Are You Okay? The Need and Nature of Salvation—Romans 3:23-24


Levi Durfey 


This last spring, I took our canoe out on Fort Peck Lake by myself. I had gone out with the kids several times, with no problems, so I figured it would be even easier to go by myself without the extra weight (which, as it turned out, is actually a good thing to have in the right places in a canoe).


For awhile I was fine, but then the wind came up a little and there were a few big boats that made some waves. I got a course back to camp laid in and started paddling, but the canoe kept spinning around and pointing the wrong way. 


Later, when I made it back to camp and the family told me that my bow was sticking up out of the water, I realized that I had made a rookie mistake and sat in the back of the canoe.


But at that point, on the lake, I didn’t know that. I was stuck in a frustrating cycle of getting the canoe pointed in the right direction, paddling a few strokes, and then having it spin around on me.


Then, out of nowhere, comes this old man with a white beard in a jalopy of a boat. I mean it was just a little old boat that looked as old as the man himself did. He putters up and says, “Are you okay?”


Well, of course, I am not okay. But I ain’t telling him that. So I say, “I am fine…just relaxing out here on the lake. How’s the fishing going?” I have to talk to him over my shoulder because just then the canoe spun around and I’m facing away from him.


He tells me that the fishing is fine, and then asks me again, “Are you okay?” “Yep,” I say and he putters off. He disappeared really fast—I didn’t see where he went—which I think is very strange.


At any rate, the thought occurred to me, that this old man was someone who had been on the lake for years. He probably had been in all sorts of dangerous situations on the water. 


If he felt the need to come up and ask me if I was okay, then maybe, just maybe that meant that—a small panic hit me—I wasn’t okay! All sorts of panicky thoughts went through my head and I redoubled my efforts to paddle back to camp, which I eventually did—exhausted.


Now, the situation I was in is just like the spiritual situation that every human being is in. We are not okay, but we don’t want to admit it—we don’t want to admit that we have a need for salvation.


The Need Of Salvation


Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  


“For all have sinned”—Isaiah has a more colorful way of saying this:


6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; (Isaiah 53:6a)


Ah, yes, we humans are like sheep. I remember how Bill Collins liked to talk about having to herd sheep with a 2 x 4! Not a flatteringly  comparison for us, but a true one. 


We are stubborn, prideful, and independent. We want to tell God to go take a hike. “No, Old Man, I don’t need your help—I’m okay. You, however, are in a jalopy of a boat!”


“and come short” The Greek here means “lacking” or to “fail to attain.” The rich young ruler, when challenged by Jesus as to whether he kept the commandments, used this word.


20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? (Matthew 19:20)


Sin, is by definition, missing the mark—and we’ll come to that in a moment. But it’s missing the mark by a mile and pridefully yelling, “Bullseye!”


There’s no grading on the curve when it comes to sin. The vicious serial murderer is in the same canoe as the sweet, innocent teenager who has grown up in a Christian home. John Phillips tells about…


Two men went to the recruiting office in London to join a guards regiment. The standard height for a guardsman was a minimum of six feet. 


One man was taller than the other, but when they were measured officially both were disqualified. The shorter of the two measured only five feet seven inches and was far too short; his companion measured five feet eleven and a half inches and, stretch to his utmost as he did, he could not make it any more. 


Nor did his pleas avail. It mattered nothing that his father was a guardsman, that he promised to be a good soldier, that he had already memorized the drills and knew army regulations by heart. He was short of the standard.


Phillips goes on to say that…


Sin is a coming short of the standard of God. Some people come far short and are obviously unfit for the kingdom of heaven. 


Others, to the eye of the beholder, are moral and upright, sincere and conscientious and, by human standards, might be thought to have a good chance of winning the approval of God. 


However, they are not measured here by human standards but by God’s; and when measured by His standards of perfection as displayed in the Lord Jesus, they still “come short of the glory of God.” (Exploring Romans: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series [Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009], Ro 3:22–23)


We all come short of “the glory of God,” but what’s the big deal about coming short of the glory of God? 


As humans, we tend to think of sin as something that harms someone else. We consider murder a sin and stealing to be a sin (unless that person or company has so much money that they wouldn’t notice). 


But premarital sex between consenting parties is not a sin because it doesn’t apparently hurt anyone. Homosexuality is not a sin, because again, it doesn’t appear to hurt anyone. You hear the phrase, “two consenting adults” bandied about to excuse a variety of sin.


You can see that if you define sin as that which hurts someone else, you will have a very different view of sin than the Bible has. 


The Bible defines sin as an offense against God. While it can harm others and it always harms yourself (sometimes the harm doesn’t immediately appear), the main thing about sin is that it rejects God’s glory.


That’s why David, after committing adultery with Bathsheba, and ordering the death of her husband to cover the pregnancy, could still say to God, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4).


None of us are okay. We are all sinners who come short.


10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10–12)


We need salvation. But what is salvation? Look at the next verse to see…


The Nature Of Salvation


Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 


1. Salvation Is Being Put Right With God


“Being justified”—δικαιούμενοι, δικαιόω, VPPP-PNM—What does it mean to be justified? It means that you are declared to be righteous. 


