Romans 3:22-24 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Verse 23 is one of the “proof text” verses many Christians have memorized as part of the “Roman Road” of evangelism/salvation. That’s not bad, but we always need to read Scripture in context, so I’m glad the NIV doesn’t use verse numbers as sentence divisions. (The Japanese puts a period at the end of 22, but 23 and 24 are part of the same sentence, so 23 by itself leaves you hanging.) Verse 23 is a statement of our guilt, and that is indeed important. If we don’t understand we need salvation, we aren’t going to receive it. However, Paul’s point is much bigger than that. In verse 22 he says, “There is no difference.” The Japanese is even more specific: “There is no discrimination.” Racial discrimination has been a problem with mankind at least as far back as recorded history. In the early Church, the whole question of whether Gentiles were even eligible for salvation was a major issue that God had to deal with rather dramatically, first with Peter individually (Acts 10) and then with two major Church Councils. (Acts 11 and 15) Paul was in a sense the instigator of the second of those Councils, so there neither was nor is any question of his position on the issue. Here, verse 23 gives the diagnosis, but verse 24 gives the remedy, and that is justification by faith. We tend to choke on that word, taking it as theological and difficult, but it actually is much more common than we think. Legally speaking, we speak of “justifiable homicide” in the case of killing someone in self defense. Many years ago I heard justification, as in this verse, explained as “just-as-if-I’d never sinned.” That may not cut it with your English teacher, (and I am one) but it’s not a bad explanation in terms of the spiritual reality of salvation. Paul’s point, that every human being needs to grasp, is that absolutely everyone is in need of salvation, and it is equally available to us all through faith in Jesus Christ. The first half of that might sound like bad news, but it’s just recognizing reality. The second half is Good News indeed, which is why it’s called the Gospel.
I have perhaps more understanding of this than many people, because at one point I had the stupidity to feel that my pedigree made me “more eligible” for salvation than others. NO! There is NO DIFFERENCE. I am just as much in need of God’s grace as a mass murderer. I am thankful that God has kept me from being a mass murderer or anything similar, and I am grateful for my spiritual heritage, but the absolute purity of God means that the slightest sin disqualifies us completely from being united with Him. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross for me, to cleanse me from all my sin. And He has given me understanding that the cross is enough to atone for any sin, even mass murder. Repentance is painful to our pride, but it is absolutely glorious, because it opens us up to all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. That is my message, and I am to proclaim it far and wide.
Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. We have seen many people on this trip, and all of them have been in need of repentance in some way – and that includes us! I ask Your grace and mercy for us all, that the tricks and traps of the devil may be defeated and we all walk in the completed work of Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!