The World is Accountable to God (Romans 3:19-20)
Paul draws some very stark conclusions regarding the evidence that he has cited in verse 10-18. Not only will the every mouth be stopped, but because of what Paul has said the whole world is not accountable to God. Nothing has been missed and no one can escape. Paul’s understanding of the law is refined. He is not speaking in some general or generic way. The law for Paul is the means that God uses to do two very important things. First, the law stops “every mouth” (v. 19). The law leaves us without any excuse. God is not trying to win an argument, there is no argument. Any attempt to deny the reality of our sin is useless and affront to God Himself. The law is unyielding. Any deficient view of sin will lead to a distorted view of God. Paul will hit on this in other portions of Romans, which I will attempt to point out.
Second, and not of any lesser importance is that the law makes sin known (v. 20). This is interesting and Paul will address this last phrase in more detail later (Romans 7:7-25). However, the way that we come to an awareness of sin is important for theological and evangelistic reasons. If we as Christians are not out to tell the world around us that sin is real and must be overcome, grace will not appear so amazing. I have alluded to the theological reason above, but I would like to speak to the evangelistic reason here. If the Gospel is proclaimed in a way that the depth and damage of sin is not seen in its totality, then the hearer will not fully understand how impossible it is to attempt and earn what only God can freely give. Paul gives us a hint to this in Ephesians 2:8-9. As sinners and even as adopted sons and daughters we must never forget what we have been saved from. This leads us to Paul’s next thoughts on sin.
All have Sinned (Romans 3:21-24)
Paul’s phrasing here seems somewhat confusing, but we have to think about what he is saying within the context of that time. What references did Paul use to support his argument? He used two similar references from David, in the Psalms and one from Jeremiah in Ecclesiastes. Now, Paul says that apart from the law the righteousness of God is revealed. Paul is making a reference here to the wisdom literature within the Jewish canon. The whole of God’s word points to His righteousness and man’s sinful nature.
Within the second half of this section we find that Paul is touching on, ever so lightly, upon the divinity of Jesus. This too will play an important role in the overall theology of Romans. Paul is also arguing against the two forms of works doctrine . The first was prevalent among the pagan religions (that most of the Romans were used to) and the second was a Jewish form of works teaching that many Jews had adopted because of Pharisaical influence. Also, since Paul has already “proven” the sinful nature of man he reminds the reader and hearer of this again here.
Back to Post 1 By “works doctrine” I mean any attempt that men and women undertake to earn or appease God or gods. The Romans offered sacrifices to keeps the gods happy. The Jews on the other had believed that by trying to live up to the standard of the Law they would please God. These and any variation of these will only demonstrate the futility of works.