When Paul said in Romans that “no one is good not even one” (Rom. 3.10) he was referring to the intrusion of radical depravity into the world through sin. Humility is not a virtue that commends the natural man to God. Meek and mild people are not necessary humble before God, in fact, they cannot be humble before God because that would be pleasing to God, something they could not do:
Romans 8:6–7 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because
the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
This passage precludes the idea that anyone, while in the flesh (the sphere of unbelief and sin) can do that which is spiritually pleasing to God. If we have a view of evangelism that states, we should preach the good news of the gospel only after people have shown signs of humility, we fail to see how holy God is and how sinful man is in His sight. The radical depravity of man is precisely why hardened, haughty, and hostile sinners need the heart-breaking gospel— they need a new heart (Jer. 31.33; Ezk. 36.26).
The apostle Paul preached to Gentiles who were far from humble, they were “haters of God” (Rom. 1.30). In fact, it is precisely in the context of this hostility that God’s indescribable gift through Jesus Christ shines the brightest. Romans goes on to paint a deep, dark and desperate picture of human depravity and their inability to know God without the intervention of His sovereign grace:
Romans 1:28–32 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
This is why both Peter (1 Pet. 5.5) and James (Jam. 4.6) use the OT responsibly when they allude to Proverbs (3.34). They are referring to ecclesiastical matters not to the preaching of the gospel in evangelism. The lost are lost, they are hostile and blind to their enmity. This is why grace comes to the worst and the last, not because they are humble but precisely because they are hateful:
Titus 3:3–5 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
Paul was converted as an ignorant, blaspheming, persecutor and violent aggressor (1 Tim. 1.13-14) not a “humble sinner.” He was shown mercy because he was “ignorant” which means
that he was blind to his pride and hostility. But notice that he was shown “mercy” and “love.” If we mistake a person’s demeanor with a person’s depravity, like the hyper-Calvinists, we make the mistake of looking for “signs” of grace that “qualify” who hears the gospel and who does not. Next we will look at how the gospel itself brings sinners under conviction of sin.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.