For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The word "sin" alike in the Hebrew and the Greek means "missed the mark," as an archer might. When one is interested in rifle shooting the picture is easily realised and not easily forgotten.
I. THE MARK, THE CENTRE, THE BULL'S EYE, THAT MAN IS TO MAKE HIS AIM THROUGH LIFE, IS "THE GLORY OF GOD."
1. And what is that? The outshining of God's attributes; Christ is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person. We can, at best, be but broken images, interrupted rays of His light. But still that is what we are to aim at — becoming ourselves, and reflecting to the world around us some images of the holiness, goodness, and love of God.
2. In this shooting we are a spectacle to men. See us they will, and judge from us the character and the worth of the religion we profess. The various professions or trades we may follow are but the courses which our bullets take amidst the various influences to the right or to the left, to be allowed for by the shooter. Our bullets must pass through them without erring, and in all alike the aim is to be one — to manifest the character of the God we serve. Those occupations are not in themselves the true centre to be aimed at — they are but the means of reaching the glory of God.
II. MISSING THIS MARK IS SIN. St. Paul lays it to the charge of all alike.
1. The standard is a high one — to aim directly and always at God's glory. But, then, man occupies a high position, made above all creation, blessed with faculties above all creatures for being the glory of God; placed with opportunities of being so now, and the promise of being more so hereafter.
2. Shall we complain that we are so high in the creation, or complacently stoop down from it and forfeit the crown held out for us to take, like Bunyan's man with the muck rake? Was not he missing the mark of life? He took up, as many do, a handful of dirt — he lost the crown of gold. We speak of men having made a good hit when they have succeeded in a telling speech, or a successful speculation, or a fortunate match, but what have they hit if they have not sought to honour God? Certainly not the glory of God, nor have they advanced the true purposes of life.
3. Now a rifle is made to shoot straight; if it will not do so, however perfect the polish of its barrel, or the finish of its lock or stock, it is useless, and you throw it on one side or break it up. The more complete it seems the more vexed you are with it for its utter failure in the one work for which you had it made. God has made us for the one object of glorifying Him, and if we fail in that, then whatsoever else we have which decorates us — intellect, politeness, science, art, position, wealth — all tend not to diminish but to increase our condemnation.
4. What our condemnation may be I do not pretend to fathom; but if the words mean no more than that having been made for the highest purpose, and then having utterly failed, we are henceforth cast on one side as useless, our powers broken up, and our opportunities taken from us, they will mean enough to stir us to redeem the time. We should not like to meet the exposure of such a shame. Pindar describes the return of a combatant from the great National Games. He speaks of him as hiding himself along the byways, not venturing to enter by the gates into his city, or to be seen in any public place. Why? Because he had missed the mark. He went out in the name of his city, equipped by his fellow citizens, to win honour for their name, and to give them glory. But he has failed, and he dare not meet them. We have failed, and we must "all appear before the judgment seat, that everyone may receive the things done in his body."
III. TO WHAT DOES THIS LEAD US?
1. We must realise more and more our condition as sinners. Let any man solemnly ask himself, How much of God has the world seen in me? How much of His glory have I reflected?
2. We must go back to the same butts and shoot again for a truer aim. Go to your seat in Parliament, or your books, or your shop, and there aim afresh at rising to the glory of God, "forgetting those things which are behind," etc. True, it will not be so easy now that one's hand is unsteadied by neglecting to aim aright; true, it will not be so simple now that many Ere looking on and wondering what in the world you are changing for, to shoot straight under their critical eye; but such sense of sin, such turning from it to God in Christ again, such trusting hope that with His aid we may succeed, will bring with it His forgiveness for the past and His guidance for the future; and we may yet, with His encouragement, hit the mark and glorify Him.
Parallel VersesKJV: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;