Summary: As we’ve been learning from our study in Romans, the picture that Paul paints of the human race is not a pretty sight. The good news is that he’s almost done speaking about sin. The bad news is that what we are faced with today is perhaps the strongest
We’ve All Blown It
Rev. Brian Bill
It had been a long day for the clerk at the cosmetic counter. Having been on her feet all day, she was looking forward to going home. Just before the doors closed, a man came running up to her frantically and said, “Tomorrow’s my wife’s birthday and I don’t have anything for her. What do you recommend?” The clerk brought out a nice bottle of perfume worth about $100. He gasped and said, “That’s way too expensive!” So she held up a bottle that cost $50. He said, “That’s still too expensive. What do you have that’s less expensive?” She searched some more and found something for $25. The husband replied, “That’s still too expensive! What else do you have?” She then brought out the cheapest thing she had at the counter, a tiny $10 bottle of perfume. He was now exasperated and said, “You don’t understand. I want you to show me something cheap!” She quickly reached under the counter, pulled out a mirror, told him to look into it and said, “Try this!”
Mirrors don’t lie, do they? This mega mirror that I have here today is nothing to mess around with. It not only comes with bright lights but it also has a magnifying feature so that you can see more than you want to see. Let me demonstrate. As I look into this mirror I see that I need a haircut and that I’m starting to show some silver highlights. I also see that in my haste to shave this morning I missed a few whiskers. I also notice that I have a “uni-brow” that my daughters tell me I should pluck. My forehead looks a bit greasy and I have this ugly scar across my chin which is a visible reminder of the car accident I had when I was 17. I’m sure I could find additional imperfections if I studied my reflection some more but frankly what I’ve seen already is quite frightening. I think I’ll just get up and walk away from this for awhile.
James 1:23-24 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” The Bible is a mirror that reflects with pinpoint precision what we are really like. And it’s not a pretty sight because sin has left a significant scar on each of us. John Calvin wrote: “The Bible is like a mirror. In it we see our imperfections and the curse that comes with it just as a mirror shows us the spots on our face.” It’s like the person who took his pictures back to the photographer and said, “I want my money back. These pictures don’t do me justice.” The photographer looked at the pictures and said, “You don’t need justice, you need mercy!”
As we’ve been learning from our study in Romans, the picture that Paul paints of the human race is not a pretty sight. The good news is that he’s almost done speaking about sin. The bad news is that what we are faced with today is perhaps the strongest statement on sin in all of Scripture. This vivid description of human depravity will make most of us want to turn away. But we can’t and we won’t because the gospel will only become good news when we first understand the bad news. Mercy only makes sense when we commiserate about our misery. Grace is amazing only to those who are annihilated by guilt. As we come to our text today, Paul gets to the punch line of what he’s been saying for three long chapters.
• The whole world is under God’s wrath (1:18)
• The Gentiles are guilty (1:18-32)
• The Moralists are guilty (2:1-16)
• The Jews are guilty (2:17-29)
• No excuses will be accepted (3:1-8)
Please turn in your copy of the Scriptures to Romans 3:9-20. As Pastor Dick pointed out last week, the Apostle Paul is fond of using diatribes in the Book of Romans, where he asks and answers questions. In our culture, we might refer to them as FAQ’s, or Frequently Asked Questions. This section begins with two simple questions that are quickly answered in verse 9. Then, utilizing a string of Scripture that is expertly woven together, Paul holds up the mirror of the Word to show us just how sinful we really are. Interestingly, Paul does not begin with an introduction, but with his conclusion.
The Conclusion (3:9)
In verse 9 Paul restates the basic charge: “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.” When it comes to sin, no one has a pass. Whether Jewish or Gentile, moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, everyone is under sin. No group is guiltier than another and no individual is exempt. Pontiac is guilty and so is Chenoa, Gridley and Graymont. Dwight is busted and so is Odell and Mazon and Minonk. Flanagan is at fault and so is Saunemin, Lexington, Fairbury, Forrest and Cullom. Saunemin is sinful and so is Streator. Illinois has messed up and so has Michigan (OK, even Wisconsin is under sin as well). North Korea is sinful and so is the United States of America. I’m a sinner…and so are you. I like what that famous theologian Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”