“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” —Romans 3:23
From Romans 3:13 to Romans 3:18 the apostle quotes a number of passages from the Hebrew scriptures to reinforce the truth that fallen man is radically corrupt and sinfully depraved apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
“Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips” (Romans 3:13). The apostle quotes Psalms 5:9, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue;” and Psalms 140:3, “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips.”
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Romans 3:14). Here, Paul quotes from Psalms 10:7, “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.” James 3 presents interesting insights into this passage, particularly form this verse: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
“Their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways” (Romans 3:15-16). Paul also quotes from the prophet, Isaiah, “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths” (Isaiah 59:7). Those desiring abortion-on-demand immediately comes to mind.
“And the way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:17). Again, he quotes from Isaiah, “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace” (Isaiah 59:8). We hear continually in interviews of celebrities that have “made it” but when all is said and done, they’re empty, unfulfilled, and without peace; neither can they every have peace or fulfillment apart from reconciliation to God through salvation found in Christ alone.
“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Paul quotes Psalms 36:1, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” That is to say that they have no awe, veneration or reverential affection for God whatsoever.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). Now, Paul is saying here, that having just quoted the very essence of fallen man’s nature and estate from the Old Testament (what things soever the law saith), that every Jew (them who are under the law) has had it spoken to them so that they know this: that the revelation of man’s condition from the scriptures will end every argument (every mouth may be stopped), and all the world will stand subject to judgment before a holy God.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Since the very nature of fallen man has just been cited in quote after quote, then there could be absolutely no form of obedience to the commands of God rendered by sinful man that would ever justify him in God’s sight. In other words, the law of God declares the impossibility of sinful mankind to obey the law apart from the grace of God in found in Christ Jesus.
With regard to“knowledge of sin,” Albert Barnes’ commentary states: “This is the way in which a sinner is converted; and the more closely and faithfully the law is preached, the more will it condemn him, and show him that he needs some other plan of salvation.” Psalms 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:21-22). Again, we are brought back to our key verse, Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” God’s righteousness has been revealed from initial, imparted, justifying faith in Jesus Christ unto salvation to growing, edifying, and maturing faith in Jesus Christ unto sanctification. For it is Jesus Christ alone who has fulfilled the law, whereas no fallen descendent of Adam could. In Christ’s fulfilling the law, He has magnified it through His righteousness, as it is written, “The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21).
The entire Old Testament has been a testimony of justification by faith in God’s anointed One all along; and it would be for all those who believe in Christ Jesus, without distinction, whether Jew or Gentile, because to God, there is no distinction. Why is there no distinction? Paul concludes by bringing it all the way back to what he had said when he began this portion of the discourse in Romans 3:9…
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned….” This means that, apart from Christ, we can do nothing good, nothing holy, nothing decent, nothing honorable, and nothing righteous, whatsoever. Apart from Christ, everything we do, have done in the past, and ever will do, is vile and wicked before a holy God. Apart from Christ, everything we are, were, and ever will be, is vile and wicked before a holy God. And…
[For all have] “come short of God’s glory…” This means that you and I are devoid, utterly lacking, completely destitute, and absolutely inferior of any heavenly value whatsoever. Apart from Christ, we are so wretched and destitute that we are not only unworthy of being redeemed, but we are not worth a moment of God’s time to consider redeeming us. That’s right! That God saves anyone at all reveals His abounding grace, and He does so for His own glory’s sake.
Romans 3:23 wraps up everything in Paul’s explanation of the corrupt state of the human condition apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Read the previous article in this series, “Psalms 14 and Man’s Depravity” (Psalms 14:1-3).