Scripture Reading: Romans 3:21-31, Ephesians 1:7-10, Colossians 1:13-14
I love a good “before and after.”
Whether it’s watching the last ten minutes of an episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper or following a designer’s Instagram feed, I just can’t get enough of those visual transformations. Give me all the before-and-after shots of your kitchen, bathroom, closet—even your hair!—magically morphed from cluttered to clean. I never, ever tire of them.
Reading Romans 3:21-31 reminds me of my makeover obsession. These verses are all about our “after”—who we are because of God’s grace “by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v.24). The power of this passage lies in its contrast to the one before it. What would an “after” photo be if we never saw the “before”?
A beautiful kitchen is a beautiful kitchen. But when we see that kitchen as it once was—dated tile, linoleum floors, and missing cabinet doors—compared to its transformed state of marble countertops and hardwood floors, we appreciate its newness and beauty that much more.
So let’s back up to Romans 3:20, our “before” shot that says, “For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.” That’s bad news for us. It means all the good stuff we did last week, all the good deeds and hard work—it’s all meaningless in itself.
But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
- Romans 3:21-22
This, friends, is the good news! No, we are not justified by the law, but we are justified in Christ.
God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
- Romans 3:25-26
Now, imagine knowing this good news with no understanding of the bad news that preceded it. Imagine seeing the “after” without seeing the “before.” It wouldn’t really be good news then, would it? In light of the bad news, the promise found in verses 25-26 is that much brighter, more hopeful. The contrast is everything.
Our before is not a pretty picture. It is devoid of God and, therefore, full of despair. As Paul quoted the Hebrew scriptures, “all have turned away…ruin and wretchedness are in their paths” (Romans 3:12,16).
This passage today is our after. The ones who have faith in Jesus are righteous. Not the ones who do the most, achieve the most, or follow the letter of the law the best. Unlike those HGTV makeovers, it’s not the amount of work we put in that brings us from before to after; it’s Christ’s work on the cross that transforms us. He, and He alone, declares us righteous before the one true God.
Perhaps this is why I love seeing visual transformations so much. They help me to remember the gospel’s redemption in my own life. It’s a reminder I desperately need to hear, over and over again. It was not our blood, sweat, and tears that brought us back into relationship with God. It was His.
We are forever grateful, Jesus.
Andrea Lucado is a freelance writer, Texas native, and the author of the memoir English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith. When she is not conducting interviews or writing stories, you can find Andrea laughing with friends at a coffee shop or creating yet another nearly edible baking creation in her kitchen. One of these days she’ll get the recipe right.