Ruin, Misery, and Bloodshed

Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”

- Romans 3:15–17

Head to toe, there is no part of us that is not affected by sin. Outside of Christ, we are under the dominion of sin, and it rules and reigns over us (Rom. 3:9). There is no area where wickedness has not penetrated our bodies and souls. Our minds are darkened by sin so that we lack understanding and suppress God’s truth (v. 11; see 1:21). Our mouths and throats are consumed by sin, and we lie and destroy with our poisonous tongues (3:13–14). Even our hands are inclined to transgression, and all that we do is wicked before the bar of our Creator’s impartial justice (v. 12). Today’s passage also makes it clear that even our feet are corrupted so that we are “swift to shed blood” and walk down paths of “ruin and misery,” not the “way of peace” (vv. 15–17).

Paul’s citations in Romans 3:15–17 are drawn from Isaiah 59:7–8, where the prophet, in keeping with much Old Testament precedent, uses the imagery of walking and pathways to signify the orientation of life and the practice of virtue or vice (see Deut. 8:6; Ps. 81:13). In this case, Isaiah describes Israel’s flagrant transgression of the covenant with the Lord, which makes it the perfect passage for Paul to use to prove that the Jews are no less guilty than the Gentiles of breaking God’s law. Human beings, indeed, are “swift to shed innocent blood” (Isa. 59:7). All one has to do is look briefly at world history to see how often greedy empires and despots have launched wars and murdered innocent civilians in the process. Today the scourge of abortion-on-demand kills millions of unborn children every year in the West. Yet we are all guilty of bloodshed even if we are not directly involved in these transgressions. Jesus Himself tells us that we have broken the commandment against murder if we harbor hatred in our hearts toward others (Matt. 5:21–26). Paul was not the first to use the law of the Lord to demonstrate how deep our fallenness really is. In Romans 1–3, he is following the example of his Master in exposing the deep and pervasive corruption of all people in Adam.

In Adam, our feet are swift to shed blood. That is the bad news of sin that prepares us to understand why we need a righteousness from God if we are to stand before Him unafraid (Rom. 1:16–17). The good news of the gospel is that the Lord provides this righteousness in Christ alone. In Christ, the feet that shed blood can be transformed into couriers that bring God’s good news to the world (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15).

Coram Deo

Although there is a decisive break with our past lives at conversion so that the power of sin is broken, the gospel is not something we need only at that point. As we continue to sin and shed blood through hating others, we are in continual need of forgiveness and the reminder that we still fall short of God’s glory. Repent this day over ungodly anger and hatred and confess your ongoing need for the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 6:16–19
Nahum 1:15
Mark 7:14–23
James 4:1–12

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343