by Mark Robinson
Visual images are powerful teachers. The faculty of a Nursing School in Auckland, New Zealand knew this . . . that is why they used it to teach one set of nursing students a valuable lesson.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was attending this school when her class was receiving some instruction on the importance of washing their hands while preparing for service. Without informing the students of the experiment that they were about to undertake, the professor told the students to wash their hands well, then proceed to the examination room. After washing their hands, the young nursing students walked into the examination room where they found the overhead lights turned off. The only light that pierced the darkness of the room was a simple black light that was wanded over their now “clean” hands. The visual that ensued is an image those students will not soon forget. The black light revealed lots of dirt, soap residue, and other possible contaminants all over the newly washed hands of the nurses. The lesson was clear . . . your hands are not as clean as you think they are. A more thorough cleaning is necessary to prevent contamination and illness.
Romans 1:18-3:20 is one continuous argument. The point of this section of Paul’s letter to the Romans was to reveal all humanity as lost, sinful, and separated from God. The irreligious, moral, and religious people of the world ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard. If the only verses we had in the Bible were Romans 1:18-3:20, we would ascertain that all humanity is sinful and separated from God with no hope of ever achieving salvation. This is made clear as Romans 3:9 summarizes, “We have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.”
To say it another way, on our own, all people (whether they feel clean or not) are dirty before God. These verses are like a black light to vividly reveal to us our sinfulness. Our holy God cannot be contaminated by our sinful residue, so without an appropriate cleaner, humanity has no hope of salvation or a lasting relationship with God.
Thankfully, Romans 1:18-3:20 are not the only verses in the Bible. Thankfully, these are not the only verses even in the letter Paul gave to the Romans! Romans 3:1-20 share with us the bad news to prepare us for the GOOD NEWS that God wants us to know about in 3:21-ff.
Jesus is the One and only cleaner who can cleanse us from our sin and present us spotless and without blemish under any black light available. It is only in Christ that we have hope, and Paul will explain that in great detail beginning in 3:21.
For now, however, in the course of our study of Romans, we need to allow the “black light” of these verses to fulfill their intended effect. Allow this visual to teach each of us a lasting lesson — that apart from Christ, we are without hope. Thankfully, this is not all of the story.
To access the entire “Good News” study, click here.