What Romans 3:23 Does Not Establish about Guilt by Association

December 6, 2022

The notion that everything made by humans “has guilty associations” that are relevant because of Romans 3:23 is a faulty notion.1 Consider what Scripture teaches in the following passages about something that certain humans made or used.

The Holy Anointing Oil

God commanded certain humans to make this holy anointing oil:

Exodus 30:25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.

All the humans that ever obeyed this command had “sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Nonetheless, God commanded them to make an oil that God declared was holy. In obedience to God, many people in Israel’s history made this holy oil.

Asserting that this holy anointing oil had “guilty associations” because of Romans 3:23 because those who made it were sinners does not establish anything of relevance or significance concerning divine acceptance of the legitimate human making of that oil and of the legitimate human use of that oil for the purposes for which God commanded that it would be used in His service.

The Sacrifices of Cain and Abel

From the standpoint of Romans 3:23, both Cain and Abel were humans who had “sinned and come short of the glory of God.” God, however, accepted Abel and his sacrifice, but did not accept Cain and his sacrifice:

Gen. 4:3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

Clearly, the notion that everything “has guilty associations” because of Romans 3:23 is a faulty and irrelevant notion for explaining God’s differing responses to the worship offerings and activities of these two sinful humans.

A Woman’s Anointing Jesus with Spikenard

Mark 14 provides another passage that refutes the faulty notion that everything “has guilty associations” based on the teaching of Romans 3:23:

Mark 14:3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. . . .

6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. . . .

8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

A woman anointed Jesus with some very precious ointment of spikenard. Scripture does not reveal anywhere that there were any divine commands for her to do so. We know, therefore, that the divine acceptance of her use of that ointment was not because she was doing something that God had commanded to be done.

Furthermore, because Scripture does not provide any evidence that Jesus Himself made the ointment, we know that whoever formulated or compounded the ointment was a sinner. The woman who applied the ointment to Jesus was also a sinner.

Nonetheless, Jesus declared that she “wrought a good work on” Him. Undeniably, therefore, what she did was acceptable to God, and the manmade product that she used to do what she did was acceptable to God for use in the way that she used it.

Any possible considerations about the ointment or the woman or her actions having “guilty associations” because of Romans 3:23 were totally irrelevant and are of no significance for our understanding that what she did with something made by sinful humans was acceptable to God and did not have any “guilty associations” worth considering or mentioning.


The treatment above of three passages shows clearly how Scripture itself refutes the notion that everything “has guilty associations” that are relevant and must be taking into account because of Romans 3:23. Arguing on such a basis and in such a manner is unbiblical and invalid.

1 This post combines and expands on material from three posts that I made in a discussion on Sharper Iron.

Copyright © 2011-2024 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.



Copyright © 2011-2024 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.