Greek: kathos gegraphtai (3SRPI) hoti ouk estin (3SPAI) dikaios oude heis
Amplified: As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: As the Scriptures say, "No one is good-- not even one.
Phillips: The scriptures endorse this fact plainly enough. 'There is none righteous, no, not one; (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: as it stands written, There is not a righteous person, not even one.
Young's Literal: according as it hath been written -- 'There is none righteous, not even one;
|Romans 1:18-3:20||Romans 3:21-5:21||Romans 6:1-8:39||Romans 9:1-11:36||Romans 12:1-16:27|
Jew and Gentile
|Demonstration of Salvation|
|Power Given||Promises Fulfilled||Paths Pursued|
Restored to Israel
|Slaves to Sin||Slaves to God||Slaves Serving God|
|Life by Faith||Service by Faith|
Modified from Irving L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's Survey of the NT"
AS IT IS WRITTEN : kathos gegraphtai (3SRPI):
- Ro 3:4; 11:8; 15:3,4; Isaiah 8:20; 1Peter 1:16
- Romans 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Here is a list of the Old Testament passages which Paul quotes from
Romans 3:10-12 from Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3
Romans 3:13 from Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 140:3
Romans 3:14 from Psalm 10:7
Romans 3:15-17 from Isaiah 59:7-8 and see Isaiah 48:22
Romans 3:18 from Psalm 36:1
|Paul is quoting from the Septuagint (LXX) Ps14:1-3 (see also Ps 53:1-3 below) primarily from verses 1b, 2-3.|
|Psalm 14:1 (For the choir director. A Psalm of David.) The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.
2 The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
|Psalm 53:1 (For the choir director; according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.) The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God," They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good.
2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God.
3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
Paul has just said all men are "under (the power of) sin" (See notes). In this section it is as if he says "Are you still not convinced? Let me show you further proof the Old Testament!" He is bringing his arguments to a climax demonstrating that the totally sinful state of both the Jew and the Gentile is repeatedly confirmed by the testimony of the Scriptures. Paul begins by quoting from Psalm 14:1-3 which shows the universality ("no one… good… all turned aside") of sin.
Middletown Bible has the following outline of next section:
Romans 3:9 -THE CHARGE -- All are under sin.
Romans 3:10-18 -THE INDICTMENT. An indictment is a formal written statement framed by a prosecuting authority (in this case, GOD HIMSELF) charging a person with an offense.
Romans 3:19 - THE VERDICT - GUILTY!
Paul as in a judicial procedure is bringing an indisputable, "air tight" indictment against both the Jews and the Gentiles.
The KJV Bible Commentary explains that…
An indictment is then a formal, written charge and every indictment must have at least one count, one specific charge to it. The more serious the crime, the more counts to the indictment. Paul immediately follows this pattern by quoting from a series of Old Testament passages which demonstrate, in no less than fourteen counts, the perversity and depravity of the entire world. (Dobson, E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV Bible Commentary: Nelson)
Newell subtitles Romans 3:10-18 as "Fourteen Horrible Things about All Men" and observes that we find God speaking…
in these fourteen counts first, as a Judge: Ro 3:10, 11, 12; next, as a Physician: Ro 3:13, 14, 15; and third, as a Divine Historian: Ro 3:16, 17, 18… This awful list of fourteen facts about the human race, quoted from the Old Testament Scriptures, describes, of course, humanity as it is by nature. Therefore if we have believed the Gospel, and are thus righteous before God in Christ, we have double reason to study these truths: first, that we may by understanding the facts, as God sees them, about ourselves, have a correct estimate of humanity, which, of course, unenlightened men never gain; and, second, that we may be constantly moved to give praise to God for His measureless grace that reached even such as we were! (Romans 3: Sermons)
|Ro 3:10||General Charge: Unrighteousness|
|Ro 3:11, 12||Internal: Disordered Heart|
|Ro 3:13, 14||Disordered Words|
|Ro 3:15, 16, 17||Disordered Actions|
|Ro 3:18||The Cause of the Whole|
It is written (1125) (grapho from root graph- = primarily means to scratch on or engrave as on an ornament, reports, letters, etc; English = graph, graphic, etc) means to engrave or inscribe with a pen or stylus characters or letters on a surface which can be wood, wax, metal, leather, stone, parchment, dirt (John ), paper, etc. (Click to review all 191 uses of grapho in the NAS)
It is written occurs 76 times in the OT (Click for these uses). When we were children and our parents told us to do something and we questioned "Why?", the answer was usually "Because I said so!". Why are we commanded to be holy? Because God said so! A popular saying is
God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
It is written should put a stop to every complaint or excuse. Paul is saying don't judge but remember you will appear before Me to give an account (as the next verse clarifies). This sobering thought should motivate us to obey this injunction.
The perfect tense indicates that this is a completed state and reflects the permanence of the written Word (cp Mt 24:35, Pr 30:5 Isa 40:8, 1Pe 1:23, 24, 25-notes). The idea is that "It has been written, with the present result that it is on record" or "it stands written". The perfect tense then speaks of permanence and reflects the truth echoed by David when he wrote…
"Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven." (Ps 119:89-Spurgeon's Note).
The following section (Ro 3:10-20) is a veritable scriptural resume and demonstration of the condemnation of all men, both Jews and Gentiles.
