I often meet with people on the internet who reject Paul’s theology, saying that he departed from God and what he says is to be rejected, or they simply assert that he was the real founder of Christianity, not Jesus. Jesus was Jewish, but Paul was a renegade who could not establish a following among the Jews who knew better, so he went out to establish a name for himself among the Gentiles. Is this true? No! I don’t believe for a moment there is any truth to such an argument. For example, one of Paul’s teaching is that no one is righteous—not even one person. What does he mean by this and can his doctrine be established from the Hebrew Scriptures, or is this, in fact, a new doctrine he began to teach in the New Testament? If one would investigate his sources one would find Romans 3:10-12, was taken directly from the only Scriptures he knew. Notice:
Romans 3:10-12 KJV As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (12) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Psalms 14:1-7 JPS For the Leader. A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart: ‘There is no God’; they have dealt corruptly, they have done abominably; there is none that doeth good. (2) The LORD looked forth from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any man of understanding, that did seek after God. (3) They are all corrupt, they are together become impure; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (4) ‘Shall not all the workers of iniquity know it, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD?’ (5) There are they in great fear; for God is with the righteous generation. (6) Ye would put to shame the counsel of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. (7) Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the LORD turneth the captivity of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. [emphasis mine throughout for comparison sake]
I have been told that the context of this Psalm is not that all mankind are evil but only a few men who foolishly deny the existence or the power of God. These few rise to power and enslave the people of a nation (namely Israel in the Psalm). While this is technically true, these sins could never have been committed, and these men could never have arisen to power, if there were honorable men among the people to speak out against their evil words and deeds. For men to commit great sins publicly, sins of silence (omission) must run rampant among the people. They are all unclean (Psalm 14:3; cp. Leviticus 5:1, 5).
Proverbs 28:12, 28 says that when wicked men rise to power, the righteous flee and hide. They are pursued by evil men. Such was the case of Elijah and Elisha. The people followed the wickedness of the king. The prophet withdrew and hid, returning only at the word of the Lord. The point is that, but for the grace of God, all men are unrighteous. We will be silent before the wickedness of others and permit evil to overcome our society. This is the way man is. Wicked men rise to power and eventually justice is forgotten, and men in power will do nothing without a bribe. In the end the rich take what they desire, because they own the politicians. Unless God calls a man like Gideon out of hiding (Judges 6:11), the people will only murmur and complain, but they will do nothing to rid themselves of evil. If one does not speak out against evil, his silence empowers evil to continue, and this one is guilty according to God (Leviticus 5:1, 5; cp Psalm 14:3).
God saw that men corrupt themselves. We do what is evil almost from the womb (cp. Psalms 58:3). Certainly, Adam was created in the image of God, but Adam corrupted his life. What could he pass on but corruption and death? The goodness that God had created within man had become corrupt, because Adam rebelled from God. Rebellion is an activity that has independence in view. Rebellion is not an ordinary sin that can be forgiven. One is able to see this as a parent bringing up a child. The child may disobey, or lie and be corrected, and the relationship is restored, but if the child (viz. older children) rebels not wanting to live under the authority of the parent, what can be done in terms of reconciliation? Discipline usually ends up hardening the hearts of child the parent wishes to reconcile to himself. Most often, what works is for the child to come to understand his own error through having to live with his own mistakes. Then reconciliation can occur.
Corruption does not mature over night. When we are babes we experience innocence. Yet, due to Adam’s rebellion, we have been infected with evil and in time evil will do its work. Good works are like drugs given to arrest a fatal disease. They can slow down the inevitable, but what is there can and will show its ugly head sooner or later. In time, if we would live long enough, sin would capture the whole man and goodness would become a rare occurrence.
Such is the state of man since the time of Adam. Humanity is in desperate need of help from outside our race. Why outside? Because, unrighteousness is like an incurable disease. It may be arrested for a period of time just as drugs work to restore our bodies to health or hold back the cruel work of the deadly cancer. Nevertheless, the inevitable will eventually occur—we die. Only through the blood sacrifice of Jesus can this mortal put on immortality. Jesus’ life was not drawn from Adam. He lived before Adam. All Adam gave Jesus was a human body, so Jesus could work out our salvation. He did that, and we can have new life, not through the umbilical cord of the flesh, but through the umbilical cord of faith. We have life—eternal life—through our faith in him. Through faith we are given the Spirit of God, and our relationship has been restored—eternally, and this because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus, which we will commemorate in a little more than a week.