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Is Anyone Righteous, Even One? What Does the Bible Say?

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Romans 3:10 states, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” To understand this verse, we must first consider the broader context of the book of Romans as a whole. Written by the Apostle Paul, the New Testament book of Romans is widely regarded as one of the most important theological works in the Bible. It was written to the church in Rome that was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers.

In the first two chapters of Romans, Paul addresses the universal problem of sin and its consequences, namely, God’s wrath being poured out among humanity that has rebelled against Him and His created order. He argues that both Jews and Gentiles are guilty before God and in need of salvation. In chapter 3, Paul makes the case that everyone is under the curse of sin and that no one is righteous before God.

The specific quote in Romans 3:10, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one,'” is a reference to several Old Testament passages—including Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3—which express the same idea that Paul is conveying in Romans 3:10: that all people are sinners and are in need of salvation.

In using this quote, Paul is not only drawing on the Old Testament Scriptures, but in this entire passage, he is engaging in a style of argumentation known as a diatribe. This was a common rhetorical technique in ancient Greek and Roman literature where the author would anticipate objections and then respond to them. In this case, Paul is anticipating the objection that some may have that there are at least a few righteous people in the world. By quoting the Old Testament, Paul is showing that the Scriptures themselves declare that there is no one who is righteous before God.

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Furthermore, Paul’s use of the word “righteous” is important to understand. In Greek, the word is “δίκαιος” (dikaios), which can also be translated as “just” or “upright.” In Jewish thought, righteousness was closely tied to obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul, however, is making the case that no one, Jew or Gentile, is able to perfectly obey the Law and therefore no one is righteous on their own.

Similarly, the concept of righteousness or uprightness is present throughout the Old Testament. For example, in Genesis 18:25, Abraham appeals to God’s righteousness when he asks, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The psalmist frequently extols God’s righteousness and calls on God to deliver him from his enemies. In Psalm 23:3, the psalmist declares that God “leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Paul’s words in Romans 3 are a potent reminder of the sinful nature of humanity and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ which speaks to the fundamental truth of original sin—that every person is born into sin and is unable to earn righteousness on their own.

This truth is echoed throughout the Bible, from the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the teachings of Jesus Christ himself. In Romans 5:12, it is written, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”

Furthermore, just a little further down in verse 23, Paul declares, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” demonstrating that not only are we all sinners, but we are also incapable of reaching the standard of righteousness set by God. Our sin separates us from God, and we are powerless to bridge the gap on our own.

The truth in this passage that Paul intended to convey is that all of us—every single human being under the sun—are sinners, and as a result, death is the ultimate consequence of our sinfulness. No matter how good we may try to be, we cannot escape the fact that we are fallen creatures in need of a savior.

But the good news is that God has provided the means for us to be reconciled to him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for the sins of all who come to Him in faith and repentance and that we would be reconciled to God. It is only through this faith in Jesus Christ that we can receive the gift of salvation and be made righteous in God’s sight.

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