If someone is brought before a court accused of a crime, the only way that they can be justified is if they are found not guilty of the crime. They are righteous because they didn’t do it.


However, if they are guilty of the crime, then there’s no way anyone on earth can make them righteous. The President or a governor may pardon them, but they cannot justify them—they are guilty.


Well, this is the situation we are in. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We are all guilty. So how can we be declared righteous by God? 


John Phillips, again, tries to illustrate what has to happen with a story from the hey-day of big department stores in cities like New York:


Suppose, he says, a young woman runs up a debt at a large store that is far beyond her means to pay. It would right and just for the legal department of that store to press charges. She has to go to court.


But then suppose that while waiting for the trial, she marries the wealthy son of the store owner who personally assumes responsibility for the debt and pays it in full. So Phillips says…


There would be no legal claim against her any more and in the unlikely event of her case ever getting to court, she could plead “not guilty” to all charges on the grounds that her debts had been fully paid by her husband… 


If a person is to be justified, he must plead “not guilty” and show that the opposition has no case against him at all…


The Lord Jesus has fully discharged all our obligations so that there is no legal ground for charges to be pressed against us anymore. Moreover, He has given us a perfect standing before God so that we are fully acceptable in His sight. (John Phillips, Ro 3:24–26a)


Salvation is being put right with God.


2. Salvation Is Being Given What You Don’t Deserve


Justification—salvation—is given to us “freely by his grace.” Being put right with God is nothing that we earn. It’s a free gift of God’s grace. Grace means favor or good will toward someone.


Most of us have trouble with receiving a gift. If someone treats us to lunch at the restaurant, what do we say? We say, “Here, let me at least get the tip.” 


Part of the sinful nature is that we are very independent and prideful. Receiving a gift—unless it’s Christmas or our birthday (in which case we deserve a gift!)—is harmful to our fragile pride.


But the biggest thing about grace is that it’s undeserved. If grace were deserved (sometimes we say, “I deserve a little grace here”), then it wouldn’t be grace, it would be earned wages. 


8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)


We don’t deserve God’s grace. We deserve eternal punishment because we have come short of the glory of God. We deserve infinite damnation because we have sinned against an infinite God.


Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve and mercy is God NOT giving us what we do deserve. Or as someone once said, “Grace is everything for nothing to those who don’t deserve anything.”


Salvation is being put right with God; Salvation is being given what you don’t deserve and…


3. Salvation Is Being Bought Out Of Sin By God


So our justification is free (to us) because of the grace of God and our justification is “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 


What is redemption? Redemption, simply put, is when you buy something back. 


When you take something to a pawn shop, they give you money for it, and promise to hold it for a certain amount of time. You have that amount of time to redeem it—to buy it back. Otherwise, they put it up for sale. 


Say that I take my silver coffee cup to a pawn shop and say, “I’d like a thousand dollars for it.” He would laugh at me and say, “I’ll give you twenty.” “Twenty thousand!”


Salvation is free, but redemption is something that must be paid for. We have to be bought from sin. What is the cost? It is death. 


23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)


The cost that Jesus paid was his death for our life. And when he died on the cross, he paid it all. 


He didn’t leave a little left over for us to pay, like a parent who helps a child buy something that they don’t quite have enough money for. Jesus paid it all, and he paid it all by himself. 


The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon said that, while Simon of Cyrene may have helped Jesus carry the cross, he did not die with him on it. And furthermore, Jesus died with two thieves so no one could say that there were other righteous men with him that helped him.


No, the disciples did not help Jesus by sharing with his death on the cross…


…Peter was not dragged there to be beheaded, John was not nailed to a cross side by side with him; he was left there alone…


The whole of the tremendous debt was put upon his shoulders; the whole weight of the sins of all his people was placed upon him. (C. H. Spurgeon, “Justification by Grace,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 3 [London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1857], 154)


In Bible times, redemption was associated with buying slaves at a market. Some one could redeem a slave by buying them and setting them free from their bondage. 


We are born into this world already in bondage to sin. Jesus’s death on the cross is the payment that redeems us from the slave-market of sin. Using his only Son, God buys us out of sin.


Are You Okay?


Are you okay? I mean, do you understand your need of salvation? Without Christ, we are spinning around like a canoe on rough water!


Do you understand the nature of salvation? Salvation is being put right with God through justification. Justification is possible because of Jesus’s redeeming work on the cross. All all this is free for us to receive, not for us to earn.


How do we receive this salvation? The Bible says that it’s by faith, by trusting in Jesus alone to save you.


8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)


There was another way that I could have responded to the old man in the jalopy boat. I could have said, “I could use some help, please, I’m spinning around and starting to get seasick.” 


Then the old man would have tossed me a rope and towed me back to camp. I could have trusted the old man to help me.


But I didn’t because of pride. And for that very same reason, most people don’t trust Jesus Christ to save them. They think that they can reach Heaven’s shores through their own effort. Their pride keeps them from trusting in Christ.


Now, I did reach the lake shore through my own effort (or maybe the wind changed direction), but Heaven’s shores are a trillion, trillion, trillion times farther away. There’s no way to be saved by our own effort. It has to be by faith in what Jesus did on the cross to redeem us.

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