Equally Lost and Equally Savable: No Distinctions!

December 9, 2014

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

“Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction” (Romans 3:22).

This chapter is crystal clear in declaring the universal sinfulness of man. Although the Jews have advantages compared to the Greeks, such as having the oracles of God (vs. 1-2), they do not have preferential treatment with regard to salvation. Vs. 9 makes this very clear, “Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” “All” clearly means that every Jew and every Greek (every person) is under sin. Consequently, both the groups and “all” the individuals that make up the groups are included rather than some in each group comprising the “all.” There are no exceptions.

Vs. 10-18 reiterate this point by such phrases as “none righteous,” “not even one,” “none who understands,” “none who seeks for God,” “all have turned aside,” “none who does good,” “not even one,” and “no fear of God.” Again making the sinfulness of man inclusive of each and every person.

Vs. 19 says “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” This verse summarizes the state of the world as under the law of God and therefore accountable to God. Obviously every people group in the world is under the righteous law of God; moreover, every individual in every people group who has or ever will live is included in the phrase “all the world.” Each and every person fails to live up to God’s standard of righteousness and is therefore held accountable to God.

The Jews were under God’s written law as given through Moses, and the Gentiles were under God’s law written upon their hearts (Romans 2:11-15); for that reason, every person will be judged by God’s standard of righteousness rather than merely every group with some exceptions.

Vs. 20 says, “Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” It is easy to see that “no flesh” includes every person in the human race. Additionally, the law can declare the righteousness of God, and thereby reveal the sinfulness of man, but it cannot save the sinful (Hebrews 10:1, 4). Salvation has always been by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

In vs. 21-22, God grants righteousness “through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” Christians agree that “all” who believe will be saved. The difference is not whether salvation is granted to all who believe, but whether or not all can believe unto salvation. The Calvinists say no (unconditional election). However, it seems to me that the most reliable reading of this passage is that just as “all” in previous verses refers to all individuals being lost and in need of salvation, all here means that all individuals in such need can and will be saved by faith in Christ. Understanding “all” as it has been used each time to include every person seems unstrained, natural, and most consistent with the passage. To invoke a distinction at this point appears to originate from beyond the passage itself.

Even the idea of believing refers to individuals since only individuals can exercise faith; I do not see anything in the passage that would indicate that this “all” is restricted to something like all people groups, including some who can be saved. I do not think the passage even hints that this “all” is different from “all” including each person previously spoken of as under sin; of which “there is no distinction.” This understanding corresponds precisely with its usage before and in the following verses.

Vs. 23 says, “All have sinned,” again clearly including every person. Therefore, if justification is going to happen, it must come about by God’s grace gift (vs. 24). Once more we see “all” with no distinctions. I would suggest that any attempt to maintain “all” to mean everyone with regard to sin and judgment (unlimited lostness and judgment), and “all” to mean some—unconditionally elect—with regard to savableness (limited savableness) seems, at best, to unwisely impose a distinction where God clearly says none exists.

The human dilemma of needing to be perfectly righteous to rightly relate to God but incapable of becoming so by works, and the divine dilemma of how to satisfy God’s justice and be merciful to sinners is resolved in the death of Christ on the cross (vs. 24-26). Since Christ fulfills God’s righteous and holy demands, God is thereby free to be just in declaring all sinners justified by simple faith in Jesus. By all indications within the passage, such includes any and every person, from the least to the greatest, without distinction. Kenneth Boa summarizes, “All men and women are made equal by three things: first, our equality in need (all are guilty). Second, our equality in what we receive (redemption is one gift; the same for all). Third, our equality in how we receive redemption (by faith; everyone receives it the same way).” [1]

In conclusion, it seems that the statement “for there is no distinction” (vs. 22) means just that. Vs. 9-20 make it lucidly undeniable that “all” means that every single person has sinned and each person is therefore under the judgment of God; there is no distinction. Correspondingly, vs. 21-26 make it equally clear that because of the work of Christ upon the cross, God is just in declaring any and all sinners justified based upon the merits of Christ; there is no distinction.

There seems to be no suggestion of a change with regard to who is the “all” being considered here from the “all” that are under sin (vs. 9) and “all” that “have sinned (vs. 23); there is no distinction. Consequently, anyone and everyone, regardless of people group or sinfulness, can receive justification and be made righteous by faith (vs. 27-31) in Christ; there is no distinction. That being the case, any suggestion of limiting those who can believe to the “unconditionally elect” seems to be an inordinate contrariety thereby creating a distinction where God has most clearly said, “There is no distinction.”

All are equally lost and all are equally savable! This is the glorious work of God and the true nature of the gospel.

 

[1] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 106.