Romans 3: Just As If I’d Never Sinned


Read Romans 3:21-31

Just As If I’d Never Sinned
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

Digging Deeper: As a young man, I heard a simple preacher offer this definition of justification:  It is just as if I’d never sinned!  When you study what the Apostle Paul meant by the word, it turns out that is a pretty good explanation to a highly complex theology construct.

Paul uses the verb, justified, and words derived from its root, thirty times in Romans alone.  Obviously this is an important theme with Paul, and the critical core of our Christian faith.  Along with “gospel” and “faith” (see chapter 1), this is our theology.  The “good news” revealed in the New Testament is that through “faith” in Jesus Christ’s person, and his work on the cross, sinners can now stand before the holy and righteous God “justified”—just as if they had never sinned.

Now don’t miss the beauty of this!  Our justification, which was a legal concept, by the way, happened only by what Jesus did on the cross.  There he paid the penalty that you legally owed as one who had transgressed God’s law.  But not only were you pardoned from receiving the just punishment reserved for all lawbreakers, your guilt was removed as well.  So not only were you set free, you were totally cleansed—your sin record was expunged.  You now stand before God just as if you had never sinned.

Now how can that be?  Well, part of the justification package included that not only were you pardoned from punishment and declared not guilty, you were literally infused with Christ’s very own righteousness—“everything Jesus” was imputed, literally and spiritually, to you.  But that’s not all!  As beautiful as that is, it is even more stunningly beautiful that to be imputed with Christ’s righteousness meant that Jesus had to have both your sins and your sin nature imputed to him on the cross—“he became sin on your behalf so that you could become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

All of that was legally necessary for you to be made right with God.  You owed a legal debt that you could not pay to the Judge of all creation.  He loved you so much he sent his one and only Son—perfectly sinless—to pay the full legal price for your redemption by becoming sin and taking the punishment into his own being as he hung on the cross and shed his blood.

And you receive this free gift of God’s grace by faith (saving trust) alone—not by your own works of righteousness or inherent merit.  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  You stand before God just as if you had never sinned.

I don’t know about you, but the only response I have to such amazing and undeserved love is to offer the rest of my life as one unending thanksgiving offering to God.

“This is the mystery of the riches of divine grace for sinners, for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christ’s, and Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s, but ours.”

~Martin Luther

This Week’s Assignment:

  • Memorize Romans 3:10 and 3:23-24: As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ … 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.”
  • Meditate on the contrasting horror of universal sin and the hope of eternal redemption that Paul speaks of here in Romans 3.
  • Write out a prayer of gratitude to God for the undeserved righteousness that was imputed to you through Christ’s work on the cross. If you are open to it, post your prayer as a comment on this blog.


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