We’ve all heard it for years. Christians have heard it. Non-Christians have heard it. And guess what? We’ve thoroughly missed the point.
So, what have we heard?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Can you name the chapter and verse from which this comes? Neither could I, until I grabbed my Bible. (Okay, some of you could name it. Kudos!!) This often quoted (for the purpose of shoving religion down someone’s throat, along with various other reasons) verse is just a portion of Romans 3:22-24. The verses in their entirety are as follows: “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 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.
And that’s the rub, my friends. Because we’ve failed to tell this portion of Scripture in context, we’ve lost people at the period. We’ve offered no hope to people after telling them that we’re all failures.
For years, out of ignorance, I believed that what I had always heard quoted was the verse in its entirety. And, I’m willing to bet that many others who have heard this believed much the same. That’s the problem with a lot of us, believers and non-believers alike. We believe what we hear from others because they are perceived as “holier than thou,” yet we fail to fact-check.
It’s true that sin exists.
It’s true that we’ve all sinned. All. Of. Us.
It’s true that because of this sin we all fall short of what God had in mind for each of us to be before the fall.
It’s true that there are consequences for sin.
Guess what else is true. GRACE.
According to the study notes in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, Paul used the Greek verb for justified 27 times. This justification happened when Christ canceled the guilt of our sin by way of his obedience through death on the cross. We are justified by our faith and not by the expectation of fulfillment of the Old Testament law. Jesus came to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17).
We are justified freely by his grace. Freely. No strings. Only one condition; that we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and agree to follow him. That’s it. That’s all.
He did the rest. He paid our penalty. He fought our fight.
Because Jesus was obedient, we can walk in freedom.
What now? We move the period to its proper place. When we tell people that ALL have sinned, we remember to tell them that ALL can be justified. We tell them that, according to verse 22 of Romans 3, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
Oh, and one more thing. Fact check. The only person in this world whose words we can, and should, take of faith is Jesus. If your sister says, “The Bible says…,” if your friend says, “The Bible says…,” if your pastor (gasp) says, “The Bible says…,” you had better check for yourself what the Bible says. If you still don’t get it: pray.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”