Read: Romans 3:23-26
I recently got married and have learned that nothing shows you the messiness of your heart like marriage. Where I once thought I had everything together, it turns out I’m a huge mess. My heart is bitter, prideful, and often angry. I tend to let depression and anxiety take control, turning me into a hurtful and often spiteful wife. The issue is I like to get through my problems alone. I’ve got it into my head that every problem is my problem to fix on my own, and that I never need help—which makes my failures even more devastating. I’ve begun to recognize this and come around to changing the way I think, but it’s still a struggle to accept help and concede that I can’t do it on my own. Ultimately, I need God. I will never be enough on my own, and I can’t be the wife or friend I should be without God’s work in and through me.
It’s in our makeup as humans to assume we can be self-sufficient and take care of our problems ourselves. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” You’ve probably heard this verse a million times, but I want you to really consider what it’s saying. Contrary to popular sentiments, you are not enough—you were never meant to be enough. We were always meant to be half of a whole—the veins and arteries attached to a beating heart. As John puts it, we are meant to “abide” in Jesus, like a branch abides in a tree. Our life and power comes from outside ourselves. We need to desperately need God—it’s what makes us human.
That’s what makes this verse so powerful, as we continue Paul’s sentence on to verse 24: “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Let’s digest this sentence a little more: we are corrupted are brought back in, forgiven and received by grace, which isn’t just ‘unmerited favor’ as people have gotten in the habit of saying, but is God’s “influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life”, according to Strongs. This tug, pull, or influence of God on our unseen person is His free gift which comes from our redemption, our being set free like slaves from a cruel master, which is won by Christ’s work for us. I have to remind myself that this constant nagging to be self-sufficient, to not need others, to avoid help at all costs to myself, is a cruel slave master—and Christ has won me from that kind of life. Marriage is a great example of this, as Paul even uses the union of man and wife as an illustration for the Church and Christ (Eph. 5:25). I can bring my husband into my problems, I can trust him to be a faithful, strong shoulder to lean on, and he can lean on me. In many ways, we are the same with Christ—to handle life apart from His help is not to share love at all, but it is to doubt, to spitefully compete, to fail again and again and be filled with shame.
We can’t do it on our own, and I’m not just talking about getting to heaven by justification, we can’t live as fulfilled human beings without His help—His grace which leads us to live, act, and think like He does, doing everything in line with the great will of the Father. His reordering, reconnecting, saving grace is proof of His love for us. He not only wipes our slates clean, but invites us into a life more abundant in meaning and purpose than anything we could find in the world. Through Him we can be justified through faith, despite our messes, we can stand accepted before Him, transforming day by day more into the perfection of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16).
This gift is what we call the gospel, or the good news. Christ died and rose again so that we could be justified in this way. On our own we are nothing, completely incapable and helpless, but through Christ’s love He redeems us and makes us righteous with His own righteousness.
Verses 25–26 follow this thread of thought, that Jesus was the one who reconciled us back to Himself through His death on the cross, bridging the gap we could not possibly cross. He is the only truly righteous person, and we can only be made righteous through Him.
Justification is not just a stamp of approval, it’s an invitation to a new kind of life with Jesus. Take a minute and quiet your heart. Fix your mind on Jesus and let every other concern and worry slide to the periphery. Think carefully and pray out loud every worry or concern you have not invited God into, and put Him into your confidence. He is more eager to listen than we often think.