Are there no exceptions? Paul answers quite sharply in (Ro 3:10, 11, 12) with a barrage of negatives,
“There is none … not even one… none … none … not even one.”
Paul now will demonstrate that by nature all people, without exception, are under the power, mastery and authority of Sin. Notice that in order to do so, he does not choose to remind his readers of the gross immorality that marked the pagan culture. Why not? Because doubtless many a Jew and even a few "moral" Gentiles might object saying
“I, for one, am not guilty of those gross sins!”
Instead Paul, like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, goes to the "heart" of the matter, initially selecting man's tongue, fully aware that the tree is known by its fruit, for out of the mouth comes that which fills the heart (cp Mt 15:16, 17, 18, 19, 20, Mk 7:21, 22, 23, Ge 6:5, 8:21, Job15:16, Ps 51:5, Eccl 8:11, 9:3, Ro1:29, 30, 31,32 Titus 3:3, therefore Solomon writes Pr 4:23-note).
In this section Paul "strings together" a series of OT passage (this technique is called a charaz, literally “stringing pearls” - but this "necklace" is really a noose for all men!) was common at the opening of synagogue homilies and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jews and early Christians had Testimonia (quotations from the Old Testament) strung together for certain purposes as proof-texts. Paul may have used one of them or he may have put these passages together himself. In either event, Paul here this catena ("like a chain" = a connected series of related things) to prove his point "that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin" (Ro 3:9-note)
What we have in this statement and in the following verses is the most explicit description of the total depravity (A vitiated [injured, perverted, spoiled, impaired] state of the heart; wickedness; corruption of moral principles; destitution of holiness or good principles) of mankind in all of Scripture. This does not mean man is as depraved as he could be, but that there is always room for “deprovement” because he is under the power of sin.
Total depravity is one of those "watershed" doctrines, being generally believed by the Calvinists and rejected by the Arminians.
Dr Charles Ryrie offers these thoughts on total depravity…
The scriptural evidence provides the basis for what has been commonly called total depravity. The English word “depravity” means perverted or crooked. It is not used in the translation of the King James Version, but some modern translations do use it to translate adokimos (Ed: word study) in Romans 1:28 (see note). This word (adokimos) means “not standing the test” and gives us a clue as to how to define the concept of depravity. Depravity means that man fails the test of pleasing God. He denotes his unmeritoriousness in God’s sight. This failure is total in that (a) it affects all aspects of man’s being and (b) it affects all people.
Negatively, the concept of total depravity does not mean (a) that every person has exhibited his depravity as thoroughly as he or she could; (b) that sinners do not have a conscience or a “native induction” concerning God (Ed: eg, see Ro 2:14, 15-note); (c) that sinners will indulge in every form of sin; or (d) that depraved people do not perform actions that are good in the sight of others and even in the sight of God (Ed: But see caveat in study of Good Deeds).
Positively, total depravity means (a) that corruption extends to every facet of man’s nature and faculties; and (b) that there is nothing in anyone that can commend him to a righteous God.
Total depravity must always be measured against God’s holiness (Ed: See God's attribute-Holy). Relative goodness exists in people. They can do good works, which are appreciated by others. But nothing that anyone can do will gain salvational merit or favor in the sight of a holy God. (Ryrie, C. C. Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press)
The Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms defines total depravity as follows…
Depravity refers both to the damaged relationship between God and humans and to the corruption of human nature such that there is within every human an ongoing tendency toward sin. Total depravity refers to the extent and comprehensiveness of the effects of sin on all humans such that all are unable to do anything to obtain salvation… The term suggests as well that the effects of the Fall extend to every dimension of human existence, so that we dare not trust any ability (such as reason) that we remain capable of exercising in our fallen state. (Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press) (Bolding added for emphasis)
Naves has the following entry on Scriptures that speak of the Depravity of Mankind…
Gen. 6:5, 6, 7, 8, 11-13; Gen. 8:21; Deut. 32:10; Job 4:17-19; Job 9:2, 3, 20, 29-31; Job 11:12; Job 14:4; Job 15:14-16; Job 25:4-6; Psa. 5:9; Psa. 14:1, 2, 3 Psa. 53:1, 2, 3. Psa. 51:5; Psa. 58:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Psa. 94:11; Psa. 130:3; Psa. 143:2; Prov. 10:20; Prov. 20:6, 9; Prov. 21:8; Eccl. 7:20, 29 2Chr. 6:36. Eccl. 8:11; Eccl. 9:3; Isa. 1:5, 6; 42:6, 7; 43:8; 48:8; 51:1; 53:6; 64:6; Je 2:22, 29; 6:7; 13:23; 16:12; 17:9; Ezek. 16:6, 37:1, 2, 3, 36:25, 26; Ho 6:7; 14:9; Mic. 7:2-3, 4; Mt. 7:17; 12:34, 35; 15:19 Mk 7:21-23. Lk 1:79; Jn 1:10, 11; 3:19; 8:23; 14:17; Acts 8:23; Ro 2:1; Ro 3:9-19, 23; Ro 5:6, 12-14; Ro 6:6, 19, 20; Ro 7:5, 11, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25; Ro 8:5, 6, 7, 8, 13; Ro 11:32; 1Co 2:14; 1Co 3:3; 1Co 5:9, 10; 2Co 3:4, 5; 2Co 5:14; Ga 3:10, 11, 22; Ga 5:17, 19, 20, 21; Eph. 2:1-2, 3, 12; Eph. 4:17-18, 19, 22; 5:8, 14; Col 1:13, 21; Col 2:13; Col 3:5, 7; 2Ti 2:26; Titus 3:3; Jas. 3:2; 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:18; 1Pe 2:9, 25; 1Jn 1:8, 10; 2:16; 3:10; 5:19; Re 3:17
