Today, we come to the last of the BAD NEWS before Paul begins the GOOD NEWS, and this section is the worst of the BAD NEWS. It is the most terrible indictment of the human race ever penned. Not a single member of Adam’s ruined race is accepted; the indictment is sweeping, comprehensive, and all-inclusive. NO ONE, NOT EVEN ONE is excluded.
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.
Every human being is on the same footing before God when it comes to sin. Jew and Gentile—red and yellow, black or white—there is no difference. All are dirty rotten sinners in the sight of God—that is HOW GOD SEES MANKIND.
Step by step Paul enumerates the charges against the human race, each one a quotation or paraphrase from Psalms, Ecclesiastes or Isaiah that demonstrates all mankind is equally corrupt and depraved. Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin.
God looks down on the earth and what does He see? That man whom He created “very good” has been plunged into ruin by Adam’s sin. Hence, there is nothing good about mankind in God’s sight. He sees every person’s CHARACTER, COMMUNICATION and CONDUCT corrupted by sin. No one has escaped this corruption.
EVERY PERSON HAS INHERITED FROM ADAM A DEPRAVED CHARACTER. Verse 10—
There is no one righteous, not even one.
Paul’s charge is a paraphrase of Solomon and David. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:20—
There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
And David wrote in Psalm 14:3—
All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
David and Solomon charge that man is corrupt and together have become filthy, that is, dirty rotten sinners. Man is incapable by nature of doing that which is right in the sight of God. Centuries later, the prophet dittos this charge with Isaiah 64:6 —
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Liberal churches usually emphasize the goodness of man. So often, they give the impression that by being good a person can be right with God. However, the Bible says such “goodness” is impossible. Instead, we find in the Bible that man wants to be his own god, his own lord and his own king. Twice in the Book of Judges it says—
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
Everyone doing that which was right in his or her own eyes produced one of the darkest eras in Israel’s history. Even today, many think their behavior is right—and so it may be according to human standards. But God does not try men by human standards. He tries them by His own standard of absolute perfection.
To measure ourselves against anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ is to use the wrong standard. He is the Word of God in flesh. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Jesus is without sin—He is the standard.
The life of Christ simply shows us how crooked and defiled our own lives really are. It is no wonder the Holy Spirit says, “There is none righteous, not even one!” For that matter, there is no one who is GOOD. Jesus asked the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18: “Why do you call me good? No one is good— except God alone.”
There is none righteous as Adam was, in a state of innocence; for all have sinned, and are filled with unrighteousness, and are enemies to righteousness. None are righteous by their obedience to the law of works. No matter how good or righteous a person may appear in their own eyes or in the sight of others, they are not inherently righteous, for there is none without sin.
The only person who ever lived absolutely free from sin is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. And outside of Christ, man remains in a state of ruin. Man is born with a corrupted character—his mind, heart, and will is depraved.
EVERY PERSON HAS INHERITED FROM ADAM A DEPRAVED MIND AND HEART. Verse 11—
There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
How can the Bible say that NO ONE UNDERSTANDS? When Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually. Our first parents passed on to the human race physical as well as spiritual death. We are born spiritually dead, therefore, we need to be born again. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14—
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
For instance, the spiritually dead are unable to understand the detailed illustrations of salvation in the Tabernacle and its furnishings. It never clicks! The light doesn’t go on! It means nothing to them even when it’s clearly explained. They cannot understand spiritual things because they are spiritually dead. The Tabernacle, one of the most relevant and germane studies of Scripture, is foolishness to those without the Spirit; it doesn’t make sense. The unsaved experience no spiritual growth from a study of the Tabernacle because there is no spiritual life.
Man’s power to think lifts him above the beasts of the field. In this age of scientific enlightenment and advanced technology, we have every evidence that man has a brilliant intellect. Yet at the same time, it is strangely blind to spiritual realities.
