TO THE CHOIRMASTER. OF DAVID.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. (Psalm 14:1-7)
While there are plenty of troubling truths in this psalm, we don’t want to miss the good news peaking through the darkness. Perhaps you noticed that verses 4 and 5 mention a group of people who appear to stand apart from the foolish, corrupt, ignorant God-deniers. In verse 4, the Lord refers to “my people” (Ps 14:4). Then, verse 5 says, “God is with the generation of the righteous” (Ps 14:5). Finally, verse 7 says, “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad” (Ps 14:7).
Who are these people, and how did they become righteous if there is none who does good, not even one? (Ps 14:3). To answer those questions, let’s go to Romans 3, where the apostle Paul quotes this psalm.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20)
Paul quotes Psalm 14 and several other Old Testament passages here to establish one very simple point. We are all guilty sinners. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile. It doesn’t matter whether you are a moralist or an atheist. You stand guilty before God and his law.
Then again, evidently, there are exceptions. Psalm 14 speaks of the righteous, God’s people. Who are they? How did the escape the terror to come? Let’s continue reading here in Romans 3.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
Notice how Paul reiterates our guilt yet again. There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:22, 23). He doesn’t want anyone to deceive himself into thinking he is inherently righteous or can become righteous if only he does enough good works. We are all guilty, but praise be to God, there’s a way out. We can escape our guilt and the terror to come. We can escape the fallen family of Adam and enter into the righteous family of God. How so?
Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone.
We can be justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood (Ro 3:24, 25). By propitiation, Paul means Jesus assuaged God’s wrath against us by suffering it in our place. We can be justified and declared innocent by God because Jesus was innocent, born sinless, keeping God’s law perfectly throughout his entire life, and suffering God’s wrath in our place. Then, just as God treated his Son as guilty, he looks at us through his Son’s blood and treats us as innocent.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2Co 5:21). We are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood—and notice this last phrase—to be received by faith (Ro 3:24, 25).
What did God rhetorically ask in Psalm 14? “Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who do not call upon the LORD?” (Ps 14:4). That’s the escape. That’s our means to salvation. We are not righteous by birth. We cannot become righteous through our efforts in this life. But we can, by God’s grace, call upon him for mercy. We can turn to him for salvation. We can trust that he can and will save us through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Ro 3:24). We can receive justification before him by faith (Ro 3:25).
Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
In 1908, a national newspaper asked several authors to answer the question, “What is wrong with the world?” G.K. Chesterton’s reply was the shortest one submitted to the paper. He simply wrote, “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton”.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyhow. If we will sincerely turn to God in faith, calling upon him for mercy and grace, seeking his salvation, then we must first admit we are sinners. Until we realize we are the fool of Psalm 14, we will have no reason to see the LORD as our refuge and seek to become part of the generation of the righteous (Ps 14:6, 5). We must first know we are the problem.