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We Have All Sinned and Fallen Short!



Romans 3:9-20

The route of personal righteousness is clearly marked, “no road to heaven this way.” For we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Preacher: Dennis Davidson

Men like to believe that they are basically good, but fallen natural man is under sin. In other words, all men are sinners, both by character and by conduct. Men may not be equal in their sinning but we are all condemned as sinners. Each and every person, religious (Jew) or irreligious (Gentile), stands guilty before the bar of God’s justice.
Paul has built God’s case against the pagan world (1:18-32), against those who think they are good (2:1-16), and against God’s people (2:17-3:8). Now with devastating finality he reveals that the whole human race stands condemned.
Through the indictment of God’s Word Paul proves that every one is a sinner or stands morally bankrupt in God’s eyes. Scripture’s repeated testimony of “all” and “none” assert mankind’s universal guilt.
If there is to be any hope for any individual it must be found in the mercy and grace of God. Because of the unalterable fact that all are sinners the way of acceptance before God is totally closed. No actions of righteousness or good deeds can open the way to God. The route of personal righteousness is clearly marked, “no road to heaven this way.” For we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (C.I.T.).
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I. Sinners by Character, 9-12.
II. Sinners by Conduct, 13-18.
III. Sinners Under Condemnation, 19-20.


Before Paul gives Scripture’s charge he gives the indictment or arraignment in verse 9. “What then? Are we better than they? Not by any means; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;”
In the previous passage Paul insisted that the Jews had special privileges because they were entrusted with the Oracles of God. But this does not mean that the Jews are better than anyone else. (to be held before – as an example). They are not, but from a different piece of cloth or from a different mold than every one else. Every one is under condemnation from the most reprobate, vice-ridden pagan, to the most outwardly moral and upright Jew. The entire human race, with no exceptions, is “charged” as a sinner before God’s court of justice.

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God’s charge is that all people, both Gentiles and Jews, are “under” the power of sin. The Greek phrase “under sin” is very suggestive. Hupo means “under the power of, under the authority of.” As in Mt. 8:9 when the Centurion says he has “soldiers under me” meaning I have soldiers under my authority, control, power, or command. Without Christ man is under the dominion of sin and helpless to escape from it. He may move from one sin to the next sin, but he is always controlled by sin. To be under sin is to be under the authority of sin (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:44).

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Privileged or not privileged all stand equally in need of God’s mercy and grace. Now, that is not to say that man has no moral consciousness. All men everywhere have a moral consciousness as Paul has previously stated.
God universally gave every person and society MORAL DISCERNMENT. There is no family, no tribe, no people, nor any nation so degraded that it does not have a moral code of what is right and what is wrong. What the people think to be right and what they think to be wrong may be strange to us, but everyone has some moral sensitivity.

When Charles Darwin went around the world, he came to the tip of South America and found a group of islands called Tierra del Fuego. He wrote that he had found in those islands a tribe so degraded that they had no moral sensitivity. He said, “I have found the missing link between the animal and the man, for these Tierra del Fuegans are without sensitivity.” Some Christians in England read Darwin’s statement and sent missionaries to Tierra del Fuego. Soon they reported that the Tierra del Fuegans were noble in their life and virtuous in their deportment. They had been won to Christ and were now disciples of the Lord. When Charles Darwin learned of the evangelization of the Tierra de Fuegans, he himself became a subscriber and a faithful contributor to the Church Missionary Society of London, England, which had sent out the missionaries. There are no people in the world who have ever lived or ever will live in whom the soul of moral discernment is not present.

