The Sinfulness of Man.
1 Samuel 1-2, Romans 3
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. – Romans 3:10-12 ESV
The Old Testament is brutally raw in how it depicts the sinfulness of man. It does not attempt to sugar coat the facts, but presents life exactly as it was, uncensored and painfully unflattering. Even the Jews, having been chosen by God and given His law, could not seem to live in faithfulness and obedience to His commands. Their incessant failure to remain faithful to God is chronicled throughout the pages of the Old Testament. Take Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest of Israel. These two young men also served as priests, but the writer of 1 Samuel describes them as “worthless men” who “did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12 ESV). They were using their position as priests of God for personal gain and to satisfy their own perverse desires. “Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (1 Samuel 2:17 ESV). These two men glaringly illustrate the truth found in Psalm 14:1-3 and quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10-12: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” This passage is not saying that man is incapable of doing good, because we see in 1 Samuel 3 the actions of Hannah are obviously good and righteous. She makes a vow to God and keeps it. She dedicated her son to God and followed through on her commitment. But there are no actions that man may perform that will ever earn him salvation. Even on our best day, our attempts at righteousness fall woefully short. The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
Paul makes it clear that God gave the law to the people of Israel in order to reveal their sinfulness. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law come knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 ESV). The law required perfect obedience and adherence. James wrote concerning the law: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10 ESV). In other words, God’s law required perfection. And so it regularly revealed to men their shortcomings. No one was capable of measuring up to God’s righteous standards. The story of Hophne and Phinehas shows us just how bad things had gotten during the days before Israel had a king. Even the priesthood had become corrupt. They were immoral and unfaithful, showing more concern for their own personal pleasure than they did for God and His law. This vivid portrayal of the sinfulness of man provides a stark backdrop onto which will be displayed the coming of the Son of God in the New Testament. God will clearly show that man’s sin was so great and his need for a source of salvation outside of himself was so necessary, that when Jesus appears on the scene, men should have flocked to His presence, begging Him to save them. Because as Paul wrote, “the whole world may be hold accountable to God” (Romans 3:19 ESV). Paul makes it clear that being made right with God is possible, but only through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25 ESV). In the end, God would remain just in His treatment of man’s sin. He would be perfectly within His divine rights to punish the sins of mankind. But the good news is that God is also the justifier. By sending His Son to die for the sins of man, He is able to declare “sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 NLT). Jesus became the only man to live in perfect obedience to the law of God, keeping each and every one of them and remaining sinless in the process. And His sinlessness made Him an acceptable sacrifice or payment for the sins of mankind.
What does this passage reveal about man?
It would be easy to demonize Hophne and Phinehas. In our own self-righteousness, we could condemn them for their blatantly sinful behavior and wonder how they could have gone so bad so fast. But as the old saying goes, “But for the grace of God go I.” All of us are capable of the same degree of sins as these two young men. Their story is there to remind us of our own capacity to sin against God. One of the saddest statements of all of Scripture is the one used to describe them: “They did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12 ESV). Here were two sons of the priest of Israel, who were priests themselves and as such, offered daily sacrifices before the God of Israel. But they did not know the Lord. This does not mean they had no idea who God was, but that they didn’t understand just how serious God was about His commands. They treated God’s law flippantly and with disdain. The NET Bible translates verse 12 this way: “They did not recognize the Lord’s authority.” They saw God’s laws as optional, obeying their own sinful desires and passions instead. And that is a risk we all face. When we disobey God it is as if we don’t even know Him. As Paul said, “The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2 ESV), but they failed to obey those oracles. They regularly refused to do what they knew to be the non-negotiable laws of God. And in doing so, they lived no differently than the Gentiles who didn’t know God at all. In fact, their guilt was even greater.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
My sin is real. At one time it separated me from a relationship with God. And there was nothing I could do to earn favor with Him. I was incapable of living my life in a way that would satisfy the righteous expectations of a holy God. And while I may not have committed sins of the same caliber as Hophne and Phinehas, my guilt was just as great. And yet, God justified me “by his grace as a gift” (Romans 3:24 ESV). And all it required of me was faith in Jesus Christ as my sin substitute. I simply had to recognize my sin and my need for a Savior. I needed something or someone outside of myself to make it possible for me to be made right with God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-25 ESV).
Father, I have no problem recognizing my own sinfulness. I even acknowledge that there are days when I live as if I don’t even know you, just as Hophne and Phinehas did. I willingly ignore Your will for my life, disobeying or sometimes just ignoring Your Word. But You provided payment for my sin. You purchased my life out of slavery to sin and made it possible for me to escape the death sentence I was under. Now you see me through the righteousness of Your Son. My sins are forgiven. My future is secure. But continue to help me live in keeping with the change that has taken place in my life. May I never forget my sinfulness, but always lean on the righteousness of Christ, because apart from Him, all of my works are like filthy rags. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men