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Full-court press

23 June 2011 by Frank Turk

So in Rom 3:23, Paul urges on everyone, without exception, to the necessity of seeking righteousness in Christ. He might as well have said, “There is no other way of getting yourself right, of getting past sin; it is not to each his own way, with some succeeding and others failing. All must be justified by faith in the same way, because all are sinners, and therefore they have nothing to boast about, nothing to take credit for, before God.” But he takes for granted that every one, anyone with a conscience, when he comes before God who will judge him, is lost and ruined because he knows his own shame. No sinner can bear the presence of God, as we see an example in the case of Adam.

Paul again brings forward a reason taken from one who might deny this, and hence we must notice what follows. Since we are all sinners, Paul concludes, that we are lack, indeed we are utterly empty of, the praise due to righteousness. So according to what he teaches, there is no righteousness but what is perfect and absolute. Even if there were such a thing as "half righteousness," it would still be necessary to deprive the sinner entirely of all glory: and therefore the imaginary idea of partial righteousness, as they call it, is proven wrong. If it were true that we are justified in part by works, and in part by grace, Paul could't say any of this — that all are deprived of the glory of God because they are sinners. It is then certain, there is no righteousness where there is sin, until Christ removes the curse of sin; and this very thing is what is said in Galatians 3:10, that all who are under the law are exposed to the curse, and that we are delivered from it through the kindness of Christ. The glory of God I take to mean the approval and proof of God as he is, as in John 12:43, where it is said, that “they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.” In this way Paul summons us from the court of public approval to the divine court of heaven.

-- Calvin, Commentary on Romans, Rom 3:23