider for a moment that you had unlimited resources, no restraints, and no consequences as no one would ever know what you did, you could never be arrested, and you could not die. Once those variables are removed, you can be sure that your shadow side would emerge, and you would increasingly do things that were dark, depraved, and damnable. What restrains us is not our goodness but God’s goodness to help save us from ourselves.
Do you find it harder to see yourself as a sinner, or other people as sinners?
To find the free Romans study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the realfaith app.