By David Baumann
A Reading from Romans 3:9-20
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all, for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who has understanding;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness;
there is not even one.”
13 “Their throats are opened graves;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of vipers is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery are in their paths,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that, whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no human will be justified before him by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
The culmination of Paul’s argument in the course of this week is developed in today’s reading: “All have turned aside” — with emphasis on the word all. We have reflected this week on the place of the Jew and the Greek in the scheme of salvation. We have considered what it means to be faithful in “doing” the law, the unique place of the Jews as the custodians of the law, and how the Gentiles also now are grafted into God’s family.
Today Paul drives home that “all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin.” The long quotation from the Old Testament (an assembly of selections mostly from several psalms, but also Proverbs and Isaiah) is unrelenting in its condemnation of fallen humanity. The fact that it is a compilation of quotes rather than from a single source is telling: Paul nails the teaching “so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” It is an overwhelming and forceful argument, but as we will see throughout the rest of the letter, it is intended to demonstrate incontrovertibly everyone’s desperate need of the rescue that only God can provide, and that God shows immense love to all by offering redemption and immortality.
Probably no one is ever completely willing to look fully at the depths of human failure and wickedness and apply them to himself or herself; but as Paul has shown in the readings for this week, only by doing so can we even begin to understand and value God’s staggering redemptive love.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Maiwut – The Episcopal Church of South Sudan
St. David’s (Radnor) Church, Wayne, Pa.