Have you ever been mistreated or just ignored at a church event only to feel loved and accepted at a work party full of unbelievers? Ever browse your favorite news website and read about yet another church’s misuse of funds followed by a story covering a secular organization donating millions to a good charitable cause?
Why do these types of circumstances stand out so dramatically to us? It is because we expect things to be quite the opposite. We expect Christians to actually be better people, don’t we?
In addition, we often have the assumption that non-Christians cannot do good things. However, this contradicts our experience! Many non-Christians are immoral, yes, but many are also relatively good, morally grounded people who have their own problems just like us all. We have people behaving both morally and immorally in the church as well.
So, what does being salvifically lost have to do with being able to make moral choices? Are lost people able to make the right moral choice? Yes, of course, they are.
So, then why does Paul say in Romans 3 that “no one is righteous, no not one?” How can it be that lost people are able to make the right choice much of the time if indeed they are not righteous?
Paul’s point is simple. Though the lost can do good things, it will not count as righteousness. If a man makes a billion right decisions it will not make him righteous. Even our good deeds are as filthy rags. This is the reason one must trust in the righteousness of another, namely Christ Jesus, the only righteous One!
Some argue that since the lost cannot do what is right, therefore they cannot confess their unrighteousness and put their trust in the righteousness of Christ because that, itself, is the right thing to do.
Remember, however, the Bible never says the lost cannot do the right thing! It only says that they cannot merit righteousness by doing the right things (righteousness cannot be attained by the law). The lost can do what is right, it is just never sufficient to earn their righteousness. And admitting that fact in faith isn’t in and of itself sufficient to make one righteous either!
In other words, the lost cannot earn their own righteousness and if they confess that fact by trusting in the righteousness of Christ they still are NOT doing enough to merit their own righteousness. This is why the lost need His righteousness applied to them by grace!
In Romans 3 Paul teaches that no one is righteous yet in chapter 4 he declares that Abraham was righteous. Which is it?
Paul is saying that no one is declared righteous by means of the law, therefore, the only hope is to follow Abraham’s example and trust in the Righteousness of God!
PAUL IS NOT SAYING lost people cannot merit their righteousness by the works of the law, therefore, they can’t trust in God either!
We must understand that each lost individual, not God, is responsible for how he or she responds to the gospel’s appeal to be reconciled!
SPREAD THE WORD!