The Whole World Is Guilty
At this point Paul drops his third bomb, with the Jews as his exclusive target. “What shall we conclude then?” is the New International Version’s interpretive rendering of the first part of Romans 3:9. And most readers by this time are ready for some concluding remarks about human sinfulness. It has seemed as if Paul would never get finished with topic. But he has his reasons for his extensive treatment. Paul’s point is “unless there is something to be saved from, there is no point in preaching salvation or embracing it for that matter.”
The Apostle’s treatment of universal sin and condemnation has paved the way for him to discuss God’s great plan of salvation. And just as he has repeatedly stressed the fact that both Jew and Gentile are sinners, so he will repeatedly emphasize that salvation is for everyone.
Romans 3:9 is a continuation of the line of argument left off in Romans 2:29, since Romans 3:108 was a digression that dealt with a series of objections to Paul’s teaching. But with verse 9 Paul is back on track, and his conclusions are not only forceful but devastating to Jewish thoughts of favored nation status. The truth, he says, is that Jews are no better than others.
But to make sure they get the point, he supplies them with six quotations in verse 10-18. Those Old Testament passages nail down the fact of their sinfulness in no uncertain terms. In the process it should be noted, the apostle systematically lists the various parts of the human body. Paul is teaching his readers that sin affects every part of humanity. He is presenting what theologians label as “total depravity.” Total depravity does not mean that people are wicked as they could be but, rather, that sin has affected their entire being. Thus they use bodily organs that God gave them to bless other humans to harm them and rebel against God.
Paul moles on in verse 19 to highlight the fact that those passages are talking about the Jews, a necessary aspect of his argument since the Jews sought to apply them to Gentiles. With that point made, he is ready in verse 20 to let them know that law keeping does not provide a way out since the purpose of the law keeping does not provide a way out since the purpose of the law is not to save them but to point out their sinfulness.
The apostle is now ready to state the conclusion he has been driving at since Romans 1:18, that “there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22b, 23).
With that conclusion in place, he is now ready in the rest of his book to demonstrate how all, both Jews and Gentiles ae saved in exactly the same way.