I was reflecting on this passage of Scripture this morning on what was it Paul was trying to say to his readers. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It’s my experience that the majority of the church concentrates its message on you are a sinner, repent and accept Christ. Now before I continue, I basically agree with the premises within that sentence; however, within the context of the Epistle to the Romans, I don’t think this is the message Paul is trying to give, for after all, he is writing to those who have already accepted Christ.
So what is Paul’s intention in this part of his letter? Foundationally he is writing to the church of Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. In the beginning part of the letter where we are now, Paul is primarily speaking to his Jewish readers who are scandalised that the Gentiles are included in God’s plans for salvation. And so within his brilliant rhetorical style, Paul begins to show his Jewish readers that it’s not just the Gentiles who are sinners – indeed it’s the Jewish are equally sinful as well. And it’s within this context Paul says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
In many ways within our modern context, our contemporary church can be compared to that of the ancient Jewish believers and the world – meaning all those wicked unbelievers out there are the new Gentiles. And hence, Paul’s words are an encouragement to us to make sure that we are not pointing our self-righteous fingers of judgement towards the world in a holier than thou attitude – instead, we are encouraged to humbly reflect that we too are equally as sinful as the world in which we live.
Within this framework, we can start to truly appreciate Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross for the whole world. The offer of forgiveness of sins is for all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The scandal of the cross and life of the resurrection leaves no room for boasting. For if we point at the sins of the world in a holier than thou attitude – we are boasting. And Christ leaves no room for us to boast. Simply put, it is he who has done away with all our sin. And this is the crux of Paul’s argument – he wants to preach nothing except Christ, the resurrected Christ who not only died for us; but also lives for us.