Romans 3. We Were All Going to Drown. But There is Hope.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 3:1-20.

As the previous Chapter concluded, Paul began to unravel the Law, and make the case that because of Jesus, religion in itself is not where our salvation is found. No, God is truth. And in God alone is our salvation.

“Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same: “Your words stand fast and true; rejection doesn’t faze you.”” (Romans 3:4, MSG). When the time comes to put God’s promises on trial, they will remain steadfast, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.  We can trust Him. We can count on Him. He will guide us. He will direct our paths. He will comfort us — even when we’re faithless. And how much more so when we are doing our best to be faithful, seeking after Him with our whole heart! That is amazing, isn’t it? He loves us when we’re in a tight relationship with Him AND when we’re not.

It helps when we earnestly try to listen to Him, right? Remember the old analog days of radio, when you had to turn the dial just a little this way or that to get the signal to come in loud and clear? Some times, hearing God can be that way too. We need to regularly tune in, removing every distraction, to hear Him clearly. So, my encouragement to us all today is to take time to listen and I’m pretty sure we’ll hear. That’s good news!

Keep your hearts tuned into God!

At the same time, we have to remember that we are going to drown in our sin. You are. So am I. And so is everyone you know.  Following the Law won’t help you, either. Even if you could keep all the laws. Which you can’t. 

He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.


Paul, the accomplished rabbi, knows his Torah. Nine times Paul quotes from the Old Testament.  Nine times we hear that we are all condemned because of our sin. Can you imagine being a Torah following Jew, or even a new believer in Rome (the folks to whom this letter is written), and reading all these discouraging words that Paul quotes here? How did anyone have hope?

“Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12, MSG).

And this might have been written about people today: “They don’t know how to live in peace. They don’t even fear God.” (Romans 3:17-18, MSG). Paul is quoting from Isaiah 59 and Psalm 36.

I love how Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase draws a sailing analogy:

“And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.” (Romans 3:19-20, MSG).

We’re all destined to drown. That’s a horrific image, isn’t it? Probably one of the worst ways to die. Think about it though, as Jesus spent many of His days around Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we see in our mind’s eye images of fishermen-turned-disciples and storms out on the water. I’m reminded of a story in the Gospel of Mark.

“Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink. Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?” Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.” (Mark 4:37-39, CEV).

Under our own efforts, when we attempt to captain our own ship, when we strive to follow all the rules about living life as a Jesus follower, we will surely drown.  Be assured, however, Jesus offers a Good News lifeline to everyone! He offers calm in our storms. 

Yes, here’s the Good News we’ll read more about tomorrow: “God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:22, CEV). I’m so thankful for this live-giving hope!


(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

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