Short of the Glory
Have you ever seen a child walk up to an amusement ride only to discover they are short of the required height to get on? Even if they try to stretch and tippy-toe themselves a little higher, the standard is set and they are disqualified...for now. In a similar way, the Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
The New Living Translation says, "For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard." And it's not just a few; sin is universal. ALL have fallen short of the standard set for God's glory. But just like the child who grew an inch over the summer, we have been raised up. The standard didn't change...we did.
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 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 3:21-24). In his letter to the Romans, Paul was explaining how everyone must meet the standard - no matter who you are or what you've done. And the standard is met through faith in Jesus Christ. God made it possible for all who believe to be declared not guilty (not disqualified).
Therefore, we were justified by our faith in Jesus. This means we're not short of the glory any longer! "Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Romans 8:30). This passage isn't insinuating God has favorites. On the contrary, it is identifying how God made it possible for us to be raised up. "God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him. After God made that decision of what His children should be like, He followed it up by calling people by name. After He called them by name, He set them on a solid basis with Himself. And then, after getting them established, He stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what He had begun" (Romans 8:29-30, Message Translation).
Every person has fallen short. But God has provided a spiritual resurrection for those in Christ. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together in Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:1-6).
I compared this raising to a child who grew over the summer, but that's not entirely accurate. In the natural, the child had to patiently wait and hope they would grow and be qualified. But for those who were disqualified from God's glory because of sin, God made it instantly possible to be raised up! It's as if Jesus was the conductor at the amusement ride and when we approached Him and found ourselves short of the standard, instead of rejecting us, He picked us up and put us on His shoulders - raising us to new heights in Him!
When the scriptures say we have been raised up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, it is not referring to a future position in heaven only. To be in Christ means you have been qualified NOW. Eternal life is not just a span of time in which we will live someday; it is also a quality of life that begins the moment we give our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. We were "raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised [Jesus] from the dead" (Colossians 2:12b). This is present tense, not future tense. The scriptures do not say we WILL BE raised... it says we WERE RAISED! "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14).
Glory to God! Can you imagine the delight of the child who was disqualified, when the conductor (Jesus) removes the measuring stick and qualifies them by grace? That child knows it wasn't his or her own doing; it was by grace and grace alone. They were short of the glory of God, yet now the scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame" (Romans 10:11). And this is true for every person - no matter who you are or what you've done.