As an illustration of all men's depravity (all born with the "genetic defect" called sin) by thinking of the color of sin as blue. If that were true, then every aspect of every one of us would be some shade of blue! The Latin precursor of our word radical is the word radix, which means “root.” We are all infected with this radical corruption called sin as Paul explains later writing…
MAN'S TOTAL DEPRAVITY ILLUSTRATED - In November, 1971, in a Toronto park a duck named "Ringo" made headlines in the local newspaper for several days. The duck who made her home at the park lake, one day accidentally poked her bill through the ring of a pull tab from a pop can and was not able to extricate herself. She was unable to eat and starvation was certain. When her plight was noticed by some park visitors, she became something of a celebrity. Park personnel and animal experts tried numerous ways to catch Ringo so she could be helped. They even called in a champion duck caller. People tried luring her with food. The frightened Ringo mistook all the efforts to help her as threats. What happened to poor Ringo? She disappeared before anyone could come to her rescue. Every man ever born is just like Ringo, trapped in sin and destined to die, temporally and eternally. And just like Ringo sinful man sees the call of the gospel as a threat to his life-style rather than as the eternal blessing it is. And thus they make every effort to escape the only "news" that can ever provide rescue.
Is man totally depraved? Even newspaper columnists like Dear Abby recognize the the fallen nature of man!
Dear Abby: I am 44 and would like to meet a man my age with no bad habits.
Dear Rose: So would I.
HOW DEPRAVED IS MAN? ANSWER: TOTALLY! - October 7, 1969 the Montreal, Canada police force went on strike. Because of what resulted, the day has been called Black Tuesday. A burglar and a policeman were slain. Forty-nine persons were wounded or injured in rioting. Nine bank holdups were committed, almost a tenth of the total number of holdups the previous year along with 17 robberies at gunpoint. Usually disciplined, peaceful citizens joined the riffraff and went wild, smashing some 1,000 plate glass windows in a stretch of 21 business blocks in the heart of the city, hauling away stereo units, radios, TVs and wearing apparel. While looters stripped windows of valuable merchandise, professional burglars entered stores by doors and made off with truckloads of goods. A smartly dressed man scampered down a street with a fur coat over each arm with no police around, anarchy took over.
THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS : hoti ouk estin (3SPAI) dikaios:
- Ps 14:1, 2, 3; 53:1, 2, 3) (23; Job 14:4; 15:14,16; 25:4; Jer 17:9; Mt 15:19; Mk 7:21,22; Mk 10:18; 1Cor 6:9,10; Gal 5:19, 20, 21; Eph 2:1, 2, 3; 5:3-6; Col 3:5, 6, 7, 8, 9; 1Ti 1:9,10; 2Ti 3:2, 3, 4, 5; Titus 3:3; 1Jn 1:8-10; Rev 21:8; 22:15
- Romans 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
This sentence is like a summary for the following discourse.
None (3756) (ou) which expresses direct and full negation, independently and absolutely, and hence, objectively. It is important to note that nine times in this section in Romans 3 Paul uses the words such as none and all to show the universality of human sin and rebellion.
Middletown Bible - First, then, as a Judge God describes man's condition: Verse 10: To begin with, There is none righteous before God, no, not one (Ps 14:1; 53:1; Job 9:2; Ecc 7:20). No human being has in himself ever been righteous. Even Adam was not righteous: he was innocent-not knowing good and evil. Let us put far from our minds the fond falsehoods of philosophy, science, and human "religions, " that there have been men of our race who have attained to a standing before God in righteousness. (Romans 3: Sermons)
Noah Webster has the following definition of rectitude…
In morality, rightness of principle or practice; uprightness of mind; exact conformity to truth, or to the rules prescribed for moral conduct, either by divine or human laws. Rectitude of mind is the disposition to act in conformity to any known standard of right, truth or justice; rectitude of conduct is the actual conformity to such standard. Perfect rectitude belongs only to the Supreme Being. The more nearly the rectitude of men approaches to the standard of the divine law, the more exalted arid dignified is their character. Want of rectitude is not only sinful, but debasing. (Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. 1828)
Dikaios defines that which is in right relation to another and so in reference to persons defines the one who is morally and ethically righteous, upright or just. From a legal viewpoint dikaios refers to one who is law-abiding (doing all that law or justice requires), honest and good in behavior and from a religious viewpoint one who is rightly related to God. In simple terms this trait describes being in accordance with what God requires. The righteous man does what he ought. He is the person who conforms to the standard, will or character of God.
