I had nothing to say. I had done the deed and was caught. I knew the rules and I had thought it through. I had calculated the punishment and decided it was worth the risks. So, even though underage, I took my parents car on a joy ride with my friend Greg. The adventure went well until we stopped at a convenient store to get a chocolate milk and a honey bun (staple foods for a teenager). Backing out of the store onto the road, I collided with another car. I couldn’t risk being caught, so, in a panic, I fled the scene. Of course, the last thing I saw in the rearview mirror was someone on foot chasing the car and memorizing the license plate number. The police were called, I was busted and I now faced not only my parents, but also the law enforcement officers. And more than that, one of the passengers in the car I hit – an elderly woman – passed away later that day as a result of a heart episode.
I was 15 years old and in more trouble than I could have ever imagined. I will never know if my stupidity caused that dear woman’s death, but there I was: speechless… guilty before God, my parents and the law.
And I was guiltier than I had ever imagined I would be. The rest of the story is best told at another time, but suffice it to say, I was horrified and I knew in that moment what it felt like to be completely guilty and completely without excuse.
In Romans chapter three, Paul is pointing out when we get a glimpse of things the way they really are, the end result is: we are speechless, guilty and without excuse before God. It is not popular to hold this position these days. Our culture is self-destructing because of its insistence we are all good at heart and there are no universal standards of right and wrong. But the truth of God does not change. Paul asserts that, not only we as individuals, but everyone who draws breath in the entire world for all of history is in the same boat. We are all guilty and speechless before God. If we are honest, we realize we all fall short of the glory of God.
But the story does not end there. Paul goes on to give the remedy; it is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although we are all guilty and without excuse, God has “justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
Our righteousness comes apart from the law – which is good news, since none of us have ever kept the law fully. Our righteousness comes from God’s own righteousness imputed to us through his sinless Son, Jesus Christ. And we are now justified – made right with God – freely through the gift of Jesus Christ.
Now, because of this gift from the loving heart of the Father, we have another reason to be speechless before God. Before we were speechless because of guilt; now we are speechless because of God’s astonishing grace. In awe and wonder we stand amazed and dumbfounded before the mercy of God. Paul said it well in 2 Cor. 9:15: “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”