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Why We Must Remember All Have Sinned and Fallen Short of the Glory of God

Why We Must Remember All Have Sinned and Fallen Short of the Glory of God

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

This frequently quoted verse comes courtesy of the apostle Paul in his letters to the Roman church. The statement makes a grand declaration about all of humankind, a statement that has been true since Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Every person in every civilization on Earth has sinned. And with sin has come various consequences: separation from God, and a restricted ability to glorify His name.

Today, when this verse is evoked within sermons, the message is intended to communicate to believers that no one of us is perfect. Everyone has sins that they are facing, have faced, and others they will deal with in the future. This means that people are sinners from childhood up until the point of death. Adam and Eve fell short in their ability to glorify God. Believers today have their own struggles, which at times prohibit them from glorifying God. Paul’s words then echo a truth that is as accurate as it is timeless.

However accurate, why did Paul feel the need to mention this to the church, and why are believers still being told this today? Surely Christians are aware of sin, which is why we pray for forgiveness. In order to understand the continued importance of this verse, we have to first examine the context in which these words first appear.

Understanding the Context of Romans 3:23 and For All Have Sinned and Fall Short of the Glory of God

The two key ideas most noticeable in Romans 3:23 are the concepts of sin and God’s glory. Before Paul writes that specific line, he begins the third chapter in the Book of Romans by highlighting a certain truth about God. Paul notes God as being “righteous,” while humanity has a tendency to be “unrighteous” (Romans 3:3). Despite the difference, God remains who He is and that righteous quality never changes, no matter how we behave. The apostle goes on to state that even when God is dealing with judgment, He does so righteously (Romans 3:5-6).

Paul then indicates that both Jew and Greek have sinned. He makes this conclusion because everyone is made aware - that is the right choice to make - through the law. Yet, everyone has in some way and at some point failed to follow the law, subjecting them to God’s judgment (Romans 3:19-20). The condemnation people may have faced under the previous law is nullified because of God’s righteousness now being revealed through Jesus Christ. Paul states that even with Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice, people would still be unrighteous without God’s grace.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

We can understand the word grace as undeserved favor. For the rest of the passage, Paul makes the case that a person’s actions don’t earn them God’s favor. Jesus’ redemption and a person’s faith (given in grace) in that redemption accomplish that. In addition, Paul seems to be driving home a point that no one believer is above another. Again, Paul’s admonishment here makes sense because of the concepts of sin and glorifying God. We can verify Paul’s claims about sin with words spoken by James.

“So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.” (James 4:17)

This is true for every believer. Everyone has at one point or another known the right choice to make but chose the opposite. When we think of God’s glory we can consider His righteousness. The word glory means “very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent.”

With sin, people mar their ability to reflect the image of God within themselves. This is how we fall short of God’s glory. The reason Paul understood the effects of sin, and why we can also, is how sin leads us in our relationship to God. Much like Adam and Eve, sin leads to a separation from God (Genesis 3:23-24). However, God does not abandon us because of His righteousness. Neither did he do that with Adam and Eve, but the consequence is feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually distant from Him, at least for a time.

The more aware we are of sin in ourselves, the more we can work to change our ways and work to glorify God by turning to God in faith and prayer. Our faith in Christ justifies us before God. 

Why Do We Need to Be Reminded that 'For All Have Sinned and Fall Short of the Glory of God'?

Paul chose to remind the Christians in Rome of this biblical truth. Why? The answer lies in the same reason why Christians today need to be reminded. Everyone has sinned, therefore no one believer is better than someone else. Important in our understanding of this verse from Paul, we have to understand the priorities for a Christian. We received the two greatest commandments from Jesus in the Book of Matthew (Matthew 22:36-40). If loving others as we love ourselves is the second greatest commandment, then we cannot fulfill that by putting ourselves above others. We have to count them as equal to us.

Recognizing that everyone is a sinner means that everyone has their own unique struggles, and no one is without fault. Such an idea promotes humility and even unity among Christians. If everyone has struggles, then people can come together as a community for mutual support. Also, if we all struggle then we each have a need for God. Paul’s words also indicate another truth. There was one person who was perfect, but that person was greater than mere man, He was Jesus the Christ, fully man and fully God. If we think we have lived a sinless life that would put us on the same level of Jesus, which would then contradict Scripture. Recognizing that we sin makes room for us to seek Jesus out and strive to be more like Him.

Paul’s words are an ever-important reminder of grace - undeserved favor - from God, which informs us that our actions are not meant to be transactional. We cannot do things and then expect God to give us what we want. Such an idea makes us appear deserving of God’s blessing, but His favor is undeserved. Our relationship with God is not equal in the sense of God giving us just as much as we give him. According to Paul, that’s a blessing on our part because our unrighteousness never stops God from being righteous. Therefore, He may bless us even in those moments we feel undeserving.

Nonetheless, we would do well to serve God, reaping the benefits of having faith, but not expecting more than what God decides to give.

There are no works we can do to earn a saving transaction with God (Romans 3:27). He doesn’t need us. We need Him. Without works being able to justify us before God (due to our sinful nature), our faith is what allows us to have a relationship and from that faith, we can carry out works in love and obedience. Adam and Eve had a relationship with God that lasted not because of their actions, but because of God's action and His gift of faith. Their actions led to separation from Him, but faith kept their connection to God alive. Our relationship to God is different in that we have Jesus, but this is what being justified through grace means. Faith keeps us in a relationship with God.

How Should We Live Knowing the Righteousness of Christ Has Been Given to Us?

Knowing that Christ’s righteousness was given to us, there are three things we can work on daily in order to further build our faith.

Read Scripture

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Reading the Bible on a daily basis will help us to build our faith by strengthening our awareness of God’s teaching. Reading the Bible makes us aware of verses like Romans 3:23. The more we understand God’s expectations of His followers, the more we can work to live the lives He desires.

Be in Community

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Where we fail to follow Scripture and possibly fall into sin, others can serve by admonishing our behavior. Sometimes we make poor decisions based on what we don’t know. Other times we lack the motivation to do right. Having other believers who understand God’s word will help ensure we make better decisions more often.

Seek God Continually

“I always let the Lord guide me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

Seeking God doesn’t promise a life free of trouble. The promise is instead the ability to overcome that trouble whether in this lifetime or the next. God looks after His children. In order for us to truly seek God though, we have to pursue a relationship with Him even more intentionally than we do with those in our daily lives.

If the natural effect of sin is some form of separation from God, then we do our best to draw near by putting sinful behavior out of our lives with God's help. With an understanding of Paul’s message to the church in Rome, we can humble ourselves before God and before others as we each work to become more like Christ. The more we can progress in each of these three steps, the closer we can draw ourselves to God and further away from sin.

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aaron brown profile pic bioAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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