Wrested Scriptures Made Plain                  

                                                                                   By W.E. Shepard                                                    

                                                   “There is none righteous, no, not one.”—Rom. 8:10.                            

Here we again face the necessity of studying the context to enable us to understand properly the meaning of a verse. To take out this segment of the text and declare that there is none righteous, no, not one, will at once entangle a person in such a snarl of contradiction that he will be hopelessly unable to extricate himself.

The word of God properly understood does not contradict itself. When we find some statement which is an apparent discrepancy, which fly in the face of the general tenor of the Scriptures, we should neither expose our ignorance in the wrong use of it, nor practice wrong in “handling the word of God deceitfully.”

That it really means that there is none righteous in the world, we would place this portion of the text, “There is none righteous, no, not one,” alongside of the practical teaching of God’s word, we would at once find ourselves in a dilemma, and the odds would be against us.

Let us place by the side of it a few verses like the following:

“Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.”—I John 3 :7.

It would seem from this text that John was warning them against those who claimed there were none righteous, declaring that “he that doeth righteousness is righteous.”

“If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.”—I John 2:29.

“And they (Zacharias and Elizabeth) were both righteous, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”—Luke 1:6.

“The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”—Jas. 5:6.

“For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them.”—Matt. 13:17.

Thus, we find that instead of there being none righteous, no, not one, the Word shows the number to be “many.”

The Scriptures abound both in precept and in examples of righteousness. If the atonement of Jesus cannot make men righteous, we ask, What can it do? Our own righteousness, we confess, is “filthy rags,” and Jesus said, “Except your righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 5:20.

We must have the inwrought righteousness of Christ. Not a robe simply, that covers our unrighteousness, leaving us sinful and unholy, but His righteousness imparted to us.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—I John 1:9.  If all unrighteousness is cleansed away, then certainly there is righteousness in its place. If the atonement of Christ cannot get down as deep as sin has gone, it must be a failure. But who would say that Christ made a failure in His atonement?

There is so much ignorance abroad in the land. So many seem to think that it makes very little difference if they do “sin a little.” They claim that one cannot help sinning some every day in word, thought and deed. They forget, or else are awfully ignorant, that the Word is extremely prohibitory on that line. Hear the Word of the Lord:

     “Stand in awe and sin not.”—Psalm 4:4.                                    

     “Awake to righteousness and sin not.”—I Cor. 15:34.                                   

     “Go and sin no more.”—John 8:11.                                 

     “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?“—Rom. 6:2.                              

     “He that committeth sin is of the devil.”—I John 3:8.                                   

     “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”—I John 3:9.                                  

          “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not.”—1 John 3:6.                                     


“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”—Ez. 4:18. We fail to see how anybody can read such commands, warnings and assertions, and then fly in the face of them all and think that sin is of little consequence. Beware! “Be sure your sin will find you out.”—Num. 32:23. One would better trifle with chain lightning than with sin. In view  of the coming judgment, when the hearts of men will he weighed in the balances of divine justice, when sin will be sized up in its awful blackness~ and heinousness, let us see to it that none of the accursed thing he found upon our souls.

Sin and salvation are incompatible. They will not mix any more than oil and water. Saints can not be sinners at the same time. One cannot live in the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world simultaneously. We have read of “natural~ law in the spiritual world.” The property of impenetrability obtains in the spiritual realm. Two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same  time. Neither can one body be in two places at the same time. One cannot be dwelling in the light of God and also be in darkness. He cannot  be in the service of Christ and simultaneously in the service of sin.

“Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”—Matt. 1:21.1  Not saved in one’s sins, but from them. What is a sinner? Let us see. A liar is one who lies; a deceiver is one who deceives; a murderer is one who murders; a sinner must be one who sins. What is a Christian? A Mohammedan is a follower of Mohammed; a Confucianist is a follower of Confucius; a Christian is a follower of Christ. How did Christ act? He “was holy, harmless, un­defiled and separate from sinners.”—Heb. 7:26. “As He is, so are we in this world.”—I John 4:17. Are we Christians? Are we followers of the meek and lowly Jesus? Are we imitators of that heavenly example? To say that one is a Christian and yet a sinner is about as ridiculous as to say that one is a truthful liar, an honest thief, an intelligent idiot, a healthy invalid, a living corpse, or a holy devil.

We are persuaded, though, that many times, when there is dispute on these questions, there is a greater difference in terms than in actual belief.  

