The DEEP

This is Depressing

Are we really that bad?

Romans 3:9-18 (NKJV)

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
"The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This time Paul doesn’t say, “May genoitaw.” The Greek that’s translated as, “Not at all,” isn’t as emphatic. But Paul is still raising and answering an important question. He began Chapter 3 by asking what the benefit of circumcision is – and answering it with, “Much in every way.

So, after making sure no one undervalues circumcision. Paul now wants to make sure no one overvalues it. When he asks, “Are we better than they?” he’s asking if the Jews are better than the gentiles.

But the lesson applies to us too; Paul’s explanation hammers that home. “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” (see Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:1-3 and Ecclesiastes 7:20)

That’s depressing, but Paul’s just getting warmed up. Next, he recites some ugly stuff from Psalms 5, 10, 36 & 140 and Isaiah 59. I know some people are that bad, but is Paul really saying that we’re all that bad?

He must be.


Christians spend their lives memorizing this doctrine—that we are all “that bad.” It’s called the doctrine of total depravity and it’s taught in churches around the world.

But memorizing something isn’t the same as learning it. You can know this by heart and fully agree with it, but what do you see when you look in the mirror? Go back over the list of bad behaviors in this passage. Which ones are you aware of in yourself?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses—we’re not equally guilty of all sins—but there may be one or two that you practice without realizing it.

A frank conversation with your spouse or accountability partner can be a valuable eye opener.


All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.