“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
Romans 3:23 – doesn’t it seem out of place?
To see why you must understand that from Romans 1-3 there are at least 4 different things that are said to be revealed. The first is the “righteousness of God”, that is the righteousness God credits to us through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the revelation, the “manifestation” that Paul is returning to in 1:21. He is returning to it because up to this point he has emphasized two other revelations. In 1:18 Paul says “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” This wrath is being manifest against man because man has rejected yet another revelation – the revelation of God’s attributes communicated to man by creation (1:19-20). The fourth revelation is that in God’s providing and manifesting this gospel righteousness He was also “showing” His righteousness that He might be “just and the justifier (3:25b-26).” He wasn’t just providing a righteousness, He was magnifying Himself as righteousness. He doesn’t pass over sins, He deals with them.
So up to 3:21 Paul has been emphasizing our depravity which evokes the wrath of God. “But now” then introduces the gospel, it introduces good news. In light of this doesn’t 3:23 seem like a retrogression? It isn’t that I don’t believe that it is true, but isn’t it out of place? Shouldn’t it come before the “but now,” not after? Why is 3:23 here and not there? The answer lies in understanding who “all” is. Romans 3:23 by itself is true of all humanity, but that isn’t who “all” is in 3:23. The “all” who are sinners are said to be justified in 3:24. The “all” in 3:23 is the same “all” of 3:22 – they are believers. All of us who believe and are justified are sinners, that is why “there is no distinction (3:22).”
If you have grown up in church and “done” everything, you bring nothing more to the table than the most repulsive sinner. The only thing any of us bring to the table is pure grotesque sin. You don’t add one ounce to the megatons of righteousness that are yours in Christ alone. You are not more accepted or loved by God because of your prayers, church attendance, denominational affiliation, offerings, ministry, good deeds, walking an isle, being baptized, partaking of communion, going to church camp, listening to and singing the right kind of music, attending a small group, being accountability or avoiding certain sins. There is no distinction! If you appear just before God it is wholly because of an alien righteousness which you graciously receive through faith in Jesus Christ. The righteousness you have before God, magnifies Him, not you. It is a righteousness you have before God and from God.
Sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, sola Deo Gloria!
By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, tot eh glory of God alone!