Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 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. (Romans 3:22–25—NKJV)

Just how far off the mark are we? When first sighting in a firearm you want to at least hit the paper. It is a miserable predicament to miss altogether. Where do you begin when you have completely missed the target?

In the realm of spiritual things we find that all mankind is equally lost. It is as if we stand on the firing line hearing the report of all our fellow men pulling their triggers aiming at spiritual perfection and yet, try as we might, we cannot discern a single mark on the heavenly target. All are well wide of the bull’s-eye. The verse says “there is no difference.” The word means to arrange in order separately. There is none who are distinguished; we all missed the heavenly target of perfection. There is no human-derived way of knowing how far off we are.

The text further says that we have all sinned. The term means to miss the mark. All are taking their shot at the mark of spiritual acceptance by God and all fail to advance to the next stage. We have missed the mark of the perfection of God, but just because the bullet did not hit the target doesn’t mean it did not hit something. Every projectile lands somewhere and our shot at righteousness actually is declared by God to be sin. We have sinned. The root of sin is selfishness and the plant which springs from it is the pride of man resulting in the poisonous fruit of the works of the flesh.

Not only does our best shot fail to print on God’s target while hitting the wrong thing, we also find that it does not even approach the target. Our best shot is not an overshot; it falls far short of God’s glory. The Greek term Paul chooses to use is very instructive. It can be translated with words such as fail, be inferior, be last, come late, to fail. It is even related to the idea of poverty, deficiency, defect, being in need, and being impoverished. All our best efforts are spiritually inadequate to qualify in the realm of the glory of God.

Even your best shot of moral self-effort fails to rise to the perfect standard set by the very character of God. It skims along on a conscience-numbing earthbound trajectory ultimately falling back to a mud-mired muck of rationalizing self-congratulation. Though all may hear the report from a shot of the best deadeye among us, God’s holy target remains unscathed. There is no difference; we all fall short of the glory of God.

Praise God that the Bible does not simply reveal your spiritual inadequacy and lack of merit; it proclaims the one and only way to spiritual adequacy found in the Lord Jesus Christ. God promises to bestow His righteousness upon all who believe. To be justified is to be declared positively righteous. Since Jesus Christ through His sinless life satisfied the righteous demands of the glory of God, He scored a perfect bull’s-eye on behalf of all who believe. This is of no practical and eternal use if it is not free grace, since our best efforts are feebly inadequate and, in fact, are disqualifying.

To believe is to trust what God has said in His Word, to take Him at His Word. He here promises adequacy to those who submit to the fact of their own disqualification, and accept the gracious gift of forgiveness and redemption that was purchased through the blood of Jesus Christ.

All self-effort is doomed to fail. Have you given up seeking to be acceptable to God, or settled for the occasional act of human goodness hoping that some day God will overlook your inadequacy and magnify your best efforts? Humbly come to the Lord, confess your sin and trust in His redeeming grace. Be born from above for His glory. Trust and obey.