1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
The vast majority of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord have left behind churches or other religious institutions that preached that it was possible for a born sinner to work with Jesus Christ to redeem themselves. The truth is that God’s standard of salvation has never, at any time, required sinners to “work” to earn Heaven because it is not possible, and we have been sharing this with you for the past three weeks. (Romans 3:23). This week’s passage, along with our study from the previous three weeks of Ephesians 2:8–10, Galatians 2:20–21, and Romans 11:5–6, provides yet another potent example of this fact.
Paul informs his Jewish detractors in Romans 3 that everyone on earth is guilty in the eyes of God and that salvation is an unmerited gift. He starts at the beginning, with Abraham, in Chapter 4, to substantiate his claim. Jews held the view that Abraham “earned” Heaven by his labor. But according to verse 2, if Abraham was justified or rescued on his own, he would not be able to boast about it in the face of God. Paul references Genesis 15:6 in verse 3 to explain that God promised Abraham and Sarah a son when they were both quite old. (also read Genesis 12:1-9 and Hebrews 11:8-19.) Abraham trusted in God’s promises via powerless, invisible faith. Only one of his promises was fulfilled.
Paul draws a clear distinction between true salvation and the futility of works in verses 4–5. God does not show favor or admiration for the salary or reward for a person’s efforts to “work” for Heaven. Why? The reason for this is that person’s man-made religious standard or his own self-imposed level of evaluation, not God’s criteria for salvation. Verse 5 contrasts this, stating that the person whose wicked, unrighteous spirit does not trust on his works for salvation but rather by helpless faith by placing his reliance in the promises of God, will be rescued and granted God’s righteousness. (Read Philippians 3:1–10 in full.
You might believe that God appreciates those who behave well. God unquestionably supports positive outcomes. He is the one who instructs us on what is good and improper, and he makes it quite plain that he desires that we carry out the former and abstain from the latter. But if you believe that your reward for doing good will be heaven, you are missing something crucial. Good deeds indeed merit a reward, but in order for the reward to be heaven, you must always execute good deeds flawlessly. It has only been done by Jesus. Every minute of his life, he did everything right and avoided doing anything wrong.
In today’s Bible allusion, Abraham is credited for doing excellent deeds. He entered paradise, but not as a result of those noble deeds. Abraham had trust in the anticipated Messiah, and even before He came, God told him that he was righteous and qualified for heaven, not because of anything he had done, but because of his faith in Jesus. You experience the same results. God doesn’t consider whether you have performed enough acts of goodness to be referred to as godly or ungodly. He is aware that his Son, Jesus, has atoned for all of our sins, and when we put our confidence in him, our faith is credited to us as righteousness.