There is something so sweet about gifts. When we receive them, we feel loved, appreciated, and seen. When we give them, we feel a sense of satisfaction as we share our love not just in words, but in actions. The person receiving the gift may never reciprocate the same type of love and they can even reject the gift. That is the beauty of gifts though: they are free both ways. Neither side has to give or receive the gift. It is done freely.
Reading through Romans 3:21-24 there is a transition from the judgement that comes through sin to the justification that comes through grace. The standard of Holiness is shown through the law. The law is not meant to be a burden, but rather to reveal our sinfulness and need for God (Romans 3:20).
Despite the holiness of the law, the law itself can not justify us and brings us into righteousness. In Psalms 14, David writes that “there is no one who does good, not even one.” The Psalm shows us that we don’t seek the Lord by ourselves. By our very nature, we reject the Lord and turn the other direction. God seeks after us because we ourselves won’t without His help.
God is loving, but He is also just. Psalm 7:11 reveals to us that God is just and angry at us because of sin. Sin itself destroys and defiles the good God has made in the world. It turns our hearts away from the perfect purposes of God. In Leviticus, God dwells literally in the middle of the Israelite community. As sin enters in the community, it will also reach and defile the temple of God.
Israelites are still sinful, just as we are, so they need a covering or atonement for their sins. This covering came through sacrifices, which were meant to be a symbol of life and death from righteousness and sin (Bible Project). It also was shown to be a substitute for their impurities. God is Holy and without fault. By that standard, anyone who breaks away from righteousness because of sin is disqualified from the blessings that come from the Lord.
Thankfully, God is not only just, but He is also loving. God in His grace gave the Israelites a way to continue to enter into His presence and atone for their sins. Now, God in His grace gives us the opportunity to literally carry His presence and live in relationship with Him (1 Corinth 6:19). How is this possible? Romans 3:23-24 says “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.”
There are three themes in salvation: justification, redemption, and atonement. David Guzik says in his commentary of Romans, “Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge. Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. Propitiation solves the problem of offending our Creator.”
Looking specifically at justification, it is a legal term that shows the demands of justice have been satisfied therefore, there is no basis for condemnation. Romans 3:20 shows us that “by the works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight.” Essentially, being a good person is not enough for us to make it into Heaven.
The beauty in verse 24 is found in the word freely. Freely used in Greek is dorean meaning truly free and not just “cheap.” This means there is nothing in us that is worthy of being justified. All the reasons lie in God’s grace, that He would freely send Jesus to die for us, acting as a sacrifice by taking on the penalty of our sins, so that we could have eternal life and peace with Him. Now we are not counted unholy, but holy and not wicked, but righteous. Not because of our actions or anything, but because God loves us enough to give the gift of life. Freely God gives to us salvation and freely we can receive it.