Sometimes to really appreciate the good news we have to first understand the bad news. It seems this is what Paul has been doing in Romans and it all comes to a head in Romans 3.
Lest the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Roman church who have been jockeying with each other for power miss the point, Paul makes everything crystal clear:
Jews as well as Greeks are all under the power of sin. (3:9)
No one is in the right — nobody at all! No one understands, or goes looking for God; all of them alike have wandered astray, together they have all become futile; none of them behaves kindly, no, not one. (3:10-12)
For there is no distinction: all sinned, and fell short of God’s glory. (3:22-23)
Both sides need to stop their posturing for a minute and face a fact. Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t matter. Both are sinful in their own ways. Both are equally sinful. Sin, of some sort, has slithered into their hearts and is slowly taking over. At this point there is only one thing that matters and they are all the same in this way: they are doomed because of sin.
And right at the point of that depressing fact is when Paul gives the first of several statements of the gospel or “good news” in Romans:
By God’s grace they are freely declared to be in the right, to be members of the covenant, through the redemption which is found in the Messiah, Jesus. God put Jesus forth as the place of mercy, through faithfulness, by means of his blood. . . . He declares to be in the right everyone who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus. (3:24-26)
It isn’t how good we are that matters, it is how good Jesus was. It isn’t what kind of blood we have running through our veins that matters, it is whether we have been covered by Jesus’ blood. It isn’t the rituals we have done that save us, it is the ritual of sacrifice that Jesus did that saves us. Jew, Gentile, Greek, Barbarian, American, Afghani, Iranian, devoted church attender, or tortured soul — it doesn’t matter. We are all the same at the foot of the cross. Sinners saved by grace.