"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" (Romans 3:23-24)
Growing up, one of the many verses that I memorized was Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." While this verse is true and something that the apostle Paul has been building a case for, in the previous chapters, the main focus of this passage of scripture are the verses that surround this statement.
Even though we were immersed in sin and could not obtain the righteous requirements of the Law, God revealed a righteousness completely separate and independent of the Law. This righteousness comes by faith in Jesus to all who believe. The righteousness that Paul is describing is the righteousness that God ascribes too. It is perfect and holy. Through faith in Jesus, we received this righteousness as a gift. Not a flawed human righteousness, but God's righteousness. Paul said in II Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus literally became sin, the very thing he hated and despised, in order that we could become righteous, the very thing we were incapable of being through the Law. It is truly amazing!
So even though everyone sinned, both Jews and Gentiles and fell short of the virtue that God ascribes to, we are justified freely through the grace that was provided in Christ Jesus. Now it is important to recognize that everyone has sinned and everyone has been forgiven through Jesus. When Christ suffered upon the cross, he suffered and paid the price for the sins of the entire world. Past, present and future . I John 2:2 says, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." meaning that while he completed the atoning work upon the cross he took care of every sin that will ever be committed, thus completely finishing his work and conquering death in the process. Romans 6:10 says, "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." Since he broke the power of sin, he cannot die again, he did it once for all.
Now, does this mean that everyone is saved if everyone's sin has been paid for. No. Although it is true that the gift of God grace has been purchased for all and offered to all, the righteousness that is required by God only comes through Faith in Jesus Christ. We must believe and put our faith into action to accept this free gift in order to be saved. Ephesians 2:8 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" so saving grace works through faith. God simply took away sin so that it wasn't an issue with Him in order to extend the gift of His grace to us. But God wants relationship, that is why He doesn't force this grace onto anyone. He allows us to choose. He chose us. He called us. He provided the way for us. But He doesn't force us to choose Him. He desires for us to choose Him, but the fact remains that we must put our faith in Jesus in order to obtain the righteous of God that the Law could not provide for us.
The important thing to take away is that by His grace, through our faith, we are freely justified. While I was memorizing verses as a kid, we also memorized definitions to big words like justification. Justification means, 'just as if I'd never sinned." and If I am justified or it is 'just as if I'd never sinned' then I am righteous before God through faith. Today, I praise God through Jesus Christ that he became sin so that we could become righteous holy, completely forgiven and justified. Today I pray that you take this amazing truth and live a life worthy of your calling because you have been bought with a high price and with the precious blood of the Lamb.