“ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
– Romans 3:23-24 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
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,
Being justified: Paul develops his teaching about salvation around three themes.
– Justification is an image from the court of law
– Redemption is an image from the slave market
– Propitiation is an image from the world of religion, appeasing God through sacrifice
Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge.Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. Propitiation solves the problem of offending our Creator.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God: This universal statement is answered by a universal offer to be justified freely by His grace. It is open to everyone who will believe.
Morris, quoting Moule: “The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they.” Everyone falls short, but everyone can be justified freely by His grace.
Fall short of the glory of God: It’s impossible to describe every way we fall short, but here are four important ways man falls short of the glory of God.
i. We fail to give God the glory due Him, in our words, thoughts and actions.
ii. We fail to qualify for, and thereby reject the glory and reward that God gives faithful servants.
iii. We fail to properly reflect God’s glory by refusing to be conformed into His image.
iv. We fail to obtain the final glory God will bestow on His people at the end of all history.
Justified freely by His grace: Being in such a sinful state, the only way we can be justified is to be justified freely. We can’t purchase it with our good works at all. If it isn’t made free to us, we can’t have it all. So we are justified freely by His grace – His unmerited favor, given to us without regard to what we deserve. It is a giving motivated purely by the giver, and motivated by nothing in the one who receives.
Freely is the ancient Greek word dorean. The way this word is used in other New Testament passages helps us understand the word. Matthew 10:8 (Freely you have received, freely give) and Revelation 22:17 (And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely) show that the word means truly free, not just “cheap” or “discounted.” Perhaps the most striking use of the ancient Greek word dorean is in John 15:25: They hated me without a cause (dorean). Even as there was nothing in Jesus deserving of man’s hatred, so there is nothing in us deserving of justification – all the reasons are in God.
Calvin on the use of both the words freely and grace: “He thus repeats the word to show that the whole is from God, and nothing from us . . . lest we should imagine a half kind of grace, he affirms more strongly what he means by a repetition, and claims for God’s mercy alone the whole glory of our righteousness.”
Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Again, Paul’s gospel centers squarely in Christ Jesus. Salvation is possible because of the redemption found in Him. God cannot give us His righteousness apart from Jesus Christ.
Redemption: This has the idea of buying back something, and involves cost. However, God pays the cost and so we are justified freely.
i. The word translated redemption had its origin describing the release of prisoners of war on payment of a price and was known as the “ransom.” As time went on, it was extended to include the freeing of slaves, again by the payment of a price.
ii. The idea of redemption means that Jesus bought us; therefore, we belong to Him. Paul expressed this thought in another letter: For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).