Can Man Actually Do Right in God’s Eyes? (Romans 3 and 7 Analyzed)

One key mark of those who preach and teach God’s Word faithfully is that they call people to forsake their sins to keep God’s commandments and to walk in truth.  One sure mark of a false teacher is that they do not do so.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”  So everything that is in the prophets’ writings applies to us today.  Hear then the call of God’s servants in books of the prophets.

2 Kings 17:13: “Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 

Ezekiel 18:30-32: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God.  Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.  Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”

Jeremiah 23:22: “But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.”

Psalm 34:11-16: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?  Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile (deceit).  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.  The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.  The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”

It’s interesting that the previous passage from Psalm 34 is quoted in 1 Peter chapter three in the New Testament.  The basic conditions for being a righteous person in God’s sight have never changed.  We also see how John the Baptist, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the other Apostles echoed the same basic prophetic message to us in the New Testament- showing how the conditions to be on the Lord’s side have never changed.

Does God actually expect man to obey Him?  The Scriptures teach that this is so constantly.  However, there have always been challenges to this plain Biblical truth.  Some want to justify indulgence in the pleasure of sin and claim that it is impossible that they should do anything but sin all the time.  We can tell in the Apostle Paul’s warning to the Christians in Corinth about fornication that he made sure to counter such a claim in his instruction, knowing the common arguments used to justify it. 

1 Corinthians 6:15-20: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?  shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot?   God forbid.  What?  know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body?  for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  What?  know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The idea that we can be good at heart and/or justified in God’s sight, yet be committing sin at the same time, is a common belief that is compatible with the Gnosticism which the Apostles of Christ constantly contended with (including in the passage just quoted).  Yet to this very day most professing Christians see the grace of God as an excuse for sin and disobedience.  Yet the Bible clearly teaches the opposite.

Titus 2:11-14 says: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people (or, a special people to Himself), zealous of good works.”

Therefore we’ve been lied to about the true grace of God in Jesus Christ.  We’ve been told that we cannot deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; we’ve been told that we cannot live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.  We’ve even been given the false impression that grace eliminates the need to obey God and follow Christ as our Lord anyways. 

The question that almost always comes up when this topic comes up is “How about you, don’t YOU sin?”  But how about we rather look at what God’s word says about how we must obey Him and and through His grace do what is right in His eyes before we go criticizing people and calling them hypocrites simply because they affirm what the Word of God says?

James 1:12-15: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.   Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

1 John 3:1-10: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.  And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

2 Timothy 2:19: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 

Many wrongly use scriptures that apply to the wicked who are not reconciled to the Lord and apply these to even the (supposedly) righteous.  One key example of such an error which I’ve done a study on is Isaiah 64:6.  Of course the natural outcome of such an error is to assume that it’s possible to continue at enmity with the Lord in willful sin and nevertheless be righteous before Him.  Those who are guilty of such errors assume the Gnostic doctrine that overcoming sin is impossible in this life is actually true. 

Romans 3:9-20 is another key example of a Scripture which many apply to all people in their current spiritual state when it is spoken specifically of the wicked.  The very passages from the Old Testament which are quoted in this passage, if you look at their origin in the Old Testament, prove that it is speaking of the wicked and not of the righteous.  This passage proves that those who are turned from God can’t be righteous/do good in their rebellious state; and it shows that they are in that state willfully (not because they can’t help it).  

This passage is also given to illustrate and prove the truth of Isaiah 53:6 “All we (Jews and gentiles) like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him (Jesus Christ) the iniquity of us all.”  This does not change the truth that we must turn from going our own way- and if we do obey and turn, then it can’t be said that we are still going our own way like sheep.  It can’t be said that we are still living wickedly in God’s eyes.  We can then rather live for righteousness.  That is what the Gospel of Christ is meant to bring us to and accomplish in us.  That’s why Peter told Christians in 1 Peter 2:24-25: “Who (Christ) his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.  For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 

Those who still aren’t convinced of what was just claimed should contrast those described in Romans 3:9-20 with the descriptions of the righteous in Scripture.  Let’s do that then.

Romans 3:9-10: ‘What then?  are we better than they?  No, in no wise (in no way): for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:”

Now look at the righteous.

Romans 6:17-20 (later in the very same book): “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity (lawless deed unto lawless deed); even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.  For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.”

Romans 3:11-12: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Now look at the righteous.

Philemon 10-11: “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.”

3 John 11: ““Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.  He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” 

Romans 3:13-14: “Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:”

Now consider the righteous.

Matthew 12:33-35: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.  O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?  for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”

Romans 15:14: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”

Romans 3:15-17: “Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known:”

Now look at the righteous.

Luke 1:79 (and  in its context, this is descriptive of the call to repentance through John the Baptist that we must heed to turn to Jesus Christ in truth): “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 

Romans 14:17-18: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink (food and drink); but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”

Ephesians 5:8-11: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving (Testing) what is acceptable unto the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

Romans 3:18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now look at the righteous.

