Today’s Reading: Romans 3:9-31 (additional reading: Psalm 12:1-8 & Proverbs 19:13-14)
It had been a long day for the clerk at the cosmetic counter. Having been on her feet all day, she was looking forward to going home. Just before the doors closed, a man came running up to her frantically and said, “Tomorrow’s my wife’s birthday and I don’t have anything for her. What do you recommend?” The clerk brought out a nice bottle of perfume worth about $100. He gasped and said, “That’s way too expensive!” So she held up a bottle that cost $50. He said, “That’s still too expensive. What do you have that’s less expensive?” She searched some more and found something for $25. The husband replied, “That’s still too expensive! What else do you have?” She then brought out the cheapest thing she had at the counter, a tiny $10 bottle of perfume. He was now exasperated and said, “You don’t understand. I want you to show me something cheap!” She quickly reached under the counter, pulled out a mirror, told him to look into it and said, “Try this!”
Mirrors don’t lie, do they? The picture that Paul paints of the human race is not a pretty sight. The good news is that he’s almost done speaking about sin. The bad news is that what we are faced with today is perhaps the strongest statement on sin in all of Scripture. This vivid description of human depravity will make most of us want to turn away. But we can’t and we won’t because the gospel will only become good news when we first understand the bad news. Mercy only makes sense when we commiserate about our misery. Grace is amazing only to those who are annihilated by guilt. As we come to our text today, Paul gets to the punch line of what he’s been saying for three long chapters.
In verse 9 Paul restates the basic charge: “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.” When it comes to sin, no one has a pass. Whether Jewish or Gentile, moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, everyone is under sin. No group is guiltier than another and no individual is exempt. Paul is “making the charge” which is a legal term often used to describe someone who was indicted for a certain offense. The phrase “under sin” is a military term that means “under the authority of someone.” In this case it means that everyone alike is under the control of sin.
In spite of our hideous deformities and our unholy depravity, through accepting Jesus, God wraps His arms around us, turns our face toward His and says, “You are beautiful to me!” I’ve blown it, but I’m beautiful to God. I’m fatally flawed, but fully forgiven