Most people believe a dangerous lie about how to be saved. Make sure you understand the simple truth.
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Romans 4 (ESV)
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
2 For if Abraham was justified by works,
he has something to boast about,
but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say?
“Abraham believed God,
and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
to the one who works,
his wages are not counted as a gift but
as his due.
5 And to the one who does not work
but believes in him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is counted as righteousness,
6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those
whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 9
Is this blessing then
for the circumcised,
or also for the uncircumcised?
For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
10 How then was it counted to him?
Was it before or after he had been circumcised?
It was not after,
but before he was circumcised.
11 He received the sign of circumcision
as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith
while he was still uncircumcised.
The purpose was
to make him the father of all who believe
without being circumcised,
so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
12 and to make him the father of the circumcised
who are not merely circumcised
but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 For the promise
to Abraham and his offspring
that he would be heir of the world
did not come through the law
but through the righteousness of faith.
if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs,
faith is null
and the promise is void.
the law brings wrath,
but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith,
in order that the promise
may rest on grace
and be guaranteed to all his offspring—
not only to the adherent of the law
but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17 as it is written,
“I have made you the father of many nations”
—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,
who gives life to the dead
and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
18 In hope
he believed against hope,
should become the father of many nations,
as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
19 He did not weaken in faith
when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old),
or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God,
but he grew strong in his faith
gave glory to God,
21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
23 But the words “it was counted to him”
were not written for his sake alone,
24 but for ours also.
It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
25 who was delivered up for our trespasses
and raised for our justification.
Romans 4 Summary
Our instinctual default understanding to achieve salvation is by doing something to earn it. Certainly the something looks slightly different in every different religion, but it's always there.
That's what makes the claim that Christianity makes so unique: we are saved by grace which comes through faith, and not by our own efforts.
In chapter four, Paul uses Abraham for an example. One of the most important verses in the Bible comes in Genesis 15:6, which is quoted by Paul in v3:
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
This should get your attention, because the one thing you need more than anything else is righteousness. You need this in order to be at peace with our holy, righteous Father.
The concept of being reward for hard work is deeply embedded in our American psyches. It makes sense that those who have put in the extra effort deserve to reap more than those who sit around depending on others.
That's a great philosophy for our day to day lives, but be on guard: that sort of thinking quickly seeps into our understanding of salvation, to the point that most people would say that they'll be saved if somehow their good work outweighs their sinful actions.
But that's not true at all.
Look how Paul puts it in v5:
the one who
does not work
who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is counted as righteousness...
It's important to understand that although salvation comes completely by faith alone, the need for hard work is not eliminated. In other letters, Paul writes that even though faith is a gift from God, we can strengthen and increase this faith by working hard on Spiritual Disciplines like Bible reading, prayer and church attendance.
Know that your salvation is completely a free gift, and make every effort to add to your faith (1 Peter 1:5-6).
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father is the all powerful God who calls into existence the things that do not exist (v17)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God to help you fully understand that salvation comes only by grace and through faith and not your own effort.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: