None Righteous, Not One – really?

Christians often quote Romans 3:10 as proof text that all human beings are sinners. The problem is they never check the psalm from which it is quoted from. Rather than using this verse as a pointer back to Psalm 14 where it gains a very different meaning, they read it out of context, and then they read the new, alien mening back into the psalm. Wasn’t the new supposed to explain the old?

Let us deal with the passage.

Rom 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands, no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”

Surely, it says humans are sinners, or does it? This is a qoute from Ps. 14, so let’s see now what it actually says:

Ps 14:1 To the choirmaster. Of David.
2 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. 3 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. 4 They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.
5 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD? 6 There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 7 You would confound the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. 8 O that deliverance for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, Israel shall be glad. [When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people – MKJV]

The very first thing we notice is that the unrighteous in the passage is the
one who says “There is no God.” What is their character?

– they have gone astray (lost their ways)
– they are corrupt
– they do not do good
– have bad influence on the Jewish people (“eat up my people”)

Well, suddenly we also have the righteous mentioned beside the wicked. While the wicked will be in great terror, God is with the generation of the righteous.

So the verses quoted in Rom. 3:10 cannot be taken to mean that everyone is a sinner in the whole world, that is not what Ps. 14 means. (The psalm is not really that of David, for captivity is mentioned, though those who contend that the psalm is David’s argue that v. 8 was later added.)

From the above we shall understand that terms such as “none” and “all” are exaggeration – just as everywhere in the Bible -, they cannot be taken to mean “not a single one” or “every single one”.

Sinner by definition is the one whose life is CHARACTERISED by sin, that is, he or she has to sin repeatedly. So the thief keeps on stealing and the liar keeps on lying.

On the contrary, the righteous may fail seven times, but he always gets up seven times.

Prov. 24:16 for a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.

The righteous, therefore, who though fails occasionally, ALWAYS restores his walk with God and lives a careful life. This is the difference between the sinner and the righteous. The sinner sees no need to change his life. The righteous does.

In the first century Gentiles were very sinful. Sex with a young boy was considered the greatest of pleasures, and the souls of those who enjoyed such sex went straight to heaven upon death. Having sex with temple prostitutes (called virgins) was a religious duty. Idol worship was rampant.

However, today such things are mostly untrue. Therefore, we cannot call everyone a sinner unless we can clearly point out where they sin perpetually.


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