In spite of his genius in so many realms, man betrays a most remarkable denseness when it comes to the things of God. He has no natural understanding is this realm at all. His mind, incisive in so many ways, is warped and twisted when it comes to eternal and spiritual issues. The damage wrought by sin runs deep into the very root of the thinking processes of man. His imaginations are often filthy; his memories often betray him; his deductions are often false; and his conclusions are often wrong.
On the things that matter most, man is blind. For example, the things that a person will believe in the name of religion are astounding. One person will tell you, “It doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you’re sincere”—a philosophy he would not tolerate for a moment in a professor of mathematics teaching him arithmetic or calculus.
Another will tell you, “I’m going to turn over a new leaf” gleefully forgetting that God will call the past to account. If he were a businessman, he would not accept such a philosophy from one of his debtors. Imagine his reaction on opening his mail one morning if he were to find a letter from a man who owed him a thousand dollars which read like this:
Dear Sir: I realize that I owe you five thousand dollars, but today I have turned over a new leaf in my ledger and intend from now on to pay my debts and live up to the highest standards of business integrity. Any obligations incurred from now on will be met in full. I am ignoring the past. Sincerely, No Longer Your Debtor.
Yet the same man who would be astounded to receive such a letter like that uses exactly this philosophy in the matters of the soul. He ignores the fact that he is a debtor to sin and owes its penalty of death.
THERE IS NO ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS. Man is unreasonable in his attitude to God. Man does not understand how abhorrent his sin is to God. He does not understand how holy God is; nor what is involved in the alternatives of heaven or hell which lie ahead; nor at what cost God has provided the very salvation he ignores.
If man understood these things, he would be in a hurry to be saved. Indeed, this is exactly what happens when a man’s heart and eyes are at last opened by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Every born again person is saved just like LYDIA. Acts 16:14 records her salvation—
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
Every person is born with a CLOSED HEART; it must be opened by Spirit of God along with the Word of God. Remember what Jesus said in John 6:44—
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
How many come to Christ on their own accord? “NO ONE” said Jesus. THERE IS NO ONE WHO SEEKS GOD.
The question naturally arises: “How can this possibly be true?” The Bible states that Lydia was a worshiper of God when He opened her heart. Pagan lands are filled with temples and worshipers— aren’t these pagans seeking God? The Bible gives the answer. Behind all false worship is Satan according to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4—
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
All religion apart from God’s truth and way is vain. Lydia was worshiping God in a way that was unacceptable to Him. She approach God on her own merit, not by faith in atoning blood. Even if she had come by animal blood, that way was obsolete. Jesus had proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Since no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him, there is no one who truly seeks God. God sought Lydia and she responded to His seeking. The Greek word SEEK means “to seek out and search for.” It speaks of a determined search after something. God is not playing hide and seek with man. He has revealed Himself in creation, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Remember what the Russian cosmonauts said after circling the earth? “We looked for God, but we didn’t find Him.” In reality, man does not seek God by his own efforts.
Most people tend to accept their religious convictions ready-made. Some people, it is true, shop around from one religious system to another until they find something that better suits their religious tastes, but apart from the drawing and convicting work of the Holy Spirit they end up in just another brand of delusion.
There is none that seeks after God; that worships Him in spirit and in truth, or prays to Him with the spirit, and with the understanding; who seek Him chiefly, and in the first place, with their whole hearts, earnestly, diligently, and constantly; who seek Him in Christ, and under the assistance of the Spirit; who seek after the knowledge of God in Christ, communion with Him through the Mediator, or His honor and glory.
Other than Jesus, no one who has ever lived the two greatest commandments—
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength . . . Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31).
God said in Jeremiah 29:13—
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
WITH ALL YOUR HEART is the catch. Man is too self-centered to seek God this way. Even a saved person does not seek God wholeheartedly every moment of their life. In fact, those moments of seeking are very rare. Wholehearted seeking of God takes place only in those moments when we have taken up our cross and denied self so that we do exactly what God wants done with His attitude, not our ours.
