“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)
When you come to Christ, you do not come to give, you come to receive. You do not come to try your best, you come to trust. You do not come just to be helped, but to be rescued. You do not come to be made better, you come to be made alive!
God does what we cannot do.
And all may come, regardless of their background and past failures. The only condition is simple belief. It’s by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
And everyone’s in the same boat. “All Have sinned.” In other words, we have all committed acts of personal sin. To “fall short” (present tense) speaks of continually lacking the glory of God. The biblical concept of sin is any failure to glorify God.
It’s missing what God wants in our lives.
But look at that word “justifies.” It’s the doctrine for which Romans is most famous—and rightly so. Paul uses some form of the verb “justify” fifteen times in Romans. Justification is a legal term that means “to declare righteous.”
On account of the person and work of Jesus Christ, we are declared as good as God. Justification is both instantaneous and irreversible. The moment we believe in Jesus Christ, we’re on the other side of judgment day. It’s a done deal.
It’s not just forgiveness. It’s more. If a teacher cancels out an “F” you got on an exam, that’s forgiveness. However, if your teacher declares your “F” to be an “A+” that is the equivalent of what it means to be justified!
It’s not the same as pardon. It’s more. A pardon covers sins of the past. No judge has ever issued a pardon for future crimes! Justification deals with the sins of the past, present, and the future too.
It’s not a return to innocence. It’s a state of righteousness, not innocence. The fact that we’ve sinned and continue to fall short is the basis for the greatness of what God has done in justification.
And it’s all sheer gift. The word translated “gift” (dorea) can also be translated “freely” (as here) or “for nothing.” In John 15:25, this same word is used when it’s said that Jesus was hated “without a cause.” There was nothing in Jesus that deserved hatred, and there’s nothing in us that deserves salvation. We can’t earn God’s approval with good deeds . Ever.
An advert for the Marines shows a sword, and beneath it the words: “Earned, never given.” That is to say, if you want to become a Marine,you earn the right through sacrifice, hardship, and training. If you get it, you deserve it. But if you want to become a Christian, you must have the exact opposite attitude, for the message of the gospel is: “Given, never earned.”
And it’s “by His grace.” Grace is a giant step beyond mercy. Mercy is not getting what we deserve (i.e., death, hell). Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve (e.g., eternal life, heaven).
Grace is all one-sided. I like the old acronym: Grace is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” The reason you and I have salvation is on account of God’s grace. It’s because of Jesus—it’s all about His person and work.
God does what we cannot do.