But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
In Romans 4, Paul said salvation is a result not of works but of grace. He gave us two compelling illustrations of that from the Old Testament: Abraham and David. What is the application for us? In verses 4-5, Paul shared three principles about God’s righteousness that we must understand. To whom does God offer righteousness? To whom does God offer salvation?
First of all, God offers His righteousness to those who understand their sin. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (4:5). Whom does God forgive? He forgives the ungodly. God is in the business of saving sinners. Maybe you think, “God could never forgive me. You don’t know what I have done.” That’s right, I don’t know; but God knows. The reason God sent Christ to atone for your sins is not because of your goodness but because of your badness. Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). It is not the godly people who need God’s forgiveness; it is the ungodly people who need forgiveness. The fact is, we are all ungodly. We all need God’s forgiveness. Only those people who recognize their ungodliness are in a position to open their hands and receive the free gift of God’s forgiveness.
Second, God offers His righteousness to those who refuse to work. Now this turns our expectations upside down. Paul said salvation is “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). All the other religions say salvation is to the one who works. But God says it is not the one who is willing to work; it is the one who gives up the idea of work whom He is willing to justify. Only those who refuse to work for salvation can receive it. Why is that? Paul explained the reason God does not allow you and me to work for our salvation in Romans 4:4: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” When you get your paycheck, do you go into your boss’s office, fall down before him, and say, “I cannot believe you would give me this money! Thank you!”? Why don’t you do that? Because when you receive your check, it is not a favor. You are getting what you are owed. It is the same way with God. If God allowed us in any way to work for our salvation, then salvation would not be a gift from God; it would be an obligation. God would owe it to us. God refuses to owe any man or woman salvation. That is why He gives it as a gift.
Third, God offers His righteousness to those who trust in Christ to save them. “But to the one who . . . believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (4:5). It does not matter how much or how little faith you have, the moment you trust in Christ as Savior, God takes your little bit of faith and in the accounting room of Heaven He exchanges it for His perfect righteousness. And from that point on, God forever declares you and me not guilty.
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.