To validate the accusation that everybody is under sin six Old Testament passages (broken into three strophes in verses 10-18) are quoted. They are strung together like pearls to prove the doctrine of the universal sinfulness of mankind. The first set in verses 10 and 11 speaks to man’s character. The first sentence in verse 10, quoted from Psalm 14:1, is like a theme for what follows. “As it is written. ‘There is none righteous not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
Men are not righteous and cannot be justified on the basis of their own righteousness in the sight of God. There are no exceptions. In verses 10-18 he uses the term none and not even one, six times in referring to man’s absolute lack of righteousness before God.
No one is right before God or is who God created and expected man to be. No one’s inner being is righteous by God’s standards. To prevent some people from thinking that there might be exceptions the Psalmist adds not even one. In other words a person that is not as good or righteous as God is not acceptable to God (Matt. 5:48).
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An old mountaineer had gained a reputation as the best shot in the area. The basis of his reputation were trees and fence posts with a bullet hole in the center of a painted target. The mountaineer’s initials showed that he had fired the shot. Then one day someone happened to observe him in action. He lifted his rifle and fired at a distant tree. Then he went over and painted a target around the bullet hole. No wonder he always hit the bull’s eye!
Some people are offended by the Bible’s proclamation that all have sinned, that there is no one righteous. These people say: “I’m no sinner. I’m a good and righteous person.” Usually the bolster their argument by pointing to the sins in the lives of other. In saying that all have sinned and there is none righteous, God does not claim that all are reprobates. Nor does He mean that all have committed the same sins or that all are equally sinful.
God does claim that when measured by the perfect standard of the life of Jesus, we all fall short. Anything that separates us from God is a sin. Self-righteousness keeps multitudes of people from seeking God’s mercy and grace. Confess your unrighteousness to God and thank Him for His grace.

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The second quote found in verse 11 (Psalm 14:2; 53:3) says that man is not only universally unrighteous but all are spiritually incompetent. There is none who understands. The word “understands” means to bring together, to grasp, to comprehend. Understand expresses the right comprehension of divine truth (Matt. 13:15; Acts 7:25; Eph. 3:4; 5:17). It is a flat out negative statement concerning mankind’s universal lack of understanding God. Misunderstanding (or indifference) to God and His way is the second characteristic of man under sin.
Right comprehension or spiritual discernment of divine things is always accompanied with right affections and right pursuits, thus, the third denunciation “there is none who seeks for God.” He that does not understand proves he does not understand by not seeking after God. If anyone truly understood If anyone truly understood who God is or their circumstance, they would seek after Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
[The expression “seeking God” includes all the pursues of longing after, worship, and obedience resulting from the understanding of spiritual things.]
Verse 12 notes the devastating power of universal sin. “All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one.”

A fourth universal characteristic is crookedness, not walking in the narrow path of God. Blinded by their sin to the perfections and loveliness of God and truth each has turned from the way which God has prescribed. God calls man to His way because it leads to Him but man has chosen another way. All have turned aside from God and His will.
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The fifth characteristic of the Christ-less character is unprofitableness in the eternal economy of God. Natural man can do nothing of eternal benefit (John 15:5). Men do not understand, thus they do not seek God but seek another way, the result is that they become useless. The Hebrew word in Psalm 14:3 for useless means to go bad, to become sour like milk. This is what happens to the moral goodness of man.

A sixth characteristic here is the absence pure good or positives in men’s lives. It is impossible to do something “good” in God’s eyes without being in Christ. Our righteousness, the best we can do, Isaiah says “is as filthy rags” before God (Isa. 64:60). The world has been inscrutably searched throughout all the ages and “not even one” truly righteous was found.
[Good represents that virtue which shows itself in a zeal for truth while having a gentle and kindly attitude for one’s neighbor.] Paul definitely believed the Bible teaches the universal depravity of the fallen human nature.



The next sections emphasizes some ramifications of sin in human conduct. The first element of conduct dealt with in verses 13 & 14 is man’s speech which prove his gross immorality. “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.”
First in verse 13 is the destructive power that gives the tongue its utterances. Their throat is an open sepulcher (Psalm 5:9). If you can imagine a grave with a body in it that has been decaying for a few days and the stench it lets off, you can get an idea of the natural man’s speech as heard by God. The idea may also include that as the grave is insatiable, never satisfied, so our communication appears to God. We are always communicating our lack of satisfaction in spite of the intricate and wonderfully made creation we are and the bountiful world in which we live.
The second use of their tongues is to deceive themselves and others. They make smooth, flattering statements which deceive, like “you’re ok, I’m ok.” or “I’m OK, your not OK.” Or assertions designed to mislead or misrepresent. The imperfect tense denotes repeated actions or perseverance in their hypocritical statements.
The third graphic description of Christless speech is quoted from Psalm 140:3. “Asps” is the word used for the deadly Egyptian Cobra. The bite of the asp causes the severest pain as well as producing death. To verbally inflict suffering is a delight to the maligned who have chosen their own way instead of God’s way. The natural man is truly diabolical.
The fourth quote concerning speech is from Psalm 10:17. Cursing carries the idea of pronouncing ill will upon someone or thing. Bitterness is from to cut, prick, hence literally “pointed or sharp.” Here it means sharp pointed statements. Bitterness can be rooted in jealousy (since the word etymologically is).

Verses 15-17 indicate the conduct in actions of Christless man. The eleventh charge is their murderous intent put forth in verse 15. “Their feet are swift to shed blood.” Though the quote is from the O.T. (Isa. 59:7) it shows how little man has changed. We are still people who desire to see violence and do violence. Just look for a while at our sports, our TV shows, our movies. Look at the news and see what goes on in our country and around the world. Violence is news. Wars all over the surface of the earth and people verbally making war over the wars.
The word shed is “pour out.” We are a people who desire to see violence and do violence. Human life has little value to most men.

Even in the United States, with its Christian heritage, since the turn of the twentieth century twice as many of its citizens have been slain in private acts of murder than have been killed in all the wars of its entire history. According to researcher Arnold Barnett of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a child born today in any one of the fifty largest cities in the United States has the chance of one in fifty of being murdered. Dr. Barnett estimated that a baby born in the 1980’s is more likely to be murdered than an American soldier in World War II was of being killed in combat.”
(MacArthur, NT Com. p190).

The greatest violence and blood shed in our culture is seen in abortion. Since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision there have been more than 48 million babies killed. [Related Article: The Negro Project…]
The twelfth charge in the overall indictment is in verse 16. “Destruction and misery are in their paths.”
Just as feet speak of man’s ways so do paths. Natural man’s paths through life is marked with spreading ruin and misery to the lives of others. The destruction ( µµ means “to break or dash into pieces”) and misery of lost sinners may not occur immediately, but they will come inevitably.
The thirteenth and last of the charges in the indictment of condemned man is his lack of peace in verse 17. “And the path of peace they have not known.”
The apostle is not speaking of the lack of inner peace – although that is certainly a characteristic of the ungodly person – but of man’s essential inclination away from peace. They know not how to preserve peace with others nor how to obtain peace for themselves. This charge is therefore something of a counterpart to the previous one.

They may talk of peace as they did in Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 6:14), but they are strangers to true peace. Every man is a stranger to inner peace until he knows and follows the Prince of Peace.
The basic reason for man’s deplorable condition is expressed in verse 18 which is a quote from Psalm 36:1. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
All the previous scriptural proofs are because of this last summation. Man’s depravity proves he does not fear God. People who live wicked lives are destitute of the fear of God.
The fear of God, according to Scripture, is a reverence for God, a respect for Him, or fear in the sense of dreading His anger. The reckless and wicked are lacking this attitude toward God. They act as if there is no God who will hold them responsible for their character, conversation and conduct.

[It is astonishing that men, while they acknowledge that there is a God, should act without any fear of His displeasure. Yet this is their character. They fear a unrighteous men like themselves, but disregard the Most High. They are more afraid of man than of God. They fear of man’s anger, contempt, or ridicule. The fear of man prevents them from doing many things from which they are not restrained by the fear of God….They love not His character, not rendering to Him the veneration that is He due. They respect not His authority. Such is the state of human nature while the heart is unchanged (Robert Haldane, Exposition of Romans, p. 121).]
When I’ve talked to people about the fear of the Lord some respond and like this, “You’re not afraid of God, are you? I’d never believe in that kind of God.” Well, yes, I am afraid of God, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I’m also afraid of water. That doesn’t mean I don’t love to fish, swim or go boating.. I do. But I don’t ever want to forget about the life-taking power of a river, a lake, or an ocean. In the same way, I respect electricity, gasoline, and high ladders while I’m working with them. To enjoy their benefits without recognizing their dangers would be foolish.

