“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)
“While the Father’s wrath is real, it should be noted that the atonement Christ made was not a case of the Son’s working against the Father’s will. It is not as if Christ were snatching His people out of the Father’s hand. The Son did not persuade the Father to save those whom the Father was loath to save. On the contrary, both Father and Son willed the salvation of the elect and worked together to bring it to pass. As the apostle Paul wrote, ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself’.” Dr. R. C. Sproul
This morning we examine Romans 3:23-24 which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” There are three truths to observe in these two verses.
First, all people are sinners. ““For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The reason Scripture gives for the necessity of the atonement of Jesus Christ is because everyone who has ever lived, is living, and will live are sinners. Sin is an active engagement in wrongdoing. It is doing anything which is contrary to the will and law of God. Everyone, from the greatest to the least, from the weak to the strong, male and female, young or old are all sinners.
To fall short means to not attain. It is the inability to obtain God’s blessings by one’s own righteousness. What is it that sinners fall short of? The glory, honor and praiseworthiness of God. This is what the Apostle Paul has insisted is the truth of man’s condition beginning at the very outset of the Epistle to the Romans (1:18- 3:20).
Second, sinners need for God to declare them righteous. “And are justified by his grace as a gift.” If a sinner’s plight is that they continue to fall short of God’s righteousness, then it is necessary for God to intervene. This is exactly what God has chosen to do. He has chosen to declare the sinner righteous by His grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Even though the sinner is guilty of sin, God imputes the righteous of Christ on the sinner’s behalf because the unrighteousness of the sinner was imputed upon Christ while He suffered on the cross. God’s motivation to do this is solely by His grace. Justification is a gracious gift from God.
Third, the only way for God to declare sinners righteous is through the person and work of Jesus Christ. “Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The redemption Christ alone provides is the basis by which sinners are justified. Redemption means to liberate, to deliver and to set free. This is freedom from the penalty, the power and eventually the presence of sin. The grammar indicates that the sinner’s deliverance is solely through Jesus Christ.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The imagery behind this Greek word comes from the ancient slave market. It meant paying the necessary ransom to obtain the prisoner or slave’s release. The only adequate payment to redeem sinners from sin’s slavery and its deserved punishment was “in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:18–19), and was paid to God to satisfy his justice.”
This payment for our justification because of our sin was when Jesus Christ died on the sinner’s behalf on the cross. That is the meaning of the cross. The cross’ specific meaning must not be diminished, discarded or demeaned.
I encourage you to meditate upon the lyrics of George Bennard’s (1873-1958) classic hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.
- On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.
- Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
- In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
- To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!