For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (KJV).
The first eight chapters of the book of Romans contain one of the best crafted arguments for how God brings a sinner from guilt to glory. The apostle Paul shows us the guilt of what we’ve done (1:1-5:11) and reveals the guilt of who we are (5:12-8:39). C.S. Lewis states that “the glory of God, and as our only means of glorifying Him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.” While such opposing states of guilt and glory are seen throughout the Epistle, they are set in great contrast in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” What a chasm, what a gulf lies between the sinner and the glory of God! One has no standard nor depth to which he could not sink, and the other has untold height and wonder. How can there be any good news for us in Romans 3:23? Let’s look closer.
First, we need to accept the truth that “all have sinned.” We might think this truth is blaringly clear when reading news headlines, but do we include ourselves in this statement? For those who consider themselves morally exceptional, this verse offers truth without exception – all people have sinned. To those who consider their lives to have met the standard, their judgment is clear – everyone has fallen short.
We often use the expression that humanity has “missed the mark” when it comes to reaching God’s glory. However, it would be far more accurate to say that humanity does not even know which target to aim at, let alone just missing it. In Romans 1, Paul describes people who exchange the glory of the immortal God for cheap taxidermy and tacky statues (images made like mortal man and animals). A glance at any media feed today shows that people still prefer their own image and ego over the glory of their Creator. Could there be any forgiveness or redemption for such a tragic transaction? Thank God the glorious gospel tells us there is!
Romans ends with a great doxology: “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ!” (16:27 ESV). Jesus Christ is the exception to the “all have sinned” of Romans 3:23. The Lord Jesus never sinned. More than that, Christ never fell short of any divine standard, but rather He was the standard. Romans 3:24 tells us that we were brought from guilt to glory, justified without any cause, because of God’s grace. Where my moral economics led me to exchange God’s glory for a decrepit, man-made trinket, God’s economics led Him to redeem the condemned sinner with His eternal Son. He did this by making the brightness of His glory, His Son, to be sin for His enemies.
In this great gospel text, we acknowledge our guilt has brought us awfully low, God’s glory is so very high, and yet His grace is greater than all our guilt. What an amazing plan God had in offering heaven’s standard for the sinner through His Son, and by lifting up His Son on a cross for all who had fallen short.