The Knowledge of Sin

Romans 3:11-20 There is none that understand, there is none that seek after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that do good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used 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 have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law said, it said to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 

‘They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one’ This is true of all people (Isa. 53:6; Rom. 1:21-32; 3:23; 5:12-21).

‘Unprofitable’ [Greek: achreioo] to make useless. The whole mass of mankind is as a slain, putrid mass thrown together in heaps.

‘Open sepulchre’ by malicious and cutting words they kill and bury the reputation of people. As a tomb is opened and the stench of putrefaction is unbearable, so their throats spue forth poison (3:13-14).

‘Asps’ [Greek: aspis] adder (Ps. 140:3; Deut. 32:33; Job 20:14-16; Isa. 11:8).

‘No fear of God before their eyes’ the same as in Romans 1:32. Not one charge is listed here but what can be traced in case histories of both Jews and Gentiles.

‘To them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God’ For fear the Jews might think Romans 3:10-18 do not apply to them, Paul here says that they apply to all under the law that every mouth might be stopped and the whole world becomes guilty before God. ‘By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin’ even if the Jews had not broken the law, they could not be justified. The law could only condemn, not justify (3:21-31; 7:7-25).

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