A current advertisement for car insurance features a band of 55+ people singing to a catchy tune, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger”, while they observe (but don’t offer help!) the struggles of younger people. Leaving aside the obvious and irritating condescension of the whole thing, the point is true: it’s much better to know than not to know.
When it comes to human sin we might ask the same question. Is it better to think (without certainty) that you might be right with God or to know that you’re definitely not right with him?
Paul is emphatic that it’s better to know than not to know. But it doesn’t leave us any better off. “There is no one who is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
But knowing is better than not knowing, because if you know then maybe you can avoid the danger. Paul will go on to explain that there is nothing we can do in ourselves to avoid the judgment we deserve for our sins, but Jesus has given us the free gift of righteousness through his death and resurrection. We can only avoid the danger through faith in Christ.
But if we are to cast our lot entirely with Jesus we must first know, with absolute certainty, that we are utterly sinful, completely condemned, without hope of self-justification. It’s only then that we will turn to the righteousness that is from God. This makes the message today one of the most important you will hear me preach.