Paul has shown quite simply that all men are sinners. Now do you see it? No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the rules say. For the more of God’s Laws you see, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t measuring up; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners.
Now, that prepares the way for the gospel. When men see this, the conclusion is found in this well-known passage:
We know what the message of the Law is, to those who live under it—that every excuse may die on the lips of him who makes it and no living man may think himself beyond the judgment of God. “No man can justify himself before God” by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands—indeed it is the straightedge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are. (or more literally: through the law we become conscious of sin) —Romans 3:19-20
But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law—it is righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ. (For this is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned; everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan). Under this divine “system,” a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the Redemptive Act of Jesus Christ. God has appointed him as the means of placating and overcoming the distrust and animosity between him and us. He is the one who decided Jesus was the one who atoned for our sin, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith. —Romans 3:21-25
Did you catch that? He is the one who decided Jesus was the one who atoned for our sin. It wasn’t the right-wing-fundamentalists who decided. It wasn’t the preacher on the TV that decided. God decided Jesus was the one who would atone for our sin!
How is this done?—First by the shedding of his blood, and secondly by being received and made effective in ourselves by faith. Both have to work together. Jesus did the first part—he shed his blood for us. Now we have to do something with it—we have to make it effective by our faith—it ain’t done without you stepping out and receiving that as being done for you!
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome