All humans have sinned and fall below God’s standard.
The sentence continues, making the point that righteousness (Greek dikaiosune) is not something we as humans can achieve. The competing Jewish “authorities” who are arguing against Paul saying that keeping the law is necessary to achieve righteousness, do not keep the law themselves, as Paul pointed out in chapter 2. These competing “authorities” have slandered Paul’s message of good news (verse 8) and are slandering God’s name in word and in deed (Romans 2:24).
However, after Paul pointed all this out, he made it quite clear that he is no better (verse 9). In fact, Paul calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). So “all” here includes Paul. “All” includes Jews as well as Gentiles. “All” have sinned.
The goal is righteousness; a life that lines up with all that is true and right so that all is as it should be. The obstacle is sin. Without dealing with sin, we cannot achieve righteousness. Because of sin, we will not be in harmony with who God created us to be. We cannot be fulfilled because of sin, we will not be able to have social harmony with family, friends, and our community. Sin is that which takes us away from what is true and right, the way everything was created by God to work in perfect harmony.
The competing Jewish “authorities” have a solution: “keep the law.” Paul has a different solution that is “apart from the law” (verse 21). The solution is God’s grace. The receipt of God’s grace comes through faith and faith alone.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
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