Abraham Justified by Faith
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found 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 accounted to him for righteousness.’ 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
David Celebrates the Same Truth
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 ‘ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’
Let’s say that you’re in court for doing 100 mph over the speed limit through a school zone. They have you on video and have conclusive proof that you were the driver. The fine for this is $100,000 or you spend the next 10 years in jail. You have no money and you cannot get yourself out.
Someone, whom you don’t know walks in, speaks with the judge, and pays your fine. You’re free to go. That’s grace. You didn’t do anything to deserve it and all of the glory for your deliverance goes to the one who has paid your debt.
Now, if the man who came in to pay your debt was someone for whom you’ve worked for many years and he’s been building up a log of all the work you’ve done for him and been saving your payment for a time like this, then you would not be experiencing grace, but payment. He would be required to pay your fine and all the glory for your deliverance goes back to you for all the hard work you put in while working for that guy.
This is the difference explained here – we can’t do anything to gain favor from God. He alone receives the glory for delivering us from His wrath and our works cannot do anything to help to save us. More than that, as Isaiah says, our righteous works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) – the Hebrew says “used menstrual cloth” – when compared to the righteousness of God. Our works are worthless to bring salvation to ourselves because they are performed with sinful hands by a sinful mind. No one can justify himself before God – it is GOD who must condescend to our level to bring us up to Himself. There is no other way.