By Femi Aribisala,
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul found it necessary to answer his critics: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
But this is far from the truth. Paul is an expert at distorting the word of God and at using the scriptures deceitfully. In Romans 3:10-18, Paul cuts and pastes together six different Old Testament scriptures in order to make the case that no one is righteous in the sight of God. He does this out of his insistence that righteousness can only be imputed to men as a result of Jesus’ allegedly sacrificial death.
However, in doing this, he distorts every single scripture he quotes in the confidence that his largely non-Jewish audience would be none the wiser. These distortions become apparent as we disaggregate and examine the original scriptures he supposedly refers to one by one.
Paul borrows his first few verses from Psalm 14:1-3: “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’” (Romans 3:10-12).
However, Paul is being deliberately misleading. David’s position in the original psalm is not that everybody in the world is unrighteous, as Paul would have us believe. While David begins as Paul quotes by talking about the unrighteous, he then goes on to talk about the righteous; the very people Paul is trying to convince us do not exist. David later observes that: “God is with the generation of THE RIGHTEOUS.” (Psalm 14:5). Therefore, this psalm does not in any way support Paul’s bogus doctrine that all men are wicked.
Paul then takes the next part of his hatchet job from Psalm 5:9: “Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit.” (Romans 3:13a). Here again, the psalmist has a completely different viewpoint from what Paul ascribes to him. While in the verse Paul cites, the psalmist applies his invective to his enemies; he then proceeds to talk about the righteous, the people Paul says are non-existent: “For you, O LORD, will bless THE RIGHTEOUS; with favour you will surround him as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12).
Paul is deceitful
Paul continues with a line taken from Psalm 140:3: “The poison of asps is under their lips.” (Romans 3:13b). But here yet again, David is only talking about his enemies. He soon goes on to differentiate the righteous from the wicked: “Surely THE RIGHTEOUS shall give thanks to your name; THE UPRIGHT shall dwell in your presence.” (Psalm 140:13).
Paul then quotes Psalm 10:7: “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Romans 3:14). But we need to ask the same question: does the psalmist apply this as a blanket attribute for all men as Paul would have us believe? The answer is No! Here again, the psalmist differentiates between the righteous and the wicked by identifying “the innocent:” “He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders THE INNOCENT.” (Psalm 10:8).
Paul is dishonest
Paul now shifts from psalmists to Isaiah 59:7-8: “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.” (Romans 3:15-17). But we know Isaiah does not agree with Paul’s position because the prophet acknowledges the existence of the righteous in his writings: “THE RIGHTEOUS perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that THE RIGHTEOUS is taken away from evil.” (Isaiah 57:1).
Finally, Paul ends with a quotation from Psalm 36:1: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18). But, here again, David does not agree with him in applying this feature to every human being because he goes on to identify the “upright in heart.” He says to God: “Oh, continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, and your righteousness to THE UPRIGHT in heart.” (Psalm 36:10).
Can we still say “there is none righteous, no, not one,” according to scripture? Certainly not! Thereby, a major plank of Paul’s doctrine falls to the ground.
The righteous exist
Paul says: “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9). But if only the righteous will inherit and all are unrighteous, where then will Paul find the righteous to inherit the kingdom? This leads to the fallacy that God justifies the ungodly: “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). It also leads Paul to conclude erroneously that Jesus saves sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus contradicts Paul by saying there are many righteous men: “Truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them.” (Matthew 13:17). Indeed, the righteous are referred to over 139 times in the bible. Jesus says there are “just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7). Therefore, he says he gives his life “as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); and not, as Paul says erroneously, “as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:6).
In fact, Jesus completely destroys Paul’s doctrine of original-sin by saying Abel, the direct son of Adam, was righteous: “On you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Berachiah, whom you killed between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:34-35).
How did Abel lose his sin-nature when he was not washed in the blood of the lamb? Simple: he never had it. Jesus says: “A good tree does not bear bad fruit.” (Luke 6:43). This means a good man does not have a sinful nature. Furthermore, he says all little children belong to the kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3). That means babies are not born in sin. Solomon confirms we are created “upright.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Moses also maintains we are not born corrupt: we corrupt ourselves. (Deuteronomy 32:5). According to him, children “have no knowledge of good or evil.” (Deuteronomy 1:39).
It is wrong for Paul to give Christians the impression that it is impossible to be righteous when God insists we must be righteous. Throughout the scriptures, God’s main purpose is to call men to righteousness. Jesus says: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness! For they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). But Paul’s doctrine militates against this kingdom imperative. What would be the point if no one can be righteous? Why bother if Jesus’ righteousness will be imputed to us anyway?
Jesus’ doctrine of salvation says all men can be righteous by repenting of sin. Therefore, we have no excuse but to strive to obey his injunction: “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48).