Nothing keeps people away from Christ more than their inability to see their need of him or their unwillingness to admit it.
- In that condition of self-righteousness they will never come to Christ.
- Deny the problem, and nothing can be done about it;
- Admit the problem, and at once there is the possibility of a solution.
- He begins by reminding each group of their knowledge of God and of goodness.
- He then confronts them with the uncomfortable fact that they have not lived up to their knowledge.
- Instead, they have deliberately suppressed it, even contradicted it, by continuing to live in unrighteousness. And therefore they are guilty, inexcusably guilty, before God. Nobody can plead innocence, because nobody can plead ignorance.
- First (1:18-32), he portrays *depraved Gentile society* in its idolatry, immorality and antisocial behaviour.
- Secondly, (2:1-16), he addresses *critical moralizers* (whether Gentiles or Jews), who profess high ethical standards and apply them to everybody except themselves.
- Thirdly, (2:17-3:8), he turns to *self-confident Jews*, who boast of their knowledge of God’s law, but do not obey it.
- Fourthly, (3:9-20), he encompasses *the whole human race* and concludes that we are all guilty and without excuse before God.
Throughout this long passage, in which the apostle gradually but relentlessly builds his case, he never loses sight of the good news of Christ. Indeed, ‘the righteousness of God’ (that is, as we have seen, his righteous way of ‘righteoussing’ the unrighteous) is the only possible context in which he could dare to expose the squalor of human unrighteousness, In 1:17 he has stated that ‘in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed’. In 3:21 he will repeat his statement almost word for word: ‘But now a ighteousness from God...has been made known.’ It is between these two great affirmations of the revelation of God’s gracious righteousness that Paul sandwiches his terrible exposure of human unrighteousness (1:8 - 3:20).