Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 3.9-12


Being a pastor, I am called upon to give a great deal of counsel. And I suppose that I have given counsel on subjects from A to Z and just about everything in between. I have been asked how to get a wife and how to get rid of a wife, how to catch a husband and how to uncatch a husband. I have even been called upon to give advice related to the purchase of an automobile or the purchase of a house, how to correct a child or how to handle finances.

Realize that despite the fact that I occasionally offer my personal advice about certain things, the great majority of the counsel I give is not personal opinion. Instead, I try to show people how Biblical principles ought to influence decision making. For example, with regard to the purchase of an automobile, more is involved than just one’s ability to make monthly payments on a car loan. You have to first examine the Bible to discover whether God has even authorized you to borrow money to buy that car. That critical study of God’s Word may determine whether you buy another car or fix the one you currently drive, or whether your car purchase will be a new car or a used one.

But most of my counseling experiences are related to problems and difficulties far more personal and close to home than the purchase of a car. Most of my counseling is related to matters having directly to do with personal sin and how to experience personal victory in your Christian walk. And throughout my counseling career I have discovered the most amazing thing about people. People actually think they are different from other people. Really. People actually think their problems and experiences are unusual and different than the experiences and problems of other people. And this is a holdover from the humanistic thinking of our unsaved days. Lost people, you see, tend to think that everyone is the same but that their problems are different. The Bible, however, shows us that everyone is different but our problems are the same. Let me show you how that kind of confused thinking can really foul things up in your life.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Romans he knew that it would be necessary to straighten out some of the doctrinal problems that those people had that was influencing their effectiveness as Christians. Being a mostly Jewish Christian congregation, or at least having been greatly influenced early on by Jewish Christians, the Romans had come to a personal realization of sinfulness and repented, trusting Jesus Christ to the saving of their souls. But though they knew of their own need of the Lord they may have been really soft on the need of other Jewish people to be saved. And this was because of the humanistic tendency to think that you have unique experiences that are different from the experiences of others. This was also because, though they had a more or less correct view of their own personal sinfulness, they had a false and elevated view of the sinfulness of their people, the Jewish people as a group. “I know I am a sinner, but I have no right to say you’re a sinner.”

Paul, being an insightful man of God as well as being an inspired man of God, realized what a powerful impact this erroneous thinking could have. For if you think you are sinful and need to be saved, but that others may not necessarily be sinful and need to be saved, you will trust Christ but will not then tell others how to be saved. This dangerous error needed to be nipped in the bud. And as we examine our text for today, Romans 3.9-12, we will see how Paul begins to establish the sinfulness of every man by showing that every man is under the dominion of sin. Stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: 

9      What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

10    As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11    There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12    They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 

In verse 9, Paul asks, “What then? are we better than they?” That is to say, having dealt with Jewish objections in Romans 3.1-8, are we to conclude that Jews are spiritually superior to Gentiles? “No, in no wise.” Paul answers that Jewish people are not spiritually superior to Gentiles, who were recognized by everyone as wicked and sinful. Then Paul concludes verse 9 by reminding his readers that he has already proved, or has already leveled charges, to the effect that Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat, “that they are all under sin.”

Now he seeks to draw from his readers an admission, a verdict if you will, to the effect that their experiences were not different from the experiences of others. That as they were sinful in the sight of God, so every Jewish person, indeed, every person, is sinful as well. This Paul does by lumping Jewish people and Gentile people together for the purpose of showing that all men are under sin’s dominion. Four sad truths about mankind establish Paul’s reasoning: 


Verse 10: 

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” 

From the beginning phrase of the verse, “As it is written,” we see, as I have noted in previous weeks, that Paul is referring to an Old Testament passage. In fact, in Romans 3.10-12, Paul seems, for the most part, to be quoting Psalm 14.1-3. Notice in your handout that I have Psalm 14.1-3 and Romans 3.10-12 standing side by side. And if you compare the passages you will see that, for the most part, Paul’s paraphrase is very close to David’s psalm.

But there is one rather difficult part. Romans 3.10, which reads “There is none righteous, no, not one” doesn’t seem to have a parallel in Psalm 14.1. And Psalm 14.1, which reads “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God, They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” seems to have no parallel in Romans 3.10. Unless, of course, Paul is intentionally interpreting Psalm 14.1 by writing 

“There is none righteous, no, not one.” 

That seems to be what Paul is doing. Jewish people had always interpreted Psalm 14.1 as applying only to Gentiles and never to themselves. But Paul’s whole argument is that both Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat. Neither are righteous in the sight of God.

So, to the Jewish Christian reader of Romans, recollecting what Psalm 14.1 says, the realization would quickly dawn that Paul is saying that Jews are corrupt and have done abominable works, just like Gentiles. That Jews, by their behavior and self-willed lifestyle, have so much as said “There is no God,” just as the Gentiles said.

The conclusion, from Romans 3.10? “There is none righteous, no, not one.” And the practical atheism of one who will not submit to the living God is really no different than the one who actually denies the existence of God. Both are without righteousness. 


