We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. – Romans 3:22 NLT
We've all heard plenty of "good news – bad news" jokes. They usually start out with the statement, "I've got good news and I've got bad news." In a way, that is exactly what Paul is saying in his letter to the Roman believers. Except that his message was anything but funny. He had good news for them, which they had already heard and believed. But he also wanted to make sure they grasped the bad news that "all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin" (Romans 3:9b NLT). Paul was addressing a common misconception that still exists today. In his day, the Jews believed that because they were the chosen people of God, they were exempt from God's wrath. They saw themselves as a privileged people and because of their position as God's chosen race, He was somehow obligated to protect and preserve them, regardless of what they did. They put so much stock on the faithfulness of God, that they twisted it into some kind of blind allegiance to them, that would overlook their failures and bless them, in spite of them. In other words, their sins would somehow be ignored by God, just because they were His chosen people.
But Paul doesn't mince words when he exposes the fallacy in their argument, and he uses the writings of King David to make his point. "No one is righteous – not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away, all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one" (Romans 3:10-12 NLT). That is the bad news. And just to make sure that there is no confusion as to just how bad the bad news is, Paul reinforces it with these familiar and powerful words: "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard" (Romans 3:23 NLT). You can't make it any clearer than that. Everyone has sinned. There are not exemptions and exceptions. All men have failed to live up to God's glorious standard. The Jews, because they had been given the law by God, somehow thought that was enough. Earlier in this letter, Paul had addressed the Jews directly. "You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God's law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law" (Romans 2:17-18 NLT). But here's the problem: "You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it" (Romans 2:23 NLT). They knew the law, but didn't keep it. They knew what God expected, but failed to meet those expectations. And they stood condemned, just like the Gentiles.
But here's the Good News. In spite of all men, whether Jew or Gentile, having sinned and fallen short of God's righteous standard, "Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood" (Romans 3:24-25 NLT). All men can be made right with God, not by keeping the law, but by believing in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Their sinfulness was rebellion against a holy God, and Romans 6:23 tells us that the penalty for that rebellion was death. Yet Jesus paid our penalty in full with His own life. He took our place. He bore our burden. He died the death we deserved and then made available to us a righteousness we could never have achieved on our own. He made us right with God. "He declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus" (Romans 3:26b NLT). That is incredibly Good News. And it all that much greater when we realize just how bad the bad news really is. None of us deserve God's mercy, grace and forgiveness. None of us can boast, because we have done nothing to be accepted by God. The restoration of our right standing with God is all the result of His grace and Christ's sacrifice. "We are made right with God through faith" (Romans 3:28 NLT). Now, that truly is Good News!
Father, never let me take for granted the Good News about Jesus Christ. Don't let me ever assume that I somehow deserved Your grace and mercy. Keep my former sinful state seared into my brain. Yes, I am forgiven, redeemed and restored to a right relationship with You. But don't ever let me forget that it was my sins that sent Jesus to the cross. It was for my sins that He died. My sins required that You give up Your own Son and that He willingly sacrifice His own life. I deserved death, but He took my place. My condemnation was real. My guilt was deserved. But I am right with You, because of what Jesus did for me. Thank You. Amen.