Now how does all this affect the position of our ancestor Abraham? Well, if justification were by achievement he could quite fairly be proud of what he achieved – but not, I am sure, proud before God. For what does scripture say about him? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’—Romans 4:1-3
Well now, that should raise our eyebrows. Was Abe just a good man who had never sinned? Was that the reason God accepted him? I mean, if it were, then Abe would have something to brag about, don’t you think? However, as Paul has already explained, from YHWH’s point of view, Abe had nothing to brag about, because the Bible tells us that Abe simply believed YHWH—and that was good enough—YHWH canceled Abram’s sins and declared him “not guilty!”
Remember, he did not get here by all the good things he did it was a gift! Webster refers to a gift as “Something acquired without compensation.” If you can earn it—it ain’t free!
“Think about it, if a man works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as a fair reward”—Romans 4:4
When I show up to Comcast and put in my 8-9 hours each day—the man has got to pay me for it. When the person hanging my drywall comes over to my house, I do not pay him until he hangs the drywall. I do not give him a check just to show up!
“However, if a man, irrespective of his work, has faith in him who justifies the sinful, then that man’s faith is counted as righteousness, and that is the gift of God”—Romans 4:5
This gift is given to those who do not work for it. God declares sinners to be good in his sight if they have faith in Christ to save them from God’s wrath. Jesus said himself, “God so greatly loved the world that he gave . . . [there’s that word again] . . . he gave . . . his only Son so that anyone who clings to him and relies on him should not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved. Those who trust in him are not judged; [Now get this part] Those who do not trust have already been judged, because they have not trusted in the one who is God’s only and unique Son.
Jesus continued, [they have already been judged] “Here’s the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness a whole bunch more.” (John 3:16-18)
Well now, back to Romans, Paul uses Abraham and David to illustrate this problem. Both of these men were justified on the same basis and not by circumcision or by obeying the law or by any of the things that men do to please God. No religious hocus-pocus, no attempt to obey an unreachable standard would be adequate in God’s sight. It was to be simply by faith; these men believed God about his Son.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome