Summary: The content, extent, and proof of God’s verdict on the human race.
The twentieth century has been punctuated by a series of extremely controversial court verdicts. Consider the O. J. Simpson trials. O.J.’s criminal trial in 1995 acquitted him of the accusation that he murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend. But his civil trial in 1997 find him liable for $8.5 million dollars for these same deaths. Simpson’s guilt or innocence continues to be a matter of controversy among Americans. According to a Gallup Poll conducted on February 7, 1997, Americans are still divided along racial lines over O.J.’s guilt or innocence. Among whites, 71% believe O. J. is guilty. Among African-Americans 28% believe he’s guilty.
We had a guest speaking a few years ago who started his sermon by telling an O.J. Simpson joke that assumed he was guilt. That Sunday we had an African American family visiting the church for the first time, and they found that assumption so offensive that they didn’t hear anything else the guest speaker said and they never came back. The O.J. Simpson verdicts continue to be controversial.
But in some ways the O.J. verdicts pale in comparison to the acquittal of the four officers who beat Rodney King during a traffic stop in Los Angeles in 1991. When that not guilty verdict was announced in April of 1992 violence erupted in our cities, leading to 58 people being killed. Our cities have yet to heal from that horrible event.
But even that verdict pales in comparison to the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court’s verdict in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. That verdict legalized abortion in America, and has continued to create heated debate among Americans. Entire organizations were started to either work for the overturning of that verdict or to try to ensure that it’s never overturned. I think abortion is one of the most weighty moral issues of our day.
We could go on to list other verdicts in the 20th century that have been controversial or significant. But from the perspective of human history, perhaps no verdict is as controversial among people as the Bible’s claim about God’s verdict on the human race. More people reject and debate this verdict than all the other controversial verdicts combined. In fact, many believe that God doesn’t have a verdict on the human race, and that the idea that God has passed judgment on humanity is an invention of religious people who want to oppress the public.
Today we’re going to explore what the Bible says about God’s verdict on the human race. We’re going to look at what this verdict is, the extent of this verdict on our lives, and then the proof of this verdict. This is part of our continuing series through the New Testament book of Romans called GOOD NEWS FOR OUR TIMES.
1. The Content of God’s Verdict (Romans 3:9)
Let’s start by looking at what God’s verdict actually is in 3:9. Paul’s just finished talking about how people who have a religious heritage have certain advantages. But here we find that even with these advantages, religious people aren’t immune to the charge Paul’s made. The charge Paul’s talking about here is the line of reasoning that he started back in 1:18 when he said God’s judgment was being revealed from heaven against the entire human race. Paul has relentlessly reasoned point by point to show that all people are part of a mass rebellion against our creator.
Paul’s claim is that the entire human race is "under sin." Paul’s saying more than nobody’s perfect or that everyone sins. By using the singular word "sin" here, Paul personifies sin as if sin is a person or a power that has the human race under its control (Cranfield 1:191). Paul is using the word picture from the world of slavery to picture sin as a cruel tyrant who holds the entire human race captive to guilt (Stott 99). Later in Romans Paul will continue to personify sin in this way when he describes sin as reigning over the world (5:21), enslaving people (6:6), ruling over our desires (6:12) and exercising dominion over humanity (6:14).
So here we find the Bible’s claim about God’s verdict on the human race. EVERYONE IS HELPLESS UNDER THE POWER OF SIN.
All people-Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, young and old, regardless of race or religion, irrespective of creed or conduct, all are captive to sin. Sin isn’t just an action or an attitude, but it’s a state of being, a condition. Sin is like a prison that’s caged the human race. It’s like a tick that’s burrowed into the human race, and the harder we try to remove it the deeper it digs in (Plantinga 88).
Now this isn’t a very popular opinion in our world today. The "s" word has dropped out of our vocabulary for the most part, unless we’re talking about a "sinfully delicious" chocolate dessert. As Calvin College professor Cornelius Plantinga says, "Where sin is concerned, people mumble now" (x). We talk about failures and dysfunctions, hurts and syndromes, diseases and addictions, but we fail to relate these concepts to the Bible’s teaching about sin.