The most important verse in the Bible is the one which answers the most important question in life—"How can I have a right relationship with God (Job 9:2)?" The answer to that question not only affects our life now, but determines our eternal destiny. 

Romans 4:5 answers that question more clearly than any other verse in the Bible. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” When we come to Romans 4:5, Paul is describing the people God justifies, that is, declares righteous—the people who are accepted in heaven, the people who measure up to God's standards.

In this single verse we find three characteristics of the people God declares righteous, and these characteristics turn our expectations upside down. They are completely contrary to reason.

Whom does God forgive? Who is assured of Heaven?

1. God forgives those who admit they are ungodly.

Romans 4:5 refers to the “ungodly” or the “wicked” in the King James Version. We naturally think that the people who go to heaven are good people. But it is not the Bible teachers, those who pray, attend church, love their families, or are good citizens. It could be the wicked or ungodly people.

We are admittedly different from God. He's holy; we are sinful. He's infinite, we're limited. He's powerful, we're weak. He's wise, we're unwise. But ungodly means more than being unlike God. It means to be opposed to God and His principles. And all of us are like that. When God says yes, our first instinct is to say no. When God says no, our first response is to say yes. That is why Paul says in Romans 3:10: “There is none righteous, not even one.”

What the Bible says is true about everybody is true of you. And to be made right with God, first we have to admit we are wrong with God. We have violated His standards and have been infected with the disease of sin. We are all in desperate need of salvation. To be made right with God, to get to heaven: Admit you are ungodly, wicked.

2. God forgives those who realize they are incapable of earning salvation.

Romans 4:5 refers “to the one who does NOT work.” Again, this is contrary to our thinking. We think we can earn a right relationship with God, that there is something we can do to earn heaven. In every area of life, we are taught that anything good that comes our way is the result of something we have done. But God refuses to allow us to do anything to earn his love. 

3. God forgives those who trust in Christ to save them.

God does not forgive us on the basis of what we do. If He did, salvation would not be a gift, but an obligation. God refuses to owe men and women heaven.

Now listen, many people will say it is faith and works. Jesus Christ, plus baptism, keeping the law, etc. Even if you work a little bit for salvation, it is no longer a gift but an obligation.

If we try to work for God's approval, we are trying to contract with God to give us heaven as a wage. And he says “NO deal.” 

The writer of Hebrews says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." In a spiritual sense, faith means trusting in what God has said to be true, and acting accordingly. Abraham believed God's promise enough to do something—to move his family in search of a land he had never seen.

Noah believed God's promise that the world would be destroyed and the only way of escape was an ark—he believed enough to do something—build the ark and gather his family inside.

For us, faith means believing what God has said about our sin and our inability to earn our salvation enough to place our faith in Christ to save us. Faith always requires a response. The best synonym for FAITH is TRUST.

To the man/woman, boy or girl who does not work but trusts in Christ for his forgiveness, that person’s faith is counted as righteousness.