Dikaios is used in its basic sense of “conforming to a norm” and that norm is the Law of God, in whatever form it is available and relevant to man. The Jews had the written Law. The Gentiles on the other hand
show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. (see note Ro 2:15)
This text says that absolutely not a single individual has ever conformed to this norm, but that instead everyone has broken God’s Law and thus ultimately everyone has sinned (Ro 3:23-note). There is not a single man or woman born who is born "right" with God. Sin has affected every aspect of every man - intellect, emotions, volition, etc. Everything and everyone (= total) is tainted with sin. This state as discussed above is referred to as total depravity. Don't misunderstand. The idea is not that every person is as bad as they could be, but that every part of their being is contaminated with sin and consequently there is nothing anyone can do to commend themselves to a holy God.
Solomon concurs with Paul's indictment writing that
Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. (Eccl 7:20)
No one is righteous in an absolute sense, in the sense of sinless perfection, which is the only way man can be accepted by God (see comment below). Paul is painting a very clear picture that every individual ever born has need for the gift of God's righteousness, which is revealed and offered in the gospel,
for in it (the good news) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. (see note Ro 1:17).
Righteousness (see word study on dikaiosune = righteousness) is a major theme of the book of Romans, appearing in one form or another more than thirty times. Other terms from the same Greek root are usually translated “justified,” “justification,” or the like. Together they are used more than 60 times in the book of Romans.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the first charge Paul makes in the indictment is that of mankind’s unrighteousness. Thus righteousness is not only the key word in Romans, it is also a key criterion by which sin is judged.
As noted above, Paul is using the term righteous in its most basic sense of being right before God, of being as God created man to be, sinless before the "Fall" in the Garden of Eden.
You may be reasoning that sure I do some bad things but the good things I do outweigh the bad. Paul would doubtless agree that people can do many things that appear to be morally right. Even the most vile person may occasionally do something commendable. In the present indictment however, Paul is not speaking of specific "righteous" acts or even general patterns of behavior, but of one’s general character. Paul's point is that there is not a single person who has ever lived, apart from the sinless God-Man , Jesus Christ, Whose innermost being could be characterized as righteous by God’s standard, which is perfection.
God’s standard of righteousness for men is the righteousness that He Himself possesses, which was manifest in Christ. This is the idea Jesus sought to convey to His Jewish audience on the "Sermon on the Mount" declaring that
The righteousness demanded of citizens of the kingdom of God cannot be attained by merit, but must be given by God. In other words, a person who is not as good as God is not acceptable to God. As Paul makes clear later in Romans, and as the New Testament teaches throughout, men can become perfectly righteous, when the righteousness of Christ is imputed (to set to the account of) or accounted to them (placed on their spiritual account so to speak).
The very truth that makes the Gospel the good news is that God has provided a way for men to become perfect, divinely perfect, perfectly righteous in Christ. This perfection is attainable only by God’s grace and a personal response of placing one's faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul writes
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)… For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not as a result of works, that no one should boast." (Eph 2:4,5-see notes ; Eph 2:8, 9 - note)
Spurgeon commenting on Ps 53:1 which parallels Ps 14:1 (quoted by Paul here in Ro 3:12) adds that
Without a single exception people have forgotten the right way. This accusation twice made in the psalm (Ps 53), and repeated by the apostle Paul, is an indictment most solemn and sweeping, but He who makes it knows what is in man.
NOT EVEN ONE: oude heis:
- Romans 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Not even (3761) (oude from ou = not + dé = but) expresses objective, absolute negation (not relative or conditional) and can be translated: and not, also not, and hence, not, neither, not even.
One (1520) (heis) is the cardinal number one.
In case anyone thinks there might be an exception, Paul strongly denies that possibility making it very clear that there are no exception clauses—not even one.
Paul charges all humanity, however good some individuals may appear, with this radical corruption.
A Russian poet named Turgenev conveys Paul's thought perfectly writing
“I don’t know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I do know what the heart of a good man is like and it is terrible.”
Greek: ouk estin (3SPAI) o sunion (PAPMSN) , ouk estin (3SPAI) o ekzeton (PAPMSN) ton theon. (quoting the Septuagint - LXX of Ps 14:2)
Amplified: No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: No one has real understanding; no one is seeking God. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: There is not the one who understands; there is not the one who seeks out God.
Young's Literal: There is none who is understanding, there is none who is seeking after God.
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS: ouk estin (3SPAI) o sunion (PAPMSN):
- Ro 1:22,28; Ps 14:2, 3, 4; 53:2,4; 94:8; Pr 1:7,22,29,30; Isa 27:11; Jer 4:22; Hos 4:6; Mt 13:13,14,19; Titus 3:3; 1Jn 5:20
- Romans 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Paul quotes from the Septuagint (LXX) translation of Psalm 14:2 and Psalm 53:2:
Ps 14:2 "The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek after God." (NASB)
Ps 53:2 "God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God." (NASB)
Understands (4920) (suniemi from from sun/syn = with, together, together with, intimate relation + hiemi = to send) (Click study of related noun sunesis = understanding) literally means to send, bring or put together and then mentally to comprehend. The idea is to put together "pieces of the puzzle" and to exhibit quick comprehension. The comprehending activity of the mind denoted by suniemi entails the assembling of individual facts into an organized whole, as collecting the pieces of a puzzle and putting them together. The mind grasps concepts and sees the proper relationship between them. Suniemi is the manifestation of the ability to understand concepts and see relationships between them and thus describes the exercise of the faculty of comprehension, intelligence, acuteness, shrewdness.
