23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (Romans 3:23–25, NKJV)
All of us have sinned and are worthy of death (Rom. 6:23). None of us could justify ourselves before God. We could not remove our sins by our own power, because we were spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). Separated from God by our sins, we were under divine wrath (Rom. 1:18). We needed grace to save us. The kindness and love of God appeared to the world “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 24). God acted to save us. He set forth Christ Jesus “as a propitiation by His blood” (v. 25). A propitiation is the means of appeasing wrath, that which atones for sins. The death of Jesus atones for sins, it is the means of removing God’s wrath and replacing it with mercy (1 John 2:2). The atoning sacrifice of Jesus is “through faith” – not through the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). The gospel has the power to save you by producing faith in your heart (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17). When that happens, your faith prompts you to confess your faith in Jesus, to repent of your sins, and to be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38). This is salvation “by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8).
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:21–23, NKJV)
Law identifies sin, but it cannot save the sinner (Rom. 3:19-20). How God justifies the sinner is revealed in the gospel of Christ, not in the law of Moses (Rom. 1:16-17). God’s redemption is “apart from the law,” that is, the Law of Moses could not justify sinners. (Christians who attempt to justify themselves with the Law of Moses “have fallen from grace,” Galatians 5:4.) The “righteousness of God” in today’s verse is the means by which God counts sinners righteous (Rom. 1:17). How God does this is testified of by the Law and the Prophets, and is accomplished “through faith in Jesus Christ” to all who believe (whether Jews or Gentiles). Since all have sinned, no one attains to the glory of God on his own. That would require sinlessness. The sinless person is the only one who could earn justification as a debt owned (Rom. 4:1-5). Since we are all sinners, no one can earn the right to be saved. We need grace to be justified (Rom. 3:24). This is a far cry from denying the need to obey God to be saved. Without obedient faith we are lost (Acts 10:34-35; Heb. 5:8-9; 11:6). Obeying Jesus does not earn salvation, it is trusting Christ to save us because we have the faith to obey Him.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19–20, NKJV)
Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 Jno. 3:4). Those who are under law are accountable to it. Having observed the sins of Gentiles and Jews (Romans 1 and 2), and having documented them from the Scriptures (Rom. 3:9-18), the apostle has sustained his premise that all are guilty of sin and therefore, in need of salvation from sin’s bondage and death. Law is not the mechanism by which a sinner is justified (acquitted of guilt) – just the opposite. Law identifies the sinner and his sin. As Paul said, “by the law is a knowledge of sin” (v. 20). Attempting to be justified by keeping the law denies the nature of law and the presence of sin. The purpose of the law was not justification from sin. Its purpose was to magnify the reality of sin and man’s need for justification from it (Rom. 5:20; 7:7). Law does not justify sinners, it exposes the need for justification, which God offers through the gospel (Gal. 2:16; 3:1-2). The law reveals our sin. The gospel reveals our means of justification “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26). Thank God!
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:15–18, NKJV)
The apostle continues his use of Scriptures to expose the nature and extent of sin. It is crucial to note that Paul is not offering us his opinions about sin. He is quoting Scripture and making an application of them to support his premise (stated in verse 9, “We have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin”). Sins of violence destroy lives and disrupt peace (verses 15-17). Paul uses an abbreviated reference to Isaiah 59:7-8 to reinforce the waste and injustice sin perpetuates. The underlying reason for sin, whether it displays itself through ignorance (v. 11), futility (v. 12), the tongue (v. 13-14), or violence (v. 15-17), is the failure to fear God (v. 18). Psalm 36:1 is used to affirm this observation, “An oracle within the heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.” Irreverence toward God denies His truth, rejects His will, and fights against His ways. All of us have done that at some point. Many continue to still. Our duty is to fear God and obey Him (Eccl. 12:13). Sin abandons respect for God. Rather than choosing the way of peace, sin chooses the way of darkness and death. What choice about sin will you make today?
12 “They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” 13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” (Romans 3:12–14, NKJV)
In this passage the apostle used a number of quotations from the Psalms and the Prophets to fortify his statement that “all are under sin” (Rom. 3:9). In verse 12 he applies Psalm 14:3, pointing out the futility of seeking satisfaction in things that turn us away from God and His way of truth. Sin’s futility is exposed – it never delivers what it promises (2 Pet. 2:19). Next, Paul quoted Psalm 5:9, 40:3, and 10:7 in verses 13 and 14 to amplify the sins of the tongue. Our words come from our heart, therefore, when we lie, curse and speak bitter words we reveal malice and contempt in our heart. Stinging words that hurt and harm identify a real and present danger to our souls. We must control our heart to speak words that are fitting, not destructive (Prov. 25:11). We must use God’s word to identify our sins. By doing so we can be convicted, leading to repentance (Acts 2:37-38). Otherwise, we remain enslaved to sin and spiritually dead.
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:9–11, NKJV)
Sin is ugly. Some people prefer not to think about it. They don’t want to talk about it. They what a gospel that is only positive and that does not explain, explore and expose the spiritual problems of sin. That is not the gospel of Christ. Some people redefine sin until it is almost nonexistent. Sin is too often couched in terms like “freedom of choice,” or “this is who I am,” or “it’s an illness,” in attempts to remove accountability for it. The Bible is not ambiguous about sin. It is real, and it is deadly. Sin means “to miss the mark.” Like an archer whose arrow misses the bulls eye, we have missed the target (God’s law, 1 John 3:4). Sin is universal. We have all missed the mark, we have all sinned against God (1 John 3:4; Rom. 3:23). Sin is an oppressive taskmaster who brings death to all over whom it rules (Rom. 6:23). One form sin takes is ignorance (v. 11). We cannot plead ignorance as a justification for sinning against God. Ignorance is not bliss, it brings eternal death (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Only when we are convicted of our sins will we turn to God for relief (Acts 2:37). And, He gives it in His Son (1 John 5:11-13).
31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:31–32, NKJV)
Instead of being anxious about material needs, the Lord teaches His disciples to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Lk. 12:31). It is important to understand what the kingdom is – and what it is not. And, it is crucial to see that it is God’s pleasure to give the kingdom to those who seek it. According to Jesus, the kingdom is the His church, which came during the lifetime of His contemporaries (Matt. 16:18-19, 28; Mk. 9:1). The gospel of the kingdom converts the lost, who is transferred into the Son’s kingdom (Col. 1:13-14). Indeed, Christians are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). The kingdom we seek was not postponed. The kingdom we seek is not an earthly kingdom of 1,000 years duration. The kingdom we seek is not situated on a renovated earth of the future. The kingdom we seek exists today. It is a kingdom that is “within you” by the power of the gospel (Lk. 17:20-21; 8:10-11; Jno. 18:36-37). Christ has made Christians a kingdom, and we are companions in it (Rev. 1:6, 9). God has given us the kingdom. Now, we must live as faithful citizens of it, and God will supply all we need.