Summary: None of us can earn God’s favour,because none of us is righteous, but he gives us righteousness, unearned and unmerited as a gift through the death and resurrectin of Jesus Christ.
Can I just say how much I love baptisms. It’s great to be able to share the joy of parents and family and friends as they welcome a new person into the world and especially as we welcome that new person into the life of God’s Church. And it’s perhaps fitting that today we’re looking at a passage that explains the basis on which we can indeed welcome a little child like Claudia into God’s family and say with confidence that God has called her into his Church, that he’s brought her out of darkness into his marvellous light. For those who are visitors today we’ve been going through the letter to the Romans over the past few weeks and today we come to 3:9-21.
What we’ve discovered so far in the first few chapters of Romans is that the great need, the great longing of people throughout history has been to know that they’re right with God. There’s an awareness in all of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, of how far we fall short of God’s standards. And it doesn’t matter where we come from. As we’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks, those who are outside the people of God, who don’t have the written law to guide them, show that they have a form of God’s law written on their hearts every time they experience guilt or a bad conscience for doing something they seem to know innately is wrong. And yet they’re unable to consistently do the right thing. And we spoke last week of how even those who do have the written law of God to guide them, Jews and Christians alike, are unable to keep that law.
Of course, Paul says, the Jews do have an advantage as the custodians of the very words of God. Yet even that doesn’t help them. As he says here in v9 "Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin."
Now this isn’t a new discovery of Paul’s. He hasn’t just worked this out. He’s actually learnt it by reading his Old Testament. So he brings out a whole series of quotations from the Old Testament, especially the Psalms: Ps 14; Ps 53; Eccles 7; Ps 5, Ps 140; Ps 10; Is 59; Ps 36. It’s an amazing list of comments about the evil we find in human nature. Now I don’t think he quotes all these passages just to get us depressed about human nature. We’re certainly not meant to read them as though every human being does all these sorts of things. I have a feeling that that’s how some people have read them in the past. As saying that there’s nothing of any worth in human nature. That the fall has totally destroyed anything good. I don’t believe that that’s Paul’s or God’s intention here at all. We’ll see in a moment what he wants us to understand from all these quotes. But I think it’s important before we go further that we be reminded of the fact that every human being on this earth is a person made in the image of God. So every one of us has a value that can’t be calculated and mustn’t be underestimated. And it certainly shouldn’t be downplayed through an overemphasis on our failure to live like creatures made in God’s image.