Romans 3:22-24 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
We tend to quote verse 23 by itself, but it’s really just a sentence fragment. With anything context is important, but doubly so with the Bible. The “no difference” here is translated as “no discrimination” in Japanese, and reasonably so, because it’s talking about Jews and Gentiles. Paul’s point is that Jews have just as much need to believe in Jesus as Gentiles do, even though the Jews are the chosen people of God, the recipients of the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets. We tend to apply verse 23 to individuals, which isn’t exactly wrong, but it’s not Paul’s context. The kicker in this passage is actually in verse 24, where Paul points out that by faith, all can receive redemption, atonement through Jesus Christ, even though they haven’t earned it and could never pay for it. We have such trouble grasping the whole concept of atonement, but that was why God instituted the sacrificial system in the Old Covenant, to help us understand it. As Paul said clearly in Romans 6:23, what comes from sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. We have all sinned, and have therefore earned death. We have such trouble admitting that, but it’s true, and acknowledging it is the essential first step to salvation. Atonement is Jesus taking the death that we have earned on Himself, so that we don’t have to bear it. However, we have to believe He has done that, for us to receive the benefit. That’s what the Gospel is all about.
This is of course the message I preach. I am amazed at times at how much trouble people have in accepting the simplicity of it all. We tend to try to complicate it, wanting to get some measure of personal credit into the equation, but that doesn’t work. That’s a big part of why Jesus said we have to become like little children to enter the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:17) A little child can understand that “I did bad, but Daddy loves me and he made it all good.” Little children can grasp that, but they also need adults to guide and mentor them as they grow in faith and understanding. Baptizing children and then failing to mentor them in faith is a real factor in what is wrong with the American church today. I’m not to dismiss sharing Christ with children, certainly, but I’ve got to do all I can to nurture them from the point of their acceptance of Christ.
Well, Father, I didn’t expect to end up there when I started writing! Thank You for guiding us in ways we couldn’t imagine ahead of time. Thank You for the new family You have just brought to this church. Help me minister to each one as they need it, so the members of the family who don’t yet acknowledge Jesus as Lord may do so in truth, and the family be united in faith, growing together in Your grace, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!