What does Romans 3:16 mean?
ESV: in their paths are ruin and misery,
NIV: ruin and misery mark their ways,
CSB: ruin and wretchedness are in their paths,
NLT: Destruction and misery always follow them.
KJV: Destruction and misery are in their ways:
NKJV: Destruction and misery are in their ways;
Verse Commentary:
Paul is in the middle of quoting from Isaiah 59:7–8. He is demonstrating that all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, are guilty of sin and deserving of God's anger. In previous verses, he quoted from Psalms to show how we use our mouths to express our sinfulness. Now he is using Isaiah's words to show how we use our feet to carry us into sin. The feet are used in Scripture as a metaphor for human actions and intentions. A person goes where their feet go, so when a person's feet rush to violence, it means they are quick to aggression and vengeance.

In the previous verse, Paul agreed with Isaiah that our feet are quick to carry us into bloodshed. Now he continues that where our feet carry us, ruin and misery follow. Isaiah put it even more colorfully, "…desolation and destruction are in their highways."

As stated in Psalm 14—cited in Romans 3:10—evidence that human beings are sinful by nature is everywhere. Every place people have been is touched by ruin and misery, desolation and destruction. Because of our sinfulness, humanity leaves sadness and pain along every path we follow.
Verse Context:
Romans 3:9–20 contains a string of quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul uses these to demonstrate that both Jews and Greeks alike are under sin. After establishing that ''there is none who does good'' from Psalm 14:1, Paul uses quotes from Psalms and Isaiah to show ways we have always used our bodies—throats, tongues, lips, feet, and eyes—to express our sinfulness. He concludes the section with his strongest statement, yet, that no human being will be justified in God's sight by following the works of the law. The law can only show us our sin, not save us from it.
Chapter Summary:
Romans 3 begins with a question-and-answer scheme. These are responses one might expect from someone opposed to what Paul wrote in Romans 2. Next, Paul quotes from a series of Old Testament passages. These Scriptures show that those writers also agreed that nobody, not one person, deserves to be called righteous. Paul declares emphatically that no one will be justified by following the works of the law. Finally, though, he arrives at the good news: righteousness before God is available apart from the law through faith in Christ's death for our sin on the cross.
Chapter Context:
The prior chapter explained that God's judgment on sin will come to all men, whether or not they understand the literal law. Faith in God, in the heart, matters more to God than rote obedience. At the start of this chapter, Paul answers a series of questions from an imagined objector to those teachings. Next, he quotes a series of Old Testament passages which support His teaching that human beings are by nature sinful. Each of us turns away from God. Nobody can be justified by the law, Paul insists. Fortunately, it is possible to attain God's righteousness: but only by His grace, through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sin on the cross. We must come to this by faith, and it is available to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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