Romans 3:16 “Destruction and misery are in their paths “
This just seems like a pretty negative verse. It has an almost Ecclesiastes kind of pessimistic tone. Yet, it is enveloped in a very positive and wonderful message of grace. Romans 3 contains another very well known verse 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. By itself, this verse surely sounds negative, too. While it is true, both of these verses are intended to open our hearts and minds to understand something hopeless, the real purpose is to open our hearts and minds to receive the blessing of God’s marvelous grace.
It can be really easy to get caught-up in thinking that if we can do good or be a good person, this will lead us to an eternity in Heaven. Unfortunately, since the fall in the garden, this is not how it works. There is not enough good we can do that will cleanse away the sin that came into the world the day that Adam disobeyed God. No matter how good we may think we are, there are countless ways that sin creeps into our being.
Some may look at Romans 3:16 and see it as a message for the lost or worldly. After all, “Destruction and misery are in their minds” sounds like a curse that belongs to those who have never heard of God. It very much sounds like condemnation for those who know about God, but can’t be bothered to live by His commandments. Indeed Romans 3:16 should stand as a warning for those who need to find a relationship with God, but it is actually a message for those who are striving to live for the Lord. Those who attend church every time the doors are open, read the Bible through every year, pay their tithe and give to missionaries and charities. This message is for those who are sure that by the lives they live, they are in the will of God. Those who are sure by the way they live here on Earth, they certainly have a place in Heaven.
Please don’t misunderstand or stop reading. If you do you will miss the most important part. The Bible clearly teaches that it is important to strive always to live for the Lord and according to His commandments. At the same time, it is very important to know that doing so, does not really give us any more hope than the one who is lost or simply refuses to live for God. That’s what Romans 3:16 is telling us, works are important, but hope is not found in them.
How then does anything positive come out of this verse? The positive comes in reading the verse within the context the entire chapter of Romans 3. Even just adding Verse 20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” and verse 22 “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe“ can help round out the fullness of the message. Hope comes only from Jesus. He must be where our faith rests. Romans 3:16 is to remind us hope is found in keeping our faith focused not in the things we can do, but in remembering who Jesus is.