Romans 3:24a is glorious because it follows the horrifying news of Romans 3:23. Putting these two verses together is an important presentation of the human problem and the divine solution. Verse 24a shows that there is hope for sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory.
The verse begins, “and are justified freely by his grace.” Law-court imagery lies in the background of the word “justified.” To “justify” is to declare someone “acquitted” in light of charges brought against them. The charges against the sinner, of course, are his sins, his unrighteousness. In the miracle of salvation, what happens is this: those who have faith (trust) in Jesus are acquitted of the charges held against them. As Paul says elsewhere, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God imparts (credits) His righteousness to us (Rom 4:24), like someone depositing money into an empty bank account. The “crediting” of righteousness happens because we are “in him,” in Christ.
God now sees Christians in union with His perfect Son. Now, no sins are held against them in judgment. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Romans 3:24 explains that God does His “justifying” work “freely by his grace.” The reason God justifies “freely” is because “grace” is unmerited favor. God does not justify out of obligation–He justifies by His grace. May Christians be grateful for union with Christ, in whom there is now no condemnation.