Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?

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Since the fall, no mere human has been able to keep the law of God perfectly, but consistently breaks it in thought, word, and deed.

Romans 3:10–12

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.

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.

Commentary

As a traveller, in his way meeting with a violent storm of thunder and rain, immediately turns out of his way to some house or tree for his shelter; but yet this causeth him not to give over his journey; so soon as the storm is over he returns to his way and progress again. So it is with men in bondage to sin: the law meets with them in a storm of thunder and lightning from heaven, terrifies and hinders them in their way; this turns them for a season out of their course; they will run to prayer or amendment of life, for some shelter from the storm of wrath which is feared coming upon their consciences. But is their course stopped? are their principles altered? Not at all; so soon as the storm is over…they return to their former course, in the service of sin again.

Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin, in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing of it, is at an end. The place of its habitation is unsearchable; and when we may think that we have thoroughly won the field, there is still some reserve remaining that we saw not, that we knew not of. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory; and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes against this enemy…. There is no way for us to pursue sin in its unsearchable habitation but by being endless in our pursuit.

John Owen (1616–1683). An English Puritan theologian, Owen went to Oxford University at 12 years of age, gained his MA at 19, and became a pastor at 21. Years later he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University. He preached to parliament the day after the execution of King Charles I, fulfilling the task without directly mentioning that event. He wrote numerous and voluminous works including historical treatises on religion and several studies on the Holy Spirit.

From “The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers” in The Works of John Owen, edited by Thomas Russell, Volume XIII (London: Richard Baynes, 1826), 200–201, 26.

Further Reading

“Original Sin” in Concise Theology, by J. I. Packer.

Prayer

O thou whose name is Emmanuel, our Lord and Sovereign: grace is poured into thy lips, and to thee belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against thee. We, who are no more worthy to be called thy servants, beseech thee to do away our transgressions. We confess that thou mightest cast us away for them, but do it not for thy name's sake. Our wisdom is gone, our power is gone, nor have we what we may call our own but sin, shame, and confusion of face for sin. Take pity upon us, 0 Lord, take pity upon us.

John Bunyan (1628–1688). Known as the tinker of Elstow, Bunyan underwent a dramatic conversion experience and became a leading Puritan preacher. As his popularity grew, Bunyan increasingly became a target for slander and libel and was eventually imprisoned. It was during his time in prison that he commenced his best known work The Pilgrim’s Progress, first printed in 1678.

From The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, by Dorothy M. Stewart (Louisville: John Knox, 2002), 49.