Brothers and Sisters,
I have a small bone to pick with myself this morning; with myself and, I suppose, many others like me. It’s a hermeneutical bone, meaning a bone that has to do with my observation, interpretation, and application of Scripture. It’s a very small bone, and so I’ll be brief.
In reading through Romans 3 this morning, I came to verses 21-31, which includes that ever-so-famous statement, Romans 3:23 (NASB) – “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Now, I’ve used that verse many times (and will use it many times in the future) to make the point that all of humanity stands sinful before God apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, I’m correct to do so. It’s right that Romans 3:23 would find employment in making the point that all have sinned. But, and here’s the bone to pick with myself, condemnation is not so much Paul’s emphasis in those verses. He spends much of Romans 1:18-2:29 making the case for condemnation. By chapter three, verses 21-31, he’s working again on the great theme begun in chapter 1, verses 16-17 (NASB): For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”
Just as all men have sinned against God and stand guilty – without distinction as to Jew and Gentile – so God’s salvation comes to all, without distinction of persons, through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle is not saying that God saves everyone (a heretical, universalist view of salvation), but that salvation by grace through faith is freely available to all who will come to Jesus. There is, humanly speaking, no prerequisite to faith in Jesus Christ; no qualification of status, race, money, age, power, beauty, strength, virtue, action, knowledge, wisdom, or capacity. What encouragement! What exhortation! Why stand apart from the one ready to save you when nothing prevents your coming to him? All have sinned against God, yes. God is judge, the one who condemns and will punish sin, yes. But, grace conquers sin! God is also rescuer. Salvation is available to all who will receive it. May you be such a person today.