Here are the 26 uses of suniemi in the NT - Mt 13:13, 14, 15, 19, 23, 51; 15:10; 16:12; 17:13; Mark 4:12; 6:52; 7:14; 8:17, 21; Lk. 2:50; 8:10; 18:34; 24:45; Acts 7:25; 28:26, 27; Ro 3:11; 15:21; 2Co 10:12; Ep 5:17.
Jesus used the verb suniemi when He declared…
Therefore I speak to them (those who rejected Him) in parables (earthly story used to illustrate or teach a spiritual truth); because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand (suniemi). 14 "And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND (suniemi); AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; 15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND (suniemi) WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM.' (Mt 13:13, 14, 15)
Here in Romans 3:11, suniemi is in the present tense, indicating continuous action, lifestyle or habitual practice. Thus Paul is saying that there is no one who continuously grasps or puts together the truth about God and His absolute demand for righteousness. Man is unable to comprehend the truth of God or grasp God's standard of righteousness. Spiritual truth can only be discerned spiritually.
a natural (unsaved, still "in Adam", not "in Christ") man does not accept (dechomai = deliberately and readily, receive kindly, they do not "put out a welcome mat"! = present tense) the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness (moria = that which is considered intellectually weak, irrational) to him, and he cannot (dunamai = present tense = have intrinsic power - natural men lack the inner, inherent ability and resources on their own to) understand (verb ginosko = know by experience) them, because they are spiritually appraised (anakrino = sift up and down and so to scrutinize, to examine accurately and carefully with exact research like in legal processes). (1Cor 2:14)
The tragedy is that mankind's spiritual ignorance is not the result of lack of opportunity,
because that which is known about God is evident (phaneroo - external manifestation to the senses which is thus open to all = make visible that which has been hidden) within them; for God made it evident (phaneroo) to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen (kathorao = implying sense perception + intellectual apprehension), being understood (noeo = clear perception, full understanding, careful consideration!) through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (anapologetos = without apology or legal defense, that which cannot be defended!). (Ro 1:19, 20-see notes)
This ignorance of clearly manifested spiritual truth about God is but another expression of man's depravity and rebellion. As Paul writes they are lacking in spiritual discernment being
darkened (skotizo) in their understanding (dianoia), excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance (agnoia) that is in them, because of the hardness (porosis) of their heart (kardia). (Eph 4:18-note).
Paul points out that man’s spiritual ignorance is not due to being born into a "bad" family, not due to unfortunate outward circumstances and not due to lack of opportunity. It is due solely to his own hard hearted, rebellious, innate sin nature that does not want to know and understand, much less obey and serve God. Men are not sinful and hardened against God because they are ignorant of Him, but, to the contrary, they are ignorant of Him because of their sin nature and spiritually hardened hearts.
As alluded to above in the passage from Romans 1, every man ever born has a certain sense about God through the testimony of creation. And even those who don't have God's written Law
"show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." (Ro 2:15 - note)
The natural man is hardened in his heart and darkened in his mind. He not only does not understand God but has no inclination to do so. If you have shared the Gospel with others to any extent, you know that this last statement is true. You could see it on their face as you began to unfold the bad news that precedes the good news. And the more you talked with them, the more hardened they became until soon the conversation was over. Why? Because they did not even want to know.
Stated another way men don't understand because of sin. Sin makes it impossible. No matter what level of spiritual life and understanding we reach, there will always be a deficiency in man's understanding. Moreover, the more we sin, the less capable of understanding we become.
The Preacher's Commentary explains the profound ramification of the fact that no man understands God writing that …
without exception the thought processes of men and women are so affected by sin that there will always be some degree of deficiency in their grasp of the truth as it is to be found only in the knowledge of God. This naturally leads to confusion in everything else because all things have their meaning in Him. The politician who is confused about God will be confused about God’s world, which leads inevitably to a confused world view and inadequate political solutions. The sociologist who does not adequately understand God cannot thoroughly understand God’s masterpiece—man—so he will be in error at some point in his sociology. The same kind of thing must be said about all areas of human endeavor which are based on a warped or withered understanding of God. (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. The Preacher's Commentary Series, New Testament. 2003; Thomas Nelson)
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD: ouk estin (3SPAI) o ekzeton (PAPMSN) ton theon:
- Ro 8:7; Job 21:15,16; Isa 9:13; 31:1; 55:6; 65:1; Hos 7:10
- Romans 3 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Just in case there is someone who says "What about those who seek for God?". Paul's answer ("none" = absolutely none) is that such a man does not exist, for we are all alienated from God and view Him as our enemy (Ro 5:10-note; Ro 8:7-note; Col 1:21, 22-see notes). This may be a "tough pill" for some to swallow, but it is a fact. Have you ever spoken with someone who said they were searching for God, only to finally realize that what they really wanted was a good theological argument?
This verse clearly implies that all the world’s false religions are fallen man’s attempts to escape the true and living God—not to seek after Him. Man’s natural tendency is to seek his own interests. Paul writes that
"all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus." (Php 2:21-note)
All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. (Jn 6:37, cp Jn 6:44, 45, 65)
This verse clearly emphasizes the sovereign will of God acting in the lives of those who come to come to Him seeking salvation. The ability to believe on Jesus requires divine enablement. Natural human pride hates this truth. Irregardless of what fallen men think, it is only those whom the Father enables to believe that come to Jesus in faith. These are the people whom the Father has given to the Son as gifts. To understand this mystery and tension of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is beyond our comprehension.
