GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION – ROMANS 3:22-26

When Paul begins his teaching on justification by faith he makes this statement:

‘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 3:22-24]

In these two sentences Paul bundles together several key salvation concepts.

This righteousness from God. These words instruct us that the declaration of acquittal announced in our salvation is ‘from God’ – it does not come from any actual innocence on the part of us, the accused. It comes from the side of the Judge - ‘from God’ – generated from something within him, not from something within us.

‘through faith in Jesus Christ’. Here we are taught that this ‘not guilty’ declaration comes to us via the channel of faith in Jesus Christ. While faith in Christ in no way merits our acquittal, this faith in Christ constitutes the essential link between us and God, without which we cannot be acquitted.

‘justified freely’. Because we have all ‘sinned and fall short of God’s glory’ we all have nothing by which to merit or deserve God’s ‘not guilty’ declaration. We are incapable of meeting any conditions or standards because of which God would be legally bound to acquit us. It is for this reason that Paul describes this justification, this acquittal, with the adjective ‘freely’. It is ‘free’ because we contribute nothing to it. It is ‘free’ because it doesn’t depend on anything we are or anything we do.

‘by his grace’. That is, by God’s free gift. Totally unearned by us. Totally unmerited by us. Totally undeserved by us. Sheer gift.

‘through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’ As Paul goes on to explain in verses 25-26 this is the thing that makes God’s free gift of acquittal both legal and just. When God graciously declares us ‘not guilty’ it is not because he has arbitrarily changed the rules or changed the definition of ‘just’. Rather, because God presented Christ as ‘a sacrifice of atonement’ – a perfect substitute who took sin’s full penalty for us, the sinners – his law still stands, his legal justice is fully met, and we, by this grace, this gift, go free. Released forever from the penalty attached to our disobedience.

By this gift, this grace-based acquittal by which we are released from God’s judgment, all human boasting in the presence of God is outlawed. There is no difference among those who are thus redeemed. All who believe in Christ Jesus have the same total acquittal. Not one is more or less acquitted than any other. Not one has any reason for pride in the presence of God. Not one has any reason for despair in the presence of God.

‘There is no difference, for all  … have been justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’


Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009