Thoughts on the Epistle to the Romans (59)

Jesus disputes with the Pharisees over cleanliness, from the Bowyer Bible, 19th century.

Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practised deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

Romans 3:13.14.

Following the assertion that even the Jews come “under sin”, the apostle Paul adds concrete proofs taken from the Old Testament. First of all everything that people say comes under examination. Their throat is likened to a cavernous tomb full of the bones of the dead, causing defilement and the stench of decay. A glance at the media verifies undeniably that these verses hold up a mirror before us at the present time and indicate God-given, eternally valid standards.

Tongues practising deceit will express friendliness and esteem, although behind one’s back there is unrestrained criticism. Is this not a trait of social life even today? Just as vipers keep their poison hidden behind their lips (and their teeth lying at rest, but ready to attack spontaneously), so can man’s words offend and harm precipitously and dangerously.

Curses and bitter words are also typical of the world. Not that everyone uses expletives or curses regularly, but in the course of time people’s words reveal what is in their hearts. Jesus Christ said, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart … evil thoughts, … false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18.19). Whoever does not possess new life, i.e. life from God, can be influenced by the poison of sin without hindrance. It comes to light in what he says.

Image: By Phillip Vere – (.pdf) “An illustrated commentary on the Gospel of Mark”. By Phillip Medhurst. .pdf file, FAL,