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Romans 3:9–18

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (vv. 10–12).

Try as we might, it is very difficult for human beings to come to grips with the fact that we do not deserve heaven. The average person, perhaps even the average professing Christian, is likely to say God should let him into heaven because he tries his best to be good and do the right thing. We have an innate tendency to believe we will get into heaven as long as our good works outweigh our bad deeds.

Of course, in comparison to someone like Adolf Hitler, most of us could be described as “good,” relatively speaking. However, God does not measure our goodness or righteousness by a relative standard but by the absolute standard of His own character and law. As we have seen, this standard is perfection, which is why Paul can look at the world and say that no person is righteous even if we see unbelievers do noble and honorable things from time to time (Rom. 3:9–12). Moreover, Jesus tells us quite explicitly that we “must be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). God will not grade on a curve—we can pass His test and enter heaven by our works only if we never disobey Him (Gal. 5:3). If we commit only one “minor” transgression while we walk the earth, we have fallen short of infinite perfection and deserve an infinite judgment. This is the state in which all natural-born descendants of Adam find themselves (Gen. 8:21; Isa. 64:6–7; Matt. 13:40–42; Rom. 3:23).

Christ alone has met God’s standard of perfection (1 Peter 2:22), and that is why we can be considered the righteousness of God only if we are in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus shows us in the Sermon on the Mount that righteousness means conforming to God’s law both in its letter and in its spirit (Matt. 5:21–26), and we have failed in this task miserably. If we think that we have kept the Lord’s commandments, let us read Christ’s call never to put anyone or anything before Him (Matt. 10:37). To consider this command honestly is to realize that none but Christ have followed God so perfectly.

Born in sin, we cannot keep the law of God with our heart, soul, mind, or strength. The fallen nature we inherit from Adam (Rom. 3:9–18; 5:12–21) keeps us from wanting to serve Him of our own accord. Only Jesus, by His Spirit, can change this.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God does not grade on a curve. Two good deeds do not make up for one bad one. Any way we slice it, there is nothing we can do to make up for not meeting God’s standard of perfection. Let us remind ourselves of that fact daily, that we might continually believe in the gospel. Only the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us by faith alone, fulfills the Lord’s standard and guarantees us eternal life.


For Further Study
  • Leviticus 11:45
  • Isaiah 6:1–7
  • Luke 18:9–14
  • Galatians 2:15–16

The Beginning of Months

The Extent of Our Sin

Keep Reading The Apocalypse of John

From the January 2012 Issue
Jan 2012 Issue