Every born again believer who has been saved for any length of time is most likely familiar with Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The question, especially for a person influenced by Calvinism, is why is Romans 3:23 where it is in the Bible? It might seem pretty obvious why a verse explaining that everyone has fallen short of God’s glory is both in the Bible and in Romans 3, however, as we know, every Scripture must be read and understood in context of the verses before and after it.
Let’s first consider verses 21-22. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference…” All Christians, regardless of their Calvinistic predilections, would agree that the “all” in verse 23 means all. But as verses 21 and 22 explain, the whole reason verse 23 is where it is in the Bible is to support verse 22. Verse 23 deals with all having sinned which is the foundation for verse 22′s claim that all have the opportunity to at least believe the Gospel for there is NO DIFFERENCE for ALL have sinned. Again, the “all” in verse 23 means all to support the all in verse 22 meaning all. It might be just as well said, “If all had not sinned, then the righteousness of God would not be available to all who believe.”
When the reader allows Scripture, not man’s teachings, to define Scripture, then he is left with only one conclusion here. The righteousness of God is not attainable through the works of the law, but is only accessible by placing his faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The person who desires to be righteous must believe in Jesus Christ. Who qualifies for such an invitation? Sinners. How many sinners qualify? All sinners. Why? Because there is no difference for ALL HAVE SINNED. At least that is what these verses say.
But then one might argue, “If men can actually believe, then they can boast in their work of belief.” Again, what does Romans 3 conclude?Verses 27-28 say, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Side Note: These last verses speak of the law of faith, not grace. Why? Because this portion of Scripture is focused on mankind’s need to believe. We are not justified here by so-called “irresistible grace”, rather by Jesus, in Whom all sinners can at least direct their belief/faith, hence the law of faith. Interestingly, Calvinism’s T.U.L.I.P. has no room for the this crucial law.