Scripture Reading: Romans 3:1-20, Psalm 14:1-7, Ecclesiastes 7:20
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
If you read Paul’s letters enough, you’re bound to catch this recurring theme.
Why did he find it so important for believers in the first century (and us!) to understand they were sinners?
Because God loves sinners.
“But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rm 5:8).
Jesus came to earth for sinners. He lived, died, and rose again for sinners. He forgives sinners. And sinners who place their faith in Him are welcomed into His family.
That’s really good news for sinners, right? And Scripture leaves no doubt. You, me, and every person on earth… we’re all sinners. That’s the bottom line Paul lays out in Romans 3:23.
We’re all broken, needy, and messed-up in a way that simply being “good” can never fix.
Since the Garden of Eden, our identity as humans has been marked by our tendency to rebel against God. That’s why we can never behave our way into a right relationship with Him. The most well-behaved, law-abiding, church-attending, choir-singing, modest-dressing, moralistic person alive, apart from Jesus Christ, is still dead in her trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).
The heartbeat of the gospel is not, “Clean up your act, obey the rules, and God will forgive you.” That’s moralism, not Christianity. Any one of us who has ever tried to be a perfect person, even for a day, knows that approach simply doesn’t work. That false gospel stands in direct contradiction to the true one: Christ died for sinners. Because He loves us, remember?
Do we encourage each other—and ourselves—to obedience? Absolutely! But let’s also remember that righteousness does not come through our obedience. Right standing with God comes only through faith in Jesus—His works and not our own. As Paul says in verse 24, “They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Through Jesus, grace flows freely to sinners. Through Jesus, those guilty and condemned are declared righteous—justified by His sacrifice, by grace through faith. And through Jesus, polluted sinners exchange filthy rags for robes of righteousness.
“I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness… ” (Isaiah 61:10).
Carrie Gaul is a biblical correspondent for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Dennis have two married children and are enjoying grandchildren. Carrie has a deep love for God’s Word and a passion to see women grow in ever-increasing intimacy with Jesus through the study and application of His Word.
Editor’s Note: In Romans, Paul is building a case for the good news that is ours in Christ by faith. He uses these early chapters to establish our guilt before God—which he does to establish our need for a Savior. One of the most challenging aspects of the gospel is that it is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, necessitated by our own sin. We cannot understand the depth of God’s love for us in Christ without understanding the depth of our need for that sacrifice and the sin it covers. Because of Jesus, our sin is not counted against us, so we are never just “sinners.” We are redeemed sinners. A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). What an amazing gift it is to know that “God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
This essay was revised on August 28, 2017.