William MacDonald commenting on (Jn 6:37) adds that
This verse is very important because it states in a few words two of the most important teachings in the Bible. The first is that God has given certain ones to Christ and that all those whom He has given will be saved. The other is the teaching of man’s responsibility. In order to be saved, a man must come to the Lord Jesus and accept Him by faith. God does choose some people to be saved, but the Bible never teaches that He chooses some to be damned. If anyone is saved, it is because of the free grace of God. But if anyone perishes forever, it is his own fault." (Believer's Bible Commentary)
William Newell explains it this way…
Adam, sinning, turned his back and fled from a holy God. God had to take the place of the seeker: "Adam, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9) So it has ever been. No human being has ever sought the holy God. Conscious of his creature weakness, and also of responsibility and guilt, and filled with terrors of conscience, or terrors directly demon-wrought; or perhaps under the delusion that some "god" (really, demon) might grant him this or that favor, man has built his temples and conducts his worship. Banish from your mind the idea that any human being has ever had a holy thought, or love for a holy God, in his natural heart! Grace "praeveniens et efflcax" (grace "prevenient and efficacious") is the old phrase expressing the truth that God Himself takes the place of the Seeker, Convicter, Persuader, Giver, and final Perfecter of all man's salvation. His sovereign grace goes ahead of, and brings into being, all human response to God. (Romans 3: Devotional and Expositional)
Jesus also declared that
No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him (Amplified adds "attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to Me"); and I will raise him up on the last day. (Jn 6:44)
MacDonald comments that:
Man in himself is utterly hopeless and helpless. He does not even have the strength to come to Jesus by himself. Unless the Father first begins to work in his heart and life, he will never realize his terrible guilt and his need of a Savior. Many people have difficulty with this verse (John 6:44). They suppose that it teaches that a man may desire to be saved and yet might find it impossible. This is not so. But the verse does teach in the strongest possible way that God is the One who first acted in our lives and sought to win us to Himself. We have the choice of accepting the Lord Jesus or refusing Him. But we never would have had the desire in the first place if God had not spoken to our hearts." (MacDonald, W., and Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
Paul's statement in Romans 3:11 may surprise you or it may make you angry but the truth is that no one naturally wants to know God. Have you ever heard the statement that so-and-so is “really seeking after God.” Paul says in this verse that this is not so, at least on the basis of their depraved sin nature! If they are seeking after God, it is only because God has put it in their heart to seek after Him! This mystery is profoundly inscrutable (cp 1 Cor 13:12)
Seek (1567) (ekzeteo from ek = out or to intensify the meaning + zeteo = to seek) means to seek out, to look for, to search diligently for anything lost. This verb implies that the seeker exerts considerable effort and care in learning something. The other NT nuance of ekzeteo means to require, to demand, or to exact severely (Luke 11:50, 51. See this meaning in the Lxx uses in - "I will require your lifeblood" = Ge 9:5; 42:22; "shall I not now require his blood from your hand" = 2 Sa 4:11; "his blood I will require at your hand" = Ezek 3:18, 20).
Gilbrant on ekzeteo - Two principal applications of ekzēteō are made in the Greek New Testament. The first usage means “to seek diligently”; it looks at a concern of the person doing the searching: “For (Esau) found no place of repentance (on the part of his father?), though he sought it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:17; cf. Acts 15:17; Romans 3:11; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:10). The second usage means “to require”; it looks at a concern originating beyond the person himself: “(the blood of all the prophets) shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:51; cf. Lk 11:50). (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)
The "Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament" (Rienecker) notes that the preposition ek in this compound "always seems to denote that the seeker finds, or at least exhausts his powers of seeking."
Paul could have used the root verb zētéō but instead he chose ekzētéō which speaks of making diligent investigation or determined search for something. The idea is to exert effort to find out something.
For example, Peter uses ekzētéō to describe the efforts of the OT prophets writing that
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search (ekzētéō) and inquiry seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. (1Pe 1:10, 11-note)
In other words, the OT prophets studied their own writings in order to know more about the promised salvation. Though they believed and were personally saved from their sin by that faith (through the sacrifice God would provide in Christ), they could not fully understand what was involved in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
The writer of Hebrews states that
without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who (earnestly, diligently, continually, habitually) seek (ekzeteo) Him. (Hebrews 11:6-note)
So even though God here gives mankind a very clear, logical motive to seek diligently for Him (reward), men still do not seek Him! Esau in some ways typifies men's seeking for God, Hebrews recording that
that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought (ekzeteo) for it with tears. (He 12:17-note)
In other words Esau desired God’s blessings, but he did not want God. He regretted what he had done, but he did not repent.
