What does Romans 3:18 mean?
ESV: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
NIV: There is no fear of God before their eyes.'
NASB: 'THERE IS NO FEAR OF God BEFORE THEIR EYES.'
CSB: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
NLT: 'They have no fear of God at all.'
KJV: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
In the longest string of Old Testament quotes in Paul's letters, he has shown how human beings use our bodies to express our sinful natures. When we speak, sin comes out. Everywhere we walk, we leave sin behind. And now, he points out that we never use our eyes to look at the fear—or "respect"—of God.
This final quote comes from Psalm 36:1, where David describes "the wicked" as having no fear of God before their eyes. Paul insists that all of us, every human being, Jew and Gentiles alike, meet this description (Romans 3:10). We are not righteous. We each deserve God's angry judgment for our sinfulness.
Our sin, in this case, is that we ignore or trivialize God. We bring Him down to our size in our hearts. Perhaps we pretend that He does not exist, in spite of the fact that God has revealed Himself and His nature by what He has made (Romans 1:20). Or we might deceive ourselves into thinking that God cannot find out our sin (Psalm 36:2), or that He will not judge us for it. That lack of respect for God's righteousness, His power, and His willingness to act, is eternally fatal.
However, Paul will soon show that there is hope for us through faith in Christ.
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.
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.
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.
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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