Consider the first half of verse 11, which reads, 

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” 

Do you see that word “understandeth?” Comes from a word that refers “to have an intelligent grasp of someth. that challenges one’s thinking or practice, understand, comprehend.”[1] Paul is indicating that neither the Jewish people nor the Gentiles surrounding them have gained insight into, or have come to comprehend anything about this thing called righteousness. This is not difficult to establish with regard to the Gentile hordes. Just look at the more civilized peoples near Palestine. The Egyptians worshiped beetles and rivers, the sun and the crocodile. They thought you could take food and clothing, riches and servants, from this life into the next. Did the Egyptians know anything about righteousness? Don’t be absurd. And what about the Babylonians? They worshiped a pantheon of gods. And though they were an extremely bright group of people, they were of the opinion early on that making the women of their nation serve tours of duty at the temples as religious prostitutes was a good thing to do. There is no way that Babylon, the fountainhead of idolatry in the world today, could be said to understand the concept of righteousness. Though I could go on for hours, let me conclude with the Greeks. Did they understand righteousness? No. Beside the fact that Greek civilization crumbled, in part, due to their acceptance and widespread practice of sodomy, they were a civilization of idolaters, just like the rest.

So, it’s obvious that the Gentiles did not, and do not to this day, understand righteousness. But what about the Jewish people? Can it be shown that they did not understand righteousness? Yes, it can be. It already has been shown. And it will be shown even more fully as we continue our study of Romans. But it all boils down to the fact that the righteousness which God demands of those who would commune with Him is absolutely unattainable by man. Such righteousness is so far beyond the reach of man that even the thought of man attaining to righteousness in the sight of God is ludicrous.

What proves, more than anything else, that the Jewish people did not comprehend righteousness is the fact that they thought they had attained it. But not only had they not achieved a righteous standing before our holy God, they were totally unaware that they had not. Truly, then, not just the Gentiles, but also the Jewish people were devoid of understanding about righteousness. 


Consider now the last half of verse 11, which reads, 

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” 

Little time needs to be spent developing this point. It’s really quite obvious once the first two points are firmly grasped. And they are firmly grasped when you accept Paul’s conclusion that no one is righteous and no one understands righteousness. If no one is righteous, but if they think they are righteous, then they are something, but what they are is not righteous. Amen? And if no one understands righteousness, but they think they understand righteousness, then they may understand something, but it isn’t righteousness that they understand. Do you follow that reasoning? God is righteous. And if a people are not seeking God they aren’t seeking after righteousness, but rather a religion of some kind.

In either case, both with being righteous and with understanding righteousness, both Jewish people and Gentiles are so far wide of the truth that it dramatically affects their behavior. And how does it affect their behavior? It affects their behavior in two ways: First, if you think that you have achieved righteousness, Jewish person, you’re not likely to seek righteousness, are you? That is to say, if you think you have arrived, if you think you know God, or if not you then if you think that your people have arrived and know God, you are not going to seek righteousness. And why will you not seek after righteousness? You think you already have it, that’s why. And the same kind of reasoning would be used by any Gentile with respect to achieving righteousness through his idolatrous religion.

To recap: If you wrongly think you have achieved righteousness it will affect your behavior. First, because you will not seek after what you erroneously think you already have. No man looks for a twenty dollar bill that he thinks is safely tucked away in his wallet. The second way it affects your behavior is dealt with in my final point. 


Verse 12: 

“They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” 

Does it not stand to reason that those who are not righteous, that those who do not understand righteousness, and those who do not seek after righteousness, also do not do righteous things? If you are not righteous then you don’t know what is and is not righteous behavior. You will then do unrighteous things thinking them to be righteous. But you will be wrong. If you do not understand righteousness the very same thing will happen. You will do things that you are persuaded are righteous. But since your persuasion is incorrect your performance will also be unrighteous. You will again be wrong. Finally, if you do not seek after righteousness, because you are seeking after something else that you think is righteousness instead, it is obvious that you will not practice righteousness. And again, for the third reason, you will be wrong. 

Has Paul established his assertion? Has he shown that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin? He sure has. Beyond any reasonable doubt he has shown that neither group of individuals is righteous, and that neither Jews nor Gentiles understands righteousness, seeks after righteousness, or practices righteousness. How could such people who are such an awful mess be described? They are to be described as people dominated by sin.

But notice. It is quite obvious that most of the people thus described will go to their graves not even knowing that they are under sin. Most will go to their graves thinking that they are righteous, that they understand the basics of righteousness, that they seek righteousness in their own way, and that they basically do righteous things. How tragically wrong most people are about righteousness. Amen? Have you been wrong about righteousness? Have you seen in today’s message that what you thought in the past is simply not true about righteousness?

Then think on this as well. Titus 3.5 reads, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Even if you were right about righteousness, it would not do any good to save you from your sins. So imagine how far off the mark a man will be when he is wrong about righteousness.

Know what I think? I think you need to acknowledge that you are unrighteous. And since the unrighteous don’t go to heaven, you need help. You need to be shown how to get to heaven without having any righteousness of your own, by trusting Christ as your personal Savior.


Psalm 14.1-3                                                          Romans 3.10-13 

1  The fool hath said in his heart,               10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no,

There is no God. They are corrupt,             not one:

they have done abominable works,

there is none that doeth good.

2  The LORD looked down from                  11  There is none that understandeth, there is none

heaven upon the children of men,              that seeketh after God.

to see if there were any that did

understand, and seek God.

3  They are all gone aside, they                 12  They are all gone out of the way, they are 

are all together become filthy:                   together become unprofitable; there is none

there is none that doeth good,                    that doeth good, no not one.

no, not one.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 972.

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