February 23, 2018

There Is No Hope in This World but Christ

Romans 3:13–23

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13   “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
  “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15   “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17   and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being1 will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,


[1] 3:20 Greek flesh

There Is No Hope in This World but Christ

Bio | Mikaela Mathews

Good morning! I'm Mikaela Mathews, wife to my sweet husband, Derek, and dog mom to my two exuberant pups.

True story: My dogs were recently expelled from our usual boarding facility because they wouldn't stop jumping over four-foot walls and playfully roughing up the other dogs. If you and I had the time, I could entertain you for hours with stories of how terrible and hilarious my dogs are.

Derek and I hang out at the Plano campus and love the community of kind, intelligent, and intentional people we've found here!  


Central Truth

Our lives don't have to be on the path to ruin and misery. We can accept grace by faith through Christ and be righteous before Him. 

Devotional | Romans 3:13–23

Paul is setting up a bleak situation for us in this section of Romans 3. The verses kick off with treacherous words, violent actions, and dangerous attitudes.

It would be easy to read this section about violent,...

Paul is setting up a bleak situation for us in this section of Romans 3. The verses kick off with treacherous words, violent actions, and dangerous attitudes.

It would be easy to read this section about violent, arrogant liars and think of other people. But we wouldn't be reading Paul's letter accurately. He's making it clear that both the Jews (the religious) and the Gentiles (the unreligious) have sinned. Everyone from every background, which includes you and me, walks a miserable, sinful path.

It's a depressing section until we get to verse 21. 

Here, Paul launches into our hope and our redemption. Even though we are miserable wretches, we can still find righteousness through faith in Christ. The Old Testament pointed to Him; the Law showed our need for Him; the Prophets foretold of Him.  

All of the above—the lying, the misery, the ruin—do not have to be part of our story anymore. Sin no longer enslaves us because we are made righteous in Christ by faith. This is grace! We violent, arrogant liars are given a gift of redemption with no strings attached. 

My favorite example of this occurs in the novel Les Misérables. In one of the opening scenes, a criminal named Jean Valjean steals expensive silver from a bishop who has given him shelter for the night. When Valjean is caught and returned to the bishop, the bishop responds by giving more of his silver to Valjean and then setting him free. Valjean receives gifts he does not deserve, freedom, and money, which ultimately lead to his redemption. 

Like Valjean, we don't have to work for grace. We don't have to earn it. We don't have to get to a certain point of acceptable goodness to experience it. Grace is given to those who believe. It's that simple.

When I die and finally face Christ, my only plea to get into heaven is the grace He has given me. He gives not because I've been to church my whole life or because I haven't done this or that, but because I was walking in ruin, and He turned me around to Him.

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Discussion Questions

1. What does it mean to be saved by grace through faith in Christ? Why could we never earn our way into heaven?

2. How are people who do not know Christ but do good things different from the people Paul describes in verses 13-18?

3. What does Paul mean in verse 21 when he says, "the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law"?

4. Are there areas of your life in which you still act like you have to earn God's approval? 

5. If you grew up in the church, are you relying on your religious records and forgetting the beauty of the grace God has given you? If you are not a believer, are you hiding in the shadows until you are "good enough"?

12 Comments available

Elizabeth Lariscy 12 months ago
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Michael, thank you so much for your clear explanation. I understand it better now and love your analysis of it. I guess I am always thinking of the salvation of the modern day Jews and also those who have never heard the gospel. I pray we can reach them! Thank you again Michael! I am really learning a lot from all your comments. May God bless you!

Michael Scaman 12 months ago

Q2 Elizabeth I’ll give it a try… I think Paul initially speaks broadly of God looking down on the children of men in Ps 14:2 and ps 53:2 and seeing none good. Then, I think Paul starts quoting parts of the Psalms mostly and Isaiah speaking of the wicked and the wicked things they do.

In some sense I think Paul is confronting our sensibilities where we think of really bad people as wicked, but I think Paul is flipping it and putting those who don’t know God in that category as well.

So I’m going to say on the surface it seems those verses are talking about really evil people, but in the sight of God all those who don’t know God are in the same big boat. Yes, some people are more ‘given over’ than others in a sense but all are evil in another sense.