How many times in one day do we fail to keep Jesus’ command—Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness? This command necessary because we rarely we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness before anything else. Sad to say, we naturally seek our own kind of kingdom and our own brand of righteousness because our will is corrupted.
EVERY PERSON HAS INHERITED FROM ADAM A DEPRAVED WILL. Verse 12—
All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
These words rip apart all man’s imagined goodness. The frequently used assertion, “I am doing the best I can,” is simply not true. No man has ever done his best; there has never been a time when a good deed might not have been improved with a little more effort or concern or less self-glory. People who make this claim are condemned by their own brand of religion.
ALL HAVE TURNED AWAY. Away from what? Away from God; His righteousness; and His way. Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that this is the very reason Christ had to come into the world and die on the Cross—
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Notice that Paul didn’t say God made man WORTHLESS, but together we become WORTHLESS. When God looks down, His assessment of man is quite different from His original one of very good. Now He sees man as WORTHLESS—UNPROFITABLE.
Some may be profitable to the church, but that does not make them necessarily profitable to God. Our good deeds do not outweigh our bad deeds; our religious assets are all consumed by the guilt of sin. Paul himself once boasted in his religious GAINS until God showed him how utterly worthless were all the things in which he was trusting. Then he was glad enough to cast them all aside in favor of Christ. He wrote in Philippians 3:7-9—
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
We want our own brand of righteousness, but it is rubbish! Without Christ, the destiny of the religious is Hell because their own righteousness and goodness will not get them into Heaven.
WORTHLESS suggests overripe, spoiled fruit. Mankind is not lush fruit; he is rotten fruit. That is what the Judge of all the earth says about you and about me and about everyone on the face of the earth.
Men are unrighteous, unreasonable, unresponsive and unrepentant because their mind, heart and will are depraved. Every human being is guilty as charged.
Man is so depraved and unresponsive to God that all the initiative in salvation has to be on God’s side. And how much He has done! He has given His Son; He has given the Scriptures; and He has given the Spirit, and most men will not respond and repent.
Not only are all men guilty before God, they are deeply guilty. Paul proves our guilt before God by drawing attention to the corrupt things men say and do.
EVERY PERSON HAS INHERITED FROM ADAM DEPRAVED COMMUNICATION. Verses 13-14—
“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
Paul is still piling up the evidence, quoting from the OT, he makes the case that the unrighteous are like SEPULCHERS and SNAKES. He points out that man’s speech is characterized by the vileness of an open sepulcher—THEIR THROATS ARE OPEN GRAVES.
What an expressive way of depicting the corruption of so much of human speech! People who swear and take God’s name in vain show that inside they are spiritually dead. The offensive stench exhaling from an open sepulcher is due not to the grave itself but to the rottenness within. Just so, the unclean, unkind, untrue utterances of man betray a defiled, despiteful and deceitful heart.
The unsaved person’s mouth is an open grave of wickedness and ungodliness—swearing, cursing, slandering, gossiping, and uttering deceit.
When God looks down at us, He doesn’t say what a sweet, fine little boy or girl we are! God says we smell like an open grave! If we could see ourselves as God sees us, we wouldn’t be able to stand ourselves!
MEN’S LIPS ARE LIKE SNAKES—“the poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
The fangs of a deadly snake lie, ordinarily, folded back in its upper jaw; but when it throws up its head to strike, those hollow fangs drop down, and when the snake bites, the fangs press a sack of deadly poison hidden ‘under its lips’ at the root, thus injecting the venom into the wound. You and I were born with moral sack like this. We strike at one another with venomous words.