Ekzētéō, in contrast to the rare use in the NT (Lk. 11:50, 51; Acts 15:17; Ro 3:11; Heb. 11:6; 12:17; 1Pe 1:10) is used 105 times in the non-apocryphal Septuagint --
Gen. 9:5; 42:22; Exod. 18:15; Lev. 10:16; Deut. 4:29; 12:5, 30; 17:4, 9; 23:21; Jos. 2:22; 22:23; 1 Sam. 20:16; 2 Sam. 4:11; 1 Ki. 2:40; 2 Ki. 22:13; 2 Chr. 1:5; 12:14; 14:4, 7; 15:2, 13; 17:3f; 19:3; 20:3f; 25:20; 26:5; 28:23; 30:19; 31:21; Ezr. 4:2; 6:21; 9:12; 10:16; Est. 8:12; Ps. 9:10, 12; 10:3, 13; 14:2; 22:26; 25:10; 27:4; 31:23; 34:4, 10; 44:21; 53:2; 61:7; 69:32; 77:2; 78:7, 34; 105:45; 111:2; 119:2, 10, 22, 33, 45, 56, 94, 100, 145, 155; 122:9; 142:4; Prov. 11:27; 27:21; 29:10; Eccl. 1:13; Isa. 1:12, 17; 8:19; 9:13; 16:5; 31:1; Jer. 10:21; 29:13; 37:7; Ezek. 3:18, 20; 33:6, 8; 34:6, 8, 10ff; 39:14; Dan. 9:3, 13; Hos. 5:6; 7:10; 10:12; Amos 5:4ff, 14; 9:12; Mic. 6:8; Zech. 8:21f; Mal. 2:7)
For example, the psalmist writes
With all my heart I have sought (ekzētéō) Thee. Do not let me wander from Thy commandments… And I will walk at liberty, for I seek (ekzeteo) Thy precepts… I am Thine, save me; for I have sought (ekzeteo) Thy precepts." (Ps 119:10, 45, 94)
In a use that parallels Paul's use in Romans, the psalmist writes that
"Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek (ekzētéō) Thy statutes." (Ps 119:155)
And yet even in the OT God was pleading with faithless Israel to
"Learn to do good; Seek (ekzētéō) justice, Reprove the ruthless; Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow." (Isa 1:17)
In Jeremiah God spoke to Israel saying
"and you will seek (ekzētéō) Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13)
And in Amos God says
"to the house of Israel, "Seek (ekzētéō) Me that you may live." (Amos 5:4)
Zechariah prophesies that the day will come (in context a reference to the Millennium) when Gentiles from one of the world's cities
"will go to another saying, "Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek (ekzētéō) the LORD of hosts; I will also go. So many peoples and mighty nations (the Gentiles) will come to seek (ekzeteo) the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD." (Zech 8:21-22)
Zechariah's use of ekzētéō parallels James' quotation of Amos 9:11,12 in arguing his case for the fact that Gentiles could be saved without becoming Jewish converts, declaring
In order that the rest of mankind may seek (ekzētéō) the Lord and all the Gentiles who are called by My name. (Acts 15:17).
This quotation from the Septuagint (LXX) (not the Hebrew) of Amos looks forward to the Millennium, when Christ will sit upon the throne of David and when the Gentiles will seek after the Lord. James said that the salvation of Gentiles which was then taking place (at the time of the book of Acts when Gentiles were also beginning to be added to the church) was in harmony or agreement with what Amos said would take place during the Millennial reign of Christ.
In Ezekiel Jehovah God speaking to His shepherds says
"Behold, I am against the shepherds and I shall demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be food for them. For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search (ekzētéō) for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares ("searches" in the LXX = zeteo) for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care ("search" in the LXX = ekzētéō) for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day." (Ezek 34:10-12)
God Himself (in the Septuagint) says I "will search for My sheep… and I will seek out My sheep." Clearly, in context His seeking refers first to the Jews but is applicable then to the Gentiles. What an awesome God, Who has not left us to our own vain imaginations of how to come into His Holy presence. We who would not seek Him out are nevertheless sought out by Him! This is amazing grace!
Lost in the darkness I stumbled alone,
Far from the sunlight of day.
Then Jesus found me and made me His own.
He drove my darkness away.
Before I loved Him, He loved me.
Before I found Him, He found me.
Before I sought Him, He sought for me.
Yes, Jesus cares for me"
Note that in Romans 3:11, ekzētéō is in the present tense which speaks of a continual diligent seeking or seeking as a habit of one's life. Such intense seeking is something fallen man simply does not do on his own volition, independent of God's intervention!
Mankind does not search for the Living and True God or His truth. Rather, as Paul has already stated in his opening arguments in this epistle, men continually, purposefully, willfully
"suppress (quash, actively hold down) the truth in unrighteousness" and "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (see notes Romans 1:18; 1:21)
The "seeking" that men do results in idolatry wherein man exchanges
"the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures… (and) exchanged the truth of God for a (the) lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen." (see notes Romans 1:23; 1:25)
There is one exception to no one seeking God. If the Holy Spirit is truly working in one’s heart, there is an authentic seeking.
If you have been paying close attention to Paul's argument, you may be somewhat confused. Romans 3:11 seems superficially contradictory to his earlier statement that God in His righteous judgment would render eternal life
to those who by perseverance in doing good seek (zeteo - present tense = continually) for glory and honor and immortality. (see note Romans 2:7)
This verse clearly speaks (as does Heb 11:6 discussed above) of the vital importance of seeking God. How do we resolve this paradox? As so often is the case the answer lies in the inscrutable (not readily investigated, interpreted, or understood) nature of the sovereignty of God.
Luke quotes Jesus declaration that
The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19:10)
In this verse Luke summarizes his main theme, the present purpose of the Son of God's ministry was to seek and save.