Elizabeth Lariscy 12 months ago
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Thank you for your inspirational devo, Mikaela! The discussion questions are great-thought provoking and great reminders of how great Our God is to love a sinner like me. I don’t deserve his Amazing mercy and grace.

I’m struggling with Q2-can anyone provide their insight?

Thank you all JTJers!!! God bless!

Elizabeth Lariscy 12 months ago
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I love that Christopher! Thanks for sharing!

Julia Brunelli 12 months ago

Mikaela, thank you so much for this devo, it was such a great encouragement and an awesome way to end the week. I find that in the midst of everything our peace comes from the Lord but I forget this often, but upon realization he meets me with open arms and abundant grace, your devotional was a great reminder of that, thank you!! (Also your dogs sound absolutely precious!!)

Michael Scaman 12 months ago

What started as wrong thinking Rom 3:10,18,20 ends badly ending with wrong worship and toxic living Ps 143:2. Solemn epitaph ‘by the works of law shall no flesh be justified’ Job 15:14-16. Dire state of all mankind Ps 49:7-9

But now, a universal problem meets an extravagant offer

‘The righteousness of God’, not obtained in the normal course of the world, is offered to all mankind on the same basis, by faith, not any kind of faith but faith in Jesus and apart from the law. Apart from the law makes it given and not earned and that makes it grace for those near and far Is 57:18-19

It’s like a type of redistribution of true wealth, righteousness wealth. God has the righteousness. We have the sin. Socialism? … no… it’s Gracism (I borrowed the word from ‘Gracism: The Art of Inclusion’ by Dave Anderson).

Christopher Hyland 12 months ago
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Hugh I have pictured that very court room many, many times and each time it brings tears to my eyes.

…As I stand under the withering gaze of the ancient of days unable to speak. Suddenly Jesus is in front of me. He gently pushes me behind him where I hide like a frightened child. As He shows his scarred hands He says, “This one is Mine. I have paid in full. He is righteous!”

Ronnie Oldfield 12 months ago

Great look back on this week mikaela. This time thru I was struck by Paul’s “oral fixation” in the early verses and then again in the middle. Jesus told us “what proceeds forth from a man is what defiles him” Mark 7:15b. Hhhhhmmmm eternal implications for my sharp tongue. Thanks for an awesome devo Mikaela.

Sue Bohlin 12 months ago

Outstanding devo, Mikaela! I’m so glad God called you and Derek to the Plano campus!!

Loved what you said about simply receiving grace as a gift. That goes perfectly with what I read this morning from Dr… Constable’s commentary: “Several writers have described faith as the hand of the heart. It does no work to earn salvation but only accepts a gift that someone else provides.”

Hope Harris 12 months ago

Love the tie to Les Misérables, Mikaela.

Paul shows me that sin is costly. It completely wrecks us as humans. It brings relational brokenness to our lives foremost with God and secondly with others. I am without excuse for my sin and within myself there is nothing I can do to make myself right. I stand guilty before God.

John Piper brings hope to me:

“God has not left us to deal with our guilt alone, but he has taken the initiative, while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), to seek our acquittal and to offer it to us freely. The glory of the gospel is that the one before whom we are guilty and condemned has himself undertaken to replace our guilt and his indignation with righteousness and reconciliation.”

I deserve death and hell; God grants me grace and reconciliation!

Lindsey Driscoll 12 months ago

Mikaela, great devo to show the pivot point in the beginning of Romans, “but now…” (3:21) Q5- Growing up in the church it can be easy to try to justify my good with a church resume. I have loved re-reading 3:20 and reminding myself that “through the law we become conscious of sin.” I take it as the more I study the character of God and the life he has called us to through reading his word, the more I see my sin so I can turn in over to Christ, who has already paid the penalty for it.

Hugh Stephenson 12 months ago

Well done Mikaela. Violent, arrogant lying sinner. The words of God expressed through Paul narrate my movie.

The earlier parts of these chapters read like a count by count indictment of my life. For weeks I have seen in my mind the 60 year replay of countless events, conversations & decisions. When I say countless, I really mean countless. These visions haunt me. Like never before I feel the torment of all this sin. The Go Pro movie of my life that will be played at my judgement is terrifying.

The close out of this section sounds like God’s gavel as he pronounces the verdict to me:


“Guilty” “Without excuse” “Totally depraved”

And then I turn and see that Jesus has stepped forward…

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