Daily Devotion | Day 357
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood . . .” (Romans 3:23-25, NKJV).
What Paul wrote in Romans 3:23 has gained popularity in many Christian circles. In fact, many Christians know that passage by heart. Even those who have not memorized it are familiar with its words. Different people quote the Bible for different reasons and for different purposes. Romans 3:23 is one of the most misused passages of the New Testament. It is misused because it is often taken out of context. Paul said a lot of things in his Letter to the Romans, often explaining a point over several lines. Therefore, it is irresponsible, and even dangerous, to pull a line from Romans and try to make a case out of that line alone.
Some quote Romans 3:23 as a justification for the recurrence of sin in the believer’s life and for his inability to cease from all sin. For them, what Paul said in that passage amounts to something like this: “Christians still remain sinful people. Consequently, though we should not sin, all Christians will sin from time to time. Everyone falls short of the glory of God. No one is or can be perfect. No one can overcome sin completely; it is just by grace that we all can approach God through the blood of Jesus.” Because of this thinking, many Christians live far below their calling (and ability) to live holy and righteous. Furthermore, this way of reading Paul’s words is unfortunate, for it creates a conducive environment for sin to continue among believers. To successfully respond to our calling to be holy, it is important that we read Romans 3:23 in context.
First of all, when Paul said, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he was stating the past sinful condition of Jews and Gentiles. He was in no way suggesting that this would be the condition of those who believed in Christ. Paul said, “all have sinned;” he did not say, “all will continue to sin or remain sinners.” There is a big difference between the two. In Romans 3:23, Paul was not describing the born again life. In the born again life, Christians do not fall short of the glory of God. On the contrary, as Paul himself admits, “we all [Christians], with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory . . .” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Therefore, to use Romans 3:23 to explain (or justify) the recurrence of sin among Christians misses Paul’s point. It further demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of what it means to be born again.
Another reason we cannot apply Romans 3:23 to Christians is because of what Paul says next in Romans 3:24. Paul writes that we are “justified freely by His [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” This means believers have been washed from their sins and brought into a righteous condition before God. In addition, they have been redeemed from the bondage of sin. The problem of sin identified in v. 23 is countered by the solution of justification and redemption offered in v. 24. Therefore, Christians do not have an excuse to continue to sin. In fact, they have no business quoting v. 23 to justify why they remain sinful. Christians were sinners; but they no longer are sinners. They now are redeemed. An unredeemed person might have an excuse, but a Christian has no excuse; none. The problem in v. 23 is over. We now live in the reality of v. 24.
Unfortunately, many Christians fail to distinguish between the reality described in v. 23 and the one described in v. 24. As a result, they suffer from a crisis of identity. This crisis is largely responsible for the failure of many Christians to live without sin. To change this situation, we need to re-examine what the Scriptures teach about redemption and how redemption impacts our victory over sin.
To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, know that you are redeemed. The power of sin is broken. Stand your ground and enjoy the redeemed life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
For further study: Romans 5:1-21