12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
1901 ASV Translation:
12 They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not, so much as one:
13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips:
Textual Issues:In 3:12 there is a difference in the spelling of the verb "become unprofitable" that makes no contribution to a possible difference in meaning; and the Textus Receptus omits the definite article before "doeth good" which the Nestle/Aland 26 has.
I. The Picture of Man Apart From Redemption is Graphic and Starkly Evil.
A. There is the general, and repetitive, statement that there is not even one who does good.
1. When Paul first declared that there is "none, not even one, who is righteous", he was declaring a "condition", a "state of being".
2. With the repetitive "not even one", Paul moves from "state of being" to "overt activity". This is the "natural" reality of the tree bearing its fruit. It can do no other than make its unseen essence manifest by means of its fruit.
a. He makes his case by first declaring that "all" have "gone out of the way/turned aside".
1) The word he chose to express this reality signals a deliberaterejection of God's values, truth, and methods (Romans 16:17 and 1 Peter 3:11).
2) That he uses the "inclusive" term "all" means that his viewpoint is pervasive: Paul sees absolutely none who are not deliberate in their rejection of God and everything He stands for. But the "absolutely" must be understood in this context which is definitively limited to those outside of the faith.
b. He continues to make his case by declaring that "all, together" unredeemed humanity is "useless". What he means is not that God can make no use of the unredeemed (a fact that he clearly acknowledges in 3:5 and 7), but that men have made it impossible for the things which God would achieve by cooperative effort to be achieved. It is not simply that they refuse to put their shoulder to His plow; the reality is darker than that passivity for "he that is not for us is against us". They oppose the progress of His plow.
c. He brings this case to climax by denying that any unredeemed man ever seeks to accomplish "the good".
1) The term Paul used is a word that signifies an internal, highly private, intense desire to bring blessedness to another. Trench says that it is the "kindness" that is the fountain of "goodness" in the sense that "goodness" can never be the fountain of "kindness". In other words, it is the root of all good, in that it is the foundation, in desire, to produce blessedness for someone else. The "blessing" is the "goodness"; the desire to produce it is the "kindness".
2) Thus Paul's claim is that man, under sin, has nothing whatsoever to do with any serious intent to bless another without regard for personal issues. Man's will to do good to another invariably ("no not one") has a "hook" in it. Man does what he calls "good" to another in order to bring that other into his debt so that he may later "call in his markers". "You owe me", says the reprobate who thinks he has done "good" to another.
B. Then there is the starkly evil character of actively murderous intent in behavior.
1. Paul does not acknowledge "any" element of "goodness" atall in man outside of the redemptive work of God in actually achieving reconciliation. He does not allow any sense of benignity in man under sin. Sin is malignant and those under its dominion are dominated by that malignancy so that they are also. The "modern" notion of "tolerance" of doctrinal heresy and behavioral aberration is a factual denial of this malignancy.
2. Paul's description is enormously graphic and intolerably pessimistic -- and true.
a. He pictures the throat of man as a grave having been carved out of the ground or stone.
b. He pictures the tongue of man as a "bait" device to attract a victim so that it will approach the proximity of the mouth.
c. He pictures the lips of man as hidden sacs of deadly poison that can be applied to the victim if that victim can be suckered into a close enough proximity to make the application. "Get that sucker close enough", say the lips, "and I will see to it that that grave has a body to be put in it."
3. Man, in his extremely deceitful condition, recoils from this description like a scalded ape. It unmasks him. Unmasked, he cannot ever achieve his objective of filling that grave. If he is revealed to be what he is, his ability to deceive is absolutely gone. So he rages against the declaration of these facts. He puffs, and postures, and struts, and denies. But, the truth of God stands undiminished.
a. It, unfortunately, is not just "unsaved" men who recoil from Paul's description of humanity under sin; most "believers" also refuse to embrace it.
1) In the first place, the appearance is that men are not all murderously intent. Vast accumulations of humanity live and function day by day in an apparent harmony with one another...not everyone on the freeway is obsessed with "road rage" and begins to shoot someone because of some "slight" perceived. The vast majority of people never kill anyone in their whole lifetime. There is a huge veneer of "civility" that lies over the vast majority of our cities and towns that gives the appearance of an underlying "goodness" in the hearts of men. It is difficult indeed to embrace Paul's unambiguous statement in the face of such appearances.
2) In the second place, the reality of Paul's unmitigated statement is an enormous blow to the pride of men -- even "believers" -- so that they cannot embrace his description of them without sinking deeply into the mire of humiliation and despair. Because of the crippled perception of "believers" in the love and grace of God, they wish to reject the obvious meaning of Paul's words. Because they do not believe that grace can, and will, reach to the "bottom of the slimy pit", and because they do not believe that love genuinely seeks those at the bottom of that pit, even "believers" strive mightily to maintain a basic commitment to the "inherent goodness" of men. The result is a view of man that sees him in need of a bath instead of a new birth. Yes, say they, there is something wrong with man, but it is not all that serious; he just needs "tweaking" here and there.
b. It must, however, be asked: If man is as bad as all that, how do I live in this world without being both paranoid and cynical?
1) Paranoia is automatic to the belief that men are murderously intent -- unless men are free of the fear of what men may do to them (Hebrews 13:6).
2) Cynicism is also automatic to the belief that men are murderously intent -- unless men are confident of God's superior power (1 John 4:4).