Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 3.11 

Being sixteen years old, Sherri is deeply in love. She longs to be with the man of her dreams. Troy is everything she has ever dreamed of in a man. He is tall. He is handsome. He is attentive. He is so cool. He accepts her for who she is. He is functionally illiterate. He has such a boss pony tail. He has two kids by women he has never married. The fact that mom and dad do not see the virtues of Troy only proves that they do not understand.

Will is fourteen years old. He lives for only two things: To wrap his trouser cuffs tighter around his ankles than anyone he knows, and to figure out a way to spend the rest of his natural life on a skateboard. Will has already suffered two concussions from riding his skateboard because helmets are just not cool. The fact that his dad gets so mad every time he has to step over Will’s skateboard to walk into the house just proves what Will has always thought about his dad. He just doesn’t understand.

Irene’s mother came to visit. It was the first time since Irene’s childhood that she had seen her mother, when mom ran off on a drunken and drugs induced bender and left her, her dad, and her siblings without so much as a note. However, soon after her recent arrival, Irene’s mom pulled a bottle of fine wine from a large bag and proposed that they celebrate their reunion with a toast. That is when Irene’s husband Tom said, “Mom, please put your wine away. We don’t allow alcohol to be served in our home.” Though Irene would agree with Tom under most circumstances, this was the first time she had seen her mother in more than 20 years. Tom just didn’t understand.

Think about that evaluation of other people, “They just don’t understand.” That verdict is the great and all-encompassing disqualifier. If you can successfully tag someone as not understanding, then their opposition to your opinion, their discomfort with your position, or their general concern about your proposed course of action, is nullified or has become instantaneously suspect. It has been established that those who do not understand are in the wrong. For that reason, concluding that someone does not understand is an extremely significant judgment to make. So, in our text for today, where the Apostle Paul quotes God’s conclusion that “there is none that understandeth,” he has written a statement that is very serious, indeed.

My text is Romans 3.11. Once you find that text, please stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

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


Does it mean that you cannot figure out what two plus two equals? No. It does not mean that. Does it mean that you are stupid or foolish? No. It does not exactly mean that, either. Does it mean that you are intellectually inferior and incapable of comprehending complex issues? No.

Romans 3.11 refers to an Old Testament passage that is found in the 14th Psalm. Both the New Testament Greek word as well as the Old Testament Hebrew word in question refer specifically to comprehending and understanding spiritual truth. Not that the root meaning of the words has to do necessarily with spiritual understanding, but that is the way they are always used in both the Old and New Testaments, in the context of spiritual understanding.

So, when the pronouncement was made in the 14th Psalm, and then repeated in Romans 3.11 by Paul, that “there is none that understandeth,” they refer to being unable to comprehend spiritual truths. 


Of course, the Jewish people, having had the 14th Psalm for a thousand years, were well aware that God was looking down from His throne on high to see if anyone understood. Since the Jewish people were the children of promise, they were the elect nation, they were the commonwealth of Israel, their conclusion was, obviously, that the Gentiles did not have understanding of spiritual things. This conclusion of theirs was certainly correct. If the lascivious lifestyle and the perverse idolatry of the heathen was any indication at all, the Gentiles indeed did not understand.

However, the Jews were only half right in their conclusion. Not only did the Gentiles not understand, but neither did the Jews. When Paul, then, wrote that 

“there is none that understandeth, no not one,” 

he referred not to the Gentiles only, but to the Jewish people as well.

Notice the Scriptural support for Paul’s argument. In Isaiah 6.9 the LORD speaks to the prophet Isaiah, saying, 

“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.” 

God’s prediction is that the Israelites will not understand, that the Israelites will not comprehend spiritual truth.

There are a number of New Testament passages which show how true the Isaiah prophecy really is: The Lord Jesus Christ used a variety of methods to establish that the Jewish people did not understand spiritual truth, including parables, miracles and teachings. Remember the parable of the four different kinds of soil on which the seed was sown? Listen to the Lord’s explanation of that parable, Matthew 13.18-19: 

“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.” 

Folks, the phrase “word of the kingdom” means that this phrase refers to the millennial kingdom. The Jews did not understand that. How about the parable of the dragnet in Matthew 13.47-52? Though verse 51 indicates that Christ’s disciples understood this parable, most of those who heard it did not. The parable refers to the angels removing lost people and leaving the saved behind to enter the millennial kingdom at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. With His miracles, the Lord Jesus illustrated that the Jewish people were without understanding. The Lord Jesus miraculously fed some four thousand men with seven loaves of bread and a few fishes, according to Matthew chapter 15. The failure of His Own disciples to understand the spiritual significance of that miraculous feeding resulted in three things, according to Mark 6.52 and Mark 8.17. First, on the Sea of Galilee, during a storm, they feared for their physical safety when He had assured their safety. Second, they failed to understand Christ’s warnings about the false doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Third, the Lord Jesus showed the accuracy of Isaiah’s prophecy about them not understanding in His teachings. The most notable instance was when He instructed the disciples regarding His imminent arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Luke chapter 18. Read that passage and you will see for yourself that they did not understand.

