All Have Sinned And Fall Short…
Romans 3:23 is quoted early and often. It is heard in lessons, prayers, classes, etc. It is seemingly used in 2 different ways. 1 way is to encourage people to repent of past sin. That is a fitting use of the verse. A 2nd way is to describe a faithful christian’s current state. That is not a fitting use of the verse. What is the point of Romans 3:23? What is the point of Romans? In chapter 1 we see the Gentiles being willed with unrighteousness. In chapter 2 we see the Jews practicing the same things. Chapter 3’s point is that all need Jesus and in Jesus what does one find? Read Romans 3:21-26 for context.
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Romans 3:23 is not a declaration of the faithful’s current state. Being justified is. Look at other passages nearby to see the state of the faithful.
• At Peace and reconciled with God (5:1-11) – We were sinners but Christ died for us. We now, “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (vs. 2).
• Alive from the dead and instruments of righteousness (6:13) – Before we were slaves of sin, but not now.
• No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (8:1) – This answers the question of “Who will deliver me?” in 7:24. Jesus can. Jesus has.
• More than conquerors (8:37) – If God is for us, who can be against us? The last enemy will be destroyed.
Yes, we have sinned, but “blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven” (4:7). Those who quote 3:23 to convey that this is our current condition are treading dangerously close to what Paul was dealing with – that repentance was not necessary (3:8, 6:1). Through Jesus, what are we? We are living sacrifices, holy, and acceptable to God (12:1). We are transformed. Jesus died for sinners, but He does not leave us in sin.