1. Understanding the Human Condition
It takes a strong stomach to watch the nightly news or to pick up a newspaper. Bad news is everywhere! Terrorist threats, child abductions, financial scandals, corruption in high places—it makes you wonder what the real problem, the deeper problem, in human culture is. Is it just a person or two gone bad, or is it a more pervasive issue—a problem residing in each of us?
Group Discussion. How do you respond to the bad news in our world—and where do you look for good news?
Personal Reflection. What kinds of "bad news" reports bother you most deeply? What questions do those reports prompt about God?
The Bible makes it clear that the fundamental problem in human society is in each human heart and mind. We live in a world that is marked by sin. Our hearts are alienated from God by our own choices. We are born with a bent toward evil that no amount of education or resolution can ever overcome. The only hope we have is for a transformation in our lives by the power of God. Read Romans 3:9-20.
- If this were the only passage of Gods Word that we possessed, how would you feel after reading it?
- Before the apostle Paul shares the good news of our redemption in Christ, he gives us the bad news that every person is separated from God and is incapable of meeting the holy standard that God requires. Why is it so important to Paul to hammer home that point?
- How does our culture respond to the ideas of personal sinfulness and separation from God?
- Based on verses 10-18, how would you characterize human thought?
- Human speech?
- Human actions?
- How would you explain this passage to a person who believes he or she is basically good and not guilty of any serious sin before God?
- In verse 11 Paul says that there is "no one who seeks God." But don't those who are Christians seek after God when they believe in Jesus? How would you explain Pauls statement?
- A popular explanation of this passage in Romans goes like this: "Not every person is as bad as they could be, but every person is as bad off in relation to God as they could be." Do you agree with that assertion? Why or why not?
- Can we be made right with God by trying our hardest to keep the Ten Commandments? Explain your answer.
- If human beings are really as far from God as Paul affirms, how can we ever hope for anything good to happen in our world?
- How does an understanding of Gods grace set you free from the burden of trying to gain Gods approval by keeping his law?
- Describe how you have been made right (or hope to be made right) with God?
Thank God that he loved us and provided redemption for us when we were spiritually dead and separated from him.
Now or Later
Each of Pauls declarations in verses 10-18 comes directly from the Old Testament. Read the following passages to see where Paul got some of his material: Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 36:1-4; and Isaiah 59:1-13.
What additional insights do these passage provide about the human condition apart from Gods transforming grace?