In the Old Testament we find sins of ignorance mentioned together with the necessary offering for such. They were not classed with willful transgressions, and were dealt with in another manner. In the same sense may we speak of the same now, though the expression, “sins of ignorance,” is not mentioned in the New Testament. We will always be liable and subject to mistakes, blunders and infirmities. We will do things ignorantly, which we will see afterwards, and for which we will be sorry. Yet these mistakes and blunders are not classed in the catalogue of sins. If they are, then everybody is a sinner, no matter what state of grace he has reached. They are all dead, for “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” They are not abiding in Him, for “he that abideth in Him sinneth not.” They should not profess to be born again, for “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” It would make the Word of God irreconcilably contradictory. If those who claim to be Christians, and yet sinners, mean by sin, those things done in ignorance, we can accept their experience, but they should define themselves better. On the other hand, if they mean known sin, voluntary, willful transgression, then we must believe them to be misguided and deceived. A thousand mistakes, or, to use the Old Testament expression, sins of ignorance, are compatible with the Christian life, but not any known, voluntary sin. The former will not break the union with Christ, but the latter severs the connection. Perhaps some mean that they commit known sin daily, but not voluntary sin. They have a quick temper, or some other weakness, which gets the advantage of them so suddenly that they are overcome before they think. They know it is wrong, but it is not voluntary. It is not with their consent, for they much prefer not to be overcome. They go at once to the Lord and ask pardon, but are overcome again and again the same way. Thus, they say they are Christians, but sin every day. Suppose they failed, after one of those spells, to find pardon, would they not remain in the dark? Certainly this is an up-and-down ex­perience. We could not say an up-and-down Christian life, but rather an up-Christian and down-sinner life. Thank God there is a better way of going than this. God is able and willing to take the “down” element out of us. He proposes so to purify the heart that there will be no uprisings of unholy tempers in it.

We will take up the context under consideration and see if it is a fair description of a real Christian experience. If the portion, “there is none righteous,” applies to the Christian, then certainly the context applies to the Christian also. We will take them in their order.

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” If, then, there is none righteous, then none of them understand or seek after God.

“They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” We must abide by the context; so, all Christians are gone out of the way, are unprofitable, and none of them do good, no, not one.

“Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips."  What a description of a Christian!  His mouth is an open sepulcher, using deceit with his tongue, and having the poison of asps is under his lips.”

“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” And this a Christian!

“Their feet are swift to shed blood.” A dangerous class of people, that. All this applies to the Christian, if the first part does.

“Destruction and misery are in all their ways.” All the ways of a Christian are destruction, and their lives are filled with misery. This is certainly a very dark picture, and not much in it to lure one on to embrace it.

“And the way of peace have they not known.” Take the medicine, brother, if you claim that there is none righteous. There is no peace then in the Christian’s heart or life. He has never known such a thing.

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” With a reckless, fearless, don’t-care manner, he proceeds on the evil tenor of his way. All this applying to the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who, that professes to be a Christian, is willing to lay claim to such a catalogue of sins as his experience? If the first statement, “there is none righteous,” applies to him, then all the rest apply to him also, for the subject is not changed until we come to the close of the clause, “there is no fear of God before their eyes.”

A little further on it says, “For there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So, we see that it is simply showing forth man’s condition in ‘his unregenerate or sinful state.

Coming ‘back to the beginning of this description, we find these words, “As it is written,” and then follows that very accommodative text, with which so many have allowed the devil to morphine them. “It is written.” Where is it written? These statements are taken from the 14th and 53d Psalms, and the 59th chapter of Isaiah. In all of these places the context makes it plain that the reference is to the unregenerate people. Especially does Isaiah make this plain. He says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” Then follows the place where it is written, as we see in Romans, 3d chapter. But that this is not a necessary experience, incapable of being overcome, the verse just preceding the one quoted from Isaiah says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that He will not hear.”

This cuts off all escape, and leaves one without any excuse for pleading for unrighteousness. Thin catalogue of sins is arrayed against them because they have allowed sin to come in between them and God. But He declares that His hand is not too short to save nor His ear too deaf to hear.

The very fact that David, Isaiah and Paul all use this language to illustrate the sinner’s life, proves that his heart is just the same, no matter when and where you find it. All the way down the ages it is just the same. There never was and never will be any improvement till it is improved by the cleansing blood of Jesus. The world is not growing any better, only as hearts come in contact with Him that is “mighty to save.”

Dear reader, do not hide behind some refuge that will not stand the test of the judgment day. Beware how you plead for sin, lest you may not be able to pass muster on that great day of days.