Paul wrote a parallel thought to Timothy that
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1Ti 1:15).
Jesus explains to the Samaritan woman at the well that
an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. (Jn 4:23)
Thus God is seeking men, before they seek Him, and
in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:35).
The Holy Spirit is omnipresent in the world, convicting men and constraining them. Somehow, in the wisdom of God, some men are moved by Him to begin to seek Him for themselves, and as His Word says He promises to be
"a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb 11:6).
The Gentile Centurion Cornelius was evidently one such man, so God then led Peter to go to Cornelius to instruct Him concerning Christ (read his account in Acts 10).
Spurgeon, commenting on (Ps 14:2) wrote that…
The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.") which Paul quotes here in Romans 3:12, writes that "As from a watchtower, the Lord is represented as gazing intently upon men. He will not punish blindly, nor like a tyrant command an indiscriminate massacre because a rumor of rebellion has come up to his ears. The objects of the Lord’s search are not wealthy men, great men, or learned men; these, with all they can offer, cannot meet the demands of the great Governor. At the same time, He is not looking for superlative eminence in virtue; He seeks for any that understand themselves, their destiny, their happiness; He looks for any that seek God, Who, if there be a God, are willing and anxious to find Him out. Surely this is not too great a matter to expect; for if men have not yet known God, if they have any slight understanding, they will seek Him. Alas, even this low degree of good is not to be found even by Him who sees all things; but men love the hideous negation of “no God,” and with their backs to their Creator, Who is the sun of their life, they journey into the dreary region of unbelief and alienation, which is a land of darkness, and of the shadow of death without any order and where the light is as darkness." (Treasury of David)
Spurgeon commenting on the parallel verse (Ps 53:3) writes
"Had there been one understanding man, one true lover of God, the divine eye would have discovered him. Those pure heathens and admirable savages that people talk of live nowhere but in the realm of fiction. The Lord did not look for great grace, only for sincerity and right desire, but these he found not. He saw all people, and all hearts in all people, and all motions of all hearts, but he saw neither a clear head nor a clean heart among them all. Where God’s eyes see no favorable sign we may rest assured there is none." (Treasury of David)
Commanded -Isaiah 55:6; Matthew 7:7
- His Name -Psalms 83:16
- His word -Isaiah 34:16
- His face -Psalms 27:8; 105:4
- His strength -1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalms 105:4
- His commandments -1 Chronicles 28:8; Malachi 2:7
- His precepts -Psalms 119:45,94
- His kingdom -Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31
- His righteousness -Matthew 6:33
- Christ -Malachi 3:1; Luke 2:15,16
- Honour which comes from him -John 5:44
- Justification by Christ -Galatians 2:16,17
- The city which God has prepared -Hebrews 11:10,16; 13:14
- By prayer -Job 8:5; Daniel 9:3
- In his house -Deuteronomy 12:5; Psalms 27:4
- Immediate -Hosea 10:12
- Evermore -Psalms 105:4
- While he may be found -Isaiah 55:6
- With diligence -Hebrews 11:6
- With the heart -Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 22:19
- In the day of trouble -Psalms 77:2
- His being found -Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13
- His favour -Lamentations 3:25
- His protection -Ezra 8:22
- His not forsaking us -Psalms 9:10
- Life -Psalms 69:32; Amos 5:4,6
- Prosperity -Job 8:5,6; Psalms 34:10
- Being heard of him -Psalms 34:4
- Understanding all things -Proverbs 28:5
- Gifts of righteousness -Hosea 10:12
- Imperative upon all -Isaiah 8:19
- Afflictions designed to lead to -Psalms 78:33,34; Hosea 5:15
- None, by nature, are found to be engaged in -Psalms 14:2; Romans 3:11; Luke 12:23,30
- Specially exhorted to -Zephaniah 2:3
- Desirous of -Job 5:8
- Purpose, in heart -Psalms 27:8
- Prepare their hearts for -2 Chronicles 30:19
- Set their hearts to -2 Chronicles 11:16
- Engage in, with the whole heart -2 Chronicles 15:12; Psalms 119:10
- Early in -Job 8:5; Psalms 63:1; Isaiah 26:9
- Earnest in -Song 3:2,4
- Characterised by -Psalms 24:6
- Is never in vain -Isaiah 45:19
- Blessedness of -Psalms 119:2
- Leads to joy -Psalms 70:4; 105:3
- Ends in praise -Psalms 22:26
- Promise connected with -Psalms 69:32
- Shall be rewarded -Hebrews 11:6
- Are gone out of the way of -Psalms 14:2,3; Romans 3:11,12
- Prepare not their hearts for -2 Chronicles 12:14
- Refuse, through pride -Psalms 10:4
- Not led to, by affliction -Isaiah 9:13
- Sometimes pretend to -Ezra 4:2; Isaiah 58:2
- Rejected, when too late in -Proverbs 1:28
- They who neglect denounced -Isaiah 31:1
- Punishment of those who neglect -Zephaniah 1:4-6
- Asa -2 Chronicles 14:7
- Jehoshaphat -2 Chronicles 17:3,4
- Uzziah -2 Chronicles 26:5
- Hezekiah -2 Chronicles 31:21
- Josiah -2 Chronicles 34:3
- Ezra -Ezra 7:10
- David -Psalms 34:4
- Daniel -Daniel 9:3,4