Summary: This sermon is the completion of Paul's three chapter presentation of the universal sinfulness and helplessness of all people. Before Paul can share the good news of the gospel, he must first we understand and accept the bad news of our condition.
A. One day two men were sitting next to each other on an airplane, and one of them remarked, “Somebody around here’s deodorant isn’t working!”
1. The other man said, “Well, it’s not me, I’m not wearing any deodorant!”
B. One of the realities in life is that some folks are oblivious to their own state of being.
1. That is true in the physical sense, but it is also true in the moral sense.
2. When the Bible talks about sin, many people say, “Well, that’s not me.”
3. And their cluelessness of their moral state is just as unpleasant as their cluelessness of their physical state.
4. In today’s passage from Romans chapter 3, Paul could not be any clearer, he says, “When it comes to sin, we all stink!”
C. Today’s passage is the grand and grim conclusion of the first three chapters of Romans.
1. In chapter 1, Paul focused on the pagan unrighteousness of the Gentile world.
2. Then in the first half of chapter 2, Paul focused on the hypocrisy of hypercritical moralists.
3. Finally, in the last half of chapter 2, Paul aimed at the smug self-righteousness of the Jews.
4. Now he reaches his final verdict: No one is righteous.
5. The whole world is guilty of sin – the Gentiles are guilty, the moralists are guilty and the Jews are guilty – everyone is guilty and is subject to God’s wrath.
D. Now, before you become overcome by despair, keep in mind that the good news is coming.
1. Paul has been focusing on the bad news in order for us to be able to fully appreciate the good news.
2. As dark and disturbing as the bad news is, the mood of Romans does change when Paul points to the good news that is found in Jesus.
3. In the section we will explore next week, Paul lays out the wonder of the gospel.
4. When we get to chapter 5, we will thrill at these amazing truths: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)
5. And then when we get to chapter 8, we will be blessed by truths like:
a. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (8:1)
b. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…(8:16-17)
c. And: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32)
E. So, later on we’re going to encounter some of the most uplifting, inspirational, and encouraging passages in all the Bible, but not yet.
1. Before Paul can lift us up and send us soaring to the heights of faith, he must first make us clearly see and understand our lost state.
2. We will never understand, appreciate and seek the good news of salvation until we have first understood and accepted the sinfulness and lost-ness of our sinful state.
F. This is a lesson that our society desperately needs to relearn.
1. About 10 years ago, the USA TODAY newspaper ran a feature article entitled: “Has the Notion of ‘Sin’ Been Lost?”
2. The article quoted a wide variety of pollsters, preachers and pundits, and they all basically agreed that the concept of sin has all but disappeared in our society and even in our churches.
3. For instance, the article pointed out that Joel Osteen, the popular television preacher, never mentions sin in his TV sermons or bestselling books.
4. Osteen is just the latest in a long line of preachers going all the way back to Norman Vincent Peale who have gained popularity and wealth by pandering to our deep-seated desire to feel good about ourselves.
5. Americans have always been a basically optimistic people who believe in self-help, not spiritual helplessness.
6. Back in the 1950’s, Norman Vincent Peale built an empire around “The Power of Positive Thinking” and Joel Osteen is simply following in his footsteps a half century later.
7. Americans are a “can do” people who want to hear that we can make ourselves healthy, wealthy and spiritually successful if we just believe in ourselves and work hard.
G. But that is the antithesis of the gospel.
1. God certainly wants us to be spiritually successful, but the path to salvation leads through self-denial, not shallow self-esteem; and it leads through repentance, not positive thinking.