“[Paul] shows extraordinary pessimism concerning the human potential to do the good apart from Christ, but equally extraordinary optimism concerning the possibilities of his communities to fulfill the will of God [through the empowerment of the Spirit]. His categorical claim that ‘no one is righteous’ (Romans 3:10) is without parallel in both the [pagan] philosophical tradition and Jewish literature. However, he assures his communities that if they walk by the Spirit they will not be overcome by the desire of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), and he assumes that his readers will keep the commandments.” (James W. Thompson, Moral Formation According to Paul: The Context and Coherence of Pauline Ethics, p. 6)
What jumped out at me about this way of putting the matter is how our natural “instincts” as Christians today is so often the very opposite of this. We tend to have trouble grasping how those who are outside of Christ could really stand in such desperate need of God’s redemptive grace in the gospel, as they already seem to be (quite self-evidently) pretty “nice” people, while we tend to have quite low expectations for our own struggle with sin and the pursuit of newly transformed lives that are qualitatively different from the “way-of-being-in-the-world” that is experienced by those who do not follow Jesus. Are we willing to have our intuitions reformed under the guidance of Scripture, our moral imaginations newly reawakened and refreshed?