Pharisees and Their Kin (Romans 3:9-20)

No one can escape the day of accountability, and your vanity, works and legalism won’t save you

By Donald Whitchard

Psalm 14:1-3,Psalm 53:1-4,Isaiah 53:6,Isaiah 64:6,Luke 18:9-14,Ecclesiastes 7:20


Summary: The biblical evidence that Paul uses to describe true human nature is summarized perfectly in the closing verses of Romans 3.  The same evidence can also be used when we read the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican Jesus taught in Luke 18:9-14.


Romans 1-3 shatters any illusion we might have that we are somehow immune or exempt from the despicable behaviors and attitudes Paul has described thus far.  No one, Jew or Gentile, is without excuse.  The Jews had the Law of God, and the Gentiles had the inner law of the conscience, so we cannot stand before God at the end of days and say that we did not know about His directives or that there was no evidence for His existence.  No one has any way to escape the day of accountability.  No one has any “loophole” or “technicality” they could use to be exempt from the approaching Day of Judgment.  No one will be able to approach the Holy Sovereign God of All Creation with a list of “good deeds” and some definition of a “good life” that can tip the balance in their favor and be allowed to enter into the eternal heavens.  All the prayers and incantations we practice in this life to “earn” a place in heaven will be of no use but will instead bring certain condemnation from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 7:21-23, 25:41).

The hard, dirty truth is that we can never approach the King of Kings with anything we do in this life in our own power.  Our idea of “righteousness” is no better than the dirty rags that lepers used to keep their flesh from falling off their bodies, or, more crudely, a menstrual rag that was bloody, reeking, and eventually useless (Isaiah 53:6, 64:6; Romans 3:23).  We are encased in sin and filth, and any attempt we make to “clean up our lives” apart from the intervention of God through Jesus Christ is the equivalent of bathing in a sewer after we’ve taken a swim in a cesspool.  Do you see why the Protestant reformer and preacher John Calvin used these situations to define the first of what are known as the “doctrines of grace”?  He uses the term “total (or radical) depravity” to show that in order to understand what salvation means, we must first face that what Paul lists in Romans 3:9-20 fits all of us.  It is also an excellent illustration of the hypocrisy of the Pharisee that Jesus presented in Luke 18:9-14.  How so?  Go back and read the “prayer” the Pharisee said before God (Luke 18:11-12).  There are no words of repentance, sorrow, or a sense of reverence and awe that we should all possess when approaching our Creator, Sustainer, and King.  Even though this Pharisee had an outward appearance of piety and “righteousness,” he was just as sinful, wretched, and ungodly as the verses Paul uses to present our true nature.

This Pharisee looked all clean on the outside but on the inside nothing more than a whitewashed tomb full of death and corruption (Matthew 23:27; Romans 3:13-14).  Whether we want to admit it or not, his “righteousness” is no better than ours if all we have is some form of “religion” that is full of bitterness, cursing, deceitfulness, and shows no true evidence of godliness apart from what “spin” we might want to put upon it (Romans 3:10-12).  Man-made “religion” shows no fear or respect for God.  Why?  When we decide to put together some form of ritual or teachings that satisfy our own egos as well as appease the “deity” we have made in our own image (Exodus 20:1-6; Deuteronomy 5:7-10; Isaiah 2:8; Jeremiah 16:20).  We are arrogantly declaring before the Sovereign LORD, “We can do just fine without You, God.  What Jesus Christ did on the cross in atoning for our sins really doesn’t apply to us; we’re above such primitive ways of thinking, thank You.  What You did was just not enough and really a waste of time as we can get right with or without You.  Our ways are better and much more comfortable to our standards of behavior.  Now, off with you.  We’re going to go and bring flowers and favor to our guru, shaman, “spirit guide,” and/or “ascended master.” Really, we are God, but we’ll call if we need You.”  Paul wrote of such blasphemous and prideful behavior in Ephesians 2:8-9.  It is only by the grace of God, and not anything we do or say by which we can enter His heaven.

Seriously, is that not how the majority of the world views the gift of salvation provided by the Lord Jesus Christ?  To them, it is either a waste of time, or unnecessary, or a host of other excuses that challenge their pride and make them face the fact that they and all of us are unclean things worthy of condemnation (Romans 6:23).  Just who do we think we are to speak about or even approach God in this manner?  We are a bunch of evil, rebellious, arrogant, inconsiderate, wretched, unredeemed souls that deserve nothing from Him except a just condemnation and judgment to hell.  There is not only an absence of the fear and respect owed God, but also an absence of the fear of hell and eternal punishment seen in both the world and the modern church.  Some “churches” today are really nothing more than a spiritually empty gathering place for “religious” lost people satisfied with their nominal nod towards their idea of “god,” and certainly no place where the Bible is taught and revered.  These places that harbor both stained-glass windows and sin-stained souls are empty and poor as was Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).

We have the plagues of atheism and apostasy rapidly gnawing their way into the fabric of civilizations as the time draws near to the certain return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this world to rule and reign as King of Kings.  The Scriptures also show that God has chosen to redeem us from our sins through the work of Christ on the cross (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:17, 2:2; Galatians 6:4; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20, 2:14).  His atonement for our sins is the gift of eternal life (John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12) which gives us access to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  If His atonement is limited in any sense, it is that once you take your last breath (Luke 12:13-21, 16:19-31; John 5:28-29; Hebrews 9:27), it will be of no use to you as you threw away your opportunity to receive it here (2 Corinthians 6:2).  His grace, mercy, and offer of salvation is available to you right now (Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 15:20-24; John 10:28-30; Hebrews 13:5-6) and He will never take it from you.  He will see you through the storms of life and you are His forever, no matter what may occur here.  The words Paul uses in Romans 3:9-20 are indeed evidence against us so that we learn to see ourselves for who we are; sinners in need of a Savior.  Let the Savior rescue you from condemnation today.


My book, “The Scope of Biblical Prophecy” is now available at: It is a general look at the role and importance of Bible prophecy, the importance of correct interpretation of the Scriptures, the varied ways of how the last days events are to occur, and that in the end, Jesus wins.

YouTube: The Reality City Review

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Tags: , , , , ,

Luke 21:36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Share via
Copy link
%d bloggers like this: