For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
–Romans 3:28

A preacher of yesteryear said, “Illustrations are like windows that throw light on an otherwise dark subject.” It is important to use illustrations. The Apostle Paul was a master communicator. He understood the importance of illustrations. And that is why right in the book of Romans, which is a theological treatise, he used illustrations to drive home his point. In Romans 4, we will see two illustrations as we look at good news that is good, but not new.

In the first two chapters of the book of Romans, Paul talked about our unrighteousness before God. None of us has a right standing with God. But beginning with Romans 3:21, Paul explained how we could have a right standing with God: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

In Romans 3:11-21, Paul said God’s righteousness is offered as a gift, not a reward. Second, God’s righteousness is based on the work of Jesus Christ. Contrary to what a lot of people think, God’s forgiveness does not mean that He acts as if we never sinned; it does not mean He looks away from our sin. Our righteousness is based on what Christ has done for us. Third, God’s righteousness is received through faith. Faith is the channel by which we receive God’s forgiveness. “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (3:28).

I know that some of you are thinking, “Pastor, tell us something we don’t know. Tell us something new.” If you have grown up in an evangelical church, then you have heard that all of your life, haven’t you? Salvation is based on grace and not works. But you and I are a minority in believing that. The majority of the world today does not accept that. Most people believe that we are declared righteous before God not by grace but by our works.

That is not only true today, but it has always been that way. Most people in Paul’s day believed that salvation was a result of good works. The Jews, to whom Paul was writing, believed that. It was a novel concept to them that salvation was through God’s grace and not works. Salvation by grace through faith has always been God’s plan, even in the Old Testament, but the Jews had perverted that to believe that somehow they played a role in their justification. So when Paul came along saying that God’s righteousness is not a reward but a gift based on the work of Christ, they thought that was heresy.

Paul explained in the book of Romans that salvation is not a reward; it is a gift for those who trust in Christ. To illustrate that truth in Romans 4, Paul went back to the Old Testament and used two illustrations with which his readers would be very familiar: Abraham and David.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good News That Is Good but Not New” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.