Proverbs 14:2: “He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.” 

Acts 9:31: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” 

And consider the call of the Gospel itself.

Revelation 14:6-7: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Consider then what would be stated by the time this very same chapter ends.

Romans 3:29-31: “Is he the God of the Jews only?  is he not also of the Gentiles?  Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.  Do we then make void the law through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

Many support their Gnostic-influenced belief that we can’t overcome sin in our mortal bodies by the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans chapter seven.  They say that the following words of Paul describe what his present experience was as a Christian at the time when he wrote them.  But that is a rather ridiculous claim though given the context of the Book of Romans, as we will see and have already seen to a significant extent. 

Romans 7:14-24 says: “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am!  who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” 

Many people read this passage as if there is no deliverance and as if this was Paul’s present state.

But the Apostle Paul had already spoken in Romans chapter five of the truth that those who’ve been reconciled to God through Christ are partakers of a salvation through Christ’s life that is an actual remedy for all the damage caused by sin’s reign in them when they were enemies of God. 

Romans 5:20-21: “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul would go on in Romans chapter six to warn that we cannot continue in sin that grace may abound and command that we let not sin reign in our mortal bodies, but instead yield the members of our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:12-13).  This command is given with a promise for those who heed it in Romans 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

If Romans 7:14-24  were Paul’s Christian experience, then it was inferior to what he told others their experience could be.  These things need to be kept in mind as we go on.

If you look at Romans chapter seven in your Bible, notice the flashback to the time of bondage to sin “when we were in the flesh…” of Romans 7:5 (Paul grouped himself with other Christians here).  Compare this to the present time of deliverance, the “But now we are delivered…” of Romans 7:6. Paul would then do an extended flashback of his time in the flesh from 7:7-24, speaking as if he were in the present much of the time to better illustrate the struggle of a man in the flesh to fulfill God’s law when confronted with its demands and recognizing its inherent goodness and excellence.  

In considering what the Apostle Paul had said before in Romans, and by what he would say afterwards in Romans 8 (about the deliverance that is in Christ which the Apostle himself no doubt was walking in as he wrote the book), this proves that the constantly defeated man in Romans 7 was not Paul as he was living by faith in Christ (nor is it anyone who is truly abiding in Jesus Christ).

In relation to this, note also Paul’s own testimony to the Thessalonians about the consistency and victory of his own life as a Christian, along with that of his Apostolic co-workers.  This is so very different from the defeated man of Romans chapter seven.  The same was expected of the Christians whom he oversaw.  It is surely not any different now.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12: “For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.  Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”

The true Christian experience described in Romans chapter eight is the opposite of the powerless, defeated person described in Romans chapter seven.  The glorious victory of deliverance from sin’s death and its effects in Jesus Christ are expounded on in Romans chapter eight.  This obliterates any consideration that Romans chapter seven was Paul’s experience in the present as he wrote Romans.  Paul would return to contrasting the present time of deliverance opposed to the past time in the flesh in 7:25- then move back into the time of deliverance, the “now” of Romans 8:1-4.  Then he would follow this by more contrasts between those in the Spirit compared to those in the flesh (from Romans 8:5-8:15). 

Here we have the present experience of those truly abiding in Jesus Christ, exercising an acceptable living faith in Him.  

Romans 8:1-4: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

 We see that the one in Christ Jesus who is now not condemned, walks not after the flesh, but after Christ’s Spirit (Romans 8:1), and is freed from the law of sin and death by Christ’s Spirit (Romans 8:2).  This is in contrast to the Romans seven man who is carnal, sold under sin (7:14) and is a captive to the law of sin and death.  That captivity is described in Romans 7:15-24. 

The uncondemned man in Romans chapter eight, through Christ’s death for sin on the cross, has sin condemned in his flesh (Romans 8:3) through his genuine faith in Christ (through reckoning himself dead to sin and alive to God with Christ, as Romans 6 has already given instructions by this point in Romans)- and thus by abiding in the risen Christ he walks not after the flesh, but rather after God’s Spirit, which is given to those that obey Christ (Acts 5:32).  He thus genuinely lives to God and fulfills the righteousness of the law by the Spirit (Romans 8:4).  Think again here of the words of Jesus in the Gospels recorded in Mark 8:34-35: “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

This understanding of this passage from Romans is upheld and further proven by the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 5:16-26.  Galatians 5:16: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Jesus certainly does not accept the morally wretched.  He rather calls them to repent that they might live unto Him and be delivered from their morally wretched state.

Revelation 3:14-22: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God (that is the arche or foremost of the creation of God; the first in rank- Jesus wasn’t created; He is the Word of God who was there in the beginning); I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment (clothing), that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

He came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21).   To say that the passages about the corruption of the wicked apply even to those who are properly related to Him is really a denial of the victory of Christ’s mission and a denial of the true grace of God in Him. 

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]