There are several other places that this word “understanding” is found that we do not have time to investigate. However, I think the point is already well made. Throughout the Gospels the Lord Jesus Christ shows that Israelites do not comprehend spiritual truths. Several times it was the disciples who did not understand. So, if they do not understand, surely the rest of the Jewish community would not understand. The answer, then, to the question, “Who does not understand?” is that Gentiles do not understand. In that the Jewish people of Christ’s and Paul’s day were right. However, they missed the fact that they, too, did not understand spiritual truths. 


As I said before, the context in which the words are used in the Bible indicates that the failure to understand lies in the realm of spiritual truths. However, let us narrow our consideration down and see just what kind of spiritual truths are not understood by those who do not understand.

In Deuteronomy 32, we find the song of Moses. In that song, Moses rehearses in a paean of praise the great deliverance and the astounding victories that Jehovah has wrought for His people Israel. In Deuteronomy 32.29, however, Moses sounded a sad note: 

“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” 

Moses bewailed the fact that the nation of Israel failed to comprehend that her successes were blessings bestowed by God. Sounds much like modern day success stories taking credit for their success, doesn’t it?

Next, look at Luke 18.31-34: 

31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. 

Here we see that even Christ’s disciples, as I just moments ago pointed out, failed to understand certain spiritual truths. What truths did they fail to comprehend? They perceived who the Lord Jesus was, but were blind to His impending substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind and His resurrection three days later.

Third, there is Second Corinthians 10.12: 

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 

Though you must examine the context of this verse to see it, and you must take note of the fact that our Greek word for “understanding” is here translated “wise,” we see that Paul’s adversaries are men who simply do not properly understand the Biblical doctrine of salvation. Instead of the unmerited grace of God through faith in Christ, they insisted upon a salvation by good works and obedience to the Law of Moses.

So, basically, what those who do not understand do not understand are those issues related to God’s deliverance of His people. In the case of the Israelites in Moses’ time, it was their failure to comprehend God’s deliverance of them from the hands of Pharaoh. In the days of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, it was a failure to comprehend God’s deliverance from the tyranny of sin through faith, apart from works.

To put the matter most succinctly, lost people, who are the ones who do not understand, simply do not understand things related to God’s plan of salvation. And that happens, by the way, to be the way a mature Christian oftentimes discerns the spiritual condition of someone who wrongly claims to be a Christian. That person says or does something which shows that he or she simply does not understand God’s plan of salvation. 


There are a number of characteristic behavior patterns found in the lives of those who really understand, but I have time to share only a very few of them with you.

First, Bible preaching. Nehemiah 8.1-13. Please read it when you get home. The passage contains the first time in God’s Word in which Bible exposition is conducted. Verse 8 shows what proper Bible exposition is: 

“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” 

Notice what the people did after one full day of Bible instruction. Read the chapter and you will see that they came back a second day to “understand the words of the Law,” verse 13. People who understand get under Bible preaching so they will understand more.

Second, there is Psalm 119.99: 

“I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.” 

People with understanding meditate upon God’s Word. Understand that meditating is more than memorizing. It is reflecting, considering, applying, ruminating, and going over repeatedly.

More generally, however, people who understand know the will of God and know the ways of God, as we see from Ephesians 5.10-17: 

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is

Finally, those who understand glory in their understanding of God, Jeremiah 9.24: 

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” 

Glorying is not bragging. It is practicing these same virtues found in God of lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness toward your fellow man.[1] 


According to Jeremiah 3.14-15, repentance is required: 

14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 

Repent and God will provide pastors who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Daniel 9.13 says the same thing: 

“As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.” 

You will not understand until you repent, until you repent of your sins and iniquities.

“But Simon Peter, in Acts 2.38, said that we must repent in order to be saved.” You are absolutely correct. You see, the person who does not understand is very simply the person who is not saved. In order to understand you have to be saved. That is the reason understanding and salvation both come by repentance. 

We live in a world which does not know God’s plan of salvation. I am convinced that if you told people in our state of California that getting to heaven required climbing up trees upside down, there would be no bark on trees anywhere in sight.

The Lord Jesus told a man named Nicodemus, “We speak that which we do know.”[2] Around this Church, God has blessed us to understand His truth related to salvation, so we do a lot of talking about same. Not because we are smart, you understand, but because we have repented of our sins and God has given to us understanding of such things. God will do the very same for you when you repent of your sin and come to Christ by faith.

Is it an overly complex issue for you? Does it seem so hard to understand? Then you must certainly be lost and in need of salvation. Come and talk to me and let us open God’s Word to look into this together. Remember, it is a very serious thing to pronounce that someone does not understand. For God to declare such a thing about human beings ought to tell you something.

It ought to tell you that salvation, and coming to understand, whatever else it is, is not something which people are going to be able to figure out on their own. Why not? Because, as it is written, “There is none that understandeth, no not one.”


[1] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, Vol 8, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 120.

[2] John 3.11

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