Those who take God’s name in vain or speak unkind things of others might deceive themselves and say they are saved, but not so according to the Bible. For instance, James 3:9-12 is very clear on this point —
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
DEPRAVED COMMUNICATION exposes a DEPRAVED PERSON. No one who speaks this way to or about his neighbor can say they love. For such speech violates the very attributes of love; for—
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Foul speech is not only an offense against man, it is an offense against God. The Lord Jesus warned that in Matthew 12:36—
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
The average articulate person uses thousands of words a day. These daily words would comprise a fair sized volume and enough volumes in a lifetime to fill a college library. Each of these volumes represents the thoughts of the speaker in his own words, and every word is open to the inspection and judgment of God. Moreover, not one of the words can be recalled nor one of the volumes withdrawn. Paul points out here that man’s wicked words form an important part of God’s indictment of each one of us.
Not only does COMMUNICATION reveal a corrupted MIND, HEART and WILL, but CONDUCT reveals corruption as well.
EVERY PERSON HAS INHERITED FROM ADAM DEPRAVED CONDUCT. Verses 15-17—
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”
Isaiah 59:7 is the unabridged version of the first part of Paul’s quote—
Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways.
The first evidence of DEPRAVED CONDUCT is MURDER. It did not take long for sin to leap full grown into human experience. Cain’s religion was of his own making so he refused to offer an animal sacrifice to God like Abel had done so he murdered his brother.
We do not have to recount the world’s history of wars and crimes to know that men’s feet are swift are swift to shed blood. Depraved man at heart is a murder. 1 John 3:15 warns—
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
The second evidence of the DEPRAVED CONDUCT of the unrighteous is that RUIN AND MISERY MARK THEIR WAYS. Where would one begin and end a list to describe all the things depraved man does that brings ruin and misery. Jesus said in Matthew 15:19—
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Think of the ruin and misery that marks the way of wars, drugs, drunkenness and adultery! No one can deny that the consequences of sin are ruin and misery.
The third evidence of DEPRAVED CONDUCT is THE WAY OF PEACE THEY DO NOT KNOW.
Nearly two thousand years ago there came to this world the One whose name had been given as THE PRINCE OF PEACE. At His birth the angels chanted across the hills of Judah: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” But the world united at Calvary to crucify Him, and will know nothing but “wars and rumors of wars” until He comes again. In the meantime, man’s misery is not only something to be endured; it something for which man is criminally liable at the throne of God.
Man’s corrupt communication and conduct comes from the Devil. Jesus said in John 8:44—
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Isn’t that Paul’s case? Corrupt communication and conduct prove that the unrighteous belong to the devil. How did this happen to man? What is the cause of man’s corruption?
MUTINY IS THE CAUSE OF MAN’S DEPRAVITY. Verse 18—
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Paul quotes Psalm 36:1, where David wrote—
An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.
Adam and Eve were the very first to be numbered among the sinful wicked. God had warned them—
You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely dying will die (Genesis 2:17).
Did they fear God? Absolutely not! They took and ate the forbidden fruit. It was an act of MUTINY— REBELLION!
FEAR is that recognition, respect, and reverence for God that is essential for mankind to become subject to God. This lack of fear was first experienced in the Garden of Eden. Adam did not recognize God for what He is. He did not respect Him, and he did not pay Him reverence. Therefore, he did not hesitate to reject God’s command and walk in his own way. All of Adam’s family has followed in his footsteps and ruin and misery mark our ways.
Adam and Eve made their choice as if God did not exist. They acted as if there were no God, no Being to whom they are responsible for their conduct, and who has the purpose and power to punish them for their rebellion and sin. That’s the way mankind lives.
When Adam and Eve fell, they fell from righteousness—what they ought to be in God’s sight. DEPRAVED CHARACTER manifested by CORRUPT COMMUNICATION and CONDUCT is the result of man not fearing God. The unrighteous lack the heart, mind and will to fear God. But the righteous appreciated that— The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
Those who fear the LORD have their character changed by the Holy Spirit. They are no longer unrighteous, but have been made righteous. Their communication becomes sweet and healing instead of a open grave and poisonous Their conduct becomes mark by reconstruction and contentment instead of ruin and misery. What does God see when He looks at you?