Romans 4:4-5 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
This principle is enormously important, but it is also at odds with how we usually look at things, which is why Paul spent so much time explaining it, especially in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. It’s interesting that in verse 4, where the NIV says “credited as a gift,” the Japanese says “considered (credited) as grace.” That in itself is a reminder that grace is a gift, and by definition cannot be earned. We understand grace only when we get it through our heads that we can never be good enough to earn salvation, the forgiveness of sins and a right relationship with God. There is a song in The Sound of Music that says, “Nothing comes from nothing;nothing ever could, so somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” That’s how we usually think, but it doesn’t agree with the Bible! Hinduism and Buddhism have codified humanistic thinking and called it karma, but again, that completely misses God and His grace. Throughout Church history there have been groups that took this issue the other direction and thrown all rules out the window. (That’s called antinomianism, but who needs words like that?) That’s forgetting what Jesus said was the greatest commandment, which is loving God. If you really love God, you will seek to please Him in response to His love for us. Augustine went so far as to say, “Love God and do as you please.” However, that requires a real understanding of what love for God looks like! The more we understand that God loves us in spite of our failures, the more we will desire to walk in harmony with and obedience to Him.
This is something I first learned as a principle as a little child, but the longer I live, the better I grasp it. Sins have consequences, and though I have tasted some of those, God really has not treated me as I deserved, but much better. That’s grace! We’ve been looking at passages on righteousness for a long time now, but it always comes back to this: we cannot be sufficiently righteous in our own strength, but when we abide in Christ by faith, His righteousness is manifested in and through us. (1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21) This is what I seek to teach and to live by, in gratitude to God for His grace.
Father, it seems a little confusing even to me when it’s written out like this, and I wrote it! Thank You for the reminder that we can only receive it by a revelation of Your Spirit. Help me share Your truth without holding anything back, but never think for a moment that I can get the job done on my own. I ask You to continue to reveal Your grace to me, and to use me in revealing Your grace to others, so that as many as will may receive the righteousness that comes by faith alone, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!