19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
The quotations from the Old Testament are finished. Paul now concludes his argument about the universal sinfulness of man with a discussion of the law. Verses 19 and 20 conclude the argument from Romans 1:18, showing that man cannot measure up to God’s righteous standards.
Verses 19 and 20 bring us to the conclusion of the first main section of Romans (1:18-3:20).
Now we [no specific group] know [generally conceded as an obvious truth] that [purpose] whatever the law [all Scripture—note quotations above from other passages than the Mosaic law] says [says in substance], it says to those [everyone] who are under [within the scope of] the law,
Paul appeals to common knowledge of those who know the Bible—“we know.” The principle of the law (Scripture) is to show that everyone is under God’s standards. Man is accountable to God’s revelation. It is important that we know that keeping the law cannot save our souls. This is in the realm of the law, that is, within the jurisdiction of Scripture.
that every mouth may be stopped,
The purpose of the law was to stop every mouth’s justification for the sin issue. The stopping of mouths is a metaphor for preventing people from speaking. The authority of the Bible puts an end to rationalization. This is a purpose of the law. If Jews cannot keep the law, then certainly Gentiles cannot keep it. No one can justify their sin due to overwhelming evidence from God’s Word. People are left in silence after the revelation of God’s mind to the mind of man. This shuts our mouths and forces us to listen to God’s Word. The Word of God takes away every excuse man might offer.
and all the world [mankind] may become guilty [literally under judgment, answerable] before God [in His presence].
The word “become” means to become something it was not before. Scriptures made apparent the sin of man, which was not patent to his thinking. Sin was made to be seen for what it is through revelation. The thought that the Scriptures apply only to the Jews was wrong. The jurisdiction of Scripture covers Jews and Gentiles alike.
No one can claim that they are not under sin. Every one is liable to God’s judgment. This is the only occurrence of the Greek word “guilty” in the New Testament. The word means answerable, or accountable. People are under the judicial action of God. The whole world is accountable to Jewish Scripture. The Jew and the Gentile both stand under God’s judgment because of their sin. There is no evidence left to plead the case of anyone.
God in His court declares mankind guilty on all charges. No defense attorney can argue against God’s case. There is no ground for acquittal. Everyone universally stands in need of God’s unadulterated grace.
The law is impotent to save the soul.
The purpose of the law is to make people aware of their sins, their failure to measure up to God’s righteousness. The resolve of the law is to stir the conscience about violating God’s standard, which is an absolute standard. Scripture shows man’s inability to live up to the criteria that God requires. It is impossible for people to live up to God’s requirements, for He demands absolute perfection.
God’s revelation is like a mirror that reflects our true condition. If our face is dirty the mirror will show it. It will drive us to soap and water, the solution to a dirty face. We cannot use the mirror to cleanse our face but we only use it for the purpose of revealing the state of our face. The solution is soap and water, not the mirror. The purpose of knowing God’s standard is to find the solution to our sins—the death of Christ on the cross to pay for our sins.
Ga 2:16, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Ga 3:10-12, 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
This passage shows the absoluteness of keeping the law. This absoluteness is futile for anyone’s attempt to use the law as a way of salvation:
Jas 2:10, For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
In other words, if a person does not keep the law perfectly, God will not justify or vindicate him. This shows the uselessness of earning our way to heaven by works and the need for God’s saving grace in Christ.