Yes, I fear God in the sense that I reverence Him and stand in awe of His holiness and power. And because I do, I love Him and want to draw close to Him in through obedience to His will. It’s my desire to love what He loves and hate what He hates. I want to live my whole life with the realization that He deserves more fear than anyone or anything. Satan and people can destroy the body. But God can destroy the soul and cast it into Hell-fire. I believe only as I know enough to fear Him do I know enough to understand and love Him. As that love develops will it dispel all unnecessary fear
(1 John 4). Remember as C.S. Lewis said of Aslan, “He is not a tame lion.”



The conclusion reached by Scripture is given in verses 19 & 20. Verse 19, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;”

Referencing the things just said as being from the Law, Scripture now says “we know,” indicating that it is plain or universally understood. The Law is the will of God which is the norm or rule to which individuals and societies are to conform their life. It can be the Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses, the Scriptures (John 10:34), or even the rule of God written on man’s heart (John 2:14), in his conscience (John 2:15), and in nature (John 1:19,20).

Absolute silence will be the response at the final judgment. When God open His books and prosecutes those standing before Him, unredeemed man, when given the opportunity to answer the charges, will have no defense. Their guilt having been exposed, they will have no answer. Their mouths will be silenced, stopped.
God’s just judgment will be concluded in such a way that “all the world becomes accountable to God.” Accountable is a legal term meaning liable or answerable. Everyone will be guilty and liable for their sin in God’s court.

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Some people think of God as a heavenly tyrant whose main purpose is to keep people from enjoying themselves. They consider guilt as one of God’s strategies to keep people from enjoying life. Such people are only partially right. They are right that God does confront us with the uncomfortable reality of our sins. They are wrong in failing to recognize that divine love is behind His actions. He is like a surgeon, who must expose and cut out the malignancy for the good of the patient. Throughout all His dealings with us, His purpose is life and health.
Strangely, people use all kinds of excuses, alibis, and objections to try and avoid recognizing and repenting of their sins. If we dare to let God speak to us through His Word, our boisterous mouths will be stopped. We will see our excuses for what they are – evasions of the truth and denials of our deep need. When we are willing to hear God’s condemnation, we are ready to hear His yes of divine grace. Ask God, who sees your heart, to help you put aside all excuses and evasion of Him and His Word.

Verse 20 concludes this discussion of the universal condemnation of mankind. “Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Paul again quotes Scripture (Psalm 14:3:2) to prove his point. This is the conclusion his whole argument has moved toward. Men can not be justified by their own righteousness or works. A purpose of the Law is to produce a consciousness of sin. For “no flesh” can fulfill what the Law, the righteous requirements of God, demands. You may justify yourself before man, but not before God. God therefore must save sinners by some other means. The explanation of the means by which man can be saved is taught in the rest of the letter.



Paul uses multiple Old Testament references to show that humanity in its present sinful condition, is unacceptable before God. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Well, I’m not too bad. I’m a pretty good person?” Look at these verses and see if any of them apply to you. Have you ever lied? Have you ever hurt someone by your words or tone of voice? Are you bitter toward anyone? Do you become angry with those who strongly disagree with you?
In thought, word, and deed, you, like everyone else in the world, stand guilty before God. We must remember who we are in His sight – alienated sinners. Don’t deny that you are a sinner. Instead, allow your desperate need to point you toward Christ.

Has your mouth ever stopped defending yourself and accepted your guilt before God? Are you still boasting of your own self righteousness and defending yourself before God. It is only as we stand silent before Him acknowledging our guilt that He can save us. As long as we defend ourselves and commend ourselves we cannot be saved by God’s grace. Come confessing your guilt and need of grace today.


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